House Beautiful

Why I Decided to Freeze My Eggs

{photo by Nick Knight, via Time to Chill? Egg-freezing Technology Offers Women a Chance to Extend Their Fertility on Vogue.com}

…or “putting chickens on ice,” as I prefer to call it – just to make it seem less daunting and more lighthearted. I swear I feel like I just got boobs last week, so it seems *insane* to me that I’m in a situation where I even have to consider the possibility that by the time I’m ready to have kids, I may not be able to. Because while being 15 feels like 15 minutes ago, in real life, I’m 38 years old and I’m going to be dangerously close to 40 by the time I’m in a place to start trying to have a family. Which – in the land of chickens & eggs – is not ideal. Sometimes I do better with pictures, so here’s a snapshot – this is what a woman’s fertility looks like in her 30’s and into her 40’s.

Here’s a fun fact: as a woman, you’re born with as MANY eggs as you will ever have. Ever. At birth. Roughly 1 million. And then the count goes down from there, and you will never produce more. By puberty, you’re down to about 300,000 eggs. In your 30’s, you may have somewhere around 50,000 – but I’m speaking in super general terms. That may seem like a lot, but unfortunately your eggs have a shelf life. As you get older, the quality of your eggs decreases making it more difficult to get pregnant, and also increases your chances of having a miscarriage.

And here’s another fun fact: at 38, I have about a 65% chance of having a healthy baby if I freeze my eggs NOW.  If I wait 5 years until I’m 43, that chance waters down to just a 15% shot at having said healthy babe.  Yikes.

So, about a year ago, I went to a local OBGYN to have my AMH and my FSH evaluated through a simple blood test. AMH and FSH are hormones that can help indicate the number of eggs you have left and can give you an idea of how easy or how difficult it will be to get pregnant. I just wanted to see a snapshot of where I was so that I was armed to make some solid decisions for myself, if I needed to. The OBGYN kinda pushed back when I told her what I was coming in for and said: “Normally I don’t test these things for people until after they’ve been trying for a year” – which was baffling to me. Howsabout a fence at the top of the cliff instead of an ambulance at the bottom, sister? But I insisted and had her run them anyway. I figured those blood tests would cost me about $300 between the doctor visit and the lab work (it was more) and after the results came back, my local doc basically told me “not to worry” and that I was “normal”… HEH?  I was like, um, please tell me someone can give me something more than that to go on. I also realized that they hadn’t tested my FSH on the proper day of the month, so those results didn’t mean anything (FSH numbers aren’t helpful in measuring your fertility status unless they’re taken on Day 2 or 3 of your menstrual cycle). So that was a bust. I should’ve just gone straight to the big dogs instead of lighting that $$ on fire.

{image source unknown}

Enter CCRM: the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, the nation’s leader in fertility science, research and treatment. Why CCRM? They have 11 locations across the U.S. and Canada, and their Mothership is in Denver – which is 4.5 hours from where we live in Crested Butte. While I’m currently seeking treatment in the form of egg freezing, CCRM specializes in all of the most advanced fertility treatments, with deep expertise in in vitro fertilization (IVF), fertility assessment, fertility preservation, genetic testing, third party reproduction and egg donation. Their world-class fertility specialists even invented techniques and protocols that are widely practiced in the industry today. They pride themselves on being a partner in fertility for life – their physicians partner with each individual patient to create custom-tailored treatments to ensure the best outcome.

{photo by Shaheen Khan of Lows to Luxe, who shared her own experience with CCRM via this blog post}

On a sidenote, I have a friend from out of state who first did 2 unsuccessful IVF cycles at another fertility clinic. then thought, “why am I even bothering elsewhere – if we’re going to invest this much money, we might as well give ourselves the best shot possible and go to (the Mothership)”… fast forward a few years, and they now have 2 healthy kiddos, after 2 successful IVF rounds at CCRM. They were also in their early 30’s when they started… so this gig isn’t just for 40-pushers like me. Everybody’s body is different, and my biggest lesson in all of this is that it’s important to know yours.

Having CCRM in such close proximity seemed pretty fortuitous – so last November, I scheduled a consultation with CCRM founder and medical director Dr. Schoolcraft to chat through what the egg freezing process might look like for me.

20 SECOND TIMEOUT: I have to say this out loud before I continue – I do realize this is a pretty personal thing to be spewing through a megaphone and into the interwebs.  But, I also think this is something that SO MANY WOMEN are dealing with… maybe they’ve settled down but want to wait a few years for kids. Maybe they need to bust a few more years in their career before they’ll be ready to start a family. Maybe the person they want to have a family with hasn’t come along yet. Whatever the case may be – I can tell you this: whenever I’ve told any close girlfriend that I’m getting ready to freeze, they scoot closer to me and in a super hushed whisper say: “OMG, tell me everything because I may need to do it too.”  Like it’s something too seemingly frivolous or taboo to say aloud.

{photographer unknown, image via Wal-Mart}

I think it’s something that a LOT of women are curious about… and something that a lot of my friends who didn’t do it sooner are now wishing they did.  And that’s just not a position I am eager to find myself in. I’m so grateful that CCRM has an aim to shift the cultural narrative around fertility and family planning by empowering their patients to make informed decisions that can positively impact their future.  This quick video talks about the sharp uptick in the number of women in America going the egg freezing route, and walks you through the process:
 

BACK TO MY MEETING WITH DR. SCHOOLCRAFT (who btw is one of the foremost fertility docs in the world – how I fell into his care I have no idea): I drove down to Denver in late November last year to meet with him. I had my list of questions prepped, and before I knew him, I was pretty sure he’d rush me through and be all: “Anything else? Kthanksforcomingtakecarebye” – like some doctors we know tend to do.  Plus, he’s a BFD. Instead, he got me right into Ultrasound – which wasn’t planned, but he knew I’d come a long way and knew it would be helpful to see a snapshot of my follicles / situation downstairs before we sat down to chat. Then a few minutes later – once that was done and he had (well, pictures of my uterus) in hand – he sat down with me for almost an hour and talked me through the entire thing.  I wrote down a million stats & facts & things he said that day – here are a few:

  • I learned that I have GOBS of follicles (the average for someone my age is around 7 follicles in each ovary, so maybe 15 total.  I learned that I have 15 follicles on one ovary and 20 follicles on the other ovary…. so more than double the # most gals do).  The more follicles you have, the more eggs you have that can grow.  So, from what I understand, that’s a good sign (or as Karrie says: “Congrats on having the ovarian reserve of a teenage girl!” – bahahhaa) – BUT –
  • Dr. Schoolcraft reminded me that that a huge quantity of follicles isn’t always indicative of good quality. I actually have polycystic ovaries.
  • We won’t actually know their quality until we go to fertilize them, which was a surprise to me.
  • My AMH is 5.6 – they look for anything above a 2.  So that’s good.
  • My FSH is a 3.2. – at my age, levels under 8.4 is considered normal, so I’m good shape there, as well.
  • We also chatted through freezing eggs vs. embryos… basically, freezing embryos tends to be about 15% more successful than freezing eggs, but Dr. Schoolcraft felt like the # of follicles I have would help offset that differential. Freezing embryos tends to be more expensive (b/c you’re involving your significant other and therefore double the tests and basically almost double the cheese)… and also, freezing embryos can put you in a legal sitch down the road if – heaven forbid – the rug gets pulled out from under your love life. It’s not a pretty thought, but I appreciated his candor.
  • But – of everything we talked about that day – the ONE thing he said to me that resounded in my head after I left was this:

If you’re going to start trying in the next 6 months, I would say don’t spend the money. But anything beyond that, and I think it would be wise if you’re planning on having a family someday.” 

GULP.

So, that was November 2018.  It’s now August 2019.  Why in the SAM HILL is it August 2019 and I’m just now getting around to going through the retrieval process?  The (lame) truth is probably partly that I was scared – overwhelmed about the investment, so I stuck my head in the sand.  This is generally what the cost range is to do a retrieval and egg freezing cycle… so anywhere from just under $10,000 to $22,000.

Also… work. Equally lame. (I’m an Interior Designer and travel frequently for work, for those of you who are new to this blog)… But it’s hard to tell a client: “Hi, I’m so sorry, I can’t actually fly to (wherever) next week to work on your house because I have to go harvest my eggs.” It’s been easier to push it off to next cycle, or next month when I’m not traveling as much, etc…. but at this point, I just need to GSD (get sh*t done). I think I had an epiphany one day when I realized my ability to have a family trumped someone getting a custom sofa made in time for Labor Day.

{photo by Karrie Kuruzar}

I’ve heard allllll the comments from allllll the people who think I’m nuts. They are as follows:

  • Psssht, c’mon, you’re so healthy!  You have NO wrinkles!
  • People have babies well into their 40’s.  Just look at Halle Berry!
  • That seems like a waste of money.
  • You’ll be fine!  You guys are getting married soon anyway.

And to those I say:

  • Yes, I’m healthy and my skin looks decent because I bathe in coconut oil and swan dive into a jar of SPF every day. But I’m preeeeeeeetty sure my uterus doesn’t care how young my skin looks.
  • (*Snort* – seriously?  Halle Berry is a genetic anomaly. Look at her. She’s obviously not normal.)
  • I hear you – freezing your eggs is not inexpensive… the financial part of it is a serious consideration.. Insurance doesn’t typically play ball either, which means most of the time, you’re completely out of pocket.  I do recognize that I’m incredibly fortunate to even be in a place where I’m considering freezing as an option, because I know it’s off the table for a lot of people.  Even so – everybody’s got their somethin’… and it’s a REALLY inopportune time for me to be doing it right now because I might as well be approaching the Bermuda triangle of financial terror: besides the chickens-on-ice expense – which could be $10k or it could be $22k, we’re planning a wedding (which sadly will not be cheap, since my plan of a simple beach wedding with a taco stand catering it has disappeared like a fart in the wind) and we’re also trying to buy a SIMPLE piece of land (not so simple in Crested Butte) so we can build a house someday.  It’s all so scary and there have been SO many times the last few months where I’ve thought: “I’ll be fine, right? Meh – I can roll the dice.”  But this is what I always come back to: I cannot stomach chancing it.  We want to have a family. I can ALWAYS make that money back, but I will never be able to rewind time.  It’s a doodle that can’t be un-did.  How could I ever put a cost on preserving my ability to have a family?
  • Yes, yes, the engagement. We’re getting married next April.  Which is so fun (!) But again – pretty sure my uterus isn’t like: “Oh cool – omg your ring is so pretty! What colors are you doing?! K so I’ll just hang tight for you until you’re back from your honeymoon – take your time.”  By the time we get hitched next year and start trying for a family, I’ll be 39.  I just feel like at my age, I can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that every month really does count.

So, there you have (most of it).  The other huge piece of this is this: even if I get busy right after the wedding (that’s a pun, my friends! LOL), I could maybe crank out the first kiddo the old fashioned way (without IVF) right around age 40, which is great!  But a huge part of the motivation to put the chickens on ice is actually the SECOND kiddo.

{photo courtesy of Sarah Sherman Samuel, via this great article on IVF from Goop.com}

If we’re talking closer to 42 for #2, then I feel like that’s where things get real tricky… and I start running the risk of not being able to have a child at all, or to be running a higher risk of having a child with severe complications. I learned from Dr. Schoolcraft that prior to every ovulation cycle, your eggs go through a chromosomal division – and that division becomes abnormal more & more often as you (and your eggs) get older.   So I knew the longer I waited, the higher my risk of having a child with chromosomal errors.

A lot of people refer to freezing your eggs as an insurance policy – and so do I, but I also think of it like an investment in my future. The expense is a consideration for sure – but it’s just not something I’m willing to roll the dice on.  It’s true that there are no guarantees – but (are there with anything??)…  At this point, I feel like the best I can do is to do everything in my power to put myself in the best position possible to be able to have a family, when we’re ready.

Because I guarantee if I didn’t do this now and got a few years down the road and found that it wasn’t physically possible for me to have kids anymore, a) I would be heartbroken, but b) at that point I would gladly give anything to be able to turn back time and have the opportunity again that I have right now to preserve my fertility.  I mean… look at this sweet muffin.

{this beautiful image by Rad Wild Love Photography *remind me to hire them someday*, via Hippie Kids Mama Blog}

SO – my retrieval is set for next week at CCRM in Denver.  Since this past Sunday, I’ve been carefully giving myself shots twice a day of meds to grow the eggs.  Don’t worry (!) I had to do my first one at 8:00 a.m. in the comfort of an REI tent, because we were camping last weekend (#colorado). NBD.

What was LIFE CHANGING was this hot tip I got from a friend: if you rub an ice cube over the injection spot for about 5 minutes before you stick yourself, YOU CAN’T FEEL A THING.

…and over the last 7 days of shots prior to the retrieval (for which they put you under), I’ll have to go in almost daily to be monitored… which means I’m camping out at a hotel down the street from CCRM starting this Thursday for about a week.  If I’m guessing, I’ll probably feel like I swallowed Jabba the Hutt (because while my ovaries are currently the size of walnuts, they’ll swell to size of lemons prior to the procedure)… also, chances are the hormones will make me psycho-hose-beast-level emotional (sorry Chris!). But it’s also all good and it’s an itty bitty means to what will hopefully be a great (itty bitty) end.

{photo courtesy of Fresh Farmhouse}

With 35 follicles, the prediction is that they’ll be able to get about 15 eggs during this retrieval, which would be HUGE… but of those, they have to sort through and still determine which are good quality / mature and which ones are (well, lemons).  I’ll circle back post-op once I get the skinny on how many chickens we got to put on ice!

xoxo,

 

16 Responses to “Why I Decided to Freeze My Eggs”


  • Holy moly this post is goooold! I love your transparency, always. You’re going to be a wonderful mom someday!

  • Love this, and love your honesty. You may or may not realize it but being open about what you’re going through is going to help other women who are questioning whether to go thru with freezing their eggs, or who are dealing with trying to get pregnant in general.

    xoxoxoxo
    Karrie

    • Thanks guuuurl! I did not realize it until I posted and then got a ton of Insta responses, à la: “Thank you for the nudge – it’s been in the back of my mind and I knew I needed to do it, but now I’m gonna do it.” Hearts & Stars.

  • This is awesome, you are awesome. Read every damn word. I like the way you think girl! I love the proactive approach. You “put it out there” but in a way that provides hope and clarity for others. Nice face. Xoxo

  • Hey girl.
    Thanks for sharing all of this. For other reasons in my own world, My Baby JJ is an IVF baby. She has a twin bro from the same Petrie dish on ice somewhere in the valley… Waiting for his maybe someday turn.
    I know that feeling of dragging around a couple of swollen ovaries and I send you my love. What an exciting decision and I admire you for grabbing life by the horns. Very smart.
    Also I second the support for sounding off on this to help normalize women’s health and fertility for others. I have been truly confounded to learn how antiquated the culture around these issues is within the medical field. Go get em!

    • Thanks Betsy! Hopefully it does put a dent in normalizing it. I think I would’ve done it sooner but I just wasn’t educated on it and it did seem inaccessible or unattainable for me. Love to Baby JJ!

  • Yes!! Thanks for the candor. You da best!!

  • Thanks for the entertaining & informative post! I echo the comments above – you’re a saint for sharing what you learned and helping to normalize what so many women are considering (or should be considering and perhaps haven’t realized it yet)

  • Good for you, Stephanie. It’s always best to plan ahead. Prayers that everything goes super and I can’t wait to see your little chicken one day.

    • HAHAHAHA – thank you so much Aunt Betty! That means a lot to me 🙂 I’ll bring my chicken over to your house to eat out of a bowl with a surprise at the bottom! Still the most genius thing ever – always made me finish my lunch!

  • My sweet friend this is amazing. I so wish we would of done this or thought about it. As you know JW was hard to get and since him we have gone to the specialist and did all the same tests and unfortunately I have a low egg count reserve now at this point. And with all my other issues and now 6 miscarriages my chances are like 27% of a successful pregnancy with IVF. Not great odds and a shit ton of money. I wish I thought of all this in my early 30’s when I was more of a spring chicken. Love you friend and saying lots of prayers for you. Hugs

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