I Froze 22 Eggs at 36. Here’s What I Learned.

It was nothing like I thought it would be. And I still might not decide to use my eggs. But I have the option. And that’s powerful.

Jul 31 · 29 min read
IVF Art: Inspired by the many who have gone before me in this process—single and with partners, gay and straight, cis, femme, transgender, and non-binary—I made this “22” collage out of the needles and medicines left over from my IVF egg freezing journey. Some have used these collages as birth announcements, I am using it as an egg count announcement.

Author’s note: This piece is sort of a multi-act play. There’s the backstory, the actual story, what I learned, a post script, and a few interludes—laid out using the arc of the hero’s journey (or in my case, the heroine). As with life, this post is a ‘choose your own adventure’ style read—please jump around as you see fit. I start each step of the journey with a brief explanation of what it means using the framework of renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell and the summaries provided by executive coach Scott Jeffrey.

The Prologue

Step 1 in the Heroine’s Journey: The Ordinary World

Before a would-be heroine can enter the special world, she must first live in the ordinary world. The ordinary world is different for each of us — it represents our norms, customs, conditioned beliefs, and behaviors.

My life has been simultaneously everything I’d ever hoped for and, yet, nothing like I had imagined.

From the Archives (July 1, 2004): An exercise I took myself through to figure out what job to take after college, honing in on things I knew to be true about who I was and what I was looking for. Kinda wild how prescient I was 15 years ago.

What had I hoped for? To live a full life and have an exciting career. To cultivate the best parts of me and work on my foibles. To serve and connect with others. To fall in love and be appreciated. To leave the world better than I found it. To do meaningful work with kind and brilliant people. To build and be a contributor on high octane teams… including my own… in the form of a company or two… and hopefully even a family unit someday.

What had I imagined? This life would take a lot of hard work, planning, and perseverance. I would need to block the negativity and double down on the goodness. I pictured a life that included much of what I wrote about after graduating college in 2004 (included on the binder paper on the left). I also expected I would have a husband/partner and a few children at some point into my 30s.

Fun family photo at my cousin’s wedding in New Mexico, July 2019. Wind-swept fabulous fam from left to right: me, mom, dad, amazing brother in law, and sister.

Why had I imagined the family piece? Well, I really like the family unit my mom and dad have built. A few of the top reasons for this include:

  • It’s supportive, snuggly, holds you accountable, builds you up, teaches you tons, and is packed with inside jokes.
  • We’re a team through and through.
  • I also figured since my mom had me at 31 and then had my little sister at 35, surely as I entered my mid-30s that would be something that would just, well, happen… right?
  • And then again, I wasn’t sure if being a mom was something I for sure wanted. Maybe I wanted to build a family using a different model. But what that model was, I wasn’t entirely sure. And when you’re young, it feels like those sorts of details aren’t critical to think through. Looking back, I would say: actually, they are important. They are important chiefly to ensure you have agency in your life and options about the future you want to create for yourself.

Interlude: A Common Misconception

Well-intentioned acquaintances would say to me you’re one of those women who gets their career going first and then… well… then you can think about your family. A few points of clarification:

  • These well intentioned folks don’t know I got engaged my freshman year of college to one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. I just wasn’t ready and so we parted ways when I was 24.
  • They also don’t realize that, after leaving my engagement, I spent nearly nine years in back-to-back relationships where I gave everything in return for very little.
  • So, while yes, I got my professional engine revving on all cylinders through my late 20s and into my early 30s, I didn’t do it by sacrificing the beginning of a family.

Just so there’s no confusion, let me use the big text so people in the back can read it:

I didn’t start a family in my 20s and 30s because I was with the wrong partners (not because of my career).

Deep down I knew. While I stayed with them for longer than I should, I knew and I fully believe that my subconscious (and God) protected me. I was careful not to get off birth control or push for a ring because I concluded of the boyfriends I dated from 24 to 32: they weren’t the kind of men I wanted to raise a family with.

  • Were they brilliant in their own ways? Yes.
  • But would they bring the character, values, compassion, and selflessness needed to be a great partner and parent? Based on what I was looking for: decidedly no.

I am glad that I got out of these relationships and grateful for the family support I had on the other side of these two breakups (including my sister relocating from overseas to live with me and help me heal—the greatest gift she’s ever given me and a ‘let me check out of life for a while’ privilege not realistic for many).

I can look on the bright side and say I am lucky for not having to navigate the challenging and expensive waters of divorce and shared custody. And equally, I have to acknowledge: I also wasted nine years of my life with people who I knew — and everyone around me knew — were no good.

As hindsight is 20/20, it’s easy for me to say to my younger self: Get out now. Leave sooner. You are wasting valuable years. But because it’s never too late to get it right, I carry this advice with me from this point forward (and share it with you, just in case you needed to hear it).

The Process: Steps 2–9 in the Heroine’s Journey

Step 2: The Call to Adventure

The Call to Adventure marks a transition from the ordinary world to the special world. The heroine is introduced to her quest of great consequence. Fear of change as well as death, however, often lead the hero to refuse the call to adventure. The ordinary world represents our comfort zone; the special world signifies the unknown. The heroine resists change initially but is ultimately forced to make a critical decision: embark on the adventure or forever remain in the ordinary world with its illusion of security.

It was 1:12am on Saturday December 29, 2018 and I was skimming Instagram. A company called “Kindbody” hit me with an egg freezing ad. I’d been receiving this kind of targeted advertising for the better part of my 30s, which had me feeling a few things over the years:

  • I wondered: did it even work? I heard a lot about the probabilities being low and the costs being high.
  • I rolled my eyes: of course I would get these kinds of ads, that’s what happens as you age. Especially around New Year’s Resolutions Szn! The skeptic in me quipped: geez, brands sure know how to hunt you down, wear you down, all while preying on your insecurities, concerns, and fears.
The email that started it all.
  • I concluded: I should probably learn more. So I signed up for Kindbody’s list, received a confirmation email, and did nothing for 48 hours.

Two days later I was getting ready to go out for New Year’s Eve with friends. We were going to hit our favorite neighborhood bar (Royale) and as I was getting ready, I looked at my phone and saw the Kindbody confirmation email hanging there like a chad from the 2000 Elections.

“Okay, okay!” I said to my phone, “I will do something with this before I go out.” So I logged back into the Kindbody thing I signed up for and lo and behold, they were running a New Year special. How convenient. For the in person consultation, it cost $500. And if you signed up for two egg retrieval surgeries, you could not only use the $500 as a credit towards your surgeries, but the cost would go from $5,000 per surgery to $4,000 per surgery.

Okay, so all-in it would be $8,000?

That sounded like much less than I had anticipated and my mind was open to it in a way that it hadn’t been in the past.

Interlude: On Costs

While the $8,000 was something I could make happen given my savings and investments, it is a figure outside the reach of most. For those of us with the privileges and advantages that allow us to finance these procedures and take time off work:

May we find as many ways as possible, big and small, policy and financial, to enable other women to have the necessary access to affordable and safe fertility options.

Kindbody takes donations of remaining, unopened medicines and in addition to participating in this program, I am looking into additional advocacy and / or sponsor opportunities.

Step 3: Cross the First Threshold

In one sense, this is the point of no return. Once the heroine shoots across the unstable suspension bridge, it bursts into flames. There’s no turning back, at least, not the way in which she came. The first threshold marks a major decision. This first breakthrough is a feat within itself; however, it is but the first of many turning points.

I poked around for reviews and looked at the founding team (all women, all top in their field). Some people are maximizers and would have done a lot of researching and comparing in spreadsheets before pulling the trigger. I respect that. I, on the other hand, am what is known as a satisfier: I look for a few key signals before deciding, then I make a call.

One receipt to rule them all.

At exactly 3pm on Monday December 31, 2018 I did just that. I put $500 down and booked the in person consultation for Friday January 4, 2019.

My openness to the process was not only because of the cost, but as I am sure you’ve found yourself at the end of a year / beginning of a new year, I was much more reflective and contemplative. I was open to new ideas and thinking about what I wanted to get out of the year ahead—and what I would have to put in to get there.

As I was putting down a few hundred bucks and ramping to shell out thousands more, I remember asking myself two very honest questions that tipped the scales for me:

  • Key Question № 1: In your 40s, how much would you pay for your 36 year old eggs?
  • Key Question № 2: Optionality has always been important to you in your career, why not use that same framework for mapping out what a future family state and / or potential motherhood could look like?
Fertility statistics by age: number of genetically abnormal embryos by age. Source: Fertility and Sterility, 2014 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24355045).

To the first question, I put a very high value on my younger eggs. Well above what I was being charged. The more I dug in, the more I learned about how important younger eggs were. Talking with my doctors verified what I was reading online in places like Extended Fertility (I also checked this against less commercially interested sources, like academic findings in journals — same song, different tune).

As a woman is exposed to all of the inevitable forces of everyday life — illness, toxins, free radicals, fever, and more — that can damage the DNA inside her eggs. That’s why, as a woman gets older, it’s more likely that she’ll have genetically abnormal eggs, resulting in no pregnancy, miscarriage, or genetic disorders for the baby.

To the second question, I mapped out all the ways I could have a family and included egg freezing in the mix. I went from feeling kind of like I missed my chance, to realizing I had at least eight options—half of which became possible when I had my own frozen eggs with which to work. Those options included, but were not limited to:

  • Conceiving naturally.
  • IVF with my own eggs and sperm from my future partner.
  • IVF with my own eggs and sperm from a donor.
  • Surrogacy: my eggs inseminated by my future partner’s sperm, carried by another woman.
  • Surrogacy: my eggs inseminated by a donor sperm, carried by another woman.
  • I marry / partner up with someone who already has kids and that is all the family we need.
  • I adopt or foster kids, with or without a partner.
  • I choose not to have kids, but continue to participate in the lives of young people through mentoring and being an aunt (if / when my sis has kids).

To be clear, the probability of each of these options is not particularly inspiring. And the probability of a full-term, healthy pregnancy is far from guaranteed using IVF. But when I look at all of these options together, I cannot help but feel more empowered and hopeful that at least one could pan out. Like a venture capitalist diversifying her portfolio, I too need to have multiple bets.

Step 4: Trials, Friends, and Foes

Along the hero’s journey, the main character encounters many obstacles. Some people may try to stop you along your quest — possibly saying you’re unreasonable or unrealistic. These dream-stoppers are often cleverly masked as friends and family who appear to have positive intentions but hinder your development nonetheless.

Financing this procedure from end to end is an obstacle that nearly every woman has to consider. Some women have help from insurance, the policies of their countries (a friend and her husband in Canada are supported for one cycle of IVF), family wealth, or personal wealth. I had to liquidate some investments to have this kind of cash on hand; but I am grateful to have made the decision to set aside money as my career took off and know I can always make it again. Many women do not have this option and should. Access and financial support to have options for your future should be a universal right—from health, to education, to housing.

And yet, even if you have a lot of money, you can’t bypass probabilities. Numbers are the obstacle that thwart us all. You can out run the stats by starting everything younger: trying to conceive, freezing your eggs, IVF impregnation. But that’s also presupposing you don’t have a challenge with any other aspect of your reproductive system or the partner / donor with whom you are conceiving (e.g. endometriosis, low sperm counts, polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS], problems with the uterus or fallopian tubes, problems with ovulation, antibody problems that harm sperm or eggs, et al.).

Posted above, I want to bring this graphic back front and center:

Fertility statistics by age: number of genetically abnormal embryos by age. Source: Fertility and Sterility, 2014 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24355045)

Again, the message here is:

The younger you take any of this on, the better chances you have for having non-abnormal embryos—whether you are using them right away, or freezing them for future use.

CDC’s website for Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). According to the site:
“Fertility clinics in the U.S. report and verify data on the assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycles started and carried out in their clinics, and the outcomes of these cycles, during each calendar year.”

But at the same time, freezing your eggs does not—by a long shot—guarantee a full term healthy pregnancy. The CDC has an excellent resource for all things “Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)”, where they publish reports and help you find clinics near you—and understand the success rates those clinics are disclosing.

In the CDC’s most recent report (2016), they note:

  • There were 86,237 ART cycles started with the intent to transfer fresh embryos from fresh nondonor eggs in 2016.
  • Of those, 23,529 (27%) led to a pregnancy, but only 19,137 (22%) resulted in a live birth.
  • In other words, 4,392 (almost 1 in 5) of ART pregnancies did not result in a live birth.

And as with everything in the pregnancy space, you always have to layer in age as a factor because of the shifts in your body’s ability to produce the necessary follicles, hormone levels (especially the protein hormone Anti-Müllerian hormone, or AMH, inside the ovarian follicles), and, ultimately, healthy eggs. I could go on and on here, but I will let you ask your doctor / PA and press for straight forward, clear answers about the success rates of their clinics and their practices.

Step 5: Magical Mentor (or the Mentor with Supernatural Aid)

Generally, at an early stage of the adventure, the hero is graced by the presence of a wise sage. Personified in stories as a magical counselor, a reclusive hermit, or a wise leader, the mentor’s role is to help guide you. Think Obi-Wan, Yoda, Gandalf, Morpheus, or Dumbledore.

Back to some uplifting news: The Kindbody team was stupendous. And with science and kindness on their side, there was absolutely something supernatural about it.

A deep amount of gratitude to the all-female super team that I worked with, including: Dr. Browne, Hina (PA), Zaira (nurse), and Alenda (office manager).

They helped me navigate the whole process by empowering me with information, answering my questions, making me feel at home and calm (despite a lot of ups and downs in the process), and always being available (there were definitely a few panicked after hours WhatsApp messages to Hina that she always jumped on immediately — bless). I don’t know how they all did it, but I am grateful that they did. What you all are building at Kindbody is nothing short of industry-changing and I am rooting you on 110%.

Step 6: Dragon’s Lair

Within the walls of the innermost cave lies the cornerstone of the special world where the heroine closes in on her objective.

Stills from my Instagram Stories during my final cycle heading into my second egg retrieval in May 2019. My goal was to have everyone on ice by May 1st (my 37th birthday), but happy to get them in just 30 days later on May 31st. Somehow hitting the month of May deadline still felt amazing, so I celebrate that and consider it still within my 36th year that I started growing these eggs :)

I had cycled off and on medicines so much that my ovaries were in a permanent state of enlargement. Think of a post-Thanksgiving meal stomach, but all the time. Not nearly as full-on as pregnancy, but also not something that goes back down after a few days.

For every cycle, I had to:

  • Take hormones for 10–12 days, in the form of 2–3 shots at night in my abdomen, self-administered.
  • Mix and inject all the right amounts, based on my medical team’s remit for me after each checkin.
  • Be home every night from 8–10pm to take the shots.
  • Bring my meds on ice wherever I was (limited travel during this time, but iced as needed).
  • Take birth control (which I was not on initially) and a blood thinner to keep my cysts from forming.
  • Not have sex at all during this entire process, as I was highly fertile (the irony is not lost on me — lol).
  • Take a trigger shot 36 hours (to the minute!) before my procedure, in my glute. Thankful to my PA angel friend Cait for help here. Protip: icing ahead of time is KEY to help numb the area.
  • Be monitored regularly with Ultrasounds: during a cycle, every other day and leading into a cycle, every few days. We were monitoring for follicle count (that’s what houses the egg), egg count (as many as possible), egg size (18–24mm to harvest), egg growth rate (aim: even as possible), and making sure no cysts were forming.
  • Have a shot in my arm to draw a bit of blood to test at every Ultrasound checkin to see how my estrogen levels were doing. You want them going up, up, up.
  • Enlarged ovaries means a risk of internal bleeding if I did high-impact activities like running, jumping, or lifting.
  • High-impact also runs the risk of dislodging an egg during the later stage of the process.

And so, two things happened as a result…

  • No Crossfit. This is something I had been doing for nearly four years, at least 5x a week. Lifting heavy, pushing hard, and getting better day after day gave me a mental break from life in New York and a sense of accomplishment every time I left the gym. The people I train with and the coaches I learn from are my community, my family. Leaving all of this SUCKED. But after the first month or two of cycling on and off of meds, I made the decision to pause my membership. I had to shift my focus and mitigate the risks to my body.
  • Silver Lining: Reintroduction to Yoga. While the no-Crossfit bummed me out a lot initially, the co-owner of our gym (Melissa) was not only so supportive, but also drew me further into my yoga practice at Y7 (which re-started earlier in the year thanks to another Crossfit angel, Liz). Melissa’s email response to my paused membership request (below) gives you a glimpse into the kind of friend, coach, and leader she is—I am so grateful for her.

And with yoga came a calmer mind and a more mobile body. By stepping back from lifting heavy and moving fast with intensity, I was able to focus in on some critical PT work that is correcting my movement patterns and unwinding compounded ailments. Huge thanks to the team at The Center for Spine Care + Mobility for adapting to and directly supporting my body through my many cycles (especially Anastasia Young, PT, DPT, CSCS and Dr. Schuman, DC).

And while the shots every night were tedious, I got good at them. And I was great at preparing little “shot packs” so I had all the things I needed to mix. One friend’s partner remarked of her experience: ‘She could basically be a nurse by the end, given all she learned and all the shots she administered.’ That estimation was not too far off.

Step 7: Moment of Despair

No worthwhile adventure is easy. There are many perils on the path to growth, discovery, and self-realization. A major obstacle confronts the heroine, and the future begins to look dim: a trap, a mental imprisonment, or imminent defeat on the battlefield. It seems like the adventure will come to a sad conclusion, as all hope appears lost.

January: First Cycle Attempt = Cyst (outcome: no go)

  • We closely observed my body heading into what we had hoped to be the first full cycle. This included a lot of ultrasounds and trainings around how to inject myself.
  • Through this observational work, we discovered a cyst on my ovary (apparently ‘very common’), but had to be removed before we went forward with meds. This is because the cyst will block the eggs’ ability to absorb the meds evenly. We scheduled a surgery to drain the cyst (an additional cost of $1,100) and when we did the final ultrasound before surgery, the cyst had abated. Thankfully I was refunded the full $1,100. You can see how things add up and without the financial advantages to cover unforeseen out of pocket costs, what is a person supposed to do?
  • During this month, I also had a genetics test run (an additional cost of $250) and the results let me know that of ~250 potential genetic disorders, I carried only one: a recessive expression for blindness. Something to note if / when I get closer into conceiving. Good to know.

February: Second Cycle Attempt = Uneven Egg Growth (outcome: no go)

  • With the cyst gone (the one that kept me from ), we waited until my period cycled through again. I’ve never been more aware of each day of my cycle as when I went through this process. The app “Flo” was my go-to tracker and I continue to use it to this day — it’s really well designed and even though I know the advice is generic, it’s still timed well.
  • My doctor gave me the green light to start my meds, just like we rehearsed (at the time, it was Dr. Fritz who was later replaced by Dr. Browne — both were consummate professionals, but there was something extra special about having a female doctor when Dr. Browne showed up).
I captured some footage of a typical “good news” checkin, from a later cycle in May. You can hear Dr. Browne talking me through what she’s looking for and hear asking questions. The longer I was at it, the more I learned how to ask the right questions (namely: how close to 18mm are we and what’s the overall count?) When the news wasn’t as good, I didn’t bring out my phone. I was too sad.
  • And then the monitoring began. Ultrasounds first thing in the morning, every other day for a week. The worst part of all of that was getting up early and the wait to get in for my appointment slot was never more than 20 minutes. But again, it is because of my knowledge-worker job and empathetic employer (deeply thankful to Bionic) that I was able to take this amount of time off in the morning. Not a benefit most employers offer, especially for women who participate in the gig economy, shift work, or freelance.
  • It was late in the afternoon following one of my morning appointments when I got the call from Dr. Fritz. He let me know that I had two eggs that were essentially “hogging all the medicine” and precluding the other eggs from getting an equal dose. What did this mean? I could either have a surgery to retrieve two eggs, or wait another month when we could try a new protocol.
  • I went into what I can only describe as shock. I couldn’t go back to work. I couldn’t think straight. My mind raced to all the things I could have done differently to make sure the eggs all got their fair share (was it the way I was sleeping? where I was injecting? what I was eating? was I too old? was I too masculine at work and in the gym? were my hormones off because I had yo-yo dieted in my 20s? the list went on)
  • I asked for the rest of the day off and just started walking home (about three miles) and called my mom. Empathetic employers allow this—but what about all the women who work at soulless companies that don’t?
  • My mom and I talked about how our bodies are miraculous, but also mysterious. And that we’ve got great doctors and more information than before to help guide us to a successful outcome. By the time I got home, I was nearly frozen (pun intended) but felt a little better. I can only imagine what it must be like for the women who go through cycle after cycle after cycle, month after month, year after year, in search of a successful outcome. For a brief afternoon I could touch with my mind the thought of it and my heart hurt for all the women who have struggled with fertility. I see you, I feel you, I honor your journey.

Step 8: Ultimate Treasure

Having defeated the enemy and slain the dragon, the heroine receives the prize. Pulling the metaphorical sword from the stone, the heroine achieves the objective she set out to complete. Whether the reward is monetary, physical, romantic, or spiritual, the hero transforms. And often, the prize the hero initially sought becomes secondary as a result of the personal transformation she undergoes.

My tangible treasure? Twenty-two eggs frozen in nitrogen.

March & April: Third Cycle = Success (outcome: retrieval surgery №1)

  • We learned so much from the second cycle that by the time we got here, we had an improved plan.
  • I went on blood thinning meds to keep the cysts at bay, while at the same time we upped the dosages of the hormones to get growing fast and strong out of the gates.
Goal: As many eggs in the double digits as possible. They need to be at least 18mm, but no larger than 24mm. And you need them all to grow at the same rate. (Side note: this growth rate should be a math problem they teach instead of the rate of a swimming pool filling up—much more useful for women and men to both know).
  • The revised plan worked. We had even growth across all my eggs and by mid April, it was go time. I even managed to hop on a train to Washington DC to celebrate my dear friend Bill’s wedding to the most wonderful Ashira and make it back in time for monitoring. I ice packed all my meds and only had a few sips of champagne for the wedding toast. All-in-all: I was able to live my life, take care of my med protocols, and not miss out on an important moment (I’ve missed two other important wedding moments in the past in the the name of work—I regret this, deeply).
  • Surgery №1: April 12, 2019
  • Total eggs retrieved: 11

May: Fourth Cycle = Success (outcome: retrieval surgery №2)

  • We let my body reboot for a few weeks and by the time my next period was on the horizon, we were feeling good about going for another retrieval. My follicle count was high at nearly 20 (think of these as the individual holding bays for each potential egg).
  • Surgery №2: May 31, 2019
  • Total eggs retrieved: 12 (11 of which were viable, making my count a balanced 22 which for a numerology fan like me is extra special, as 4 is my lucky number; 2+2=4 and 2²=4).

My intangible treasure? Everything I’ve learned about my body; the people I’ve connected with; the deeper appreciation and understanding I have of the process; the awe I have for my body; and the gratitude I have for my medical team at Kindbody, my employer Bionic, my family, my friends. A few highlights from the intangibles:

  • Multiple guy friends reached out to remark they had ‘no idea how much of a commitment it was’. They came away more empathetic and in awe of their female friends who had done it and I believe, forever changed as future partners.
  • I connected in new ways with women who had already experienced motherhood. In a way, I was sort of welcomed into the club if not as a full time member, at least as someone who experienced the initial part of what it means to call upon components of the greatest hardware ever invented: the female body.
  • I struck up meaningful conversations with women who were on the fence about egg freezing and / or about to experience it. We talked through what to expect, we supported one another as we geared up for the final push (maturing as many eggs as possible), and checked in with one another after the surgeries. It was incredible.

Step 9: Homeward Bound

The heroine must deal with whatever issues were left unresolved at this stage of the journey. Taking moral inventory, examining the Shadow, and performing constant self-inquiry help the heroine identify weaknesses that will later play against her.

The final lap in this marathon of a year wasn’t so much the final surgery, as it was coming back to my meditation practice for the first time after my recovery. It was then, in a hot, dark, candlelit room that I wept. I cried for how proud of my body I was. I cried for the child (children?) I haven’t yet met, but hope to someday. I cried for the longing I have deep in my heart to meet someone as valiant in character and heart as my former fiancé.

I did it. We did it. Part 1 was done. Exhale.

It was hugely challenging but entirely worth it. And from what I’ve learned from friends who have gone through Part 2 (insemination, incubation, impregnation)—things get increasingly more challenging. Namely because, again, full term, healthy pregnancy is far from guaranteed.

As it was explained to me in the simplest terms:

You have to thaw the eggs: some won’t make it.

You have to inseminate then incubate the eggs: some won’t make it.

You have the option to genetic test the stem cell after 5 days: some might not be viable.

You have to implant the embryo: some don’t take.

You have to carry the embryo to full term: miscarriages can happen.

Interested in watching my Q&A via Instagram stories? Additional information and real-time feels shared here:

The Learnings

Step 10: Rebirth & The Champion’s Return

In this final stage, the heroine can become master of both worlds, with the freedom to live and grow, impacting all of humanity. Returning with the prize, the heroine’s experience of reality is different. Comfortable in her own skin, she has evolved and is now capable of handling demands and challenges.

After taking a good amount of time to reflect on what I learned, here are the five (5) things I want to pass on to anyone else that might find themselves considering the process of freezing your eggs—or exiting a relationship not meant for the long haul (see especially №5).

There are some excellent double meanings in the title of step 10, as it touches on both the concept of birth (a hopeful outcome in the future, whatever it may hold) and the idea that the champion returns (to Crossfit, to dating, to blogging, to founding more companies).

Learning №1: Double the time, double the budget.

It’s an old adage from my days as a project manager and producer—and it was true here, too.

  • While I initially thought that the $8,000 would cover everything, I learned that the prescription medicine would cost extra ($11,187.94 to be exact), the genetics test would be $250 (optional… but hey, while we are here, why not) and the annual storage cost was another $600 / year. All in, it ended up being around $20,000. Again, a figure that is unattainable for a majority of the population—and that makes me ill.
  • And because my IVF egg freezing was elective—as a single, unmarried woman—insurance wouldn’t cover it. There is some coverage by U.S. insurance companies for women who are married and have tried for at least six months to get pregnant. This needs to change across the board.
  • I also was a bit naive to think that I could knock the whole thing out in two months. It turned out that I needed extra time to learn which medicines and at what doses worked best with my body. I also needed extra time for my body to dissolve the very common—but blockers to IVF meds—cysts.
  • Two other costs to consider including: (1) the amount of time away from my job I had to take every morning / every other morning when I was cycling (10 days per month for about 4–5 months) and (2) the cost of cabs to early morning appointments when it was super cold out—I am not a morning person and this was my ‘treat’ to make sure I never missed an appointment. I am grateful to my employer Bionic for remaining entirely flexible and supportive during this process.

Learning №2: Your race, your pace.

It’s a mantra I adopted through my athletic training in my 30s and it’s 100% applicable here.

  • Comparing my life to friends who have already had kids wasn’t helpful. They are on a different path and going in a different order than me—and that’s totally okay for both of us.
  • I also had to stop comparing my follicle and egg counts to those of my friends. Everyone’s body is different and it was my job to love and support my body so she could do her best—not someone else’s best.

Learning №3: It took patience, positivity, faith, friends, family.

As cliched as those three things sound to the reader, they are absolutely what carried me through.

  • Patience. When things were slow at the beginning, I recall my doctors telling me that it was going to work out and that we just needed time to figure out the best protocol. They were right.
  • Positivity. When my follicle or egg counts weren’t as high as I had initially hoped, I shifted to be grateful for what my body was producing. I kept my mind focused on positive things and reinforced the good at every turn.
  • Faith. I went to Y7 yoga almost daily for nearly five months and during the self meditation time, I would lay my hands on my stomach and say “thank you body for what you are doing, thank you God for working miracles, thank you future family for being patient with me.”
  • Friends & Family. I had regular calls, texts, and visits from friends and family who were eager to learn more and to support my journey. Thank you all so so much. I made it because you had my back.

Learning №4: Sharing the process helped me and hopefully others.

I have long been a consumer of the ‘how I did it’ genre of online posts from brave and bold women. You know the ones—where women just like you bravely take on a range of challenges and share their journey openly, honestly, and radically. They struggle. They persevere. They triumph. They keep it real and help us all realize: we’re not alone in this.

I experienced this the morning of my surgery (May 31, 2019), as I was taking the F Train up town. My heart rate was still elevated an hour later when I was getting my vitals taken before going under. Grateful to be safe and that everyone was, too.

When I started undergoing the experience, I not only opened up about it at work and when people asked me “so what’s new with you” — I also started posted about it on Instagram and even took a what-are-the-chances appearance on multiple news outlets the day of my second surgery to bring awareness to the process and make more common the conversation around this and other topics related to women’s health. All of which ultimately led me to write this blog post.

Interlude: A Call to Arms

In my own small way, I have contributed to this crucial cannon of real talk from real women with three posts about body image, health, and strength. And I want to do more of it. The women who have gone before me inspire and require me to—it’s a call to arms to us all. But it doesn’t stop there: It’s what I want to do with my time and my money:

  • build products and services that improve conditions for women;
  • buy from companies run by women, LGBTQIA, non-binary individuals, people with disabilities, and racially diverse leaders; and
  • coach, advise, and invest in these founders and companies, too.

What I am concluding from the experience of speaking my truth and seeking the insightful truths of others:

The oftentimes suboptimal experience of being a woman can greatly be improved when we all share what we know. We will all live better when we stop accepting things that don’t work for us as “just the way it is”.

We do this by taking an active role in innovation, invention, and information sharing.

Lesson №5: He’s not worth it.

The message I would give to my younger self: that guy that doesn’t treat you well and that you have to do backflips for, he’s wasting your time and you should start working on your exit strategy sooner than later.

Go ahead and date him for a few months and have some fun, make some memories, learn some lessons… but anything more than a year starts you down a path that is not only harder to unwind from, but one that requires significant capital should you want to have kids (either via IVF or adoption).

The Post Script

Step 11: The Heroines Speak Up and Lift Up on Their Journey

When you learn a new word, you seem to see it everywhere. The same has been for my radar and all things IVF and egg freezing. Within the last few months, many friends have shared their own journeys with me and I’ve caught at least five high profile women sharing their journeys on Instagram and in the press.

By telling our stories and hearing the stories from others, we are hopefully made stronger and better equipped, if not simply reminded we are not alone.

  • Writer Ruthie Ackerman in Modern Love: “Here’s the truth: Assisted reproductive technology gives women hope, but it’s no magic wand. I have learned this the hard way, both from my own experience and from the hundreds of hours I have spent in chat rooms and Facebook groups listening to women share their stories with each other, strangers in silence and shame. […] We were wronged not by our careers, or the promises of feminism, or the partners who loved or didn’t love us, but by a medical establishment that sold us the fantasy that we could have it all, on our own schedule.” [The New York Times, July 17, 2019]
  • OKCupid CMO Melissa Hobley: “You’re at the doctor two or three mornings per week,” Hobley says. “Sunday mornings you’re there, Saturday mornings you’re there, it doesn’t matter. The security guys thought I worked there.” She recalls a dinner held by a previous employer for venture capitalists. “We had just presented a Series C ask, and I’m in the bathroom giving myself shots before the dinner with VCs that we needed to win over.” [AdAge Podcast “Ad Block”, July 11, 2019]
  • Peloton VP & Head Instructor Robin Arzon: “This is something personal I’ve chosen to do for myself, and the family my husband and I plan to start someday in the future. No telling yet when or how that will be, but it’s not anytime soon! Right now, I’m just taking steps to make sure it’s a possibility.” [Instagram, July 17, 2019]
  • Top ranked U.S. Crossfitter Cassidy Lance-McWherter and her wife Alyson McWherter: “Right now we are in between cycles and in between medications before we try to implant again. So for those of you who keep asking, and for those of you who may have already guessed this is my plan for 2019. We want a beautiful family to start making the most enchanted lifelong memories with.” [Instagram, July 7, 2019]
  • Glossier founder Emily Weiss: “Freaking 11 days of injecting myself in the stomach 3x/day to freeze my eggs,” the 34-year-old captioned the photo, where she’s seen cupping her belly. “Over tomorrow. Bloated; proud; grateful to have the option. Major props to ladies who do this!”[…] As for her personal decision to freeze her eggs, Weiss added: “I plan on being a great mom, but I’m not ready now, and I certainly wasn’t ready in my twenties. Thank god I have the right to choose.” [Parade, May 15, 2019]

Thank you to the women who bravely, boldly, and unapologetically share their stories (above here, online elsewhere, offline). And to all the women who have gone before us and to those who continue forward in their journeys: may we all find wisdom, support, and solace in open, honest dialogues and improved access and efficacy.

As for me, I stand in knowing I’ve done my best. And when the time comes to thaw my eggs, I trust the process to bring life forward — if not in my womb, then in other ways. I will have a family someday and what it might look like is probably nothing like I imagined, but everything for which I hoped.

I am an Entrepreneur in Residence at Bionic, where I am focused on building exceptional teams and disruptive companies. I also proudly coach and advise cofounders with diverse backgrounds and deep focus on meaningful problems. My next project will be in the FemTech space—I look forward to sharing more, soon.

In the meantime, let’s stay in touch~connect with me on LinkedIn & Twitter

Thanks to Lucy Blair Chung

Leslie Bradshaw

Written by

CPG EIR at Bionic | lives to lift spirits, weights, revenue, human potential, standards | 3x @Inc 500 | @UChicago Alumna | Terroir + family @BradshawPinot

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