The Lie of Eggsurance
We hear all about fertility technology advances, but precious little about their results
I originally wrote this for The Collection in February (2018), when the where-are-they-now? style story ran in the Washington Post. It was a follow up to the rah-rah egg freezing articles from a few years ago, but unlike the earlier articles, it received relatively little fanfare. At the time, I didn’t see many commentary reactions either, but WaPo and/or the author allowed the piece to be edited and reposted by the National Post in Canada. That article popped up in my social feeds this week, so I am rerunning my comment.
A few years ago egg freezing became women’s insurance policy. Remember? There was a book, a blog, a whole bunch of cheerleading articles, and progressive companies putting egg freezing in their insurance benefits packages. I remember thinking that maybe these women would want to write the books and articles after their babies were born, not when they first put their eggs on ice.
Aged forty myself at the time, I had a lot of friends going though IVF. The success rate was not good. Plus, another book The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock had just been published the year before by an Ivy League woman who had learned the hard way. (She was very clear that she was highly educated and still did not know the fertility basics, ergo, it must have been information withheld.) But in 2014, egg freezing was the new baby insurance. It would be a few years before some of these women started trying to use their frozen eggs.
That few years is now. The Washington Post has the story from the woman who ran the Eggsurance blog. “Things didn’t work out as she imagined,” the tagline tells us. The article covers four stories of egg freezing, two successes and two not, a ratio which contradicts the stats and which, to their credit, WaPo does publish.
But the old pattern repeats. The happy promises are shouted. The sad results slip away quietly. Although I was hopeful for the truth this time. Given the fanfare when the egg freezing craze happened, one would anticipate that the disappointing results for these women who put their name on the idea of egg freezing as insurance would get loads of traction. But no.
I’ve been reading pop feminist commentary since the mid ‘90s and I’ve seen this phenomenon more than a few times now. In ‘14, there were egg freezing parties. While The Big Lie collected dust on the bookshelves, women filled swanky venues to sip cocktails, nibble canapés, and listen to consultants explain how the freezing worked. It was the professional woman version of a Tupperware party.
Yet when the results come in, when we learn — again — that women’s fertility has a short and set window: crickets.
Maybe the article is going around on dark social (emails and text). But the rest is near-silence. Even right media, who was all over the problems of egg freezing back in ’14 and who usually sees some pundit take a mocking “I told you so!” swipe, is quiet. I do not mention that because mockery is called for, it isn’t, but to point out how quiet the reaction is. I’ve not seen any comment on this story yet.
Women in professional circles just don’t want to hear news like this. And this is not new.
A Long Look Back: “The Talk of the Book World That Still Can’t Sell” — New York Times, 2002
In its two months on the market, Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book ‘’Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children’’ has generated the kind of publicity authors and publishers usually only dream of.
The book was featured on “60 Minutes’’ and the cover of Time and New York magazines. It was promoted on “Oprah,’’ “Today,’’ “Good Morning America’’ and the “NBC Nightly News.’’ It was debated on the editorial and op-ed pages of The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times.
But there’s one place you will not find a mention of Ms. Hewlett’s book: the best-seller lists. The most talked-about book in America, which raises the specter that women who sacrifice families for careers might wake up childless at 45, is hardly selling at all.
Originally published February 4, 2018 in The Collection, “Rest for the Wicked, Rebuke for the Faithful: How Rachel Denhollander Lost Her Church.”