Continued from Defining “Independent Woman”: Lessons from Dish Soap
Signed, sealed, and frozen
I ended a recent post saying I had a goal to freeze my eggs by the end of 2014. It was important to me to freeze eggs while I was 35 and still had ones that were healthy, good quality, and plenty of them.
Statistically, it can take 10 eggs for one successful pregnancy and initial testing showed I’d probably be able to get that many or close to it. Everything is dependent on how your body responds to the hormones (essentially the same hormones as if you were preparing for a round of IVF).
I had discussed my options with my doctor and travelled down the road of fertility for nearly a year. One of the benefits of all the testing is that you learn a lot about your body and your reproductive system. I learned things about mine that I might not have ever known, unless I was married and/or with a partner, trying to conceive naturally without success or experiencing miscarriages. For those reasons, not to mention age and the scary statistics that show fertility dropping off drastically after 35, I decided that waiting any longer wasn’t in my best interest.
Saving the money to freeze eggs
By the end of June, I had saved enough money to proceed. It actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. I made some small sacrifices like going out to dinner less and not over-buying at the grocery store (I only bought what I knew I’d cook that day or the next). I didn’t shop (not hard, I’m not a big shopper anyway). I cut back on all spending that wasn’t absolutely necessary.
I used Susie Orman’s philosophy for getting out of debt to find money in unexpected places, or rather to reduce the waste. I cancelled automatic renewals, checked automatic deductions, cut annual fees for subscriptions and services I no longer used or needed. And most significantly, I sold stuff, like those old designer power suits that were burning a hole in the closet. (PS – all throughout this time, I could still afford to buy my organic dish soap.)
I had a couple of trips on the books that I cancelled so that I could be home long enough to complete the process.
Delays, and more delays
Just when I thought I was ready to go forward, I got sick. I delayed until the following month, but I still wasn’t much better. I went to the doctor and found out I had somehow caught an acute case of Haemophilus Influenza that my body wasn’t fighting off. It took two rounds of antibiotics and as such, another two-month delay. I couldn’t go through an elective procedure that involves hormones and anesthesia when I wasn’t in optimum health. I also didn’t want to be freezing eggs that could in any way be affected by a virus or antibiotics even though that logic may have been overly cautious.
In my mind, I wanted to have enough time to be fully cleansed, healthy, and in the best possible place mentally and physically for the retrieval. That meant eating better, drinking less coffee and alcohol, exercising more, and living an overall less stressful life. I made significant changes and those around me took notice. My theory was that if I were actually trying to get pregnant, those are the steps I’d take, so if these are the eggs that I’ll one day use, then shouldn’t the same rules apply?
The following month I was going to be out of town for a wedding during the optimal extraction days. Yet another delay. I felt like the universe was hand delivering me a lesson in the big picture that things don’t happen according to some master plan. The end of the year was creeping closer and closer.
After months of delays, I was finally feeling strong and went in for another blood test and ultrasound. My numbers all tested well. Follicle stimulating hormones, estradiol, resting egg count, all good. I had been planning to go straight to the hormone injections, meaning it would be just 10 to 14 days until the retrieval.
No problem, I thought. Two weeks of hormonal craziness and this will all be done.
But there was a problem. I had an ovarian cyst. I’d been hoping that I would be able to avoid going on birth control pills before the injections because my body is naturally sensitive — I thought all the hormonal shifts would be challenging at best. But I didn’t have a choice, really. Ovarian cysts were common for me and synthetic hormones were one way to deal with them. I had tried every thing else from Chinese herbs and diet (eliminating dairy and gluten) to acupuncture and natural supplements. I could wait again, another month, to see if the cyst was gone, but I was now realizing that perhaps it was fear that was holding me back. There was always going to be an excuse or a way out if I wanted one badly enough.
I was scared of the hormones. Scared of the injections. Scared that I’d gain weight, that I’d cry more, that I’d feel crazy, that my skin would look like a teenager again, that I would freak out, get hot flashes… And I was scared of the actual procedure, of being put under with anesthesia.
You wanted to do this, I told myself, and there’s no one saying you have to. It’s a lot of money. It’s okay if you don’t want to do it.
It was during that time I had an important revelation. I also needed to process the emotional part of the decision before moving forward. I needed to cry. I needed to feel everything that I was holding back about the entire process; the mourning of “it” not happening yet. The feeling of failure of not having yet found the right man, the right relationship, the right scenario, the life that I wanted that I’d been running from because I was scared of losing myself again, or that it wouldn’t be what I wanted after all. So many questions and emotions, realities and fantasies all jumbled into one chaotic bundle of fear.
I had done so much research. So many tests. I had been preparing for this all year. This was a conscious decision that was more than a year in the making. For me, doing this now meant setting an intention that I would one day, hopefully, be a mother.
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” a girlfriend cautioned as we discussed the early stages of dating someone new. “Keep your options open.”
The theory was relevant in more ways than one. My eggs weren’t going in any basket. They were going in the freezer.
Knowing there are no guarantees, the technology has seen many breakthroughs in the last few years and my doctor is at the helm of the advancements. It’s at a point now where frozen eggs can be thawed and fertilized and turn into successful pregnancies at the same rate as frozen embryos (not the case even a few years ago). And more eggs are surviving the process than ever before, too.
It would be a little bit of an insurance policy, a little breather, and it represented a hopeful step. If the right man doesn’t come in to my life, I could do it on my own when I was ready. Save the money now. Get the ranch and the baby. Build my own village. Grow my own garden. Be an independent woman. Options.
So with fear thrown to the curb and emotions processed, I got the prescription filled. For the first time in eight years, I was taking birth control pills.
Three days later…
Once I made the decision to go on the pill, it meant I was going forward with the entire process. I filled out the paperwork and the doctor put in the order for the medications I’d eventually need for the injections.
If the pill did what it was supposed to and the cyst went away, I could start the natural hormone injections in a little over three weeks time.
Three days later, I got a phone call from the compounding pharmacy that fills the prescription.
“We just need a credit card and authorization form from you in order to ship the meds,” the lady said on the other line.
I was confused. I thought 13 was the magic number. Turns out, I’d not-so-conveniently forgotten that the meds would be an additional $4,125. I wasn’t going to stop the process at this point, so I’d figure out another way. I’d pitch stories like crazy for the next week, I’d bring on a new clients, I’d sell more clothes. I’d figure it out and I did.
Three more weeks + a few days
I went off of birth control many years ago for a reason. Now on the pill for a week, I physically remembered why. I felt horrible. I was moody, irritable, had a mild headache all day every day, and the worst part was my skin. The doctors say the pill clears your skin. Ummm, not so. Not for me. Maybe over time that’s the case, but my body decided it would take revenge on my face with the sudden influx of synthetic hormones.
Blemishes like I had never had when I was a teenager were now all over my cheeks and chin and I was horrified. I literally wanted to stay inside and not see another human being until this was all over. But during this time – of course – the universe delivered me a chance to confront the awkward self-conscious problem I never had as a teenager. I had a date and my skin was a mess. Perfect.
I thought of canceling, but then I reconsidered. I wanted to go. And if he was going to be grossed out by my “teenage” skin then he was superficial and it would be his loss, I told myself. What I didn’t want to do was tell him WHY my skin was so bad at the moment because then I really might freak him out.
I looked in the mirror and thought, “well, if I sit on his left and he can’t see the left side of my face, then maybe it won’t look so bad, or if the lighting in the restaurant is low, maybe he won’t notice the layer of makeup I have caked on my face to cover it up…”
He picked me up. It was dark. Phew, this is going to be fine, I thought. Then we sat at the sushi bar. Under a light. Crap! I could feel the surge of hormonal heat hitting me like a tsunami as I worried that my now flushed skin would draw even more attention to the horns I felt growing out of my face. But I was on his left and since we were at the sushi bar, I could just look straight ahead and pretend I was transfixed by the chef’s slicing skills.
I’m not sure if he noticed that I wasn’t looking at him face-to-face, but I tried to compensate by talking and talking and talking, non-stop. If I stopped, then maybe he’d look at me, and… oh forget it. It was too exhausting. I didn’t recognize this insecure, overly self-conscious person I was in that moment. I gave up and sat face-to-face, under the spotlight, for the rest of dinner.
He wasn’t studying my skin. He was trying to get to know me. I’m not sure if he noticed the breakouts or not, on that date or the one that followed but what I noticed was how nice it was to let go of the self-conscious need to be – or rather, look – flawless on a date.
Two more weeks and a few days later, it was time to go back to the doctor to see if the cyst was gone and we could proceed to the next step.