Freezing Eggs and Single Women Turning 35
When comedian Jessi Klein turned 35, single and with no plans for a baby, her doctor confronted her with an unexpected question about just how far she'd push the boundaries of fertility.
I am turning 35 today. As you probably know, 35 is the age when a single woman’s heart explodes like a dream-raisin deferred, and all the petals fall off her vagina and dozens of cats suddenly park themselves in a circle around her cobwebby old hope chest. This is all true. But the one doomsday prediction I thought had kind of evaporated was the idea that after 35 the only baby you can create is the one you see when you pop your Ally McBeal episodes onto the old DVD player. I know plenty of women in their late thirties and early forties who are having happy, healthy, gnocchi-tushed babies. Or at least, I thought I did.
If I have one wish for my birthday, it is that 35 is the end of desperation and the beginning of acceptance. Part of that is believing that if I’m meant to give birth, I will.
So imagine my surprise when I went to my gynecologist a few weeks ago for my regular oil check and this conversation like totally happened:
DR: So, how old are you?
ME: 34. Almost 35. Ack! ( Cathy reference. She doesn’t get it. How could she not get it?)
DR: And remind me, are you dating anyone?
ME: [Struggling to remember what I told her the last time she was staring into my torso.] Um, I’m not with the guy I was dating last time anymore.
DR: Okay. Well, so now might be a good time to talk about freezing your eggs.
I couldn’t believe it. I had actually arrived here, at this horribly clichéd sad-woman moment wherein, if this were a movie, Kate Hudson would be whimpering on the exam table, “I guess I was so busy with my career I forgot to have kids” and then has to go turn on some Motown and dance around the kitchen with her girlfriends to feel better (and then miraculously has a baby anyway with her high school sweetheart Bradley Cooper, who always lurved her despite a previous Misunderstanding.)
I listened as the doctor explained exactly how one freezes her eggs. It’s super easy, she said. All you have to do is inject yourself with hormones a couple of times a day for about fourteen days, then you go to the doctor, and they scrape your eggs out of your body! Hopefully a few will be ripe enough to make a baby. They put those in the freezer. The rest are thrown into the river. I think that’s what she said. Something like that.
My doctor, who I adore, asked if I wanted to take home some “literature” about the procedure. (I never understand why these medical pamphlets are called literature, as if Faulkner was up all night feverishly writing about NuvaRing.) And in that moment, I made a decision. A decision about how I’m going to handle the fact that I’m thirty five (today!) and I don’t have kids and a kid-making partner isn’t currently on the scene. I decided I didn’t want the literature. And I don’t ever want the literature about anything related to the world of Fertility. It’s my big thirty-fifth birthday present to myself.
I’m not judging those who want it, have done it, are doing it or have a lovely baby/babies because of it. It’s a completely personal choice, and one I feel lucky we can make. It’s just that when I think about my uterus (which is rare) I don’t have any desire to bully it into doing something it may not naturally feel like doing. In vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, egg transplants, surrogacy, fallopian Xeroxing—I have no interest. I know I could change my mind one day, but to the degree that I know anything, I also know I won’t.
Well, for starters, I don’t like needles. And I don’t like doctors’ offices. It’s not a casual dislike. Even when I like my doctors, I hate sitting in those offices, freaking out about my health. Life feels too short to spend huge amounts of voluntary time being prodded and injected. If having a baby means I have to get doped up like I’m on the German Women’s Luge Team, I think I have to reconsider. It’s not that I’m a Christian Scientist—far from it. I’m a huge believer in medicine. If I ever get pregnant, I’m not going to be one of those women who refuses to get an epidural. I’m definitely gonna get one. Hell, if I could, I would get one right now. Anything could start hurting at any time. Better to be fully numb in advance.
Then there is the cost. I already spend an uncomfortable amount of money just on the grooming required to have sex in the first place. I cannot relate to spending down payments on houses just to replicate my very extra-special DNA. And maybe that money isn’t a down payment on a house. Hypothetically it’s money that could go toward anything. Like saving a life that already exists? I know, I know. As I write that sentence, I am aware of how pretentious it sounds. But it’s Just. So. Much. Money. For me, I think the price point exceeds both what my wallet and, more importantly, my soul could give.
This is going to get me into trouble (and not the knocked-up kind; the angry-comment kind). But I don’t ever want to feel so desperate about having my biological child. I once saw an episode of Oprah that featured a woman who was coping with infertility. Using science to force her body into doing this task she so desperately wanted it to do seemed to have become the focal point of her life. Watching her made me deeply sad, and, I’m conflicted to admit, annoyed. In fairness, I think Oprah wasn’t digging her either. She didn’t talk to her at all as the show went to commercial break (that’s Oprah’s little passive-aggressive move). I hate the fossilized fear of desperation. I know it well. My 20s were all about feeling desperate. Desperate to find a new boyfriend. Desperate to get the perfect job. Desperate to get rid of this terrible relationship with this bad new boyfriend. Desperate to have a Kate Moss body (I spent part of my 20s in the '90s).
If I have one wish for this birthday, it is that 35 is the end of desperation and the beginning of acceptance. And part of that is believing that if I’m meant to give birth, I will. And if I’m not, I’ll forgive my ovaries their stubbornness and do something else. Which is why I’ve decided that I’m not going to freeze my eggs. I’m not going to do anything to them at all. I guess I’ll either end up using them, which would be a blessing, or else I’ll just, you know, let them slowly go bad in my body. Kind of like the baby carrots in the bottom of my fridge that I buy, never open, and then toss when they turn gross. And if I still want a baby, I’ll try to adopt. Which doesn’t seem like a very bad way to go at all. As for expending every possible medical option trying to make a little me…well, to borrow loosely from Joan Didion, I say “ ‘oy’ to all that.”
Jessi Klein is a writer and comedian who has frequently appeared on Comedy Central, CNN, VH1, and the Today show. She also likes to think she has value as a human being aside from her numerous credits in the entertainment industry.