I spent the night of my 26th birthday in Manhattan’s NoMad Hotel, breathing in the restored building’s chic vintage charm while sipping a cocktail of Champagne and Chambord.
But I wasn’t in the chestnut wood-paneled parlor by the hearth of the strategically inviting fireplace or dining in the glass-roofed atrium.
I was in a fairly standard-looking conference room packed to the gills with other members of my sex learning about the logistics of oocyte cryopreservation, more commonly known as freezing one’s eggs.
Oh, and that bubbly pink cocktail was also called a Banxtxtini—a signature libation concocted by the night’s host, EggBanxx, which claims to be the “first national network of fertility experts specialized in egg freezing.”
For just under $50, my fellow females who were also curious about ways to finagle motherhood without the traditional mattress-mambo gathered for an egg freezing party, two hours of gynecological and fertility experts talking about the logistics of egg freezing while enjoying the benefits of an open bar.
The panelists included Dr. Spencer Richlin of the Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, Dr. Matthew Lederman of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, and Dr. Stephanie Thompson at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey.
Sadly, I arrived too late for the promised canapés, though I did help myself to small, customized packs of purple, green, and blue M&M’s that had “HOPE” stamped across them.
Encouraging, sugar-coated candies with an unlimited supply of booze was the perfect gustatory combination for an event one could describe as both incredibly, comfortingly communal and yet stressfully—though not necessarily wrongly or unduly—insistent that time was of the essence.
Yes, we had to make a time-sensitive choice on whether we wanted to invest tens of thousands of dollars in the hopes (not promise) of future pregnancies, but at least it felt as if Oprah was delivering the news with a warm hug.
An attendee approached the bartender, requesting two glasses of Chardonnay, noting they weren’t for her but her friends. “I’m not in the judging business,” he said with a genuinely soothing, non-condescending voice and smile that seemed emblematic of the attitude of the room.
He was one of the handful of men in the room—the others being the two fertility specialists on the stage and a cameraman filming the panel.
They were dramatically outnumbered by what I estimated were 80 women in attendance, about a quarter of whom were willing to stand to glean the pearls of wisdom about how to preserve their fecundity—or, like me, they preferred to be closer to the bar.
Or they were friends of people who worked for EggBanxx. It seemed like nearly half the women I approached after the egg freezing party ended said they were there because a buddy worked for the company.
In retrospect, I was surprised there weren’t more men in attendance. Egg freezing is often considered an ideal (and often expensive) option for single women looking to alleviate the pressure of finding a partner to conceive in their ideal fertility window, but it’s as much for couples who are unsure they want to have kids—or at least uncertain they want to do so in the near future.
Also, men can struggle with fertility—and it’s negatively influenced by aging, too.
One 37-year-old woman in attendance said she wanted to find out about egg freezing because her significant other was older and they were considering freezing embryos because of age-related concerns about his fertility. Yet, I noticed, he was not with her at this egg freezing party.
Then again, even with embryo freezing, the female donation process is the same as with egg freezing, and it is more involved than the male counterpart (jizzing in a cup).
According to the EggBanxx site, women first determine their ovarian reserve, the quality and quantity of their eggs. That involves blood tests checking their Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) levels.
From there, a woman undergoes one to two weeks of injecting herself with hormones. Then there’s what EggBanxx refers to as “the easy part”: a doctor will extract the eggs using a guided needle while the women is under anesthesia. Only then can the eggs go through the cryopreservation, aka the freezing. Voilà.
Well, not quite voilà. On average, five to 15 egg are retrieved in a cycle, according to EggBanxx, which also notes that “approximately 15-20 eggs are needed for one pregnancy.” That means a woman may very well want to undergo more than one cycle.
But not only is egg retrieval fairly involved, it is—to put it in scientific terms—hella expensive.
Through EggBanxx, one cycle cost $6,300, not including the initial consultation, pre-cycle office visits, anesthesia, or medication.
Each additional cycle comes out to a slightly lower rate: the two cycle package comes in at $11,440 ($5,720 per cycle) and the three-cycle package of $15,500 ($5,183 per cycle). Unless you work at Apple or Facebook, there’s a good chance none of this is covered by insurance.
Egg costs, AMH levels, and freezing costs were all considerations that had never crossed my mind prior to this event, and there was indeed something empowering about learning more about my fertility options (or what I processed after three glasses of wine and a handful of “HOPE” M&M’s).
EggBanxx appears to operate under this ethos, especially considering its motto is “Smart Women Freeze.”
The event also included EggBanxx pamphlets featuring a casually attractive woman in her late twenties or early thirties pumping her fist in victory with the headline: “Break free from your biological clock.”
But ignorance is also bliss, and I couldn’t help inhaling the whiffs of concern in the voices of some of the attendees as questions were posed and new information was shared.
This was not some group of weeping, panicked women—everyone was calm, composed, and exceptionally smartly dressed in crisp blazers, suede boots, and sexy print dresses (except me, with my ripped six-dollar leggings).
But there was a reason they were here: they had a big, expensive decision to make about something that can be incredibly rewarding, precious, and exhausting: motherhood.
They were also young—surprisingly so, at least to me.
Some colleagues predicted I would be the youngest at the egg freezing party by 10 years. They were wrong. During the Q&A, one attendee asked if she was too young to start thinking about egg freezing at her age of 27 if she wasn’t planning to have kids until she was 37?
No, was the response from the panel, she was not. The doctors didn’t shoot off a gun telling her the race to start the egg freezing process had begun, but they were certainly cheerleading her to act—and fast. The experts say the quality of your eggs peaks in your late 20s, and freezing them preserves them at the age at which you froze them.
“The bottom line is if you’re thinking about doing it, you want to do it sooner. This is the best time of your life to do it,” Dr. Richlin said. “All of us see people who say, ‘You know, I wish I had done this three years ago,’ and we’re sitting there saying ‘You know, we really wish you did. Because three years ago, your odds would have been a lot better.’ If you’re feeling about doing it, I say go for it.”
That 27-year-old was directly followed by another attendee, also 27, saying her gynecologist had discouraged her from checking her FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) levels. Was she acting prematurely or should she press her doctor on fertility testing? While she was told by the specialists that an AMH test was a better route, by all means, she was the right age to begin figuring out her fertility state.
I ordered another glass of wine, as the mental shield that I was too young to have to think about these issues completely shattered. I was no longer the fly on the egg freezing party wall. I started asking myself questions about my ovarian reserve and figuring out the right time to start paying annual rent for eggs to be placed in a freezer.
In some ways, the question of whether to freeze one’s eggs is in some ways more difficult to answer when you’re younger—not only because you have less of a sense of one’s future careers and relationships, but because there’s a trickier balancing act between cost and time.
You’re weighing between freezing as soon as possible to preserve your eggs at (close to) peak fertility and paying for those eggs to be stored until you want to conceive, which could be a decade or more into the future. With egg storage fees ranging from $800-$1,500 per year (not included in the EggBanxx cost beyond the first year), a decade of rent is a pretty penny.
But before I felt too weighed down I ended up speaking with a 31-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman who was dealing with more than questions about fertility; she had a chronic condition, which she did not disclose, that keeps her from working—and, for that matter, dating.
“The idea that I am going to be able to find a mate while I’m sick doesn’t seem likely,” she told me. “I want to have children. I would like at least one child that is mine, so I am looking. What are my options? What can I do?”
She mentioned a few months ago to her rabbi’s wife that she was thinking about freezing her eggs, but was a little nervous about how she would respond.
“Her first reaction was ‘Go freeze your eggs! You’re a good Jewish woman! You’re going to have a Jewish man some day! Go freeze your eggs so you can have them when you need them,’” she recalled with a laugh.
I laughed, too. It felt good to sense the positivity of opportunities—rather than the stress of decisions—return to the room.
Or the effects of the Banxxtini had finally kicked in.