Editor’s Note: Starting today through Thursday, Inspired Life is featuring the first three episodes of “Should I Freeze My Eggs?,” in which Post filmmaker Nicole Ellis explores using the technology to postpone having children until she’s ready.
I met the man I imagined spending a lifetime with at Source of Knowledge Bookstore in Newark. I was profiling the shop’s Black Panther Party-inspired free books and breakfast program for a story while I was in grad school. He was a volunteer. We hit it off immediately, but we didn’t start dating seriously for another year and change.
It was September in New York City. The inevitable summer heat wave finally subsided, and the weather was perfect. We met in Harlem for our first date and rode bikes to the Met Cloisters. We both loved the outdoors, so after exploring the museum and swinging by a few gardens we found a patch of grass overlooking the Hudson River in Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan, laid our blanket down and talked until sunset. It was the beginning of what felt like a perfect relationship.
By December we’d said, “I love you,” met each other’s parents and traveled internationally as a couple. We talked about moving in together when our leases ended, then about marriage, kids and all the fixings of a happily-ever-after.
But as the honeymoon phase faded, it became glaringly clear that we weren’t truly compatible. We bumped heads constantly and, at pivotal times of need, we’d read each other wrong and fail to find respite from the outside world in each other. A younger version of myself may have stuck it out for a few more months, afraid of abandoning the dream of a future I’d become so attached to. But I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, so I walked away.
I woke up the next morning ready for regret to set in. It never did. Despite my desire to have a family, I decided that I want to wait until I find the right person and keep growing until I do. Of course, I had no idea how long the wait might be, but I was already vaguely familiar with one way to buy myself more time: egg-freezing.
Like most millennials, social media is an everyday part of my life. I’m also a journalist. So I’ve come across plenty of stories about egg-freezing, with headlines like “This Female CEO Froze Her Eggs to Put Her Career First,” usually followed by questions like: Is it worth it? Is it a scam? I pored over many of these articles, curious about the process, wondering whether it was a realistic option for someone like me and totally unsure of where to start. Truth is, I’d only recently activated the “make your own doctor’s appointments” muscle of adulting, and I didn’t even know what type of doctor I’d need to go to.
So I left it alone as an action item.
Then came my break up with Jordan. I realized that there are probably lots of other women who don’t have enough information to make an informed decision either. So, I decided to woman up and report on it. In my video series as a filmmaker for The Post, I’m taking you along on my journey. By the time I finish, I should know exactly what it takes, and you will, too.
I knew the basics — for example that women experience a decline in fertility in their 30s. But why does that happen? Is it the same for every woman? And why are conversations about our fertility couched in comparisons to a man’s seemingly never-ending supply of sperm? I soon discovered that it might have something to do with the origins of the now-infamous term “biological clock.”
After conducting an office straw poll in the 1970s, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen penned a piece in the Metro section about the whispers of anxiety he’d been hearing around the newsroom. Female colleagues would come to his office and talk to him about dating, relationships and the stresses of being career women, so he wrote about it.
As others have noted, his article didn’t age well. With remarks like “There was something about their situation that showed, more or less, that this is where liberation ends,” Cohen positioned the biological clock as a moment of reckoning for women that makes us irrevocably unequal.
The term has withstood time, as has the notion that careers and anatomical differences are co-conspirators against women in our fight for equal everything, including our ability to find the right partner in our own time and still have a family.
But in 2018, the idea that having a job interferes at all with my ability to find a partner I want to procreate with makes no sense to me. Yes, accepting a job offer in a different city can put a wrench in a long-term relationship, but if I’m dating someone where I live, he probably works too, so our availability will probably be about the same.
My mother gave birth to me at 28, divorced when I was 2, and raised me as a single mother while working and going to medical school. Her journey, while not the norm, is indicative of how self-sufficient and independently upwardly mobile women have become. The idea that women — especially women with full-time partners — can’t balance having children and a career is hard for me to believe. And the truth is that in an era when wages haven’t been keeping pace with the cost of living — including the cost of college tuition — my future partner may well rely on me to help provide for our family financially.
I am single and babyless not because my career is standing in the way, but because I haven’t met the person I want to make one with yet.
My biological clock does present a unique challenge, though: time. I don’t envy men for having more time to have children, but I am aware of the limits it presents for me. Even if I met the right person tomorrow, between dating and, ideally, childless married bliss for a couple years, I’ll be in my mid-30s by the time I even start trying to conceive.
In a world where my uterus is pitted against me, freezing my eggs could level the playing field by giving me more control over my reproductive life span. Yet I need a concrete understanding of how my body works and how egg-freezing works in order to take the helm of my reproductive health.
Understanding our bodies enables us to make informed choices with the cards (and the limited number of eggs) we’re dealt.
I don’t want to persuade you to freeze your eggs. That is a personal decision, and I also realize it’s an option many women can’t afford. I don’t even know if I will do it. But I hope to demystify a pivotal moment for women when amorphous outside pressures begin to weigh on our love lives. I’ll tackle everything from assessing your own fertility and the woes of hormone injections and ultrasounds to sharing your decision with family and, most importantly, the costs — all on camera.
While you’re watching my personal journey, I want to hear from you. Have you ever thought about freezing your eggs? What are you most curious about when it comes to women’s fertility? How do you view the pros and cons? Tell me what you think by contributing in the comments section below or joining our Facebook group.
An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect location for the Met Cloisters. This version has been corrected.