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I Documented My Egg Freezing Process From Start To Finish & This Is What It's Really Like
Motherhood

I Documented My Egg Freezing Process From Start To Finish & This Is What It's Really Like

“Get an education, start your career, travel the world, and don’t think about marriage until you’re at least 30 years old,” is the advice a play aunt gave me when I was 16 years old. As a girl growing up in the South, I certainly didn’t hear that type of advice every day. However, having known at an early age that there were certain milestones I wanted to achieve before starting a family, her advice resonated with me.


Tending to be Type A, I wasted no time making plans to obtain an education, a career, financial stability, and a well-used passport. And I executed each of these plans. What I did not plan for is turning 30 and not being at a stage in my life where children were even a consideration in the near future. This is when I first started thinking about freezing my eggs.

But as the old saying goes, life happened and I didn’t follow through. Fast-forward to a few months shy of my 34th birthday, I joked to my friend, “I’ll be 35 next year, I don’t have time for that.” This statement stopped me in my tracks. Although I was well aware of my age (and proud of it), somehow verbalizing I’d be 35 soon felt eerily different.

At 33, I could still claim my early 30s, but 35 is when everything changes. It’s the “magic number” where the “average woman’s” fertility begins to decline and she is considered to be at an advanced maternal age aka “geriatric.” Though I do not believe motherhood is solely biological (other options include adoption, fostering, and egg donation), I wanted to do what I could to conserve this option. Thus, my deep dive into the world of egg freezing commenced.

While researching the egg-freezing process, I searched for stories from women who had gone through the process. Notably, there weren’t many stories from Black women documenting their journeys. This could be for a number of reasons: lack of access and resources, cultural and/or religious beliefs, and the social stigma associated with egg-freezing.

Whatever the reason, I respect it, but I know from personal experience and statistical data that there were many other Black women who’d walked a similar path to mine and who were likely evaluating this option, and that created a desire in me to share my journey. The decision to do so, however, did not come without my own internal struggle on whether I wanted to share this deeply personal journey.

What is Egg Freezing?

Everyone’s experience is different but the process is generally the same. Essentially, you take hormone injections over the course of 10-14 days to help multiple eggs develop at the same time. At the end of the cycle, you undergo a surgical procedure to retrieve the eggs. The eggs that mature (all aren’t guaranteed to mature) are then frozen. Going through the process isn’t a guarantee of future fertility, but it increases your chances. And to answer the question I got often, “Can you get pregnant naturally if you freeze your eggs?” -- yes. You will still have eggs and may never have to use your frozen ones.

The process is expensive -- one cycle can cost between $10,000 and $20,000, and some women have to go through multiple cycles. There is also an annual storage fee (mine is $600). I’d begun saving for the process, but a couple of months into me saving, my employer announced it was adding fertility benefits *inserts happy dance.* So, I only had to pay my deductible and for lab work. But I acknowledge my privilege in being able to save for the procedure. If you are considering freezing your eggs, check with your benefits department.

Pre-Cycle Preparation

I scheduled a consultation with the clinic to discuss the process. My provider recommended I begin taking vitamins and supplements to help with egg quality. Next, I had blood work done to test, among other things, my AMH levels -- which show approximately how many eggs you have -- and an ultrasound to count my follicles (our egg carriers). My AMH levels revealed that my ovarian reserve was slightly lower than average for my age, and I might have to go through 2-3 cycles to harvest the number of eggs necessary to possibly achieve the number of children I want. This information was devastating.

I left upset with myself for not going through the process sooner. I eventually came back to my life’s conviction that God is in control and what’s meant to be will be. Moving forward, I was prescribed birth control pills and the medications for the cycle. I then had a meeting with my IVF coordinator (egg freezing is the same as IVF, minus fertilization) to go over prepping and administering the injections. This was helpful because I was overwhelmed when I saw the amount of medicine and realized I had to mix some of it.

Day 1 of the Egg Freezing Process: 

I returned to the clinic for bloodwork and an ultrasound to make sure nothing major had changed and my estrogen levels were desirable. After being cleared to start, I gave myself two injections in the morning while I was at work. Thankfully, one of my work friends who is knowledgeable about the procedure was there to assist because, although I’m not afraid of needles (I have tattoos), I stalled when it was time to give myself the first injection.

One of the medications burned while being injected but the other one was fine. Moving forward, I always started with the worst injection. That night, with my best friend, a nurse practitioner, on video chat, I gave myself the two evening injections. I also took antibiotics twice daily.

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Days 2 and 3: 

The routine on the second and third days looked like two injections in the morning and two injections in the evening. On day three, I realized I was going to run out of one of the medications over the weekend, so I called the pharmacy and had some overnighted.

Tip: Pay attention to your dosage and how much medicine you have left so you won’t run out and not be able to get the medicine in time for your next injection, as each is essential for optimum results.

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Day 4:

I continued with injections and returned to the clinic for an ultrasound and bloodwork. This was to see how my body was reacting to the injections and to count and measure my follicles. That evening my IVF coordinator informed me that I was responding well!

At this point, outside of soreness at the injection sites, I didn’t have any of the symptoms I’d read about (emotional breakdowns, acne, weight gain, cramping, bloating, exhaustion).

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Days 5 and 6: 

Pretty much the same routine on the fifth and sixth days. On day five, I went on a turnaround trip so I had to take my medicine and supplies with me so I wouldn’t miss my evening injections. On day six, I added an additional injection at noon (up to five injections now). I felt a little dizzy and nauseous, but it passed.

At this point, I was searching for new places to inject myself. I was also starting to get tired of the routine and was ready to be finished. My hat goes off to those who have to take daily injections indefinitely!

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Days 7 and 8: 

Same routine, with another clinic visit on day seven. I spilled one of the injections because I didn’t have the needle on tightly, but because I was responding well, my coordinator told me to not worry about it. I was more tired than usual and struggled to stay awake and focused throughout the day. I was also unusually thirsty.

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Day 9: 

I returned to the clinic for another round of ultrasound and bloodwork. The results showed that my eggs were mature enough for me to take the trigger injection! So, I took my routine injections and the trigger injection. This trigger injection signals to the eggs to finish maturing because it’s time for them to be released, and it must be taken exactly 36 hours prior to retrieval. I started having some cramps.

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Day 10:

I returned to the clinic for bloodwork only and it showed that the trigger shot worked, so no more injections! I was a zombie at this point and the cramps continued.

Day 11: The Egg Retrieval

Courtesy of Cynthia Lee

Retrieval day! I woke up anxious about the number of eggs that would be mature enough to freeze. The procedure went fine. I was under anesthesia, so I don’t remember it. My best friend picked me up (because just like after any procedure, you can’t drive). Later that day I learned the number of eggs that were frozen, which was slightly less than the number of eggs retrieved.

All things considered, I was pleased, but I may do another cycle down the road.

The recovery wasn’t bad for me. I had some pain, discomfort, cramps, and a ton of bloating for a couple of days after.

Closing Thoughts

Although I hope to never have to rely on my frozen eggs, I am happy to have them if I need them. I highly recommend women look into egg freezing as early as possible, if possible. If nothing else, I recommend women take an AMH test to learn about their personal reproductive health.

I didn’t have this option because only one clinic in my area was covered by my insurance, but I recommend you “shop around” for a doctor with whom you feel comfortable - one who is willing to carefully address your questions and concerns. Keep in mind, it is a huge time commitment and requires multiple clinic visits, so choose a nearby clinic if you can.

I feel incredibly blessed to have loved ones who regularly checked on me throughout the process to see how things were going, so make sure to reach out to those you trust before you begin to ensure you have your support system in place.

Don’t be discouraged if some don’t understand your decision to go through the process, as it is a personal decision and you owe no one an explanation.

Lastly, this experience has deepened my respect and empathy for all women who struggle with fertility, and I send love to all.

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Featured image courtesy of Cynthia Lee

 

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