My ex witnessed my first round of injections after I decided to go through with egg freezing. I invited him over mainly because I didn’t want to get the dosages wrong. He looked at me with awe and skepticism—wondering if I’d go through with it. 

I drew the clear liquid from the vial into the syringe. “Will I become nauseous and vomit?” “Will I be able to handle it?”

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These questions lingered in my head until I pushed them aside. I took a deep breath and sunk the needle into my abdomen. It felt like liquid fire.

For nearly a decade, I relied on the magical thinking that my ex would overcome his pervasive fear of marriage and divorce. I thought we would eventually have a wedding and have children.

I began considering egg freezing after my first irregular menstrual cycle last year. Follow-up blood tests proved that my ovarian reserve—the number and quality of eggs left in my ovaries—was dwindling.

That first injection kick-started the nearly two weeks of daytime and nighttime shots I’d self-administer as part of the egg freezing process I embarked on twice. But I had to clear several roadblocks before taking that step last November (and then again this February). 

Pushing past indecision: betting on my dreams of a family

For most of 2022, indecision paralyzed me. Therapy sessions helped me process the fear behind two of my greatest fears. First, that I would be a merciless disciplinarian like my late father, whose go-to child-rearing practices involved corporal punishment. Or that I wouldn’t be as good a mother as my own. While she lived, I’d talk to her about everything from relationships to work issues eight or nine times a day.

Finally, I had to unpack years of trauma that had me thinking I didn’t deserve to pursue my dreams of finding a husband and birthing a child.

The cost of egg freezing

First and most important was the financial barrier. My health insurance doesn’t cover elective egg freezing; I knew I’d have to dip significantly into my savings, even for one cycle.

My second obstacle was my extreme emetophobia, or fear of vomiting. I knew different medications could make me nauseous and possibly vomit, my most significant fear.

A third reason, a curveball, was my sudden but debilitating bout with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome last year. My symptoms ranged from trouble speaking and swallowing to facial paralysis and partial hearing loss. Eventually, I recuperated from everything except the hearing loss, but I could not begin fertility treatments until I fully recovered.

After ruminating for months, I moved forward with egg freezing after spotting a $500 discount from Extend Fertility in New York City, New York. Until then, I only considered clinics in my home state of New Jersey because the commute would be easier, but getting financial assistance was difficult. I thought even a small discount would significantly help.

Ultimately, I’ve paid nearly $26,000 for two egg freezing cycles, putting at least part of the bill on a credit card with airline miles and a low APR. During the first round, my friend saved me nearly $1,000 by donating some of her leftover fertility medication. For the second round, I qualified for a small discount from Extend and another one for one of the medications.

The egg freezing process: a journey of courage

Every morning, I’d wake up by 4 a.m. to shower, walk my dog, Jack, and grab a quick breakfast. Since it was so early, there typically wasn’t much traffic heading to the Lincoln Tunnel on my way to Manhattan.

I arrived at the clinic at 7 a.m., bracing myself for an uncomfortable vaginal sonogram and blood draw. Both tests determined how much medication I’d inject myself with late in the morning and evenings.

Egg freezing process.

The sonograms showed how big the follicles were growing. Meanwhile, the blood work would indicate how my progesterone and estrogen levels steadily increased. Cycles typically last between nine and 14 days. However, my two cycles lasted an average of 12 days because of my age and shrinking ovarian reserve.

It took several days for my few follicles to grow large enough to be retrieved. Mercifully, I never experienced nausea. I did experience bloating and exhaustion as if I pulled three back-to-back all-nighters as the days wore on. 

I felt in control as I went through the motions of office visits and self-administered injections. The most soul-crushing part of the process was waiting 24 hours after the retrieval to discover if, despite all my efforts, any of my eggs “made it.”

The only way of knowing if the eggs are viable is by waiting for the follicles to be drained. I gripped my mother’s rosary tightly and prayed for what seemed like years. Disappointingly, I retrieved only three eggs during these two cycles.

The higher the number of eggs, the more of a probability of an embryo or several embryos once the eggs are ready to be fertilized. 

The silver lining

My courageous step towards motherhood briefly caused a domino effect of bravery for my ex.

Two weeks after my first egg retrieval, he proposed on Christmas.

The relationship had been long (eight years on and off), but the engagement was short-lived (six weeks). We broke up right before my second egg-freezing cycle started because he realized he couldn’t follow through with marriage—and I didn’t want to continue living in limbo.

I realized he might never overcome his fears, but I am stronger for confronting mine.