At 28, while most other women were out traveling or starting families, I was busy freezing eggs. No, not the ones in my fridge. You might be surprised, right? Why on Earth would I want to get into freezing eggs, especially since the egg freezing procedure is a medically invasive process – and expensive.
But hear me out. This is why I did it.
First, a little about me!
At every stage of my life, I’ve been described as a ‘go-getter.’ I excelled at studies throughout school, was the captain of my school’s debate team, and was socially active. Maybe I had a competitive streak, or perhaps I just didn’t want my parents to feel like they lacked a son in me. Whatever it was, I pushed myself to excel. This attitude helped me find my way into the corporate world, where I fought tooth and nail to defeat corporate sexism and work my way to the top. No easy feat in a male-dominated Indian corporate climate.
At the age of 25, I met a man who I thought would make a good partner. He agreed and told me he’d make an even better father. We eventually got married. Both of us wanted children, but that wasn’t a topic we seriously discussed. We were both from middle-class families, and wanted to succeed at work before anything else.
Then around the age of 28, a different kind of urge took over me. Maybe it was because I started tutoring children in my free time, which began to trigger my maternal instincts. But I suddenly realized that maybe – just perhaps – it was time to think about the future.
I definitely didn’t want kids at that point. But when? And how? A woman’s fertility declines with age, and I wanted my child. At least one, then maybe I’d adopt. I discussed this with my husband, and he jokingly said, why don’t I let him take on a second wife. I retorted he could sleep on the couch that night. I was still perplexed.
I knew Madhuri Dixit gave birth when she was 39. But celebrities were a different breed, with abundant resources to help them – something a mere mortal like me couldn’t dream of. So, then what was the answer? I turned to Google.
After searching for Bollywood mothers online, I came across an article about former Miss World Diana Hayden. She was so impressed by the technology used in freezing eggs that the gorgeous woman had frozen her own, in her early 30s and became a mother at age 42. That took me down a series of articles, some on embryo freezing, others on mature oocyte cryopreservation (AKA freezing eggs), and by the end of a few days of fevered research, and an exciting discussion with my husband – I was sure this was what I needed to do.
What is egg freezing?
Unfertilized eggs from a woman’s ovarian follicles are extracted, frozen, and stored for the
future. It’s as simple as that, although the freezing eggs process sounded pretty complicated to me. The egg freezing procedure is different from embryo freezing – which requires sperm.
I’d asked the doctor whether my child would be born with congenital disabilities. The answer was, no, it wouldn’t. Using frozen eggs actually decreased the risk of having children with chromosomal abnormalities, associated with eggs from older women.
Would my pregnancy be complicated due to the egg freezing process? He said no to that as well. Even a study conducted on this showed that freezing eggs doesn’t affect their ability to result in a healthy pregnancy.
But he did tell me that many women have to go through several cycles to collect a good enough number of eggs. But if I were lucky, they would be able to take a sufficient amount in just one cycle.
I was also told that there was a 55% chance that I’d give birth. Freezing eggs didn’t have a 100% success rate – but I was ready to take on those odds.
Freezing Eggs – how to freeze your eggs?
After going through some tests, the doctor told me I had the correct number of eggs of good quality that could be collected. He then gave me a run-down of the entire egg freezing process. It starts with injecting certain follicle-stimulating hormones. Those encouraged my ovaries to produce more eggs than the single one I was already producing every month.
Then, I was given another hormone that ensured I didn’t ovulate prematurely. I’m not going too into the scientific part, but basically, I was given drugs that raised my estrogen levels, but kept my progesterone low. After 9 to 12 days, I was given another injection to help my eggs grow! Sounds weird, I know, but it’s also kind of… beautiful? I had to inject myself with these hormones every day for one week after that.
After this, I went through an ultrasound, where they put a probe inside me to look for follicles. The eggs were gently extracted using a needle with an attached suction device. After my eggs were retrieved, I felt a certain level of cramping and heaviness in my lower abdomen, but I was told this was completely normal. They extracted a total of 15 eggs from me – which is excellent. You need at least ten eggs for the freezing eggs procedure to be worthwhile because out of these, only 3-4 eggs end up surviving.
The doctors took my unfertilized eggs (my babies!) and put them in a freezer. They told me that whenever I was ready, they would assist me fertilize them. But I wasn’t at that point. I begrudgingly agreed to the amount they were charging me for storing my eggs (I was already paying for my kids’ rent, and they weren’t even born yet!) They were kept in a solution that would protect their cellular structure. They were then stored in freezing tanks of liquid nitrogen.
Then I left. I was a little bloated for some time. After a few weeks, I felt normal again. I went back to my daily life, excited and happy that I didn’t have to choose between my career, and being a mother.
How much does freezing eggs cost?
The first expense in the egg freezing process is for retrieval and then freezing eggs and can cost anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh. The second entails an annual payment for keeping them frozen, ranging from Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 each year.
How did I get pregnant?
Over the years, I would regularly keep a check-in on my eggs. I didn’t have the time to go and meet them, but I would call up the center every once in a while.
Then I turned 40 and was in a high executive position at work, and so was my husband. I knew it was time. So, I finally went to the clinic and decided I wanted to be a mother. The doctors were extremely helpful. Out of the 15 frozen eggs, they thawed out ten. They identified the first day of my thaw cycle and did an ultrasound on the 10th day. They detected the eggs were ovulating.
Out of the 15 eggs, six survived. They took a sample of my husband’s sperm and were able to fertilize those six eggs. After five days, the doctor implanted the three resultant embryos into my uterus. While it takes some women a couple of times for the pregnancy to be successful, I became pregnant in the first go.
The pregnancy itself was pretty smooth and as regular as it would have been if I’d been impregnated the usual way. After nine months of mood swings, morning sickness, intense food cravings, and more – I finally gave birth to my beautiful baby daughter. I’ve never been happier.
I froze my eggs when I was 28, and then gave birth at age 40. The whole process was smooth and positive. I recommend freezing eggs to other women who may need a little more time to give birth. Motherhood is beautiful for those who wish to experience it, and I can say that freezing my eggs was one of the best choices I made.
While I had the support of my husband and parents, many others may lack that support system. Many Indian women don’t have anyone to talk to about vaginal health issues for women, or even intimate care for women – forget freezing their eggs or embryo freezing. Some might be unsure of whether to take the step or not.
Here’s hoping, my story will put their fears to ease and show them that, yes, a woman in today’s society really can have it all.