Health

Breaking the Ice: Why I Shared My Egg Freezing Story

I’m 31-years old and do not like the sound of microwaves. I still enjoy macaroni and cheese for breakfast and usually forget to brush my teeth at night. My list of assets include a cat, some bitcoin, two VR headsets, and more recently, fourteen frozen half-babies currently chilling in a cryo tank in New York City.Taryn Southern Egg Freezing

No, this is not a Tinder profile from the future.

It’s the honest self-portrait of a woman who currently sits in the growing category of not-yet-married-or-pregnant-30-somethings, electively choosing to preserve eggs ... and options.

Despite the fact that my lifestyle more closely resembles that of a child than a woman ready to have one, choosing to go down this path was a long-contemplated decision after a series of reality checks. 

  • Reality check #1: In my 20’s, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Doctors warned that the invasive treatments could have an impact on my fertility. Fortunately, my cancer is long gone, but the experience left me acutely aware of the realities of having a mere mortal body.
  • Reality check #2: A few devastating breakups and the unexpected ups and downs of my unconventional career left me acutely aware that you never know what can happen in life...or love. This reality check was later confirmed when I fell for a divorced man with three kids (reality check #3, #4, and #5.)
  • Reality check #6: I turned 30, and surprise! My biological clock was the first to greet me at my party. I immediately downloaded a browser extension for Facebook that replaces photos of babies with cute cats.

In the face of reality checks, one traditionally faces two options: you can either a) go insane or b) calm the f*ck down.

If you’re a woman, you now have one additional option: c) freeze your eggs.

I chose a combination of option b and c.

Now, let me be clear: egg freezing is neither a one-size-fits-all or silver bullet solution. In 2013, TIME reported on data obtained by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), which showed only a 24 percent success rate for egg-freezing to live births. A 2015 report by The Center for Human Reproduction in New York showed slightly more promising results, finding a 47 percent success rates for frozen donor eggs. There are many different factors that play into these statistics (the age of the eggs, the age of conception, etc.) but one lesson is clear: freezing eggs doesn't guarantee you future children. In addition, the process is historically expensive (though my clinic was about half the typical cost), and like any elective treatment, there are risks involved. 

Despite the risks, egg freezing can be an empowering choice for women, especially in a society that often promotes motherhood as the ultimate reward in self-worth. 

For women at peak childbearing age who are not yet ready to have kids, anxiety around biological limitations can be all consuming. Egg freezing can offer a powerful antidote, perhaps most notably, for the psychological benefits of “hedging bets." Some women say the process of egg freezing shifted their mindset around dating, allowing them to feel less rushed to find a partner. Others say the process has empowered them to start their own business or be more aggressive in their careers. One acquaintance who was always on the fence about wanting kids said she was consumed with the anxiety of losing her ability to choose. Five years after freezing, she has ultimately decided to not have children and is planning to donate the eggs to couples who may want them. For many women, freezing eggs is about prolonging choice in the face of unforgiving biology.

Yet there's still a stigma. 

I recently stumbled across numerous articles online denouncing the practice with serious questions about its safety and efficacy. While there are certainly points worthy of discussion (around socioeconomic factors and adoption) others seem simply off base.

In one popular article, an ‘expert’ was quoted saying that egg freezing will lead to “poorer, less energetic” parenting by women, as well as an "increased likelihood children will lose their mothers early on." 

Last I checked, this is 2017. While average human lifespan has doubled in the past century, and men can reproduce well into their older years, the expiration date on a woman's reproductive system has not changed. Meanwhile, women continue to see an increase in lifespan, live 5-10 years longer than their counterparts, and recent studies demonstrate a number of benefits that older mothers have financially, emotionally, even physically. Let's just accept that being a mother is hard and being a career woman is hard, and starting either one while entering your 40's could have it's challenges—but blanket judgments only exacerbate the pressure women feel in their critical child-bearing ages. 

Had I been a mother in my twenties, I likely wouldn’t have been able to pursue my unconventional career, save up enough to buy my first home, and backpack through places like Swaziland, Jordan, and Peru. I say this not to diminish the choices of young mothers, but because my chosen dreams weren't conducive to also being able to care for small children. It's rare you get to do both at the same time.

Life is full of choices—and when it comes to having kids, there are many. When it comes to fertility preservation, there's a lot of literature out there that misses the point about why it's worthy of consideration. Adoption, fostering, and having no kids at all are also incredibly important conversations and admirable paths to take. 

Ultimately, the one-size-fits-all-families model is a falsehood. The success of progressive technology depends on our ability to effectively question long-held frames around our identities and aspirations.

Efforts that second-guess or shame women's choice to freeze their eggs is why I decided to chronicle my journey.

When I posted my first video about my egg freezing on Instagram, my phone immediately lit up with texts—from women and men. 
 
“Brave! Just had my eggs frozen but didn’t tell anyone.”
“Been thinking about it! too scared. Pls let me know how it goes.”
“Hey, where are you doing your egg stuff? My gf wants to get it done but she's too shy to talk about it.” 

 
As a millennial YouTuber accustomed to openly sharing my life, I was pretty surprised that so many women still felt embarrassed or ashamed about the conversation. 

Which brings me to my egg-freezing party. 

egg-vitation

One month before my procedure, my boyfriend threw me an "egg freezing" party, complete with Jello “shots,” fertility puns, and a piñata filled with contraceptives. Move over baby showers! It was a ridiculous, good humored event around an otherwise hushed, heavy topic. I was equally happy to enjoy one last cocktail before embarking on two weeks of hormone injections. But in all honesty, it was refreshing to see both sexes openly discussing lesser talked about considerations around motherhood. 

Amidst the chatter, the consensus was clear; it was about time women feel empowered—not ashamed or diminished—for making conscious decisions around whether to wait or not have kids at all. 

Watch below to learn more about why I chose to freeze my eggs.