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The One Thing Fear Pushed Me To Do

For years, I thought that you can have it all. But no, I can’t.

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Frozen eggs with cold smoke in a yellow cooler
Dan Saelinger (Prop Stylist: Dominique Baynes)
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My future husband sat beside me on a Manhattan bench. “What’s wrong? Where are you going?” Steve asked, aware of my coping mechanism of detaching.

I felt flooded from a conversation I’d just had with my mentor, who drilled me about Steve, asked about my fertility and told me I’d get bored in the Midwest and should have a kid. At 43, I was a former Riverdancer turned Wall Street lawyer and unexpectedly had met Steve, a divorced father of three in Missouri, when I was in our home state caring for my father.

“I shouldn’t have let her ask such personal questions. My fertility doctor said I could have a baby for several more years.” I began shaking. “I have more time to figure this out. We have more time.”

“Do you want to be a mom?” Steve peered into my eyes.

With a near-to-empty nest, his days of diaper changing, Little League and homework monitoring were long over. Before meeting, I’d had an on-again, off-again romance peppered with online-turned-app dating. I’d always disclosed my real age to romantic prospects. But then, questions about whether I wanted children and dropped conversations began to worry me. My net worth felt like it was crashing because I might no longer be capable of reproducing. At my apartment, months before turning 40, I stared at supplies to start my egg-freezing injections. I loved the idea of having some type of fertility insurance, but worried it may be too late to preserve my eggs and hated that I was doing the procedure without a partner. But being alone was why I was doing it in the first place. Being alone forever was my fear.

I reviewed notes from my clinic. One medication was listed as two bottles, but my pharmacy didn’t send bottles. Instead, what looked like an EpiPen now sat on a shelf in my refrigerator. “Oh sh*t!” Is this a sign? The consent form disclosures flashed through my head. What if I died trying to prepare for a kid I wasn’t even sure I wanted? But maybe in the future, I’d want to have a baby with a sperm donor or find the right man and we’d want a child. What if I wouldn’t meet him because he dreamed of creating a child and I was too old?

A fellow single, childless friend had agreed to help with my 10 to 12 nights of injections. I prepped the medication before rolling my T-shirt and gripping my belly, suddenly happy to have extra skin. She studied my abdomen and aimed the needle at me. As she injected the medication, I cried. After Day One, I managed the subcutaneous injections by myself, but growing eggs didn’t let me rest or have energy to think about my motivation, choice or privilege of having this procedure. Instead, all night I lay awake, as tiny men with swords fought inside my ovaries.

On Day 12, my egg retrieval procedure took 30 minutes. Later while home, a nurse called. “Fifteen eggs!” she reported, explaining I had a good number. After testing 12 made it to storage, where —courtesy of an annual fee — they’d provide me with some peace of mind about my advancing age.

Several years have passed since Steve and I sat on that Manhattan bench. We have had many more conversations about my eggs with therapists — and on our own, too. Despite what my former mentor said, not once since starting our new life in Missouri have I been bored. Not once have I felt unfulfilled. Not once have I felt judged for my geriatric fertility. But, concerned for my happiness, Steve repeatedly asked: “Do you want to be a mom?”

Each time, I reflected on his question, and my answer was, No. Recently, a friend called, crying about her attempts to conceive failing. “You can have my eggs,” I said through tears.

“Thank you, but I really want a baby of my own,” she said. 

I realized I don’t share her desire. I’m 46. I can’t imagine having a baby. For years, I have thought that you can have it all. But no, I can’t. And maybe, I don’t even need it or want it all. And maybe, that’s OK. There are, after all, many ways to mother.

People say that I may change my mind. “Janet Jackson had a baby at 50,” one friend often says.

I haven’t decided to get rid of my eggs — just yet, but secure in my relationship and the love of my husband, I can let go of the fear that pushed me to freeze my eggs. Though once a dancer, I’m no Janet Jackson, but I finally feel back in “Control.”