In my late twenties, I worked for a major tech corporation that offered fertility preservation as a benefit for all eligible employees. I was single, dating, and also freelancing as a performer and arts educator at the time.
Family planning wasn’t a priority. I thought, “That’s a decision I’ll make with my serious boyfriend or future husband.”
I don’t live with regret, but the decision not to partake in such a valuable benefit has been swirling in my brain. So much of reproductive education is focused on contraception and how not to get pregnant and very little is focused on how to protect your reproductive rights and the possibility of conceiving.
Even today, young people, especially those who are able to become pregnant, are uninformed about this important piece of health education and family planning. Perhaps if I had been educated and emotionally prepared for the nuanced circumstance, I wouldn’t have let an expensive, life-changing perk slip through my fingers.
Four and half years into my tenure with the tech company, I was offered a new once-in-a-lifetime gig: a symphonic touring concert in Japan as a soloist with a 60-piece orchestra. I left the tech company to pursue my performance career fully aware of the ephemeral nature of theater.
One day, while touring Tokyo, a castmate asked “What are you thinking about doing when the tour is over?”
“I’m not sure,” I said, “My tech company would help pay to freeze my eggs if I went back. But if that’s my only motive, I’m not sure if that’s justified.”
In 2018, and after the tour, I did not return to the tech job. Instead, I focused on performing, teaching, and entrepreneurship. That fall, I met someone special on JSwipe but was disheartened when he took a cigarette break on our first date. We addressed it on date two and even though I knew the spark was there, I asked him to call me when he quit.
Over the next year, relationships came and went so family planning and egg freezing were still not a priority.
In the summer of 2020, during the height of COVID, JSwipe man re-entered the picture. We reconnected unexpectedly (on LinkedIn of all places) when the keyword “Founder” led him to my profile. Algorithms, chance, and direct messages led us to a phone call. And once again the feelings ignited. When he asked to take me to dinner, I knew we had to try again and accepted his invitation.
We fell quickly for each other and bonded over being native New Yorkers from the Upper West Side. He made jokes about our future kids and we even visited my childhood home together. It was there that he revealed a shocking detail about his prior relationship, which ultimately led to our traumatic breakup.
He was married. I’m not polyamorous and neither is he so it was a huge betrayal and lie by omission. Once I had time to get over the shock, I thought I could support him through a divorce as long as that’s what he wanted. He said of course, and that he didn’t want to lose me but then he spiraled into depression and pushed me away.
I was heartbroken — the kind of heartbroken that leaves you going to bed and waking up crying for six months. My healing journey involved a lot of reaching out and a lot of Peloton.
Finally, when I put myself back out there at 34, my perspective had shifted. As the world started to open again, I rebuilt my life and career. And this time, that included thoughts about motherhood.
I talked to friends. I talked to women I knew who had done or were doing IVF. My preliminary research and an AMH blood test in August 2021 helped me to understand that my egg count was in the lower-middle range of egg reserve for someone my age.
This prompted me to consider two rounds of fertility preservation but without employer coverage, I was looking at an investment of more than $20,000. I was daunted by the number but had a serious conversation with my parents who have always supported my dreams.
“We will help you,” my mom said in a loving way that allowed me to exhale.
We agreed to split the expense and with their support, I went to a fertility clinic highly recommended by two friends. I committed to the clinic knowing that my insurance did not cover the cost of the procedure, the medication, or cryogenic storage. My plan was to start in late fall.
Then, a few emotional curve balls hit me and my family.
On November 1, 2021, I paid for two cycles, and two weeks later, on November 16, I found out that my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Shocked, and with no prior breast cancer history in our family, I rushed for early cancer screening. (I am cancer-free, and after many rounds of chemotherapy my sister is, too). I learned that I have a 29 percent breast cancer risk score (more than double the average person) and went back to my insurance company with that news. As a high-risk first-degree relative, I was still denied coverage for fertility preservation.
Then I got an audition for a major Broadway revival, which included an extraordinary amount of prep, coaching, and consultations (i.e. more expenses and no, I didn’t get it). Plus, the Omicron variant deterred me from going in and out of the clinic, further delaying my timeline. The whirlwind of emotions and life-altering events were intense.
In 2022, I was finally able to return to my fertility preservation plan.
I went for regular blood tests and transvaginal ultrasounds. One of the biggest hurdles was the self-administered hormone injections. (Sidenote: when I watch medical TV shows like New Amsterdam, I always have to look away when a needle punctures skin so how the heck was I supposed to give myself daily shots?)
Enter my angel and friend who lives near me and was simultaneously doing IVF for her second pregnancy. Our daily visits solidified our friendship in a new and meaningful way.
We laughed over the absurdity that as non-medical lay people we had this power and responsibility: mixing diluent with powder, measuring liquid in syringes, icing our skin, and injecting ourselves in the strategic area near the abdomen. Aside from injection anxiety, I felt no side effects. No mood swings or bloating. (Was I doing it right since everyone warned me I would surely feel something in response to the shots?)
While I suffered no side effects, I felt frustration with the pharmacy, the pharmaceutical company, and my insurance.
Timing one’s dosage is imperative in the process and I found myself racing to a specialty pharmacy whose delivery window closed before my doctor’s office called in blood work results.
I learned there is too much guesswork involved to avoid overbuying medication; the pharmaceutical packaging was often in excess of my dosages, which resulted in a substantial waste of both medicine and plastic. Extra medication that I wasn’t able to return or wouldn’t necessarily need again in the future.
I spent hours talking with insurance agents to negotiate my denial of prior authorization, resulting in an exasperating eight-month journey with the internal and external insurance appeals process. Finally, with the support of grants, Community Health Advocates, and the New York State Department of Financial Services I received partial reimbursement for my out-of-pocket expenses.
And here’s another victory: My two cycles resulted in 20 frozen eggs — I call them “myrtles” — that wait for me should I need them.
When the time comes, I would like to try to get pregnant naturally first. While there is no guarantee, my doctor believes this reserve gives me an 85 percent chance of having at least one child and a 50 percent chance of two.
Fertility preservation is a big financial and emotional commitment and as someone who froze her eggs at 36, has never been pregnant, and is still searching for Mr. Right, I hope my story will be a source of inspiration, courage, and determination for anyone considering the process.
Source: Your Tango
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