Last December, I was sitting in the living room of my mid-divorce crash-pad (you know, that friend’s apartment where you live for a few months before you can bear going out into the world on your own), in the midst of what I thought was an innocent New Girl binge… trying to escape the realities of my life by daydreaming about how I’d totally be best friends with Jess, thanks to our love of patterns and polka dots, our quirky glasses, our awkward outbursts, and similar reactions to a glass of rosé….
Anyway… there I was, enjoying Schmidt’s shenanigans, the whole “will they or won’t they” Jess and Nick saga, and their rollicking games of “True American.” And then I reached Season 2, Episode 9: Eggs.
HOLD THE DAMN PHONE, YO.
Did you guys know that there’s a simple blood test that can check the age of your ovaries? Or rather, gives an estimate of the remaining egg supply, or “ovarian reserve”? Yeah. Neither did I, until Zooey and friends did an episode about getting Jess and CeeCee’s AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) levels tested. And there I was, staring down the nose of my 35th birthday, in the midst of my divorce, and for the first time, doubting my fertility.
My ex-husband and I had always planned on “starting to talk about trying” around the time I turned 36, and I foolishly, blindly, just assumed that I’d be good to go, no matter what. But suddenly, I saw the ignorance of that assumption and was gripped with terror about the possibly dwindling likelihood of my ability to conceive naturally.
If I’ve ever known one thing for sure, it’s that, my whole life, I’ve desperately wanted to bear children. Like, grow them in my belly and push them out the hard way. All my friends were always much more “if I could just skip the pregnancy and get straight to the baby raising, I’d be happier” types. But I’m like the opposite. It’s a mind-melting miracle that we can create a human out of such basic, seemingly minuscule matter. It blows my mind that we can serve as a host to this… alien, living through us until they’re ready to emerge. That we, as women, are equipped for such a task. And, with all the hell my body has put me through in the form of medical mysteries and chronic illness, I figured the least I could do is use it for this unique purpose that only half of us are built to serve. It’s on my life list and has been, as long as I can remember. So, the idea of losing that chance because I had my head in the sand for too long was no bueno at all. Like, not at all at all. The good news was that I had a physical scheduled for later that week, including several blood tests, in preparation for an eye surgery the following week. “Bingo!” I thought, in the midst of my sweaty panic, “I’ll just add this on!”
So there I was, a week later, wrapped in my clumsy paper gown on the exam table at my local urgent care, trying to act casual while asking them to “maybe just draw an extra vial of blood for an AMH test. Cuz… you know, New Girl.” (by the way, what is with those damn paper gowns? How have we not come up with some better, more comfortable way to deal with medical modesty? Do they make you sweat, like, extra? They make me sweat extra. But I digress…) The blood was drawn, and a week later, the doctor emailed me a scan of the results, with a note suggesting I talk to my gynecologist for her interpretation, since they weren’t knowledgeable about their meaning enough to comment. But it wasn’t necessary. I could plainly see that between an “expected range” of 0.16 – 8.43 for my age, my result was a paltry 0.96. My heart leaped into my throat and then sank slowly into my stomach. I didn’t know exactly what it meant… but I knew it wasn’t good.
The conversation with my gyn was unencouraging:
“We really don’t like to see anything below a 1.0 in women your age. My advice would be to try to get pregnant as soon as you possibly can.”
“Um… I’m kind of in the middle of a divorce.”
“Oh. Well, then I’d say you should look into freezing your eggs sooner rather than later.”
I knew full well that freezing one’s eggs is a huge expense. My mind was racing in panic. Would I need to take out a loan? Could I even get a loan? Should I just find a sperm donor and move home to Chicago and do the single mom thing right now? Should I just give up hope and get comfortable with the idea of adoption? Should I just show up at a local bar with a T-shirt that says “open for business: put a baby in me!”? BECAUSE THERE’S NOTHING MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN A DEPRESSIVE DIVORCEE WEDDING BLOGGER WHO IS PROCREATING OUT OF SHEER DESPERATION, AM I RIGHT?
Then, I pretty much had a full-on nervous breakdown. Granted, it was fueled by wayyyy more than this egg nonsense, but it surely wasn’t helped by it. (more on this later, probably.)
I was doubting everything. My decision to divorce. My future. The meaning of life. My sanity. The axis of the earth. I was sure I was being punished.
(I have a tendency to over-react a bit.)
Meanwhile, the simple truth is that I had been on low-dose chemotherapy for 4-years in college to suppress my immune system so it couldn’t attack my eyes. And well, chemo is an all-too-common thief of fertility. If I had only known that earlier…
I got the name of a reputable fertility specialist from my gyn, and went in for a consultation a month later. On my birthday. Because that was the first available appointment they had. A month later. On my 35th birthday.
“So, Ms. LaRue… what brings you here today?”
(Deep breath) “Well, today’s my 35th birthday and I’m getting divorced and I saw an episode of New Girl about the AMH test and my results were low and I really want my own baby and I don’t know what to do.” – It all just tumbled out of my mouth like an avalanche of emotion.
My doctor, bless him, looked at me with a benevolent mixture of pity and amusement, and patiently walked me through a super clear understanding of fertility and exactly what my test results meant. Long story short, it means my ovaries are much older than that of a “normal” 35-year old woman, but the eggs inside them are totally the age they should be. Which means, if I freeze my eggs at 35, when they’re defrosted (no matter when that may be), they’ll still be 35-year old eggs. But, what it also means is, if I don’t freeze my eggs, my ovaries will stop producing enough of those perfectly-aged eggs for me to get knocked up with, sooner rather than later. So, while I might be able to get a baby in me naturally, I also might not, and the longer I wait, the less likely that is. So to harvest/freeze my eggs would be the most prudent security measure. Like an insurance plan, of sorts. Then a lovely front-office assistant came in and informed me that the process would cost about $8,000. And none of it, including today’s visit, would be covered by insurance, that’ll be $250 for today, thank-you-very-much.
I had no money, and I had no idea where to find any. So I had no choice but to put the baby thing on the back burner for a while, which was a good thing because, frankly, my mental stability was pretty damn tenuous at that point, and I was more concerned with just making it through the darkest days of my divorce grief and depression alive.
Fast forward a few months. I turned a corner in my mental health: I made peace with my split with my ex, I had quit drinking for several months, my medication had been managed, I had gotten my own apartment. I was starting to feel human being again. Healthy again. And, miracle of miracles, I had HOPE again.
And then, I met Paul. And like, suddenly, in a very once-in-a-lifetime way, that was it. When I absolutely least expected it, I found my lobster.
On our second date, he asked me why my ex and I hadn’t had children, and I told him everything. I figured it was better to lay it all out on the table right off the bat – no surprises, no secrets. And he was just like, “well, shit. We’d better get those eggs in a freezer then!” On our second date.
Seven months later, we’re there. Tomorrow is the first day of my cycle, and that’s our cue to start the process with my doctor, harvest my eggs, fertilize them, and put them on ice, where they’ll await us until we’re ready. That’s right: I am about to make my future babies. I just won’t get to meet them until… we’re ready.
When this began, I was convinced it was a punishment. Now I see, it was a gift. The elegance of this crazy world is clear to me, and it seems as though it was always supposed to work out this way. (At least, that’s how I like to think about it.)
So, thanks, New Girl. If it weren’t for you, I might have completely missed out on a chance to realize the future I had always pictured for myself.
I’ll be documenting the process here, if you care to follow along. And happy to answer any questions y’all might have. So stay tuned, it’s gonna be an interesting ride!