And “what kinda way is that?” you might ask. Well it ain’t good. Before anyone thinks this is shaping up to be a man bashing piece, full disclosure: I don’t hate men. BUT. In the midst of this egg freezing thing, more than once, I have felt like as women we’re a little hard done by.
(I’m writing this the day before my egg retrieval, which is taking place at 9am tomorrow. I completed 11 days of injections and I have some thoughts – not all about the gender inequality of this whole thing but some definitely are.)
The process is inconvenient. I know it’s not supposed to be a walk in the park but having to remember to inject yourself three times a day is, frankly, a pain in the belly. Especially when one of the injections HAS to be at a specific time of day – no earlier, no later – and when one of the injections HAS to be refrigerated. And that’s before we get to the daily or every second day blood tests and ultrasounds, which start from day five of injections. Thankfully I live pretty close to the clinic I’m attending but even so they’ve taken up a significant chunk of my working mornings and has required me to reschedule a f*ck tonne of meetings. Meanwhile, how many of my male colleagues are having to ask their boss for time off for fertility treatment?
The financial burden increases the gender wealth gap. Really this is just about the cost in general, but having gone through it I can understand why it’s an expensive medical procedure. But what irks me about it is that it’s $12,000 – $16,000 that a guy will never have to spend. We either have to have made that much more money (gender wage gap anyone?) or could now be that much more in debt. And IF (big if) I end up using these eggs with a partner, can I chargeback half of that cost to them? Why is it that I’ll have invested that much money in something which could result in an outcome for both of us? Hmm? Hmmmmm????
Single men likely don’t ever have to think about their fertility. Would a single guy ever think to himself “hmm, I’m getting a little older, maybe I should get my sperm count checked and think about resolving any issues that might arise in future circumstances”? It’s unlikely. Now, I’m not saying they don’t sometimes play a key part in the baby making process and can have their own battles on that roller coaster, but are they prepping for that when they’re single? Unlikely. And even if they do have their own battles, their “checks” are far less invasive than injecting themselves three times a day – don’t try and get my sympathy for having to jack off in a doctor’s office, til you haven’t been able to find an injection point cause your whole belly is pricked to within an inch of its life.
Get your support network on speed dial. It was all going really well until it wasn’t. On day seven of injections, I was overtired and undernourished having lost my appetite when I started the injections and after my first morning injection I fainted. Twice. And in no time, I had a friend arrive to make me breakfast, had my dog taken to be looked after by friends for the day and had another friend bringing me groceries. I don’t have family here, I live alone. While not everyone faints, I truly don’t think it’s advisable to go through this process without a really great support network around you, who know what you’re doing and are ready to jump into support at any time. You’ll need it for sure. Not least because you’re not allowed to leave after the procedure by yourself. And even those not here in person on my morning of need, even just having people checking in and cheering me in from afar has buoyed me in those moments when it’s started to get a little overwhelming.
Is positivity considered a mood swing? Because… that’s the only one I’ve had. I was warned, and entirely expected, that given the sheer volume of hormonesI was inserting into myself that mood swings were likely. But… they haven’t come and at this point I’m 13 hours out from the procedure and they haven’t kicked in yet. However, through the whole process (other than maybe the morning of the faints) I have felt wholly positive and upbeat. I had managed to get myself into a great headspace before starting the process, my Mum had just come out from Scotland and we had the most perfect visit, and so maybe that’s all played a part. Either way, I’m not complaining, but I kinda wanna keep on whatever I’ve been taking… mostly kidding.
It’s not an egg competition. In a lot of the conversations I’ve had with people about egg freezing, when someone has been telling me about their friend who has gone through it, they often like to share how many eggs that person got from their retrieval. Really early on in those conversations I started to feel pressure, trying to keep a mental tally of “ok, if she’s that age and got that many eggs, then given I’m this age I should get….?” This is yet another comparison that women do not need. It is another pressure in this already emotionally charged process that women do not need. It is a reinforcement that if you’re not reproductively productive then you’re… what? It is also something we have absolutely no fucking control over and is in no way an indication of our femininity, value or worth. So let’s not make it a comparison.
But the point is…
I am forever grateful that I had the financial resources, the medical resources and the emotional support (both from myself, and family and friends) to do this. I have felt outrageously empowered throughout (even when I fainted naked on the toilet – yep, you read that right) and it feels like maybe the greatest Christmas gift I’ve ever given myself. And I’ve given myself a lot of Christmas gifts.
Tomorrow is the final piece of the puzzle and regardless of the outcome, I am encouraged by the ownership I’ve taken of my life, and the conversations this has brought about with friends, family and strangers alike. I’m not even that mad about the gender inequality, but I hope if you’re a guy and you’re still reading this, first of all – I APPRECIATE YOU! And second, I hope it’s maybe given you a new sense of respect for what females have to go through.
In the end, my main takeaway from this isn’t the inequality of reproductive responsibility between the sexes – although let’s just accept that it’s HUGE. It’s that between nature and modern medicine, what women’s bodies are capable of is mind blowing. This whole process has only reinforced that which I’ve heard many times – women’s bodies are fucking phenomenal. And, whatever the outcome tomorrow, my mind can’t be changed on that.