In Daring Greatly, author Brene Brown writes about how we tend to go halfway to meet goals. We hedge our bets by taking a small step forward; if the small step doesn’t work so well, at least we haven’t invested too much of ourselves emotionally.
My concern is that egg freezing will increasingly become a small step for single women who want to become mothers.
Big caveat: I know this particular commentary will make it sound like I think all single women who want to have children should simply go ahead and do it. That is not my intent. I have no particular stake in how many women make this choice each year. The majority of them do not find this website, or attend Choice Moms networking events, or buy Choice Mom educational resources. Most of the more than 100,000 single women over the age of 35 who give birth each year (nearly 45,000 in United Kingdom; nearly 12,000 in Canada) do so without my encouragement.
And, in fact, I know many women smartly assess their ability to be single mothers, and choose no. I applaud the courage that takes as well. We need more people who can assess their abilities to juggle parenthood, and say no if they decide it’s not the right decision.
What I want to write about today is a concern that started when I was at ASRM, and learned that egg freezing is now considered a less experimental procedure. I expect that more women will donate eggs to banks, as men have with sperm, to anonymously help build families. And I expect that more and more single women will opt to freeze their eggs for a future date, perhaps after they have found a partner.
I know, from meeting more than 1,000 single women at my nearly 25 Choice Moms networking events over the years that roughly half of us prefer to have a partner when we raise a family. And for them, egg freezing might seem like a great “smaller step” to take. And it is.
How many of the women I have met have regretted taking the big step of having a child on their own? I’ve heard from a few who suffered from post-partum depression, or had stressful toddlers, or coped with loneliness without a mate. I’ve even heard about someone (who never accessed Choice Mom resources and support that I know about) who said no shortly after she adopted a child from Russia, and another family needed to be found. But of the thousands of stories I have had access to, in person and email and discussion board, the single most prevalent regret I hear is: “I wish I hadn’t waited so long to build my family.”
Whether it is because conception is harder to achieve than we think, so we spend more money and time and stress trying to become a mother… or whether it is because we wish we could add to our family with a second child… the women I hear from invariably embrace motherhood so passionately and with such dedication and resourcefulness that waiting is NOT the path they tend to recommend to others.
I am not trying to persuade anyone to rush into motherhood, any more than I would suggest they rush into a lackluster relationship in order to build a family.
I do want to encourage Choice Moms everywhere to talk to other single women they know to gently ask if they want to have a family, and if they might want to consider Choice Motherhood as Plan A, invite them to talk more with you about the honest ups and downs of the journey.
In a recent New York Times op-ed about egg freezing, “We Need to Talk About Our Eggs” (a concept I totally agree with!) this is one paragraph that jumped out at me: “The procedure isn’t a panacea. It’s terribly expensive – often $10,000 to $15,000 – and is not usually covered by insurance. In addition, there’s a worrisome lack of data regarding the success rates of eggs frozen by the women at the end of their baby-making days. The majority of the women in the four studies reviewed by the society were under 35, and it warned against giving women who want to delay childbearing ‘false hope’ that their frozen eggs will work when they are ready to get pregnant years later.”
Yes, we have some wonderful options for family-building these days. And yes, I encourage any Thinking women to consider them.
My hope, however, is that you might also consider taking the Big Step of building a family sooner, rather than later, especially if you are close to age 35, or older. Ask yourself, as Brene Brown puts it: “What’s worth doing?” and “Are you all in?”
— Mikki, founder, Choice Moms