Martha Beck is a sociologist and life coach and the author of The Way of Integrity. In this mini advice series, she’s answering readers’ most urgent “what if?” questions as they contemplate redirecting their lives towards a new future.
I’m a 33-year-old woman who has always said I’d freeze my eggs if I didn’t have kids by 35. It’s something I’ve saved for. Now I’m a little over a year from “the age,” single, and can’t imagine having kids. I mean, I love children but having them seems like I’d just be choosing to be stressed out all the time, and when I get stressed, my overall functioning plummets. How could I put a kid in that mix? I can’t imagine making that choice now, or ever. What if I just didn’t do it? I want to trust myself, to trust that I don’t need to do this. But usually the way I manage anxiety is to have a plan…and a backup plan. Can I really ditch the backup plan?
I almost never give anyone any advice beyond telling them to trust themselves. So trust yourself. If the following opinion sounds wrong to you, ignore it.
That said, I’m weighing in hard on this topic.
I’ve coached several people through the journey of IVF (in vitro fertilization). Many of them said that just a few years earlier they couldn’t imagine wanting children. But here’s the thing: We change. Our wants and dreams change. And I’ve seen that when the urge to have a child kicks in, it can be intense. I’ve seen women experience terrible regret because they had a chance to save their precious DNA and didn’t take it.
There are very few objects you’ll ever possess that are literally priceless and irreplaceable. Your eggs are among them. Not many women think about that when they’re 33. If your instincts have led you to save up money for freezing eggs, I’d pay attention to that little inner nudge. It’s unusual. It may be there for a reason.
While freezing your eggs is not foolproof—there are no guarantees you’ll be able to conceive later—you may be kicking yourself, hard, for decades if you opt out now. Look at it this way: If you freeze eggs now and never want a baby, you’ll have wasted some effort and expense. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who are desperately looking for donors, and you could change their lives if you chose to help them.
I’ve watched this happen. I’ve been shocked and moved by the emotional and physical trauma of women who are trying to conceive in middle age. Some therapists compare the IVF process to cancer treatment. Would-be parents must endure The Hunger Games in which the number of healthy eggs go down drastically at every stage of the IVF process. I would hate to see you—or anyone—go through that.
Again, because I’ve watched women regret their earlier choices, I’m deeply biased on this topic. So please, please follow your instincts. Whatever you decide, make sure the choice comes from your deepest core.
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