This is the title of a story I once wrote (back in 2001 when such things were just a gleam in a geneticist’s eye.) Do it, do it! I cried then, even as I quaver now: it can be done, and is being done. If you’re a fertile young woman, and any employer is offering to freeze your eggs, just say yes. Don’t necessarily say please and thank you, because the motives of the company offering may well be suspect; they’re bribing you to work for them and hoping you’ll put off requiring maternity leave, but just do it. You’re not going to make the world a better place by getting hoity-toity about company ethics, social responsibility and so forth, just accept. If you won’t others will and a girl has to earn a living. Freeze your eggs. Get them safely stored and labelled and in a lab freezer somewhere. (Try not to lose its address: such things can happen.) It’s that or be terrorised by the inexorable ticking of the biological clock, as girls have been for the last thousand years or so – ‘find your man, have you baby, before it’s too late’, the mantra went. No longer. Now it’s ‘take your time’. The eggs can wait outside your body, not in, saved from the ravages of time; as a single cell or embryo fertilised by husband, partner, passing stranger or sperm bank; you can use them, destroy them, sell them, or give them away at will.
You may well be one of the lucky ones and able to use your own eggs in situ and have them fertilised in the traditional manner, and I certainly hope that you will. And, more, that you have your babies really young, and turn your attention to your ‘career’ later. Yes, I know that’s all very well. The way society is currently arranged, chance would be a fine thing. The male wage is no longer enough to support a family, so a girl too has to earn. And the way she earns is to go to college, get a degree, find a job where there’s a promotional ladder to climb, start climbing. If she finds a partner and wants a baby, now’s the time to do it, then go back to her job unscathed and keep on up. It rarely works out like that. If there is a ladder, someone stronger, brighter and younger than you may knock you off it; the partner may prove elusive; 50% of mothers don’t go back to work after maternity leave and by the time they have to they find their skills are rusty – and, for the 50% who do go back, somehow the glamour has passed and it’s all juggle-juggle of the work-life balance. Financial necessity, as ever, rules.
Life seldom goes as planned. Things happen. Time goes rapidly when you’re young and having fun. The younger eggs of yesterday quickly became the older and more doubtful eggs of today. Suddenly you’re over 40. Mr Right is taking a long time to come along. In which case your frozen eggs will give you twenty extra years leeway while you wait for him, and stop you accepting Mr Second, Third or Fourth Right in desperation. Or perhaps he has turned up and someone else ran off with him and your broken heart has taken years to heal. Or he left it to late to ‘commit’ – other people’s actions being even less predictable than yout own. Or you, having decided when young to stay forever childless change your mind when the end of your reproductive life looms: that’s when you’re around fifty and you realise you have another fifty years to go without youth, energy and beauty on your side. The IVF clinics will be busy with low-fertility women desperate for babies, and will be immeasurably relieved to hear at least you have your frozen eggs with you. It saves time, drugs, and enormous emotional pain.
Personally I think we were all better off before the dawn of genetic technology, when Mother Nature knew best, and ‘too late’ meant ‘too late’. But things being what they are, progress being what it is, the mystery and magic of conception having flown out of the window long ago, it seems folly not to accept what science has to offer. Freeze eggs, girl, freeze eggs!
*In short story collection available on Amazon Nothing to Wear Nothing to Hide