When I first embarked on this whole thing, in my head, I was going to do one cycle of egg freezing, end up with 20 eggs and freeze half of them as eggs and and get the other half fertilised with donor sperm and freeze them as embryos. (Oh the naivety of ignorance. Basically I didn’t really have a fucking clue.)
The thing was, I’d done a (negligible) bit of research and it looked like the success rates from embryos were better than the success rates from eggs, and I figured that if, in X years time (where X is a number I haven’t yet decided upon) I was still single and decided to go down the whole sperm donation, going it alone route, it looked like embryos frozen using eggs that were X years younger might be a better option than either trying to get an embryo from a frozen egg, or trying to get a fresh embryo from eggs that were X years older. Then I found out that most people talk about doing three cycles of egg freezing and I thought, hmm, OK, well maybe it will take me three cycles but then I’ll get my 20 eggs from them and follow the same plan. (Again, oh the naivety.)
But after my first cycle when I managed to produce four eggs (including one with a vacuole that they froze anyway) I realised that I’d had a slightly optimistic view of the sorts of numbers I should be hoping for. I’m pretty adamant that I’m not going to do more than three cycles – I could afford it, if I really wanted to, but if you don’t put a limit on these sorts of things, where does it stop? I’m very aware that this is fundamentally an experimental procedure, so really, is it worth throwing that much money at it?
So that leaves me with the prospect of – let’s say – ten eggs in total if I’m lucky. People talk about the drop-out rate – the fact that at every stage, you can potentially end up with eggs that aren’t viable. So, for example, you defrost some, and some don’t defrost properly, then you fertilise them and some don’t fertilise properly. Honestly, I don’t know what the drop-out rate really is. I think that because I know that my clinic’s focus is quality rather than quantity, you get the drop-out at an early stage (like last time, they took out five eggs but only froze three), and then because they’re all good eggs, you don’t tend to get the drop-out that you might at other clinics. But to be honest, I could just be telling myself that to make myself feel better about the fact that I don’t have huge numbers of eggs to juggle with.
So, when I realised that I was realistically looking at ten eggs rather than 20, I started to rethink the embryo plan. It was the embryologist who I spoke to after my first egg collection that really crystallised that thought. He said to me, “If you can get ten eggs, I’d freeze ten eggs. The techniques around eggs are improving all the time, so our success rates with eggs are getting better all the time. The thing is that if you freeze embryos, and then you meet somebody, those embryos aren’t really any use to you.”
Obviously, he’s working on the – fairly reasonable – assumption that a future partner is going to be less likely to want to raise a child who isn’t genetically his. But basically, I realised he had a point. And also that I needed to sort my fucking head out. Because (and even anonymously this takes a lot to admit, even to myself) every time I think about using those eggs, about going back to the clinic to do IVF, about the hypothetical child that might come from those eggs, about how I’d explain to my child how they came about, I think about doing it all on my own. It’s me going to the clinic on my own that I see in my mind’s eye, me getting up in the middle of the night to see to the baby, me having that conversation with my child. And maybe that’s because when you’re not with someone, it’s hard to imagine this faceless someone you might end up with.
But I think I need to start imagining. Because even though I’m not the sort of person who believes in the idea that the universe gives you what you visualise, or that you attract whatever is languishing in your subconscious, I do sort of think that for as long as I’m thinking that this is something I’m going to do on my own, this is something that I’m going to end up doing on my own. And that’s not what I want – for me, or my eggs.