I wake up at 6 a.m., my belly bloated and achy. I run to the kitchen to take my injections out of the fridge. I set them on the counter to warm up, then I return to bed for some last remnants of sleep. Thirty minutes and no sleep later, I’m back in the kitchen to dab another alcohol swab against my swollen stomach. This time, I loudly apologize to my bruised waist as I take out the “pen” of hormones, pinch up some of the bloat, and inject. I have been doing this for a week now. Morning and evening, different medications and different spots on my beat-up abdomen to prick. My body and I are having an ongoing argument: It asks me to stop and I tell it to remember the children. The unborn future children.
How did I get here? That question can be answered with thousands of dollars of therapy or, more cheaply, with one sentence: I’m 36 and still single, and — fuck it — I’m freezing my eggs. Yes, I am only 36, and I could meet someone tomorrow, and those frozen eggs could be a very expensive moot point. They’re the “just in case I don’t meet someone in five years” back-up plan. The “even if I do, but my eggs are old” layaway plan.
During the 10 days when I am injecting myself, I am spiking up and down a parabola of emotions, induced by hormones and my Jewish neuroses. One moment I’m walking the streets of New York feeling more expansive, physically and psychically. I want to stop strangers, and ask: “Can you hear that? That’s my biological clock going strong but I’m doing something about it!”
I feel strong and confident, giving myself peace of mind about my fertility options. But will this process actually bring that peace? Or is this just me giving up? A hailstorm of fears immediately erases that confidence: I don’t want to do this alone. I want the whole package: the great love, the partnership, the co-parentship. I want all the ships.
I have read all about the “career women” — the independent, financially stable women who woke up one day and realized they had spent the better part of their childbearing years leaning into those goals and forgetting to make babies. This is not me. I have struggled through a career in the arts. I’ve had relationships, hoping that the right person would stick. Now, all that’s stuck are these little dots lining my belly. They form a constellation of my failed relationships, a map of the joys and pains that have led to this moment.
Thirty-six hours before the procedure to retrieve my eggs, I give myself the “trigger” injection. The images this word brings to mind do not necessarily scream babies. The vocabulary associated with the procedure is strange and cold, despite the personal experience it has been. One friend asked me when the “farming” of my eggs was happening, as though I am a chicken warming my eggs under my fluffy ass. Another told me to text her when I would be “harvesting,” and now I imagine myself kneeling in a meadow of tall grass, hands covered in soil, tending to my crop of ova.
And yet, friends do better than the doctors. Every other day, I go in for my ultrasound and bloodwork during the “morning monitoring” hours. I am poked and prodded by different people, no conversation attempted. These strangers are actively looking inside me with needles and penis-shaped ultrasound wands. I’m getting more action than I’ve had in months, but they don’t want to know anything about me. I am but a chart in a sea of charts.
Weekend monitoring is the Grand Central Station of wannabe parents. As I enter the waiting room at 7:30, I glimpse women of all ages and couples sitting in silence. I look around and realize that I am at once alone and a part of this community of people who want a baby and need a bit of help getting there.
“This your first time here?!” My people-watching is interrupted by a tall, curly brunette in pink ‘80’s exercise gear. Between words, she’s going to town on a piece of gum. “Uh, yeah. I mean, on a Saturday. I usually go to the smaller one in Brook-”
“Uh-huh.” Smack, smack. I pity her gum and her dentist. She looks me up and down. For a moment, I wonder if I’m being hit on.
“Let’s find a seat together. I’ll give you the lay of the land.”
Turns out my new friend, Sharon, is eager to mentor. She gives me her vitals: This is her second time doing IVF. She tells me to get ready for a hormonal rollercoaster. When I ask her about side effects, she replies, “boobs,” and tells me her usual D has swollen to “a supah D.” I am supah thrilled about this. (My A-cups have been waiting 22 years to hear this.)
As I am daydreaming about my future boobs, I feel Sharon’s hand on my arm. “I just never thought I’d be in this place at 45.” She speaks with grit, fear, and honesty. I get it. “I know, Sharon. I never thought I’d be here at 36.” I’m sitting in a waiting room in Midtown in the middle of a snowstorm, preparing to take a part of myself and freeze it in time, keep it ageless as I wrinkle with each passing moment. And yet, here was Sharon, nine years older, preparing to do it alone. I looked at her and felt afraid I might become her. Because the truth is this: I will do it alone, too, if I must. But I don’t want to.
As Sharon drones on about her circumstances, I realize that no one can plan these things. This life of love and heartbreak is completely random. You can be the Type-A girl who gets it done, or a messy, emotional, sensitive artist (can you guess which one I am?) and still find yourself in for “morning monitoring” on a bitter January day.
A few days after I meet Sharon, I wake up on the other side of the procedure, groggy and bloated. Always bloated. The nurses tell me I did well, though I am not sure what I did at all. I don’t know yet how this procedure has changed my circumstances. What I do know is that somewhere on the East side of Manhattan, in a cold and sterile hallway, live seven of my most prized eggs, waiting to exhale.
I am now 38. As I write this, my eggs are now a year and a half younger than me. With each passing day and each disappointing date, I am closer to them. I hold them somewhere wrapped up in my cynicism and faith. They whisper to me from across the Brooklyn Bridge that I am strong and powerful, that no matter what, they’ve got my back — or my front, if you will. As long as I can pay the rent for their icy abode, they will be there, both a memory and a snapshot of what could be.