“We both want kids someday,” I said. “The only difference is, if I don’t freeze my eggs now, I might never be able to have them. But the option for you to have kids is always on the table, no matter how much money you do or don't have in the bank. With that in mind, what do you think about us splitting the cost of egg freezing?”
It took every ounce of willpower in me to ask my boyfriend of almost two years if he would be open to splitting the cost of harvesting and freezing my eggs. Not so much because I was afraid of his reaction—though asking the man you are not legally bound to in any way to invest in your hypothetical future children is scary—but because I felt a deep sense of shame that I couldn’t pay for it myself.
The fact that egg freezing has me facing bankruptcy is, frankly, ridiculous. I’m a 32-year-old writer and small business owner who has worked very hard to be debt-free. I’ve saved a modest sum of money over the past decade and placed it into a savings account, which I’ve now labeled “Nest Egg vs. Egg Freezing.” The balance is a few thousand dollars less than the cost of the recommended rounds of egg harvesting, freezing, and storage for women over 27. In America the average cost for this is $26,000—not including the cost of IVF when you’re actually ready to use your frozen eggs.
If I use my savings to harvest and freeze my eggs, I could lose everything I’ve spent a decade building: my financial freedom, my credit, my ability to afford my current modest lifestyle. But if I don’t spend my life savings on freezing my eggs, there’s a very real chance that I’ll never get to realize my dream of becoming a mom. My own mom was diagnosed with endometriosis in her 20s, and conceiving me, her only child, was extremely difficult. While I haven’t officially been diagnosed with the same condition, I did inherit many of the same symptoms and have been warned by doctors that pregnancy may be more difficult for me than for most.
My biological clock, in other words, is never far from my mind. But the simple truth is, I’m not ready to have kids yet. There are circumstances in my life that are too unstable and uncertain for me to be comfortable bringing a child into the equation. Deciding when to start a family is an incredibly personal decision. For me, trying to get pregnant right now feels selfish and irresponsible. Hence my desire to freeze my eggs to ensure a greater chance at a healthy pregnancy later, when I am ready.
It took some soul-searching to figure out why asking for financial help from my boyfriend made me feel such a sense of shame. After all, married women split the cost of egg freezing with their partners, right? We’re used to having conversations with our partners about preventing pregnancy, so why was it so hard for me to talk about planning for one?
The Big Question
Preparing for this conversation, I talked to my female friends about the dilemma facing so many of us as we enter our 30s; we’re not ready to have kids, but we can’t afford to freeze our eggs by ourselves. But when I broached the subject of the costs of fertility planning with my unmarried male friends, none of them had a clue what I was talking about. If anything (and I mean anything), they spoke about saving up to provide for a family down the road. But having a conversation with their current partners about those costs wasn’t even on their radar.
Egg freezing has become so mainstream that an entire sub-industry of fertility loans has sprung up to help women make freezing feasible. But that means taking on substantial debt, and taking into consideration the already relentless gender pay gap, should single women be the only ones on the hook for that cash?
I couldn’t help but feel that asking for financial assistance from my boyfriend felt very connected to my worth. I mean, I was asking him to place a $13,000 bet on our relationship working out.
So I had to ask myself: What’s a chance at motherhood worth to me? My realization was, it was worth putting aside my fear and pride to ask my boyfriend for financial help, even though he may not end up being the eventual father of my children.
Figuring Out Fertility Costs…Together
Sitting down to have this conversation was one of the most vulnerable moments of my life. I was completely transparent about everything: my finances, my desire for children, and my fear that if I didn’t act now, I would miss my chance to be a mom. It felt unfair to work so hard to be financially independent only to be faced with a ticking time bomb inside my body forcing me to make such a monumental decision about my future—our future—before I was ready.
My boyfriend’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive. After voicing initial words of love and support, we opened up about how much the expectations society puts on our genders was affecting our response to the subjects of money and kids. “Honestly, I’ve never thought about the fear single women must feel about not being able to shoulder the financial costs of fertility,” he said. “But I totally get it because, in a way, it reminds me of the fear I feel about not being able to support a family someday.” He then began listing all the things he was concerned about paying for in the future: a house, schooling for kids, medical expenses, life insurance…my jaw dropped. In that moment I realized that the core of our fears was the same; we were both afraid of the burden of financing a family.
In the end we decided that I’d get some fertility testing done in the next few months to determine the health of my eggs and to get more information about my body’s own personal timeline. We also decided that if it was needed, we would split the cost to freeze my eggs. It’s a gamble for us both.
If he does end up being the father of my children, then perhaps we’ll be glad we invested in freezing my eggs early, avoiding potential infertility issues down the road. But egg freezing success rates are still low, with only 30% to 60% of implanted eggs resulting in a viable pregnancy, and I can’t deny there’s a fear that he’ll resent me later if we end up getting pregnant naturally and not needing those eggs. And what happens if by some small chance we break up? Will this investment hang over our relationship like an impending black cloud, or will it be a safety net that allows us more time to focus on our careers and eventually plan for a family?
Time, and blood tests, will tell. But more than anything, I’m so glad I had the courage to start this conversation. This experience reminded me that relationships, no matter what stage they’re in, require vulnerability to grow.
Originally Appeared on Glamour