Late last year Mamamia ran a story about a 23-year-old woman who wasn’t quite ready to be a mum. Sylvia Freedman was studying, she was single, but she was going through the painful process of freezing her eggs.
Women choose to harvest or freeze their eggs for a number of reasons. Some are trying to get pregnant or going through IVF while others, like Sylvia who suffers from Endometriosis, are depositing them in the fertility bank for safe keeping.
In my early 20s I was also told I ought to freeze my eggs. This is a story of why I didn’t.
But first, a little about me. I’m a 25-year-old woman and I don’t get periods.
I suffer from secondary amenorrhea, which means that I was menstruating normally and then I stopped. At 19.
I was living out of home for the first time (so I wasn’t keeping it strictly Gwyneth Paltrow health-wise) and I got a stomach bug. I lost a week to the bathroom, 6kg from my waistline and my menstrual cycle.
I panicked. I took a bunch of iron tablets, ate a lot of vegemite, did a lot of sit-ups — just tried anything I thought might squeeze a period out of me.
Nothing worked. Obviously I’m not a doctor, so I went to see one.
In the past 6 years I have seen many more. I’ve had innumerable blood tests and ultrasounds, gone on and off the pill, been told I had polycystic ovaries, told I don’t have polycystic ovaries. I have severe food intolerances, but not Coeliac’s disease. I’ve had a couple of bleeds here and there. I’ve now ruled out premature ovarian failure. Once I watched my GP google “is there a link between amenorrhea and snoring?” There isn’t.
But this isn’t about solving Jo Robin: medical mystery (I assure you, I’m all over it), this is about the problem I have with the idea that the way my body does or does not work, should be the focal point of my life. That my ability to bear children should determine the shape of that life or that I should feel like less of a woman because I don’t bleed once a month.
Just quickly, so you know I don’t hate children here is a picture my nephew Sami and I:
In 2012, I went to see a fertility specialist at hospital in Melbourne’s inner north. She ran a series of tests to check my overall fertility. One test measured my Anti-Mullerian Hormone, which is used to indicate the number of follicles, or eggs, remaining in your ovaries.
It is not an exact measure but at the time my result should have fallen between 14-25pmol/L. I scored a 2.4 pmol/l.
If it were an exam, I would have failed. Badly.
The specialist panicked, worried that I my eggs were too rapidly reaching their used-by-date. I can assure you I panicked with her, as did my mother.
That same day I was sent me down the corridor to meet with a counsellor and then with a nurse who explained the process of freezing my eggs; the painful daily hormone injections, the harvesting procedure, the high costs, the low success rates.