As a second-generation immigrant in a somewhat conservative family, growing up has always been an endless internal struggle for me to seek out my true identity and my purpose in life. I was always told to study hard, strive for the high-paying corporate cookie cutter job, find an equally successful husband and procreate the perfect and genetically blessed children to start a family.
For the most part I endeavored to walk the well-intentioned but misinformed path that my parents had paved for me. I graduated high school with a near perfect mark and immortalized by having my name proudly embossed on the honor boards in our hallowed hallways. I went through five years of university and through blood, sweat and constant flow of tears, completed a double degree in a field I had no passion for.
Once I checked that off it was time to hunt for a man and get a move on starting a family. I always knew I wanted to have children but it was always a matter of timing and feeling that I was enough of an adult to support another human. I managed to hook, line and sink my first husband at the young age of 23.
Rather than listening to that little voice inside that was howling to me that something wasn’t right – I went through with the marriage because I didn’t want to let my family down. At the insistence from mother dearest she sent us to see a fertility specialist in 2014 to see when and if we could start conceiving children. After all, my pesky body clock was ticking away – as she frequently (everyday) reminded me.
I’m going to digress for a quick moment here and mention that I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) during my teens as it became concerning when months would go by between my cycles.
It’s not uncommon and roughly 11% of women around the world suffer from PCOS and almost 20% of women in Australia. For more information on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) head here.
In my case I had very mild symptoms compared to some other women who suffer from the condition. The associated fertility problems that come with having PCOS prompted my visit to the fertility specialist to understand my options.
When you experience problems with your menstrual cycle it can make things hard when trying to conceive naturally. This isn’t to say that you can’t fall pregnant without fertility treatments but I was well aware that some form of intervention might be required at some point.
Essentially they confirmed what I had long suspected was going to be a case of taking prescribed medicine to facilitate the ovulation process. They assured me that this would only happen once they had eliminated other external causes of infertility between my partner and myself. The suggestion was made that we explore this once we were actually ready to conceive, as we were being pre-emptive at this point.
I wasn’t ready to be a parent so this important life milestone was parked for the moment. The next two years saw me divorcing husband one and meeting husband two in the process. A year into the relationship my second husband started noticing changes in my body and mood before gently suggesting to my heightened emotional self that it was time to pee on a stick.
Was it a fluke we fell pregnant without intervention or was it because of my best friend’s highly effective acupuncture treatments? We’ll never really know definitively but what we do know is that we had not planned for this. It took us both by surprise and I wanted to throw myself a celebration in the moment for falling pregnant sans fertility treatment.
Of course you all know what happened next, we had a beautiful baby boy and he’s now two and a half years old and causing all sorts of mischief daily. Whilst my ex-husband and I have since parted ways, we still co-parent Jacob together.
Every woman has their magic number and by this I mean how many children they ideally want to have if hindrances in the conception process weren’t a factor. For me it was two and hey, whilst we’re in this perfect world where fertility issues are non-existent – I wanted a boy and a girl. No order of preference but one of each was my ideal.
If you had asked me this question in the weeks after I gave birth and I would’ve quickly responded that Jake was going to be my one and only child. Now that the trauma of pregnancy and child rearing is behind me, I find myself reconsidering my options and stance on this one-child policy.
Those of you who have followed my journey these last few years will know that whilst I’m all for female empowerment and gender equality, I’m also incredibly real when it comes to being honest with myself and my biological clock. I’m under no misguided impression that whilst I continue to march proudly with the Miss Independent movement that this somehow makes me immune to the effects of time on my body.
Here are some of the questions I was asking myself…
Was I really ready to become a mother? Probably not but that begs the question of how do we really know when we’re ready.
Do I want a second child? Right now? No. But I want to have the option in perhaps 5-7 years time.
I wasn’t ready to go through the whole process again and I’d also need a man for that to happen but hey, semantics.
Truth is, I still had so much left to accomplish with my life and personal goals that were incomplete. Whilst my family has alleviated all the pressure of being a single mother off my shoulders, adding another child to the equation just isn’t a viable option at this point.
But then that begs the question…
Will I be able to have another child once I pass the mid-30s? This is probably the crux of the dilemma that the modern-day woman struggles with. A lot of times the choice between pursuing a successful and fulfilling career comes at the price of starting a family. It seems like the two are mutually exclusive sometimes.
As unfair as it is, the biological clock winds down a lot faster for women than it does for men.
Women are born with around one million eggs (give or take a little) but we also lose hundreds every cycle. If math wasn’t your forte in high school – it means you’re not left with quite as many in reserves as you think when you reach your late 30s.
If you left canned tuna in your pantry for x amount of years, the longer you leave them – the less consumable it becomes. This also holds for the eggs that we carry in our ovaries – the likelihood of genetic problems increases each year, as we grow older. Studies show that over 50% of a woman’s embryos will be aneuploidy (genetically abnormal) by age 40.
To clarify, I’m not writing this piece to fast track you guys into a quarter life crisis of wondering if you’ve missed the boat of childbearing. I’ve found myself in the same position not long ago and want to share with you the reasons why I considered freezing my eggs earlier this year with Genea Horizon and what happened throughout the process.
I started with an initial consult with a Genea Horizon Fertility Specialist Dr Rachael Rodgers to discuss whether I’d be a good candidate for the procedure. It was a pretty open and frank discussion about my medical history and if I had plans to have more children in the future.
After covering a lot of aspects in my lifestyle, which included the fact that I had PCOS, the Fertility Specialist was happy for me to undergo a few initial tests to ensure that everything with my health was in order. This included blood tests to check my hormone levels (AMH) and an ultrasound to conduct an antral follicle count to measure my ovarian reserve.
During our discussion we covered the possibility of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome and the associated actions that need to be taken if it were to happen. For more information about Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) head here.
Essentially OHSS is an exaggerated response to excess hormones and will occur mostly when women administer injectable hormone medications to stimulate the development of eggs in the ovaries. There are a few factors that are known to increase the likelihood of OHSS occurring including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
I walked away from the consult with a series of forms to undergo the necessary tests and checks. The ultrasound showed that I had a substantial reserve and I went for my blood and urine tests soon after.
Since discovering Muay Thai in New York last year I’ve adopted a rigorous training schedule to my existing active lifestyle. Dr Rodgers contacted me one morning between sessions to tell me that she noticed something abnormal in my blood test results.
The conversation went something along these lines:
Dr: I’ve received your blood tests and noticed something that we may have to get investigated before we begin the process… but before I go into detail, what were you doing on the day of your blood test? Were you training beforehand?
Me: Yes… I had three hours of training in the morning and I went late in the afternoon to get my blood test done. Why, what’s wrong?
Dr: One of the measures we look at to determine the health of your kidneys is by measuring the levels of creatinine in your blood. It essentially reflects the amount of muscle a person has and their amount of kidney function. Your results have come back 150% higher than what is normal for the average female.
Me: What does that mean?
Dr: Creatinine is a waste product that is produced by your muscles and it can rise temporarily from strenuous exercise. It is usually filtered out through your kidneys and expelled through your urine. I suspect that it could be explained by your three-hour training session but I would like you to see a kidney specialist to confirm that this is the case.
I’m not sure about you guys but when a doctor sends me to any kind of internal organ specialist, my mind starts to panic a little. She assured me that she was confident that it could be explained by my exercise regime and dehydration but I definitely wanted to rule out the possibility of kidney problems pronto.
I made the appointment immediately after we finished our phone call and saw the specialist within a few days. He suggested I do a urine test and redo the tests on a rest day where I didn’t have any training scheduled. So I did.
Thankfully after the second round of tests the doctor eliminated the possibility of kidney issues. My Fertility Specialist called a week later and we had another frank discussion about why she still didn’t think I should proceed with the procedure.
I was caught off guard by her recommendation because everything else seemed to be in order for me to begin the process. The tests did confirm that I would be susceptible to experiencing OHSS and whilst they had ways to manage these circumstances she was wary about causing a problem when I was perfectly healthy.
A few things she took into account when she made the recommendation included:
- I had quite a high reserve of eggs and she didn’t think I needed to worry about this depleting too quickly in the next few years.
- I am quite lean at the moment and she wasn’t sure that upon administering the ‘trigger’ that my body would produce the necessary hormones for the extraction to happen.
- There was a high possibility that I would experience OHSS and the level of severity was uncertain.
I was incredibly grateful that she was honest and clearly wanted to look after my health as a priority. She wasn’t convinced that I needed to undergo the egg-freezing procedure at this stage and could easily revisit this in a few years.
This probably wasn’t the outcome you guys were expecting after reading this post. What I wanted to highlight to you is the fact that going through this entire process with Genea Horizon gave me the peace of mind I needed to continue to pursue my goals. I was both in good health and even postponing the possibility of a second child wasn’t going to be a problem I had to face in a few years’ time.
With all the uncertainty in the world right now and elements in our lives clearly out of our control, it’s even more important that we give ourselves the peace of mind by making sure our health is in order.
Have you guys thought about freezing your eggs at all?
You can also read about my pregnancy experience here.
This post was created in collaboration with Genea Horizon – however all opinions/experiences will always be my own and recounted as such.