In partnership with Fertility Associates
Auckland lawyer Angela Gray knows she definitely doesn’t want kids right now – but after she found out her fertility was declining rapidly when she was 30 and single, she knew she had to take action to take back control of her life’s plan. Here, she candidly chats to Capsule about her decision to freeze her eggs, what the process was like, and why she feels like she can ‘have her cake and eat it too’.
Hi Angela, thanks so much for joining us for this conversation. Tell me, how did your egg freezing journey start?
So I did egg freezing about a month ago, but I’ve had fertility on my radar for about two years. My sister had two kids with no problems at all, but when she went to have a third, and she found out that her fertility had just fallen off a cliff.
I was 29 and single and I thought well, I don’t want to find out that I have issues when I was trying for my first, so I decided to get it checked out. I had my first AMH test [Anti-Mullerian Hormone, a hormone made by ovaries] and it came back ok, and the doctors said we should monitor it for a little while. I went back after a year and had another one, and my AMH level had halved – it had declined rapidly.
Oh wow, that’s a lot for such a short amount of time.
Yeah, so after that my GP referred me to Fertility Associates and just said look, this is what’s happened with my sister and I don’t want to have kids yet, but I can see that my fertility is going down – so, what are my options?
I went off the pill for a bit to see if that would change my levels, but after a few months off the pill my AMH had gone down further – it went down to eight. By this stage I had a partner but it was still very new, so whatever I decided was going to be on my own terms. And also by this stage the panic had set in!
I can only imagine! So what did you decide to do?
I bit the bullet and decided to freeze my eggs! It was during this last level four lockdown which was crazy, but we started the retrieval process in level three and got an amazing result – my doctor thought we’d get between six and 10 eggs, and we got 24, with 22 surviving.
It’s really interesting to talk to you at this stage of the process – I’ve spoken to women who have gone through this process and they have a baby at the end of it, which is fantastic. You don’t know when you want children, and even if you’ll use these eggs – why did you decide to take the plunge?
Because I wanted to take control over what I could, and I think knowledge is power when it comes to fertility. It was such an empowering process, but I know for me it was probably quite a different experience because it wasn’t very emotional. I wasn’t wanting a baby out of this – yet – so it was kind of transactional, but I knew it was the right thing to do.
So it was really a pragmatic decision then?
Exactly. I mean, it was pretty disappointing when my third AMH test came back and it was so much lower but I wasn’t upset about not having a baby – I was upset about how the luxury of time was being taken away from me.
Definitely – I’m the same age as you and having a kid is the last thing on my mind. The world isn’t the same as our mums’ where they were having kids so much younger – that’s just not an option for a lot of us now.
Yeah. It’s a case of having your cake and eating it too, really!
How was the actual process of retrieving the eggs?
It was actually so much better than I thought. You start with hormone injections – I was quite nervous about it, I’m ok with needles but obviously I didn’t want to do it! It’s 10 days worth, and you get into the swing of it. Once you’ve done it a few times you’re fine! My partner was with me every step of the way, poor guy – he hates needles more than I do! So I decided to do them myself.
They were fine, they just made me quite bloated. I looked pregnant, ironically. And I was more emotional than usual.
And then it’s the retrieval, which was fine. You’re sedated so you don’t feel anything and I was in and out in a couple of hours and had no pain whatsoever. And the drugs after were great!
You had the process done just over a month ago – how do you feel about it all now?
Good! I feel so great that I’ve done it, and there’s a kind of insurance policy, I guess, and they’re just sitting there waiting for me if and when I need them. It’s more the relief that I don’t feel like a ticking time bomb anymore – it’s empowering and reassuring at the same time.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get a baby out of the eggs, and that’s important to remember, and Fertility Associates remind you of that at every stage because, you know, they’re not God! They don’t know what’s around the corner, and neither do I. But I do know that I’ve done everything I possibly can to help.
And what does your partner think of your decision?
It was a bit of an interesting one to navigate seeing as we hadn’t been together that long, and from the beginning it was my process. He’s been a great support, and best case scenario, we don’t use these eggs – we’ll be able to have babies naturally. But if we need them, they’ll be our babies, but I never wanted to make this decision for him, which is why it’s my eggs frozen, not embryos because we’re early days and it felt like too much of a commitment for me, especially with all this time and money.
It was a funny process in that sense because it was always my process that he was supporting me in, which is probably a bit different to other people too.
And the fact that there’s a chance that these eggs might be both of your babies!
Yeah, I didn’t want that to make it a thing on him – I told him that it was a thing I wanted to do for myself. He was really sweet though, he even offered some money towards it!
Is ‘empowered’ the best word to describe how you feel after the process?
I think so. Because you never think about your body failing you, do you. You think it’ll serve you and you hope it will – until it doesn’t. It’s like, even though you’ve made a different decision to me, body, I’m going to take the control back. I’ll always know that I tried, no matter what happens.
Did you have anyone in your life who was apprehensive about egg freezing?
There was one who said, ‘Why don’t you just have babies!’ [Laughs]. It is what it is. But, I’m not ready to – and this is my chance of having my cake and eating it too.
Yeah but fair enough. Our generation has been raised to think that we can – and should – have it all and do everything, but sometimes biology doesn’t let us. And, it turns out that being everything to everyone is really freaking hard!
Exactly! I entirely agree, and that was when I was mourning how the last AMH result had declined, I was like, ‘What do you mean I can’t have it all? That I can’t have my career and time AND a baby? So, it was nice to be able to take some control back.
We need to make sure women are supported in their motherhood journey and they don’t lose their spot at the table when it comes to taking time off for kids, and the flip side of that is that I’m not ready to have a baby, and I don’t think I should jump in and have one just because my body thinks I’m ready. I don’t think being a ticking time bomb is a good enough reason.