For a growing number of women, freezing their eggs have given them a chance to hit the snooze button on their biological clocks and gain extra time to start a family. One woman shares how she extended her fertility and reclaimed her power.
Growing up her mother's only child in New Jersey, style expert and The View regular Tai Beauchamp knew, one day, she wanted to have “at least” two children. But as she looked ahead, she couldn’t foresee the broken engagement that happened before her thirtieth birthday nor the fact that she would have to help provide long-term care for her ailing grandmother. For her thirty-fifth birthday last year, with her dreams of motherhood stalled, Beauchamp gave herself a special gift: She had ten of her own healthy eggs frozen to preserve her chance to start a family in the future.
Facing the Clock
A baby girl is born with around 2 million eggs in her ovaries. Those are all the eggs she will have for a lifetime. By puberty, we have around 300,000 eggs and lose roughly 1,000 of them each month. Thirty-five is the average age a woman’s egg health and fertility begin their steady decline, according to the National Institutes of Health. As Beauchamp celebrated the milestone birthday last January with a spa day, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine was preparing to lift (and has since lifted) the “experimental” label from egg freezing. In the past, “oocytes,” the medical term for a woman’s eggs, had been much more difficult to freeze than sperm or embryos (eggs fertilized with sperm). However, recent breakthroughs have vastly increased the success of egg preservation. With egg age being a major factor for a woman’s infertility, the ability to stop their aging through freezing is a major turning point for women.
At 33, Beauchamp suspected her protruding stomach and the discomfort she experienced during sex were likely caused by fibroids, which her mother and grandmother had both endured. Beauchamp’s gynecologist confirmed her suspicions and suggested the fibroids be surgically removed. Then she asked Beauchamp an important question: When are you going to have kids? “My doctor pointed out that I was at the age of egg maturation and doing well professionally,” recalls Beauchamp. “She asked why not go ahead and have kids now? My answer was because I didn’t have a life partner.”
Ever since Beauchamp approached 30, friends had been advising her to consider freezing her eggs. “I have friends who got married later in life and have had their own personal struggles with getting pregnant,” she shares. Following her fibroid surgery, Beauchamp thought more about her own fertility and what her girlfriends were saying. One of them was Elayne Fluker, creator of chicrebellion.tv, who had frozen her eggs right after her thirty-ninth birthday. “I’m very happy I did it,” says Fluker, now 41. “Tai is a few years younger than me, so when I was going through the process I urged her do it and do it now.”
Beauchamp’s insurance covered her first consultation with Jamie L. Morris, M.D., of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey. Each week Morris counsels women on every aspect of the process, including the center’s 90 percent survival rate for eggs after they are frozen, as well as pregnancy rates for women who have used frozen eggs. “Tai is a classic example of the women I treat,” Morris says. “She is highly successful and ambitious, and wants to ensure she will have all the other pieces to her life as well. She came in understanding there were going to be limits to her fertility and wanted to do something about it.”
Following the appointment, Beauchamp paid $3,000 out of pocket for blood work to find out whether her eggs were healthy enough to move forward. Armed with a positive test result, she marked her calendar to complete egg retrieval, which can take up to three weeks.
To read the full "The Baby Rain Check" article, please find the September issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newsstands now.