And they are, disproportionately, New Yorkers. Extend Fertility, a national egg-storage company that works with Reproductive Medical Associates at Mount Sinai, has received more than half its inquiries from New York. Of 120 Extend patients across the country who have frozen their eggs, 44 are in the metro area. This is a new sisterhood of women who are acknowledging that although they are putting off kids, they don’t want to sacrifice their chance at biological motherhood.
“I think a lot of decisions women make will change because of egg freezing,” says Nette.
“I could forget the whole thing”—kids, love—“and just be a high-powered exec. But for what? I’d like to have my own child,” says Sofia, also 37 and another patient of Noyes’s. Sofia is in sales at a Fortune 500 company, owns real estate, and has plenty of purchasing power (she calls the freezing fee “a year’s cost” in handbags, shoes, and hair). “My life is pretty good,” she says. “What’s the next thing to do? Replicate yourself. Have mini-me’s.”
She doesn’t want to do it alone; she wants to have children with a man she loves. “To me, the joy will not be 100 percent if I’m not with someone.”
But last winter, she lived through a brutal breakup. When she had fibroid surgery, her boyfriend dutifully dropped her off at the hospital—and then went snowboarding. Not long after, Sofia told him that she wanted to have a baby. And he told her he didn’t love her.
“He told me his true feelings,” she says. “So it helps me make a decision. Freeze eggs and move on.”
Nadine, a 37-year-old business-development executive for an Asia-based company, decided to freeze her eggs after she realized the true reason for the chest pains that came every month along with her period. “My mom is a psychiatrist, and she said, ‘I hate to do this, but do you realize that a period is a frustrated pregnancy? Maybe deep inside you are concerned about being older and not being pregnant.’ ”
Nadine didn’t see any other way to relieve her anxiety. “It’s just tough when you have a job that is time-consuming,” she says. “I’m trying to date, but when you travel a lot, you can’t have a lot—outside of the Internet, and my success at being fixed up with people is near zero.”
Putting her eggs on ice, she says, removes the “Oh, my God, I’m 37!” factor. “I don’t have to worry now about the stupid eggs getting older.” And she hasn’t had any chest pains since the procedure.
For Megan, a 33-year-old private-investment-fund manager, it’s more a matter of career timing than love life. She wants to wait to have kids until the hard, dues-paying years are past. “It’s the complexity of life in New York,” she says. “I look at the way my parents had us, and they didn’t necessarily have x dollars in the bank, they didn’t have it all figured out. But in New York, we feel we have to be so hard-charging and try to control so much.”
One of the factors these women are trying to control is their choice of husband. They don’t want to settle. “What do you do if you don’t have the partner you are going to have? There is still the quandary of, I know I’m going to meet this great guy and already have embryos with a sperm donor—versus taking my chances freezing eggs and possibly having children with my partner. That’s a huge distinction.”
Megan knows. She’s been faced with exactly this problem. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease at 24, she was told that the only way to preserve her fertility was to freeze embryos before her cancer treatment. So she and her then-boyfriend, an investment banker, went through two cycles of IVF together. Megan now has 22 embryos frozen at Cornell. Her boyfriend? He’s now married to another woman. “He’s the most wonderful guy, but ultimately we weren’t right for each other,” she says. She doesn’t want to use the embryos now. “I just can’t stop thinking about my ex-boyfriend’s wife,” she says. “He’d probably say yes. She’d probably say yes. But is it even fair to ask the question?” And what about the man she eventually ends up marrying? “How would a guy feel if it were your ex-boyfriend’s sperm? What if the children look exactly like your ex and not like you?”
Luckily, as far as Megan’s doctors can tell, she is still fertile, despite having gone through chemotherapy. But she’s not quite ready to get pregnant. “I’m 33, but I don’t feel like I’m in a rush,” she says. “When someone says you don’t have many years left, it’s like, I’m me! I’m having a great time! I love my life, I don’t feel like that”—marriage, kids—“is where I’m supposed to be right now.” She’s thinking of doing another round of freezing. But while she’s in a relationship, and he might be “the one,” she’s not going to make the same mistake twice. This time she’s going to freeze eggs instead of embryos.