For Nette, the two weeks of shots and ultrasounds and blood work are crawling by. The hormones themselves aren’t too bad—she’s headachy, but more than anything anxious. She’s into the second week, and still they’ve found only eight follicles, which is riding a low margin; not every follicle has an egg.
Three days later, she has twelve, and she decides to go through with the extraction. She spends $100 on a nurse to administer the final shot—an intramuscular HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) injection to facilitate the release of the eggs from the follicles—at eleven o’clock at night. Thirty-six hours later, Noyes comes in from Quogue to perform the procedure.
When Nette arrives at NYU at nine o’clock that Saturday morning, she is quickly ushered into the operating room. She’s a little overwhelmed by the overhead lights and the nurses rushing around in scrubs, but she’s relieved to see Noyes behind one of the masks. One of the last things Nette remembers before the anesthesia takes effect is the doctor saying, in her usual wry way, “I came in from the Hamptons for you.”
When Nette wakes in the recovery room half an hour later, she is groggy and crampy. But the whole team, and her sister who has accompanied her, is excited. She has produced eleven eggs. A “stylin’ number,” she says, happy. After some juice and crackers and Tylenol, she and her sister get into a cab, and suddenly Nette realizes she’s finished. She can look ahead to the trip to the French West Indies that she booked halfway through this process—a gift to herself for getting through all this.
But in the back of her mind, there’s still a nagging question: How many of her eggs will be worth saving? Noyes has to examine each one under a special microscope to grade its maturity and evaluate its spindle, the critical component of egg machinery where all the chromosomes line up.
Two days later, Nette is at home, achy and sore and taking it very easy. Her ovaries are so heavy with blood they might twist if she overexerts. Again she downplays the physical: It was the emotional toll that was hardest—not knowing if she would produce enough eggs to make this process worth it. But she’s got good news: Of the eleven eggs extracted, eight were mature enough to freeze.
Whether that’s enough to get her pregnant when the time comes is anybody’s guess. When Nette decides she wants to have a baby, Noyes will thaw and fertilize all eight eggs, then implant the best two embryos and hope one takes. Unless Nette produces more than two quality embryos, this will be her only shot at IVF. Noyes says the success rate with implanting embryos from frozen eggs is somewhere between 30 and 40 percent.
This is the gamble of egg freezing, of betting your baby years on new technology. If you get lucky, you get the life you want right now, and a biological child that comes at the moment you’re ready to turn your home office into a nursery. If you’re unlucky, you’ve squandered your childbearing years, and there’s no getting them back.
Nette is feeling lucky. “At least by doing this, I have a certain comfort level,” she says. “I have money in the bank. My mother always said, ‘Keep a little money in the bank.’ ”