Eggs in one frozen basket

There has been a lot in the press lately about women freezing their eggs and whether it should be funded by the NHS. There are passionate debates on both sides of the argument, so I am going to steer clear of that and give it another lens altogether. What might that lens be I hear you ask?:
We are looking to medicate a social issue!

Women freezing their eggs as a lifestyle choice, rather than out of a medical necessity it is a social issue. My argument below is about the lifestyle choice; the choice to pursue your career for now when you are at your most fertile and then bring them out a few years later to make your perfect baby at the perfect time.

I may be a bit jaundiced in my view having personally put off having children for 5 years, despite my mother’s incessant nagging. I did so because I was climbing the greasy pole that is the corporate ladder, only to be made redundant shortly afterwards. That gave me plenty of time to take a hard look at my dubious choice. I call this my dubious choice because for most women, the issue is finding a partner when you are ready to have children, however I was fully married up, but I put my career first. Of course, there was logic to my thinking, and sadly a lot of women are still using this logic. I wanted to be on a sure financial footing before bringing the children into this world; you know, the suburban semi -detached house with a garage and a remodelled kitchen and bathroom. This logic is as flawed as it gets, but more on that later.

So here I am, in my 50s, and while my peers have got shot of their kids to university and the workplace etc, I still have a 13 year old at home and I am still pre-occupied with the school holidays and school gate politics. Yes, there is a tinge of envy, as my peers with grown up children seem to hit this new carefree phase in their lives where they are not encumbered with young children and they can do as they please. They go out when they want and go on holiday when they want, without being held hostage by school holidays and the accompanying exorbitant holiday prices. For those whose marriages survived the vagaries of child rearing, they now have time to invest in their new-found time in nurturing their relationships or finding new ones if their marriages became a casualty.

Back to the flawed logic; we trot on with life thinking we have control and we make our plans and hope everything else will fall into place. In my plan (where I was going to climb the greasy pole for 5 years) the premise was that my eggs were going to be ready and willing when I was ready to have a baby a few years later. This of course was wishful thinking. Women are most fertile between the ages of 20-24, after that it can take much longer to get pregnant and then you are down to sheer luck or what could be a long torturous IVF route. I was young, I was fertile albeit past my most fertile years, I was married and I was still dithering and labouring under the misapprehension that I had a plan and my eggs will play ball.

My gripe with all this egg freezing noise is why we are prioritising career over childbearing when one has a shelf life and the other doesn’t?

Facebook and Apple have been applauded for their company-funded egg freezing schemes. Are they forward looking or yet another way to coerce women into making choices that benefit the company’s bottom line rather than the woman’s wellbeing? There are young women out there with partners still putting their child bearing on hold because they think technology is on their side. I wonder if anyone has bothered to explain to them that the egg to baby rate from a Cryogenic egg (let’s use the fancy term while we are at it) aka a frozen egg is 6.5%; and by the way, that is if your eggs are frozen when they are in the tiptop condition. Additionally there might have to be several rounds of this process before you eventually fall pregnant.

Why will a woman defer having children? There are of course tons of reasons. To me though, if it is for any reason apart from medical or not wanting children, then my advice is as soon as you are in a stable relationship, can afford a roof over your head and a have job, regardless of where you are on the career ladder, get your skates on. Will it set you back professionally, the honest truth is, it depends on who you work for, but most probably yes. However, it is a risk worth taking. You really never know what game your eggs have got in store for you, frozen or not. In the event that there is a problem, the earlier you start, the earlier you get to confront the problem. When you are younger and fitter and your body can withstand the vagaries of whatever intervention you may need.

The problem with big corporates wading into this area and offering, what on the surface, looks like support to women in the workforce is that they are just looking at their bottom line without taking into account the physical and emotional cost to women. If they really want to be supportive, what they should be saying to the women is:

Get pregnant when it suits you and we will ensure we have working practices that support working mothers to enable them to be just as productive as their male counterparts.

What we are getting instead is:

Women have to resort to acting like men biologically for as long as they can possibly get away with it and we are going to support that.

The sad fact is that by deferring the decision, most women don’t get away with it biologically. They enter a world of 6.5% success rates and bags of disappointment and medical procedures that might not have been necessary if their decision had been aligned with their biology rather financial gain.
In my book, Octopus on Treadmill, Women, Success, Health, Happiness; there is a whole chapter about aligning your goals with your values called ‘Ladder against the wrong tree’. Women should not be forced down a route for the wrong reasons.

Please, please do not allow any corporate to determine the fate of your children. You give enough of your life to work and believe you me, as soon as your name does not fit on the PowerPoint slide of the next re-organisation, you are out on your ear. No one at that point will be saying: ‘but she froze her eggs for the organisation so let’s keep her on’.

I am yet to hear of any corporate representative visiting someone in an old people’s home for the services rendered to the company in their productive years. Once you fall off that PowerPoint, it is like you never existed. But your family will be there with you every step of the way, even when you are no longer productive and you have become a cost centre rather than a profit centre. Do not defer your family. Have them when you are young enough to enjoy them, but also for them to leave home while there is still life in the old dog so you can live your second life to the fullest!

If you want to live a meaningful life, get your priorities straight. Know what is important and contributes to your wellbeing and go after it. Don’t let the double garage and the remodelled kitchen in suburbia chain you to the corporate desk and put what could be your most significant contribution to this life on ice. It is not worth it. I hope you are smart enough not to wait until you are 50 to realise this.

If all of the above doesn’t swing it for you, think about the gap year you can have in your fifties with no children tying you down because they have left home!