Blog Post

Women Sour on Egg-Freez Fad

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The young woman who championed the idea of professional women freezing their eggs so that they could become mothers after meeting their career goals, found out the hard way that there’s only one true Author of life – and He has His own plan.

The Washington Post is reporting on the story of Brigitte Adams, a single, attractive, Vassar grad who was on the top of her career in tech marketing when she decided to freeze her eggs so that she could become a mother when the time was right. Bloomberg Businessweek featured a story about her in 2014 entitled, “Freeze your eggs, Free our career.”

“Her story was one of empowerment, how a new fertility procedure was giving women more choices, as the magazine noted provocatively, ‘in the quest to have it all’,” the Post reports.

Adams paid $19,000 to have her eggs frozen with the hopes that she could use them after working for a few more years, then meeting the man of her dreams and settling down to have a house full of children.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, she was about to turn 45 and Mr. Right still hadn’t shown up. She had only one option – single motherhood – which she decided to take, and arranged to have her 11 stored eggs unfrozen and resort to a sperm donor for fertilization.

Unfortunately, two eggs failed to survive the thawing process, three more failed to fertilize, and five of the six remaining embryos appeared to be abnormal. That left one embryo, which was implanted in her womb, but this too failed to produce a pregnancy.

“Adams was not pregnant, and her chances of carrying her genetic child had just dropped to near zero. She remembers screaming like ‘;a wild animal,’ throwing books, papers, her laptop — and collapsing to the ground," the Post reported.

“It was one of the worst days of my life. There were so many emotions. I was sad. I was angry. I was ashamed. I questioned, ‘Why me?’ ‘What did I do wrong?’”

Adams is not alone in her disappointment. The Post article includes several stories women whose egg-freezing plans went seriously awry.

For example, MeiMei Fox, a 44-year-old Honolulu-based writer tried to use her 18 frozen eggs after she got married. Unfortunately, the eggs were destroyed while in transit from one clinic to another.

A few women had some success, but they too were faced with the unexpected reality of what happens when we try to plan our future for ourselves.

Carolyn Goerig Lee heard about egg-freezing from a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show. She was 39 years-old when she decided to try it and had 25 eggs frozen. A few years later, she married and the couple decided to unfreeze her eggs and try for a child.

Like Adams, Lee discovered that not every frozen egg becomes a child. Anywhere from five to 15 percent don’t survive thawing. Those that do survive are fertilized with sperm and left to develop into embryos for three to five days before being “graded on certain characteristics,” the Post reports. Only the most promising eggs are transferred to the mother’s womb where some will attach to the wall of the uterus. Of those who do attach, some will result in spontaneous miscarriage.

In Lee’s case, two eggs led to a successful pregnancy and she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl who are now 4.5 years old.

She and her husband wanted more children and were unable to conceive naturally, so her sister donated eggs which enabled her to produce another set of twins. A donor egg was used a third time, which gave the couple their fifth child.

“The best piece of advice I have is have a backup plan if your eggs don’t work. It’s not the end of the world,” she said. “You can still be a mom.”

Yes, but is this the kind of mom she wanted to be? Did she ever dream about being the mother of two of her sister's children who were impregnated with her husband's sperm? Probably not.

The whole egg-freezing debacle is the result of the encroachment of secularism into our bedrooms where sex is sought mostly for pleasure until the “clock” begins to tick and women naturally begin to yearn for that special kind of bond that exists between a mother, a father, and their child. The same secularism teaches them that, thanks to new reproductive technologies, babies are now just commodities that can be purchased through a variety of high-tech processes. But those technologies don't always work as advertised and too many end up settling for much, much less, than they hoped for.

And so we have scores of women like Adams who discover the hard way, and often in moments of primal screams and lap-top throwing fury, that they really aren’t in charge of life. God is. Had they turned to Him in the first place, they might have had their children – and their careers too – although not necessarily in the order they planned.

What heartache could be avoided if one considered the wisdom of Church teaching on the use of assisted reproductive technologies!

“Husbands and wives ‘make love,’ they do not ‘make babies’,” explains Dr. John Haas in Begotten Not Made: A Catholic View of Reproductive Technology. “They give expression to their love for one another, and a child may or may not be engendered by that act of love. The marital act is not a manufacturing process, and children are not products. Like the Son of God himself, we are the kind of beings who are ‘begotten, not made’ and, therefore, of equal status and dignity with our parents.”

Isn't this truth already carved into the hearts of both men and women? And isn't this loving way of engendering children that women were seeking in every case described above?

The bottom line is that a woman can always delay a career; but, whether she recognizes this as God's doing or not, there's a natural time limit on motherhood that is not easily outwitted, and the truly wise know better than to ignore it.

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