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Single, Thirty-Something and No Frozen Eggs: The Bittersweet Burden of Childbearing

I write what it feels like to have life slap me on the face, and have me question womanhood's greatest purpose. I deliberate over what it means to find purpose outside of childbearing.
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For most of my life, the idea of having children never preoccupied me. You kind of grow up thinking it’s a given, but it was never a goal or an ambition. In fact I’d spent most of my fertile years consumed by my career and learning to care for myself; I had no perspective about caring for another small human.

I spent my 20s rebelling against women’s traditional role in gender norms, their assumed job to produce children and their fate at becoming a free housekeeper. I continued into my mid-30s mostly consumed by my professional growth and my spiritual awakening. I was completely oblivious to the fact I’d wake up one day in my late thirties, staring at a ticking biological clock, wondering how time flew.

But the reality is that I was never equipped to have a child in my twenties. I could barely care for myself. I was in a string of unhealthy relationships, which I knew was never going to be the right environment for a family. Of the decent men who crossed my path, I barely noticed any, I didn’t vibe that way back then.

And while I took the path of self-discovery and worked on healing from the beliefs that held me back, I never questioned whether life would distract me from becoming a mother.

It is only after I went into a serious relationship and after it was dismantled that I then realised I wanted children. I started dreaming of children and I cried every time I saw one. I was suddenly consumed by grief. Grief that at thirty-something, I may never have a child of my own. I spent months feeling sad and helpless, I was not ready to date again, still licking my wounds and feeling delicate.

My Egg Freezing Journey

Being the task-master that I am, I realised there were solutions to my problem. Medical advancements were promising to solve womanhood’s greatest modern challenge. Childbearing. I started looking into egg freezing or cryopreservation. It offers you a lifeline for your childbearing woes. But it was no guarantee, there are very few success stories of live births from frozen eggs and nobody really knows how well your eggs will respond to the freezing-thawing-fertilization process years down the line.

And while I was partly repulsed at how the world was capitalising on women’s insecurities and their biological disadvantage, it still offered me a sense of hope. I was deeply compelled to do it. I did my research, talked to a few clinics and decided to go for it.

I went through the hell of injecting myself several times a day with hormones, hopeful that this was going to cure my sadness. Some eggs in the freezer were insurance that I wouldn’t miss out.

But as my treatment progressed, I became increasingly aware of my low response rate, my body hadn’t reacted to the hormones and my eggs didn’t develop enough. I only had 2 mature eggs for collection, which in cryopreservation terms, is very very low – a live birth needs a minimum of 10 mature eggs.

Considering eggs have to go through various filters before they get to the freezing stage (genetic integrity, maturity, etc), my doctor advised me to cancel the process and try again. I was devastated. I was told I needed a very harsh treatment for my eggs to grow enough for harvesting, so I decided to put it on hold. I wasn’t prepared to put my body and heart through the torture only to find out it didn’t work again.

The Gift Of Life

Women are born with a unique gift. They have the incredible power to bring life into this world. They are vessels of creation. And with great power comes great responsibility. Society places tremendous pressure on women to want to use this gift, to want children, to want a family. God forbid a woman makes it known that she doesn’t want children, she’s then labelled as selfish and harsh. For some women, having children may not be a true calling, and some choose to consciously and very happily live a child-free life. Bringing children into this world is no mean feat, it requires a significant financial, emotional and spiritual commitment. I knew I couldn’t take this decision lightly.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking that if I really wanted children, I would have had them by now. I would have chosen to settle and made do just to have a family. And the mere fact that I still haven’t fervently reconsidered attempting to freeze my eggs again should also be a sign that I don’t want them badly enough. But I’m not sure. My ego parts love creating certainty where there isn’t, so sometimes I can’t trust the stories I make up in my head.

Have I resolved my desire to have children? I don’t know. But what I know for sure is that womanhood cannot only be defined by motherhood; a woman is so much more than just her ability to create human life. I’ve spent the last few years imagining other possibilities of legacy, another version of motherhood. A plan B if you will.

Grieving And Imagining Possibilities

Of course you could say that I may meet someone any moment and decide to have a child with them, but life doesn’t always work out this way. While the option of natural conception is still there should I meet the right person, my realistic childbearing opportunities at my age are diminishing by the minute.

As I grieve the loss of the possibility, I’ve learnt that creation isn’t necessarily about birthing a human life into the world. Creation and leaving a legacy can translate into many different avenues, including touching people’s lives in one way or another. When I decided to start writing, I knew that I wanted to serve, I wanted to use my experiences for the greater good. If I could help someone out there, I would have fulfilled my mission.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the experience of being a mother opens your heart and soul to a certain growth and love like no other. But I like to believe that love is not limited to motherhood, love is everywhere and it is limitless. It’s in children but it’s also in the warmth of pets, the tenderness of relationships, the magnificence of nature, the magic of art and in the beauty of generosity.

And while I continue to work on my version of legacy and family, I firmly believe that we are placed into this world for a purpose. For some it is sharing parts of self through rearing generations and growing through parenthood. For others it’s sharing parts of self through helping the world heal and evolve. And as I write these lines with tears streaming down my face, still feeling the pain of a squandered opportunity, I’m comforted by the idea that by sharing parts of me with you, I could find equally fulfilling ways to touch lives and grow through the wonders of creation.

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For more articles on the human experience and how we can become better humans, see The Human Experience category.

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