I’m not a doctor, but I am a woman who wants to empower other women to become aware of what’s happening in their bodies so that they can choose to do something about their fertility, if they desire a family in the future.
I remember as a young adult, I’d envision my late thirties: husband and kids, the whole picture. I recently celebrated my 39th birthday! Happily single, no kids yet. So, for my 39th birthday, I gave myself the gift of fertility.
In September of 2019 I visited my dermatologist for a routine checkup. She’d recently returned from maternity leave. At the time, she was well into her 40s, so I was intrigued by her path to motherhood. I am curious by nature, but also very careful about discussing motherhood and fertility since it can be such a touchy subject. At that point though, I’d been her patient for over 10 years, so I felt a bit more comfortable asking about her journey to motherhood.
I was relieved when she said, “Feel free to ask me anything.” So, I did. Our conversation was brief but impactful. She asked me to remind her of my age, and when I told her I was 38, she immediately exclaimed, “You need to freeze your eggs! At a minimum you should take an AMH test as soon as possible to assess your fertility levels.”
Less than two weeks after that conversation, I was at a laboratory having blood drawn for my AMH test. Before our conversation, I had no clue what an AMH test was. AMH, or anti-mullerian hormone, is measured by an OBGYN or fertility doctor to aid in assessing a woman’s ovarian reserve, or egg count. I’d suggest that every woman over 30 who has any interest in being a mother one day, take the test.
In a wonderful stroke of coincidence, a few days after my trip to the lab, one of my friends told me she was flying to Barbados the next month to freeze her eggs. My curiosity was piqued. At that point, I wasn’t yet sold on freezing my eggs; I was just happy to know that my ovarian reserves were high for my age.
After my friend told me about her successful procedure, I decided that I would schedule a consultation with the same clinic, at minimum. To be honest, since my friend is exceptionally diligent, I trusted her judgment. As a result, that clinic was the only one I considered. The idea of freezing my eggs on a beautiful island seemed like a no-brainer! Plus, it was the perfect opportunity to start writing my new book.
Upon emailing the clinic, I was immediately offered a phone consultation the weekend of Thanksgiving. It was perfectly timed as I would be around my family and able to get their feedback about my options. I spoke to the fertility specialist who was very pleased with my AMH results and impressed that I'd taken the initiative to take the test.
One of the things that stood out in our conversation, and there were many, was when she said, “I have no doubt that you will be able to get pregnant naturally well into your early 40s; however, if you want your child to have siblings, you may want to consider freezing your eggs. If you decide to have more children later in your 40s, you can use your 38-year-old frozen eggs, if you so choose.” I was sold!
I made plans to fly to Barbados in April of 2020 to freeze my eggs as a birthday gift to myself. Four days after my 39th birthday, on March 12, 2020, life as the world knew it came to a halt due to COVID 19. I was informed by the clinic that all elective procedures would be postponed, and that the borders to Barbados had been closed.
I initially took it as a sign that I didn’t need to freeze my eggs. However, I also knew that the likelihood of dating and meeting a life partner during a pandemic though not impossible, would be less likely. So, I made another appointment for June. Surely, the pandemic would blow over by then. When it didn’t, my appointment was delayed yet again. I was disappointed, but still clung to the notion that it would happen exactly the right time. I rescheduled for August and received notice that I would have to quarantine in Barbados for 7 days in a government-approved hotel before I could go to the clinic. As hesitant as I was at that point, I decided on October.
Trying to freeze one’s eggs in a foreign country in the middle of a global pandemic is not for the faint of heart. But I knew the peace of mind that freezing my eggs would give me, would far outweigh any inconvenience.
On October 15, 2020, a little over a year after the fertility seed had been planted, I set off on my journey. I dubbed the adventure “Mission BébéUnicorns.” My intentions were to relax, eat healthy food, administer the injections on time, write whenever my spirit moved me, and freeze healthy eggs. Everything went seamlessly!
My OBGYN in Miami did all my blood work and initial ultrasound before I arrived in Barbados. I started the hormonal injections the day after I landed. I flew to Barbados by myself. I was alone, but not lonely. Two of my loved ones who’d initially planned to travel with me could no longer due to the COVID-19 restrictions. My friends rallied around and introduced me to their friends on the island - they were heaven sent. I felt completely supported.
I suffered no side-effects from the hormone injections. I’d heard that the hormones could potentially make me emotional and/or nauseous. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for me. I understand that anything concerning fertility is deeply personal and sensitive, so I've been extremely mindful about how I’ve shared my experience. Please be kind to yourself if you explore this option as each woman’s body is uniquely different.
The first time I met the doctor was at my first ultrasound in Barbados. She was lovely. It felt like a long time coming considering I'd spoken with her 11-months prior. The clinic was world-class, the staff were pleasant, and I felt completely comfortable and confident in my decision to undergo the procedure there. The nurses felt like family and I was deeply impressed by their commitment to ensuring my wellbeing and comfort.
Thirteen days after landing in Barbados, approximately 20 gallons of coconut water, 30 needles, and 11 days of injections later, my doctor retrieved 24 eggs from my ovaries. When the nurse told me the number after waking up from sedation, I was in tears! I hadn’t realized I’d be so relieved. Later in the evening, I received an email from the embryologist indicating that they were able to freeze 19 healthy oocytes. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and extremely emotional. The eggs are now tucked safely in the clinic in Barbados.
When I envision 50-year-old Rochelle, I imagine that she would feel deep regret if she didn’t have at least one child. We don’t know what the future holds, but I want to preserve my options to become a mother to the best of my ability. Making the decision to freeze my eggs has given me more peace of mind and sense of relief than I could have imagined.
I understand that egg freezing is expensive and may be cost prohibitive for some women. However, with a little bit of research one may find it to be more affordable than expected! There are many reputable fertility clinics outside of America. It was more cost effective for me to freeze my eggs in Barbados than it would have been in the US. A friend of mine underwent the procedure in Miami at the same time I did and spent approximately $7,000.00 more.
As I flew home to Miami, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment -
I didn’t allow my ticking biological clock to hold my happiness hostage. I reaffirmed that I will not leave my happiness to random chance, but in the instances where I can command control, I will take it.