Skip to comments.I've frozen my eggs so I can have a baby when I'm 60
Posted on 05/12/2007 11:43:22 AM PDT by Minn
At some unspecified time in the near or distant future, Tessa Darley will decide the time is right to have a baby.
She might be 40, 50 or even 60. No matter. Tessa will simply pop along to the "baby bank" where her eggs have been stored in a deep freeze and make a "withdrawal".
An egg will be fertilised and planted into her womb. Nine months later, she hopes, she will give birth to her "ice baby".
Two months ago, Tessa, 37, became one of the first women in Britain to have eggs taken from her ovaries and frozen for no other reason than the fact she wants nothing to interfere with her career.
"I have half a dozen on ice in a freezer," she says. "I feel liberated, as if a weight has been lifted from me. I truly believe it will turn out to be a wonderful investment.
"It means I don't have to worry that I will be too old for babies.
"I can devote time to my career, take my time finding Mr Right and know that when I deem the time is right, even if I am menopausal, I can still have my own baby."
Tessa is one of the first of her kind but experts predict putting fertility on ice will become common-place within the next ten years.
The career or babies conundrum faced by the thirtysomething Bridget Jones generation will cease to exist.
We are entering a Huxleyesque Brave New World in which women will routinely freeze and store their eggs to ensure they do not miss out on motherhood.
Picture the scene: High Streets across the country filled with women in their 50s and 60s pushing buggies, a whole new generation of "ice babies".
Less than a decade ago such a scenario would have seemed unthinkable, Frankenstein-like science.
Even a couple of years ago, freezing and thawing human eggs was a difficult procedure used only as a last resort - for example, when a woman has been made infertile through cancer treatment.
It was a haphazard procedure with little guarantee of success. While sperm freezes well, only a handful of babies have been born using frozen eggs.
When an egg is frozen, its high water content means the ice crystals that form inside can destroy it.
But egg-freezing techniques are being increasingly refined.
A new process called vitrification, in which water is drawn out and anti-freeze chemicals added, is improving success rates to the same level as normal IVF treatment.
Tessa, a local government officer who lives in Glasgow, has no doubt whatsoever that she has done the right thing.
She typifies the modern single woman who feels younger than her years and has delayed having a family to concentrate on a career.
"I was brought up to believe that having a career, being independent and earning my own living were the most important things in life," she says.
"My mother had five children in her early 20s, and although she went back to studying in her early 30s and became a lecturer, I saw how hard it was for her with small children.
"And I vowed not to make the mistake of having a family too early in life."
Indeed, until very recently, Tessa admits, she had given little thought to when or if she would have a family. Like many women in her situation, she simply forgot all about it.
"It wasn't just seeing the struggle my mum had in forging a career with small children - I quickly realised that having a career would be very important to me," she admits.
"Immediately after my first degree at Edinburgh University, I landed a job in IT and loved it.
"I realised then I didn't want to get married early, have 2.4 children, a husband and a dog. I didn't want an ordinary life.
"Then, when I was in my early 30s, I decided that if I wanted to further my career, I needed to study for a masters degree, which I did in accounting.
"It was very hard work, but it is only recently that I have begun to reap the rewards.
"My career has started to take off - I am gaining more contracts and earn in excess of £30,000 a year.
"As well as that, I have a great life. I live in a luxury flat, regularly holiday abroad and have plenty of friends."
Tessa suddenly remembered about babies when her younger sister had a child last year.
"Perhaps I felt a twinge of envy," she admits.
"It made me realise I didn't want to miss out on having a family. And while I'd always put children 'somewhere in the future', it suddenly dawned on me that I was approaching my 40s.
"If I didn't do something, I could end up not having children at all. I was also still single -yet I couldn't deny that I did eventually want to have a baby."
Tessa is used to having control in her life. Why shouldn't she be able to control her fertility, too?
"It wasn't a case of rushing out to find a suitable man just so he could father a child," she says.
"I have had several serious relationships lasting years each, but so far I haven't met Mr Right.
"I have very traditional views and don't believe in choosing to become a single parent.
"I wouldn't even consider having a baby on my own, and ideas such as using a sperm donor or asking a friend to father a child weren't an option for me.
"I strongly believe a child needs two parents, preferably married ones. My parents split up when I was 11, and I saw first hand the hurt that it caused.
"The problem for me is that I haven't yet met the man I want to be a father to my children. And it may be that by the time I do meet him, I will no longer be able to have children naturally."
Freezing her eggs was the answer to Tessa's problem. In 2000, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority gave permission for clinics to thaw frozen eggs.
The first child to be born in Britain using a thawed egg was Emily Perry in 2002, after her mother suffered fertility problems and needed IVF treatment.
Her religious beliefs meant she was opposed to the freezing of embryos (a procedure that produces about 1,000 babies a year after couples undergo IVF), but the freezing of an unfertilised egg was ethically acceptable to her.
Tessa's case is different. Her concern is not ethics, but her career. She went to see her GP to discuss what options might be available. "My own GP didn't understand why, at my age, I would be so concerned," she says,
"Eventually I went to see a different one within the surgery. This time, the doctor - a woman - was very sympathetic and said it may be possible to freeze my eggs. She said she'd refer me to a specialist."
So Tessa, who had no known fertility problems and not even a partner, found herself walking into the Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine.
"Being a patient at an infertility hospital was rather strange," she concedes.
"But the consultant confirmed my worst fears - that my chances of conceiving a baby using my own eggs would drop sharply as I grew older.
"They had just begun to accept women like me who want to freeze their eggs, as it is now a very viable option."
The first step was for Tessa to undergo a fertility test to ensure she was still fertile at all. "This was the first shock," says Tessa.
"For though the test showed I was still producing eggs, my fertility came out as quite a way below average.
"Perhaps if I'd discovered it was above average, I might have postponed things for a year.
"But in fact, those test results simply reinforced to me that I was doing the right thing."
She was, though, taking a considerable risk. The procedure of egg harvesting is invasive, and in very rare instances women may even die.
Some doctors point out that while egg freezing still doesn't always work, it raises women's hopes.
"The consultant was very honest. He pointed out that I could go through the procedure and suffer very bad side-effects from the drugs," Tessa says.
The main one is ovary overstimulation, which can cause swelling and breathlessness, and in very rare cases can be fatal.
"Although the technology for freezing eggs is excellent, there was always the chance they would die during storage or not thaw properly and I would have gone through it for nothing," Tessa says.
"And as very few babies have so far been born using these techniques, there are few statistics to go on."
But she was determined, and decided to go ahead with the treatment. The £4,000 cost of it was put, rather ironically, on her Egg credit card.
For two weeks, Tessa had to inject drugs into herself which would induce her body into producingas many eggs as possible to be frozen.
She also had to endure internal scans to see how the eggs were developing.
"It was quite exciting to see those little eggs on scans of my ovaries getting larger and larger and see the drugs were working," she says.
"At the beginning, I felt euphoric, as if I had been given a dose of hormones, which of course I had been."
But then it became unpleasant. "As the eggs ripened, ready for harvesting, I felt incredibly bloated," Tessa says.
She had an operation under general anaesthetic to remove the eggs from her ovaries.
"I felt a little woozy when I woke, but otherwise fantastic. My eggs were frozen straightaway.
"The nurse told me I had produced a clutch of nine eggs, but two were not mature enough to keep, and one sadly perished shortly afterwards."
The storage costs for keeping her eggs on ice are £200 per year.
But can Tessa be sure the eggs are of a good enough quality to produce a baby when she finally decides the time is right?
According to medical experts, only around a third of eggs will be good enough to make a baby.
And what if she were to die before her eggs are fertilised? What would happen to them? Tessa found herself in the surreal situation of having to fill in a donor egg form.
"One thing I never expected was for the consultant to ask what would happen to my eggs in the event of my death," she says.
"I've bequeathed them in my will to my family to use, should any of them suffer fertility problems.
"Of course, this would make me an egg donor, so I've had to fill in a donor form and write a letter about myself to any children I might never know.
"It was a very odd experience."
But what will be the psychological impact on the child who knows it was once stored in deep freeze?
What are the chances of a baby being conceived in such a way being born disabled? As the procedure is still in its infancy, there are no clear answers.
Tessa, however, is not at all bothered by such troubling questions. She says freezing her eggs is the best decision she has ever made.
"Before, my declining fertility was nagging at the back of my mind.
"Although I told myself I wasn't worried that I hadn't met Mr Right and time was ticking away, maybe it bothered me more than I thought.
"Now there is no pressure on me to meet the perfect man, and men seem more attracted to me -I have never felt so relaxed.
"It has to be the best thing I have ever done."
But doesn't she worry that if she does meet Mr Right, he might find it odd that she has her eggs on ice ready and waiting?
It is the sort of admission, one imagines, that might send even the most enlightened "new man" running for the door.
"If that puts him off, he won't be the right man for me," she says.
Tessa also dismisses fears that if the procedure became widespread it could encourage more women to become ageing mothers.
"If I met someone tomorrow, I would try to have a baby naturally, and while I don't regret not having children earlier, I think my maturity would make me a better mum," she says.
"I still don't think having a very old parent is so good for a baby. I wouldn't want to have a baby any later than my late 40s.
"The idea that women may be able to control their fertility may be frightening to some people, but in reality it is liberating."
This is a view that I just can’t understand. I don’t see why people are so driven to give up something like children (yeah I know she’s freezing them so she can have them later, but that’s just irresponsible and I’ll get to that in a minute). And they do it over something as irrelevant as a career. I’m a self-styled futurist, but there will be no future if my generation (the generation after this lady’s) has no children. I have way too many friends that say “I never want kids. I hate children.” What the hell? What have we done that this is the attitude? I don’t understand.
The fact that she can without even thinking about it say that she will want to have a child when she’s 60 (!!!!) is more evidence of her stupidity. What the hell? So when her child enters university her mother will be 80! If she survives childbearing and childbirth. This is so dumb. I can’t believe people are this stupid.
Okay, rant off, flame suit on.
Hey great! I froze my ice cream so I can have a fudge pop when I’m 60!
I stopped there ... the premise was set from jump street ... it's all about you, ain't it.
There’s a reason you have kids when you’re young!!
I’m almost (gasp) 50 and the thought of having another baby is disturbing!
An Obstetrician's nightmare and a Malpractice Lawyer's dream.
I’m too disgusted for words.
I don’t disagree with you. I think it is the ultimate greed for some ol’ woman to be having a baby (or man over 50!). The kid will wind up taking care of the geriatric parents or the old fools will be dead before the child is raised. VERY selfish.
So if the idiot has baby at sixty she could easily die before the kid reaches 18. And when the kid is 30 and if she is still alive she will probably be a vegetable that is a burden on the kid. While it’s nice to have $$ when you have children, having lots of money IS NOT the most important part. It’s having health and energy and love to share. Hopefully the shallow fool never has children.
I’ve seen too many kids born to parents who don’t really want them or are too self-absorbed to care for them properly. If this lady wants to wait until she is married and emotionally ready, why act like she is doing something wrong?
What a sad and selfish woman.
I’m trying to figure out what is shallow about this woman. While it is not an idea I’d embrace myself, I don’t think she is being shallow at all. She admits that she isn’t ready to have a child. Why can’t we accept that?
And, regardless of what some people say, it IS important for a woman to have an education and the ability to support herself. Even women that choose to be homemakers and raise their children may encounter an issue in which they are forced to work and support the family.
And then deny that baby of a young mother who can run and play, get involved in the many and varied aspects of a child's life from day one through the bulk of his/her life. You are going to wait until the aches and pains of growing older kick in and then expect the child to take care of you?
The word for the day is "selfish".
So have I! Brrrr.....
She’s not talking about normal conception. She’s talking about IVF. Been more than one lady in that age bracket who’s had a baby. I can think of 2 or 3 who made the news right now. Most places don’t want to do it on people who are at high risk to leave their children orphans, though.
She is a ver selfish person and she should not have children. How wonderful to have a 60 year old Mom......chances are she would die before her daughter/ or son turns 20. Sick world.