SOPHIA MONEY- COUTTS MOD­ERN MAN­NERS Frozen eggs and bro­ken hearts

So many peo­ple are strug­gling to get preg­nant – and yet we still keep se­cret the re­al­ity of how tough and painful it can be

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

What do you wear to take your friend into hos­pi­tal when she’s hav­ing her eggs frozen? This was the sit­u­a­tion that pre­sented it­self to me last week, as I ac­com­pa­nied one of my clos­est girl­friends into the Lis­ter to hold her hand. It was early morn­ing and dark, so I’d peeled the pre­vi­ous day’s out­fit off the chair that dou­bles as a clotheshorse in my bed­room and only re­alised that dun­ga­rees were an amus­ing choice af­ter we’d ar­rived and were sit­ting to­gether in the wait­ing area. No let­ters about stereo­typ­ing les­bians, please, but we did look like an item.

Around us, other cou­ples check­ing in for IVF and other fer­til­ity treat­ments stared at their feet. Some same-sex, some het­ero­sex­ual. I won­dered about their sto­ries. What bat­tles had they faced to get here? What cost?

My friend, Ali, is 34 and de­cided to freeze her eggs as a pre­cau­tion. She’s sin­gle but wants chil­dren at some point. Ergo, two weeks of in­jec­tions, a day in hos­pi­tal and mul­ti­ple eggs bunged in the freezer, as if a batch of stock or loaf of bread, for an un­known date in the fu­ture.

I made a cup of tea at the ma­chine in the cor­ner of the wait­ing room.

“Do you want any­thing, love?” I asked Ali, for­get­ting she was un­der nil-by-mouth in­struc­tion ahead of the pro­ce­dure. “No thanks, dar­ling,” she replied. One man squeezed the hand of the woman he was sit­ting next to.

I’ve gen­uinely lost count of the num­ber of friends, or friends of friends, who are cur­rently go­ing through the or­deal of IVF or sim­i­lar. Where con­ver­sa­tion used to be about bad dates and where to go on Fri­day night, it’s now about FSH lev­els and fol­li­cles. Al­though they’re mostly still whis­pered con­ver­sa­tions, held late at night across the kitchen ta­ble when some­one feels brave enough to open up. Fer­til­ity, or the lack of it, re­mains a sticky sub­ject for many of my girl­friends, high-achiev­ers who have blitzed their 20s and early 30s get­ting pro­mo­tions and “win­ning” at life, only to find them­selves stumped by the seem­ingly sim­ple mat­ter of get­ting preg­nant. It’s seen as a kind of fail­ure. If we spent our teenage years feel­ing too fat, now we feel too bar­ren.

It’s why I’m proud of Ali for mak­ing a pre-emp­tive strike on her ovaries. And it’s why I wanted to write about it, be­cause just as men­tal health is talked about more openly, so should the fact that it can be hor­ri­bly, hor­ri­bly dif­fi­cult to get preg­nant. Newly sin­gle at 33, wor­ry­ing about my own egg stash, could this be me in a few months, my own fridge full of nee­dles and ex­pen­sive drugs in­stead of his lagers and the rem­nants of our shared De­liv­eroos? Maybe. It’s worth a con­ver­sa­tion. Sev­eral con­ver­sa­tions. Why not be open more about it?

Op­er­a­tion done, I drove Ali home a few hours later and we ate cho­co­late Diges­tives on her sofa with sug­ary tea. “You all right?” I checked con­stantly. “How’s the pain?” Al­though I kept cry­ing, still heart­bro­ken af­ter my break-up (some Florence Nightin­gale I am), and she kept squeez­ing my hand. So on the whole I’ve prob­a­bly had cheerier days out, but it was also one to re­mem­ber.

A

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