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
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.