Most people take out life insurance; I’m taking out egg insurance. This month I will undergo egg freezing, or mature oocyte cryopreservation, a method used to preserve reproductive potential in women.
The first time I visited a reproductive endocrinologist was in my early 30s to gather information if, “God forbid I am still single at 35.” That birthday came and went and Mr. Right has yet to be found. I used to joke with friends if a good first date line was: “No worries, beside the ice cream I’ve got half our future babies in my freezer”. Today, it’s no joke. With my 37th birthday on the horizon it is time to make some big decisions. The research suggests that 37 marks a decline in egg quality, so much so that many fertility doctors won’t even consider freezing the eggs of women over 38 or 39. This is my window of opportunity, and with my rabbi’s support, I’m grabbing it.
I do not see this as a guarantee: that I will meet my guy, that we’ll have fertility issues or even that, should we need to do in-vitro fertilization, these eggs will work. This is my way of showing God I’m willing to do all I can and leave the rest in His hands.
This is my way of showing God I’m willing to do all I can and leave the rest in His hands.
During a mandatory pre egg freezing counselling session, I was asked how many children I’d like to have. I paused. “One would be the most Divine gift; two or three would be the jackpot.” The counsellor went on to explain the stats. “We recommend for every potential child you freeze 10 eggs.” Okay. “So if you get less than 20, or even less than 10, will you repeat the process?”
I paused again. No. Given the cost to my bank account, body and mind, I’m looking at this as a one-time deal. I am pumping my body full of synthetic hormones in a sort of Heavenly contract – I’ll do what seems to make the most rational sense and then remember, that is all I’m expected to do. As the mishna in Ethics of Our Fathers teaches, “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” We are expected to put in maximal, reasonable efforts, while recognizing the Almighty takes care of the outcome. So, each time I walk into the fertility clinic, a single woman, I thank God for the opportunity to partner with Him in this world. And every time I self-inject with follicle stimulating drugs, I ask God to see how hard I’m trying and how much I’m trusting.
I am reminded of a parable about a group of farmers and their rabbi. During a drought, the farmers come to their leader seeking guidance, desperate for direction, their lives depending on the falling of rain. Their rabbi tells them, “Meet me on the hilltop by the town’s entrance at exactly noon tomorrow. Come ready to pray. We will ask God for rain and He will hear our prayers.”
The farmers are relieved. They have clear instructions that they’re ready to follow. So they are confused when they show up the following day exactly as they were told and their rabbi turns them away. “But you told us to come at noon and pray. Here we are.”
The rabbi looks at his followers and asks them, “Did you believe that God would hear your prayers and bring rain?”
“Then where are your raincoats?”
The farmers get it. If they expect God to answer they must ready themselves for His blessings.
If you expect God to answer, you need to prepare yourself to receive His blessings.
I wouldn’t say I have my raincoat every day. There are times I wonder if there are better uses for my savings, if I’ll regret subjecting my body to this elective medical procedure, or maybe I’ll wish I’d done it more than once. But then there are the moments I look at my life as it is: without Mr. Right, inching closer to 40 but ever so full of unexpected blessings and exciting opportunities. And I think, if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s to do all I can and then sit back and watch the Almighty’s magical plan for my life. So far, it’s beyond my wildest dreams – for better and for worse.
I am not alone. Women of my age and stage are investing in this reproductive technology along with post graduate degrees, RRSPs and yoga classes. While this iteration may be a product of our modern age, I believe we are part of a long tradition of Jewish women. The Jews left Egypt in such haste that they didn’t even have time for their bread to rise. Yet when God miraculously split the sea, Miriam led the women in song as they played tambourines. Which begs the question: they were leaving in such a rush but had time to pack musical instruments?
Yes, they did. Because the Jewish women knew, even in their darkest hour, a day would come when they would sing. In the midst of their suffering they trusted that a time would come when they would thank God, seeing His goodness revealed. So they packed tambourines because if you expect joy, you get yourself ready; if you are waiting for rain, you bring your raincoat.
These eggs are my raincoat, my tambourine. Whatever the next years of my life hold, I will sing, because I am part of a legacy of women who do so. And I am hoping that one day our grandchildren will smile upon our efforts, thanking us for hoping and trusting. In the meantime, along with ice cream, I will have eggs in the freezer.