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What I Learned From Crashing an Egg-Freezing Party

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As a successful IVF graduate, I'm on our fertility clinic's email blast list. One of the perks is fielding a variety of fertility-related news, from the wild (a woman who found her egg donor via YouTube) to the mundane (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome webinars.) But when a message popped up in my Inbox titled "Ladies' Night Out—Join us for a conversation about fertility preservation & egg freezing," the eyebrows over my ovaries immediately raised up.

I had heard about these mythical parties, where the champagne flows freely and reproductive endocrinologists mingle with potential patients to talk age and uteri, but I thought they only took place in swanky Manhattan lounges or at Google-sponsored, all-women Silicon Valley events. Intrigued (from a journalist's perspective; my husband and I are all done with kids and actually have a number of embryos chilling, Cristal-like, on ice), I RSVPd, only to be told they had already hit their guest list cap of 75. So I crashed it, like Humpty Dumpty. Here's what happened.

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As I arrived at the Fertility Centers of Illinois event, I was offered a fire-grilled steak skewer by a passing server and a glass of champagne was delivered by Jamie, my former IVF nurse who is now so busy with egg freezing patients that her job may soon be converted to working solely with them. (Last year, FCI had 300 egg freezers, more than double the year prior.)

All around me I saw women chatting with one another; almost everyone was dressed in business casual attire, as if they'd just come from work. Some of them were sipping the aqua-hued signature cocktail of the evening called The Vitrification: A floral, citrusy blend of gin, violet and maraschino liquors named after the fast-freeze method that helps prevent ice crystals from forming on eggs. (I suppose "Cervical Mucus Martini" doesn't have the same ring to it.) Everyone appeared to be in their 30s, and there was nary a wedding ring to be spotted.

I chatted with Eve Feinberg, MD, one of FCI's star doctors who's forthright about the fact that her three kids, including a set of twins, were born with a little fertility assistance. (Her daughter loves to tell people, "I'm just like Elsa!" because she, at one point, was frozen.) Dr. Feinberg said that when it comes to egg freezing, the statistics are fairly promising: A woman who harvests and freezes 10 eggs before the age of 35 has a 60 percent chance of eventually getting pregnant and having a baby as a result, regardless of when she decided to have them fertilized and the resulting embryo implanted. If she freezes 20 eggs, her odds of a baby go up to 75 percent. "The younger you are when you freeze," she explained, "the higher your chances of success."

(It's worth noting that this event was held in a bustling, upper-crust area of Chicago nicknamed The Viagra Triangle for the high ratio of gorgeous single 20-somethings to wealthy 50-something divorcees.)

In between nibbles of fried calamari and chips dunked in guac, I asked Dr. Feinberg who her typical patient is. "She's 38 or 39. She hasn't met Mr. Right, she's not ready to have a baby yet, and she wants to keep her options open." The problem, though, is that 38 or 39 is a bit on the late side; a smarter move would be to freeze at 32.

Nurse Jamie introduced me to Amy*, a 34-year-old HR director who said "age and single status" brought her here. "I have friends who have struggled with conceiving because of their age, and I want to set myself up for success," she told me. "Someone called it an insurance policy—I like that."

Lana*, a stunning 38-year-old chemical engineer, told me a ridiculous story of how her mother called her on her 30th birthday to let her know she'd be receiving an e-Harmony membership for a gift that year. Eye rolls (hers and mine) aside, she appreciates egg freezing's ability to "take the pressure off and let me relax and focus on falling in love."

But how much does this relaxation cost? As it turns out, not as much as you might think. At FCI, an egg freezing cycle (which involves using medication to stimulate your ovaries to produce eggs, harvesting them under sedation, much like with IVF, and a year of storage) costs $6,750. Each year of storage thereafter costs $500—about what the average single 30-something professional might spend on Starbucks or a nice handbag.

After a video and Q & A (questions included "Is there a link between stimulation and breast cancer?" [No]; "Is it painful?" [You might feel a little bloated toward the end, but the retrieval process is more or less painless]; and "If I freeze my eggs and then meet someone a few years later, do we use my eggs right away?" [No, actually. First you would try to conceive naturally and save the iced-out eggs for backup.])

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On the way out, attendees received goody bags filled with fancy pearlized candy, a water bottle, literature and a gift certificate for a free egg-freezing consultation worth $400. (My daughter's 3-year-old birthday party goody bag, on the other hand, featured a Dora tattoo and a package of organic jelly beans. Way to make me feel inadequate, FCI.)

All in all, I thought the party seemed inspiring: These were women who know what they want and aren't afraid to go after it. They're helping break down the stigma some might associate with egg freezing and paving the way for a family on their terms. Too bad Sofia Vergara didn't freeze her eggs before they were fertilized; if she had, she could be concentrating on "trying" (in quotes because this actually sounds like the best job ever) to create supermodel humanoid Barbie-children with Joe Manganiello rather than battle her ex for custody of their frozen embryos.

*Names changed

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