What Every 20-Something Should Know About Freezing Her Eggs

Photographed By Molly DeCoudreaux.
Rachel Lehmann-Haupt was 32 years old when her serious boyfriend at the time broke up with her. "I wasn’t as heartbroken about the guy as about the fact that I wasn’t going to have a child soon and that my biological clock was ticking," she tells me. "I’m really happy the relationship ended — I don’t think anybody should marry the wrong person just to have a child." But Lehmann-Haupt did want a child. So, at 37 — after a handful of relationships, none with a man with whom she wanted to build a life — she froze her eggs.

Soon after her 40th birthday, still not having pinpointed the love of her life, she became pregnant by intrauterine insemination and had a son, Alexander. "Taking a leap of faith about doing that has actually turned out to be the best decision I ever made in my life," she tells me. Now, Lehmann-Haupt demystifies that leap for other women through her articles, speaking engagements, and books, including In Her Own Sweet Time: Egg Freezing and the New Frontiers of Family. While egg freezing and IVF remain prohibitively expensive for many women and not widely covered by insurance, Lehmann-Haupt's book outlines what any woman considering motherhood should know about her fertility. Originally published in 2010 and updated this year, the part-memoir, part-manual holds wisdom for women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Read on for our interview with Lehmann-Haupt on the book and the importance of understanding your reproductive options — no matter how far in the future motherhood may seem.
Why did you decide to write In Her Own Sweet Time?
"[In 2002], Sylvia Hewlett published a book called Creating A Life, which talked about the fact that many women of her generation who pursued their careers faced fertility problems; and that if you didn’t have a baby by the time you were 35, your fertility fell off a cliff and you were in trouble. It sent this shiver through the media and crated this buzz phrase in those years, 'baby panic.' All these women that had invested all these years in their education and their career, which is now par for the course, were like 'God, did I forget to have a baby? Did I do something wrong?'

"I was one of those women. I was nearing the age of 35 and I was single and I had not yet had a child...and then I started looking at all these statistics and realized that I was just one among many many women — millions — having children later, because we are putting our economic power ahead of our procreative power. I felt that women really needed a new road map, something that didn’t cause baby panic but instead turned that panic into peace."

Tell me about your own journey to single motherhood.
"I ended up getting my eggs frozen, which is an increasingly common choice for women especially now that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has taken the experimental label off of egg freezing [which it did in 2012]. I dated for a couple years, still not wanting to put so much pressure on myself to find my 'baby daddy' — I really wanted to find true love. Ultimately, in those three years, I didn’t find the love of my life. I decided to put the cart before the horse, get pregnant on my own through artificial insemination with a sperm donor, and have a baby as a single mom by choice — or what I now call a 'DIY mom.'"

What has surprised you most about DIY motherhood?
"It’s a scary leap to have a baby, whether you’re single or married. It really changes everything. Making that choice as a single woman, I had a lot of fears and anxieties that I would be lonely, that it would be really hard economically. But it’s turned out to be really quite the opposite: It’s really opened up new opportunities, new relationships in my life that I never would have thought would happen. You have to be a strong person to have a child on your own, but anybody who feels that they are gutsy and can take risks, I would highly, highly recommend it if you’re in a situation in your life where you might want to. I figure I have the rest of my life to find love, but I didn’t have the rest of my life to have a biological child."

I have the rest of my life to find love, but I didn’t have the rest of my life to have a biological child

It's refreshing — and still rare — to hear someone speak so positively about that choice.
"Young women have so many options in front of them. It doesn’t necessarily always have to go in the 'perfect' order. Even if your goal is to have it all, you don’t have to have it all at the same time."

What should women know before pursuing single motherhood?
"Make sure that the structure of your life will fit in with motherhood. It’s very important to make a financial plan and then, as important as a financial plan is, a life plan to make sure you have flexibility in your work. Surround yourself with people that accept your choice and can provide you with a community — especially if you don’t live in an area where your family is near."

When do you think women should start thinking about their reproductive options?
"On [my website], there’s a section about life options. In your 20s, 30s, and 40s, you have different choices. Doctors recommend that it’s best to do egg-freezing before 35, although plenty of doctors freeze women’s eggs after 35 — I did mine after 35. There is still only a [20-35%] chance a woman's going to have a baby from [IVF]; even getting pregnant naturally, you don’t have a 100% chance every time you have sex.

"It's important for millennial women to really have awareness around their fertility. It doesn’t necessarily mean you hit 30 and go, Oh God, I gotta go get my eggs frozen, I gotta have a baby on my own, but it really does mean having a very open dialogue with your Ob/Gyn about your fertility. I think that all women [interested in having a baby] should ask their Ob/Gyns starting around the age of 30 to take fertility tests. I think you should be able to check your fertility the way you check your cholesterol, so you don’t run up against fertility problems when it’s too late. One of the most important messages of In Her Own Time is not 'hurry up,' but 'plan our your life' — we don’t want to run up against a wall when it’s too late."

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