If you had asked me a decade ago if I thought I would ever freeze my eggs I would have probably laughed in your face. It’s not that egg freezing is by any means a laughing matter unless you’re possessed of a teenage boy sense of humor like mine; it’s just that according to the life vision I had for myself all throughout childhood and into my early 20’s I believed I would be knocked up and hitched well before age 30.
In the words of my favorite funny-man and director Woody Allen “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
As most of you know and for those who don’t, I have been an artist pretty much since birth. Thus my life path has always been somewhat unconventional and frankly that’s exactly the way I like it.
My first kiss was on stage in front of an audience that included Al Pacino, my favorite sound to fall asleep to is the influx of traffic from the Lincoln Tunnel rattling over pot holes beneath my apartment window, a typical work day is atypical as I’m either on a film/tv set, in my art studio or working with nutrition clients, and I have dated in no particular order a Magician, a Metropolitan Opera Tenor, an actor on People’s 50 Most Beautiful People issue, and a MMA fighter.
Unlike most kids in my college graduating class who were happy to land a decent job that boasted a 401k and some promise of security, I was happy, nay over the moon, that I got cast in an unpaid off-off —off (putting it kindly) Broadway play in the basement of a Transvestite Nightclub playing a character with Hip Hop culture envy and thus dressed in blackface, rocked cornrows, and spat out Bloodhound Gang lyrics.
I know it’s not P.C. But hey, it’s my life, so that’s the way I tells it, kids. If my foray into the actor’s and moreover adult life was any indicator, things for me were always going to be a little bit shall we say “different”.
To tell you the truth I never really worried about having kids, with my robust romantic nature and career as a professional imaginator; I always assumed that at exactly the right moment Mr.
Right would appear in all his much theorized and widely anticipated glory and in accordance with our equally magical financial stability and job security we would spawn a new race of artistic geniuses. Totally realistic right? Needless to say, a couple ill fated romances with dysfunctional brooding artists later (one who turned out to be gay I might add), that turned out not to be the case.
Then one day, still in my early 20’s, something quite life altering happened. I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain radiating from my lower right abdomen.
My Mom and I went to the ER thinking I had a nasty case of appendicitis as that’s what good ole’ WebMD lead me to believe, but when the radiologist came back with the results, it was discovered that I had a grapefruit sized cyst twisted around my right ovary. I was rushed into surgery within the hour and try as the surgeon did he was unable to save my ovary when he removed the cyst.
I was devastated, terrified, and for the first time in my entire free wheeling and colorful life, I felt legitimately concerned about my future. All at once, everything felt more urgent and immediate, from finding a potential father and husband to procuring job security.
To someone who was accustomed to taking life “as it comes” and “living for the moment”, this was a death sentence of sorts. Suddenly I was thrust into concerns that seemed well beyond my years, over my head, and emotionally I was flailing wildly about to find something to grip onto.
In the couple years that followed, I cannot tell you how many exams and Ultrasounds I underwent to keep an eye on my remaining ovary ( “Old faithful” I fondly refer to her ). In medical jargon this type of monitoring is called “Watchful Waiting”.
For me, a more apt term would have been “Watchful Worrying”. I developed terrible panic attacks that my family and my boyfriend had to talk me down from each time I had an upcoming scan. I even called Psychics to allay my fears for my future.
Because every scan that showed another cyst, or cyst growth, translated to my hopes of ever having a child being potentially dashed. And in my mind, my future dashed. The Yogis call the runaway train of needless and negative thoughts “Monkey Mind”, and my mind was without a doubt a Barrel of Monkeys.
What if I required another surgery and they were unable to salvage my other Ovary?
What if I would never have children?
What if my life would be ruined and I would end up like some crazy dog lady (I’m allergic to cats)?
What if this, what if that…Every worst-case scenario pinged around my brain like a Pin-ball machine. On one colorful occasion I had to excuse myself from a screening of the movie “Where The Wild Things Are” because I was in hysterical tears, the kind that aren’t cute but guttural, thinking that I would never have a little Max of my own full of life, and wonder, and imagination. It was a sucker punch to the heart.
I was put on every birth control known to man in order to stop cysts from growing, but my body agreed with none of them. I changed my diet and becoming a Vegetarian. I took up yoga and picked up meditation tapes.
I read every book and ebook on the subject of cysts the holistic way. I met with other women who had fibroids and PCOS (though I had neither) to discuss how they managed their reproductive conditions. I took supplements. Still my body kept producing complex cysts and later what is known as benign ovarian tumors.
When, after a scan, the “Watchful Waiting” of my Gynecologist finally revealed a substantial complex cyst growing on my remaining ovary he referred me to incredible Fertility Specialist. And sometimes Saint, I’ll give him a shout out, Dr. Glenn Schattman of Weill Cornell Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. He’s the absolute best of the best if you’re looking for a fertility Superhero!
Once I was in Dr. Schattman’s very capable hands, it was determined that I would require additional surgeries each time my body produced a complex cyst or benign ovarian tumor in order to keep my Ovary. All in all I have been through 4 Laproscopic surgeries where my doctor amazingly preserved my fertility and my Ovary.
When the idea was first presented to me to freeze my eggs, I am not ashamed to admit I was scared. I had a girlfriend from college who had donated her eggs to pay off her student loans and she declared it to be the worst discomfort of her entire life.
I couldn’t think of injecting myself with needles and my imagination really got the best of me when it came to the weight gain and lugging around a belly full of eggs.
My longtime boyfriend and I were not ready to have a baby of our own, between our erratic shooting schedules as working actors and oft times financially unstable lifestyle; it was simply not the right move for us.
We discussed it often and each time wound up feeling pressure and tension build between us. So this left me with either not freezing my eggs and being frightened and depressed at the thought of never having the child I had dreamed of my entire life or taking matters into my own hands and going the egg freezing route.
It wasn’t an easy choice, but it was an obvious one. With a little hand holding from my wonderful Doc, I worked up the courage and I decided to go for it! I injected myself with hormone shots (which turns out is no big deal at all) for almost two weeks, went under Twilight anesthesia for the 15 minute procedure, and handed off my potential kiddos to an embryologist for freezing until I was ready to use them.
I felt an incredible relief, an elephant sized relief, once the procedure was over and done. Regardless if I were to lose my Ovary in a week, a month, or two years from now, I would have the security of knowing my child would be waiting for me when the time was right for me to have him or her.
Science is truly remarkable and in this way life saving, had I been born 20 or 30 years prior I wouldn’t have had this amazing opportunity and my story would in all likelihood be a somber one or, at the very least, more challenging.
They say hindsight is 20/20 and freezing my eggs was one of the best decisions of my life. For one, it was an empowering choice, it allowed me to feel in control of a situation with my body that felt completely out of control and overwhelming.
I couldn’t do anything about my perfectly imperfect body, it was predisposed to this lousy condition genetically, but I could do something to insure my fertility.
For two, freezing my eggs stopped my panic attacks, anxiety, and self loathing for not having my life more together, for not being married, for not having a more conventional life path. It also took away the painful pressure for my boyfriend and I to force a life we were not yet ready for.
I would like to end with this, I felt as a woman it was of paramount importance to share my story with whomever it could reach because when I was going through the pangs of my journey; I felt very much alone and powerless.
I sought out role models to no avail because it is still as of yet a taboo subject, one with which many women suffer in silence. So to you, I say, be brave and speak up! I have never allowed what I’m going through to silence my voice, and I share my story with women I encounter on a daily basis. I am shocked how many are effected by fertility issues of one kind or another and how liberated they feel to have someone to relate to.
Freezing your eggs is a very good idea, there are many different fertility clinics that can offer that, such as Fertility Plus.
If you are like I was, in a harrowing situation with your fertility, whether medical or age related in nature, I would strongly recommend getting your eggs frozen. It is a walk in the park and not the big deal you may have been lead to believe. It gives you your life back and allows you to really and truly accept and appreciate where and what you are now!
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?
A few years ago I was diagnosed with cystic ovaries. A condition many women have, but few really put a voice to. It’s sort of the ugly stepsister known as women’s health. I have had to undergo several surgeries to remove them as they are recurrent. I changed my diet, my lifestyle, and underwent fertility preservation in the form of freezing my eggs as preventative insurance. It was incredibly traumatic when I was first dealing with it and freaking out about the prospect of perhaps not being able to have children. But I was proactive and I have turned my health issue into a passion by helping other women change and improve their health with diet and lifestyle change.
What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?
I appreciate that I am a fun loving broad who really speaks her mind. Perhaps it’s the brassy Native New Yorker in me, but I have never been afraid to put it out there. Sass and all.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?
Oh gosh, TONS! I sometimes feel like that Carpenters medley “We’ve only just begun.” I am extremely proud of my work as an artist and actress and the fact that I was able to make my sparkly girlhood dream a bonafide reality. I would very much like to land bigger parts in film and TV as well as write and produce a film at some point.