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I’ll never have my own kids. So why can’t I let go of my frozen eggs?

Every year the bill from the storage facility comes, and every year, I can’t bring myself to do anything but pay up.

The day Peter got a vasectomy I decided it was time to freeze my eggs. He was my boyfriend then. I was nearly 40. Peter is a physician, and in his professional opinion, I was too old to be on birth control.  

Peter’s first wife had died of breast cancer seven years earlier. He found himself suddenly a single dad trying to work through his grief while raising a then 9-year-old child on his own. Now his son was 14 — a long way still to go. He could not imagine starting from the beginning all over again — the parade of babysitters, the endless school conferences, the interrupted sleep and above all, the loss of freedom. He didn’t tell me this on our first date, but I didn’t ask. We had one of those epic first nights where drinks turn into dinner, late night doughnut stops, a first kiss on the rooftop of his apartment. A perfect New York City night. 

Bianca Turetsky writes about being unable to part with her frozen eggs, despite knowing that she will never use them.
Bianca Turetsky writes about being unable to part with her frozen eggs, despite knowing that she will never use them.Courtesy Bianca Turetsky

The surgery Peter underwent for his vasectomy was a painful but brief one-day commitment. The fertility treatments I underwent to capture and preserve what might be my last good eggs consumed most of the fall.

“This shouldn’t hurt much,” Peter said. I pulled down the top part of my underwear. I felt the cold swipe of the alcohol swab on my skin. He handled the needle expertly, like the doctor that he is. As I now did.

“Just do it fast,” I said, eyes closed. There was a small window, 11-11:15 p.m., to time the shot perfectly with the surgery the next morning. I held the edge of the bathroom sink. The anticipation was always the worst part.

“One, two … ” I felt the pinch and then the slight burn of the trigger shot. It hurt more than the other injections that I had been giving myself twice a day, but the nurse prepared me for that. It was the one shot that I couldn’t do on my own and the one that mattered the most. Early the next morning I would have the retrieval surgery and see if all of those weeks of preparation had been worth it — the early morning doctor appointments, the calls with the insurance company, the late-night emergency trips to the Brooklyn pharmacy that carried fertility drugs, the crazy, hormone-driven mood swings that left me feeling even more anxious than usual. 

When I first saw the assortment of needles, gauze, vials and instructions at the mandatory 8 a.m. in vitro fertilization orientation session, I thought that there was no way I would be able to do this. The fertility nurse assured us in her not-my-first-rodeo tone that I could. And so could the other 20-plus women around me, who all bore the same panicked look on their faces that I did as we practiced giving injections into rubber pin cushions. How did we end up here? When did we sign up for nursing school? Within a few days I could find an unbruised patch of skin on my abdomen and give myself an injection faster than I could order an Uber.

A friend once told me that the doctor whispers the number of retrieved eggs into your ear as you’re coming out of the anesthesia so the other women recovering in the nearby beds won’t be able to hear and get jealous. There is so much jealousy and fear on this journey that is supposed to be about joy; there are not enough seats at the end of the song.

“You have 12 eggs,” the doctor said. I opened my eyes, still groggy from the propofol. 

I thanked him, slightly alarmed that he didn’t whisper. Maybe 12 wasn’t a number anyone would be jealous of. Maybe the woman next to me had 29. I ate the pretzels and drank the plastic cup of sugary orange juice and Peter signed me out and helped me into a car. 

The fertility treatments were an insurance policy in case things didn’t work out with us, and I had nearly two decades of NYC dating experience behind me to think that they wouldn’t. A way for us to continue to get to know each other without our conversations being drowned out by the constant tick, tick, tick of the time bomb going off inside my body. I had many great starts before: the biotech founder, the filmmaker, the writer, the internet entrepreneur. The needles and drugs and early morning trips to the hospital were my safety measure, my expensive insurance policy that protected 38-year-old Bianca who probably wanted kids from Bianca who was falling for a man who didn’t. 

Thousands of dollars in treatments, which he helped cover, and then $100 a month to keep whatever viable eggs I had left in a medical storage facility in New Jersey. I imagined them tucked away in a little freezer, next to a pint of mint chip, in their own studio apartment where I paid the rent. 

My previous boyfriend hadn’t thought of any of this. After three years of being on the fence he finally admitted what I knew deep down all along: He did not want more children. His kids were going to college soon. He wanted to travel freely and didn’t want to be held back by a restrictive school schedule for the next 18 years of his life. He broke this news over chirashi bowls at our favorite sushi spot. My stomach soured. I remember being annoyed by his timing and thinking, perhaps unfairly, you just ruined my life, did you have to ruin this restaurant for me too?

I was 37 when he told me this, just before a trip we were planning with these soon-to-be college-aged kids to Ibiza. The question then became: Do I break up with him before or after Ibiza? I chose after. I suddenly had the urge to jump in the ocean. Only when I was under water, alone with my thoughts, the salty sea stinging my eyes, could I begin to ask myself the harder questions: What if it’s too late for me to have kids now? What if I don’t meet someone else? Can I handle having a baby on my own? And the scariest one: What if I had deliberately run out the clock? 

Maybe growing up is realizing that you’ll never get everything you want. That nobody does. I had been making trade-offs my whole life but pretending the ride was free. Ultimately, I would have to pay the toll, even though at this point I couldn’t remember getting on the turnpike in the first place. There is no such thing as a free trip to Ibiza. If you’re not buying your own ticket, you can’t know the cost.

I chose Peter’s funny and sharp emails, his easy smile, his dedication to always finding me a pool no matter where in the world we are, over a phantom baby that I probably wanted.

I chose Peter’s funny and sharp emails, his easy smile, his dedication to always finding me a pool no matter where in the world we are, over a phantom baby that I probably wanted. A widower, life didn’t turn out how he planned either. He still doesn’t want more children, and I know that as much as he loves me, he never will. In a way, I’m off the hook.

We married in September. It was a late summer evening, the perfect no-weather type of weather, champagne in coupe glasses, guests who were eager to dress up and socialize after months of Covid isolation. After the ceremony, stepping back and looking at him laughing with our friends and family, I remember thinking that this is what it feels like to be happy, to not be missing anything. When I first moved to New York I thought there was an equation that adds up to a fulfilling life. And there I was on that rooftop, missing a major piece, and yet my equation added up to more joy than I could have imagined.

Turetsky and her husband, Peter.
Turetsky and her husband, Peter.Courtesy Bianca Turetsky

I still see my ex-boyfriend’s photographs on Instagram, the temptation of pushing on a bruise too delicious to ever unfollow him. Photographs from Paris, Los Angeles, Jordan, he and his now adult sons in the desert, doing backflips on sand dunes that look like ocean waves in Oman. 

I know that I will never cash in on that insurance policy Peter and I took out years ago. And yet the bill arrives in my inbox every February. An amount so ridiculous I feel ashamed. I take out my credit card and pay the $1,200 ($100 a month), the price to maintain a dream. I’m still paying rent on that imaginary studio apartment in New Jersey with a freezer full of a dozen eggs, and a pint of mint chip. 

Maybe for just one more year. Maybe.

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