Beyond the Egg Timer

An insider's guide to having children in your thirties and forties.

Penciling In Motherhood

A book about egg freezing has insights about relationships and parenting

In Motherhood Rescheduled by Sarah Elizabeth Richards, women and men are torn between the potential joys of parenting and the inevitable loss of freedom. Say, the freedom to stay up late reading a book that you really enjoy, without worrying that you will oversleep and take your child late to school the next day. That is what happened to me while I was reading this book. I was dipping into it now and then, and then finally I got caught up in the stories of the women and could not get to sleep until I found out how things resolved for them. 

In her late thirties, the author found herself in a relationship with a man she loved who was uncertain about having children. So, she froze her eggs to buy them more time to decide – at a price of more than $10,000. She wrote the book about her story and the stories of other women who made the same decision, for various nonmedical reasons. (Egg freezing was originally developed for women undergoing chemotherapy and other life-saving medical interventions that might damage their eggs.) Interspersed with the personal stories is a description of the scientific evolution of this technology, the scientists who moved the technology forward, and how it moved from being an experimental procedure to one that is considered not experimental, although still certainly not as routine as a Pap smear. (Here’s a New York Time op-ed in which the author describes the book.)

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In television and movies, we are constantly exposed to romantic stories that follow an idealized pattern: Two unencumbered souls meet, fall in love and stay in love. Motherhood Rescheduled describes the real life stories we hear from our friends – online dating mismatches, blended families, bouts of anxiety and depression, demanding careers and how challenging it can be for two independent-minded people to compromise and build a life together. And in this context, how to talk about making babies? If you are meeting men through online dating, how soon should you share your desire to become a mother? If you want a child and you are with a man who says he is not sure whether he wants to be a father, how much time should you give him to decide? Should you try to have a baby without a partner? These are the questions that the women in the book face, questions that will be familiar to many women who are single in their thirties. Richards follows the women over several years, and their answers to these questions change during that time. 

For Richards, the appeal of egg freezing is that empowers women to make more deliberate choices and to allow them to have a child in the context of a secure partnership. Others may disagree that the search for a mate is disempowering and might argue that the egg freezing creates false secuity. (Success rates are less than 50%.) Plus, with divorce rates at around 50%, women may find themselves lone parents eventually anyway.

If you want to know more specifics about egg freezing, other Psychology Today contributors have written about egg freezing here, another review of Motherhood Rescheduled is here. Both have a lot of resources listed at the end.

There’s a lot compelling material here, even for readers who feel that the price tag for egg freezing makes it a nonstarter.  Another theme in the book is the frustration that women feel about how hard it is to form and sustain relationships. 

In later posts, we hope to review the research around the questions raised by the book. Is it harder to form and sustain relationships now than in the past? If so, why? How have male roles and attitudes changed? It seems like men are, on the one hand more engaged as fathers than ever before, but at the same time it is more acceptable for men to say that they do not want to be fathers. I picked up a copy of The Marriage Go Round as a starting point. The author postulates that American culture values both the institution of marriage and the need for individuals to pursue their own happiness and self-fulfillment.These contrasting goals cause marriages to be created and dissolved faster in the United States that they do in other Western countries. We are interested in further exploring this and would love your thoughts about this subject and any research you may have read. 

Note: We love writing for you and truly appreciate your readership and comments. In order to preserve the quality of this blog and complete our book manuscript, we will start posting every other week.     

Sharon I. Praissman is an adult (medical) and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Emma Williams is a public health researcher and writer.

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