"Maybe you can squeeze onto the couch," said the girl with clipboard. Every chair was taken at the Fertility 101 info-session. I guess I expected something more like an any Ivy league alumni meet-up—pencil skirts and sleek ponytails, people with that professional shine. After all, aren't these the "ambitious" ladder-climbers for whom egg freezing and the possibility to postpone motherhood is a "careerist dream"? If I'd stumbled into this room accidentally I wouldn't have been able to peg the issue that brought them all together. The woman beside me looked fresh off of a college lacrosse team, snapping a hairband around her wrist, chipped nail polish. Beside her, a woman with salt and pepper hair twirling the strings on her reading glasses. One woman sipped from a MacDonald's soda straw and, another in a floral skirt clutched her Juice Press bottle. In a white-walled room on the 14th floor of a Madison Ave office building we all cocked our heads to the left to read the y-axis of a graph projected on the wall. "Predicted Probability of Birth."
In case you've never walked past a playground, here's a newsflash: the age of first time mothers is rising—steadily, and interest in preserving fertility is growing right along with it. In the 70s, the mean age of first-time mothers was 21.4. By 2000 that age was up to 26.3. While there's no magical number at which women's fertility plunges (despite what you've hear, it's not 35, 38, or 40—each woman works on her own timeline and may struggle with infertility at 22 or conceive naturally at 44) we know that fertility diminishes over time, and that working with younger eggs gives women a higher chance of getting pregnant later in life.
Egg-freezing has been around since the 1980s. The process has been refined over the decades but the basics remain the same. Artificial hormones are used to stimulate the ovaries to release a large number of eggs at once, which are surgically removed and frozen. To make a baby, those eggs are thawed, inseminated, and re-implanted, where biology takes back the reigns. It's not a holistic-friendly procedure: it's Western medicine with a capital W.
Biology doesn't care on which side of the Eastern/Western medicine divide you fall. Whether your healer is a shaman or a psychiatrist, your body is subject to the same laws of time. As the women of the wellness world consider if, how, and when they want to have children, those hearing the ticking the clock might be tempted to ask themselves if egg freezing offers more reward than risk. The number of women taking advantage of in-vitro fertilization has doubled in just 10 years. Are some of them the women who swore off synthetic hormone birth control to be better in touch with their cycles? Are they the women who eat organic, and treat headaches with magnesium? Do they have crystals lining their bathroom windowsills? Yes, of the thousands in that group, some are the women of wellness.