Tales From EggBanxx’s Let’s ‘Chill’ Ladies’ Nights
Do you remember that time, when you searched desperately under the couch cushions for $10,000 in spare change in order to pay for freezing your eggs? There’s a new alternative, and you don’t have to break the bank if you want to put your eggs on ice. EggBanxx is a network of fertility clinics that connects women with treatment plans and doctors, then finances the egg-freezing procedure by setting clients up with a loan and a monthly payment plan. Think of it this way: Sallie Mae is to education as EggBanxx is to ova.
Am I freezing my eggs? I don’t know. But I am a sucker for a bargain, and I did a double take when I saw that women who attend one of EggBanxx’s Let’s “Chill” Ladies’ Nights and sign up for the procedure before the end of the month get a $500 discount. Though I would rather read in bed, drink alone, or give myself an enema than attend a frothily-branded event that reminds me my eggs are getting all old and crunchy, I decided to check out an EggBanxx ladies’ night. Because, let’s be honest: I’m slightly scared.
You see, at 33, I’m “supposed” to have popped out my 2.06 children already. And yet, this probably comes as no surprise, I’ve spent my entire sexually active adult life trying not to get pregnant. So far, I’ve been successful, thank you Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Alesse, Yasmine, Nuvaring, Trojans, et. al. Although I have no specific reason to believe I can’t conceive normally (regular cycle, good genes, I eat lots of kale salads) I believe in the principle of “if something can go wrong it probably will.” I also know the stats. My fertility will drop in less than two years, at age 35. I don’t know where my boyfriend and I will be, both in terms of our relationship, and our readiness for a child. The bottom line is that everyone’s body is different, and I simply don’t know how mine will react if and when I give it the chance to make a bambino, so I’d better be prepared. Oh, also, aren’t I supposed to have it all?
When I first heard of egg freezing as an option, I wrote it off because of A) the price, B) it reeked of fear and desperation, and C) the price. But a financier could change all that. Maybe taking out a loan to freeze eggs is the wave of the future, like taking on major student loan debt to get a liberal arts degree that qualified me for low-paying jobs was so hot back in the early aughts.
Anyway, back to Ladies Night. I walked into the basement of a swanky hotel in SoHo, and a rep signed me in on an iPad. Sleek, professional-looking women ranging in age from about 25 to 40 mingled, while tall, thin Eggbanxx fembots with impossibly perfect hair stood at information tables passing out coupons and brochures. Camera crews from various nightly news programs were circulating. (Two asked me if I wanted to talk on camera about why I came. I asked them why they were there; one said to capture the “novelty” of the event.) The room was packed, and everyone had great shoes. As I walked up to the bar for a signature EggBanxx bellini, I wondered if I’d fallen down a wormhole and wound up inside a sprinkle on top of a cupcake about to be eaten by Charlotte from Sex and the City.
When the actual information part of the evening began, a 34-year-old host kicked it off by admitting she wasn’t only a company spokesperson, she was also a client. Then she turned it over to four doctors from various fertility centers throughout New York and New Jersey, who gave the audience the scoop. A few highlights: Once harvested, eggs are kept frozen at negative 196 degrees, the temperature of liquid nitrogen. At such a deep freeze, molecules simply don’t move, so in theory, eggs remain frozen forever! Each cycle, which entails taking hormones in the weeks prior and the procedure to remove eggs from the uterus, produces an average of 10 eggs. Recent developments in cryogenic technology make more eggs viable than before, about 7-8, because they form fewer of the ice crystals that can destroy cells. That also means you are 30 percent less likely to give birth to Elsa from Frozen.
Altogether, the procedure costs $7,000-$10,000, depending on the doctor, plus $3,000 for meds. For the sake of argument, let’s say I take the plunge with a mid-priced doctor ($8,500, plus 3K for meds) and get EggBanxx to finance it. If I were to put the same amount I put toward my student loans each month, approximately $244, toward my eggs, it would take me about 47 months, or 3.9 years, to pay off the principal. And that’s not including interest, or the $100/month in egg storage fees. EggBanxx covers the first year, but still — that’s more than I paid for a storage space at U-Haul.
And that’s just one cycle of egg freezing. Some women do two or three.
But … it would be an insurance policy for tomorrow. A favor to my future self. A way to take control of my life and career. As they said in the session about 100 times, I’d feel empowered. Isn’t that priceless? Couldn’t I afford it with a payment plan? So why wouldn’t I jump at the chance?
Something didn’t sit right with me when I thought about paying for something today so things will work out in my favor tomorrow. Payment plans, in general, help us invest in ourselves. They’re an original lifehack, giving us the ability to do today what we could only really achieve with the experience, education, money or time we hope to have in the future. But we don’t take out loans and pay interest on them for just anything, which means there’s an unspoken promise when we do. We’re willing to pay something off over the long term (college, a mortgage) because we know there’s a big payoff, one usually related to living the life we desire.
In other words, is the ROI big enough for me to put money down? After much deliberating, I realized it wasn’t.
Perhaps, after trying my whole life to get straight A’s and excel and do everything perfectly, I don’t want to feel like there’s a “right” way to do my fertility. I want the right life to be the choices I made and the path I took, not the parallel life I could’ve lived. With something as mysterious as conception, ultimately, no amount of egg freezing would guarantee I’d end up with a baby. And I don’t know I want to invest in an uncertain payoff.
That’s not to say the ROI isn’t worth it across the board. Egg freezing gives women an option, and that’s not a bad thing. For women who have existing medical conditions or a family history of infertility, it might make more sense. Egg freezing is being used by cancer patients whose eggs may be damaged by chemo or radiation. One doctor even mentioned a rise in transgendered individuals freezing their eggs before fully transitioning.
Here’s the truth: as much as I like to hold the reins of my life firmly, I don’t want to be faced with pressure to control yet another thing about my body. Between controlling my weight with running, yoga, and dieting, controlling my body hair with waxing and threading, and yes, controlling my fertility with birth control, the last thing I need, psychologically speaking, is to regulate another aspect of my being. Women — and especially millennials — have been taught that if we try hard enough and aim high, we can do whatever we want and be whomever we want. And if all that doesn’t work, we can always fall back on The Secret.
I certainly don’t want to suggest we don’t have agency to shape our lives, but I’m old enough to know that life doesn’t always deliver on its promises or follow the trajectory you envision. This whole idea that I can make life turn out exactly as I want it to with a little planning and “empowerment”? Well, that’s a mindset I’ve been trying to change. I don’t want to take on a new delusion about “achieving” having a baby because I have my own brand-name caviar on ice. I want to live the life I’ve been living, not put my money toward an alternate reality, and let my body do its thing when the time comes. Hopefully, it will be willing.
Alizah Salario is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn. Her reportage, essays, and criticism have appeared in Money magazine, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Daily Beast, The New York Observer, New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, Narratively, at The Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere.