My first trip to the egg doctor

As soon as I had decided that I wanted to freeze my eggs, it became a silent obsession. I was surfing the web for as much information as I could. I was reading articles on pubmed about success “rates” and searching for clinics all over the country for signs that this astronomical expense would actually be a worthwhile investment. Unfortunately, all of the statistics looked pretty abysmal, especially for those aged 40 or over. Some clinics around the US don’t even let people like “me” in! “I look 23 for godsakes.” “How can this be?” I thought. I really did have a 40-year-old-woman-freak-out. “Age is just a number” people told me. “Yes, and 40 = infertility.” My prospects sucked!

I called NYU Fertility Center as soon as I could. I left a message with Dr. Noyes’ assistant but did not receive a call back for more than a day. After reading about the precipitous decline in a woman’s fertility after the age of 40, I was beginning to freak out. By that stage I had managed to make real human contact with Dr. Grifo’s assistant who set me up for an appointment 3 months away!!! I took it. Even 3 months seemed like years away, but I had Summer plans that were going to take me out of the city for weeks at a time so it seemed fine. Luckily for me, I jumped on a cancellation and had an appointment lined up within days which was amazing! I was able to go get my FSH levels tested (day 2 of my cycle) in time for the appointment.

On the day of my appointment I was nervous and excited. I had already made up my mind to do this. I walked into the Center’s waiting area, registered, and sat down with a magazine. I furtively glanced around and felt completely alien from the people in the room. I felt self-conscious and embarrassed to be there. As much as I felt in control of matters, I also felt completely vulnerable and plain ashamed of what *this* represented, how *this* appointment reflected on my failed personal life.

Before I knew it, I was ushered in to Dr. Grifo’s office. He immediately struck me as charming and handsome. A kind of Dr. Oz for fertility! In fact, he told me later on that he had been on TV defending a mother who had used artificial insemination to have her daughter (who subsequently tried to get the practice banned and blamed her mother for depriving her of a father). Dr. Grifo gave me the rundown of the issues in a very clear, cogent manner. He was able to empathize with the issues that affect women my age and that commonly bring them into his office. He alluded to personal issues such as relationships and other factors that might have brought me there. I told him about 25-year-old and he smiled a knowing smile. He explained the importance of being educated about all of the options for women my age – adoption, egg donor, IVF, artificial insemination – but most importantly (and most flattering for me), he praised my bravery for not closing my eyes to what was in front of me, and for taking action. Perhaps most importantly, he talked about a personal story of infertility. I’m a psychologist, so I sat there admiring his psychological-mindedness and his ability to address these issues in a non-patronizing manner. The human part of me wanted to cry.

After the office talk, I went in for a gynecological exam and blood work. I was apparently tested for AMH levels which, according to my internet research, is a “marker” used to evaluate ovarian reserve. It is not the most accurate of markers but is, apparently, the best that doctors have at present.

My FSH levels were about 8 (up from 6.5 two years ago). A number over 9 is apparently not the greatest. When Dr. Grifo called me 2 days later, he told me my AMH levels were 1.1 which he said boded well for the egg freezing. The statistics that they’re using to determine the “success” of an egg thaw (following an egg freeze) is apparently, at NYU at least, pretty similar to IVF rates. So a high AMH level is generally better (except when it is too high at which point it is another kind of problem called polycystic ovarian syndrome). Mine is on the low end consistent with my age but is still an ok number for the procedure I’m about to undertake.

I breathed a sigh of slight relief after that phone call. I was really going to go through with this!

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