Egg Freezing Abroad: One Woman’s Story

Egg Freezing Abroad: One Woman’s Story

By Katie Boyden

No one prepares you for how it feels to turn 38. It seemed like one day I was 35 and still drinking from the fountain of youth, and then Covid happened, and the next day I looked into the mirror and was shocked to see a mature woman looking back at me. A few months prior, at the end of my 37th year, a series of events including a serious illness that hospitalized me for ten days and nearly killed me, a highly demanding job that didn’t stop, not even for the hospitalization, a devastating breakup with the woman I thought I was going to marry, an herbal supplement that I took to control my periods without doing the proper research and guidance and which threw my hormones seriously out of balance, all came together into a mental, emotional, and physical collapse. I made the decision to take a complete break from work and went to the only place I knew I would have a chance to heal.

A month later, I met Linda Carter in Bali while we were both waiting for smoothies. I remember feeling so broken and so lost, self-conscious, and alone. I was asking the juice bar staff to add some maca and flax seeds in my smoothie because I had heard that it helps increase estrogen, something the herb I took had lowered. Linda and I started chatting and she asked me why I was using these ingredients. I told her I was trying desperately to correct my hormones because I want to get my body back to normal, and preserve my fertility to have a baby in the next few years, partner or not. She said “Well I just happen to be an acupuncturist, specialist in Chinese Medicine, and fertility coach and I’ve been doing this for thirty years.” That felt like serendipity if I’d ever seen it, and I knew we had crossed paths for a reason.

I started working with Linda two days later, near the same juice bar, and she did a deep dive clinical assessment and then a follow-up session recommending blood work and other testing to get a sense of my hormones and health. After the labs came back, we decided that egg freezing was the next best step for my present circumstances. She was kind, extremely knowledgeable, but also gave me tough love and no nonsense coaching, reminding me that I needed to take this seriously and not stray off course or procrastinate. I’m a professional at self-sabotage and this advice was something I really needed to hear, a firm but gentle hand to keep me from getting in my own way.

One of the most helpful aspects of Linda’s coaching was recommending clinics all over the world and explaining the pros and cons of each country and protocol (comparing egg freezing to embryos, anonymous versus known donors, and so on). I had already decided that I didn’t want to do egg freezing in the United States because public free healthcare is still not a thing (and likely never will be), and because even the most expensive private insurance plans generally don’t cover fertility treatments (as far as I know, only certain high-end companies, mostly tech, offer fertility as part of their benefits, so even most of the jobs that come with health insurance in this country still won’t cover IVF or egg freezing). I chose one of the clinics from her suggestions, a place in Madrid led by a great doctor and knowledgeable and helpful staff. I flew to Europe and spent a month traveling through Italy, Switzerland, and Spain, taking advantage of the chance to visit my European friends in different countries and having some pretty wild experiences along the way. It sounds very expensive, and I very much realize what a privileged take this is, but all said and done it was actually cheaper to go on a month-long trip to Europe and travel while doing the necessary preparation between menstrual cycles before the retrieval in Spain than if I had stayed and done the same thing and taken the same medications in the States (average cost $20,000). I got to experience a taste of the free or dramatically cheaper healthcare system there while I also ate cleaner food, booked scans and additional blood work in each country I went through, and prepared for the egg retrieval, with Linda advising me every step of the way.

I did my ovarian stimulations in Mallorca and when the hormones hit me I felt the weight of what I was doing—freezing my eggs alone, doing this intense and stressful process which could theoretically lead to motherhood and huge decisions, financial strain, no partner, a broken sense of self, an even more broken heart. Linda’s other expertise along with her fertility knowledge is that she handles sessions like a psychologist when needed, and her emotional support was essential; I even stopped seeing my regular therapist during the egg freezing because her sessions were more helpful. And she’s seen it all, every kind of client, relationship, and situation, and has sound advice and wisdom that got me through some very tough moments.

By the time I was ready for the egg retrieval procedure, I had printouts of lab work in three different languages, and had completed all my medications, scans, and injections. I was ready. My parents are wonderful people and flew out to Madrid to support me (and to take a vacation after being stuck in the States during Covid for three years). I showed them around the city and translated for us, went to the Prado museum and stood in front of the works of Dalí and Goya and Velásquez, absolutely flooded with the power of the art and the emotions that come along with hyper-ovulation, had another session with Linda to mentally prepare myself, and then went in for the procedure. The clinic was even better than I expected from all the phone calls and emails with the staff and doctors, they calmed me down as they took me into the operating room. The last thing I remember was trying to form Spanish sentences to the anesthesiologist about how amazing the paintings in the Prado were before the world went as dark as Goya’s oil on canvas rendering of the firing squad in “The Third of May.” I woke up in a recovery room with my mom sitting there worried, and she smiled when she saw me open my eyes. The doctor came in, told me that they successfully retrieved eight mature eggs, a great number for someone my age, and just like that, after months of planning, flights, blood tests, trains, friends, food, cities, countries, clinics, rivers, seas, sunsets, stress, setbacks, support, and success, it was over.

I called Linda that night from my hotel room and the first words out of her mouth were, “You should be very, very proud of yourself. You stuck to this, you did not procrastinate, and you crossed the finish line.” I reflected on my whole journey with her as a companion and guide, finally starting to process the full impact of what it all meant, and coming one significant step closer to my dream of being a mother. She, being Linda and always wanting the very best for her clients, didn’t miss a beat to say that she highly recommends I do another round of egg freezing when I’m ready, to ensure the best possible odds for success. She’s of course right, and I know that when the time comes I’ll be prepared and have her by my side like always. In the meantime, I have eight eggs chilling in Madrid, ready to one day hopefully become my future children, and a whole book’s worth of stories.

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