This past spring, I was in Shanghai on a 9-day solo trip to explore this sophisticated city. While I had a few friends to meet up with, I was digging the solitude and independence of traveling alone. Before the trip, I had been talking with my friend Katie when she told me about a concept that she and another friend had invented: that of the sexy drifter. So there I was in Shanghai, drifting through coffee shops and boutiques and botanical gardens, feeling very sexy.
I have been living an independent and international life for eight years now. If I am honest, I have spent some amount of time waiting for my life to start when I met the right man. And then I just started living fully, deeply, believing my life is unrolling daily just the way it’s supposed to.
But sometimes, when an apparently kind, soulful, yoga-practicing man warrior-two’s into my life, I start dreaming, fast. It was in discussing some of my romantic patterns that my therapist softly suggested that I freeze my eggs. I had been taking an all or nothing approach to partnership and family. Either I meet someone soon and we have a child or two, or I remain a solo sexy drifter for the rest of my life.
Listen, I love sexy drifterhood, but there is also more I am yearning for in this life. After sitting with it a bit longer, I decided that I should indeed put my eggs in the safest basket I could find: the cryogenic freezer.
What I did to prepare for freezing my eggs
This decision meant an even crazier summer for me. This plot twist led me to close a 5-year chapter of living in Shenzhen to begin writing one in Seoul. I was home for 4.5 weeks this summer, after having been away for a year and a half. Now in addition to seeing those I had missed for so long, I would also be going to the fertility clinic every other day, and shooting my body up with loads of hormones.
The process of freezing my eggs did begin in China. After contacting a fertility clinic, I learned that I needed to take my IUD out 2-3 months before beginning the hormones. Seven years ago I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, and for this reason, I was quite nervous that my cycle would not regulate on its own.
Enter acupuncture. Living in China offered me wide access to all things Eastern medicine. This proved key to helping my body ovulate again. The same week that I had my IUD out, I started seeing an acupuncturist every other day, at first. One month later, I got the first period I had had in years. I kept seeing the acupuncturist — which proved entertaining as we spoke in translation, him shaming me for drinking cold water, assuming I drank too much wine simply because I was a foreigner. I took this all in good fun — and exactly on schedule, I got a second period.
Here’s how the process of freezing my eggs went
By the time I landed in Minnesota in June, my body was slaying at ovulating. A fertility clinic can work with women whose cycles are not regular, but I was so happy to find that my body could be healed with holistic approaches.
On the first day of my cycle, I called the clinic to let them know I had gotten my period. On day three of my cycle, I went in for my first appointment. That first day was harried and very stressful. After a transvaginal ultrasound and bloodwork, I was sent off to fill the prescriptions for oral and intravenous fertility drugs. I was not prepared for the pharmacy I would be bringing home, or the $5,400 bill for those drugs. Most insurance does not cover anything associated with fertility; I knew I would be putting a $10,000 down payment on future motherhood, but the additional thousands were a surprise.
The feeling of overwhelm increased as the pharmacist began passing to me bag after bag of drugs and needles. My aunt Gina and mom were with me on this day, and my aunt came with me into a private room at the pharmacy so that the pharmacist could walk us through, with a video, how to inject oneself. It took me a few days to be brave enough to give myself the morning and evening shots. I was thankful that Gina took one for Team Sexy Drifter Mama and rather gently inserted the needle in my belly six times before I was ready to step up to the plate.
I would need to give myself the shots for 10-12 days, depending on how the follicles developed in my ovaries. This part is called stimming, as in stimulating the ovaries to produce more than one egg during this menstrual cycle.
This is the part of freezing my eggs that I was most afraid of, though not because of the needles. I was worried that all of the hormones were going to make me crazy. I have an anxiety disorder. Two years ago, I spiraled into a place I called The Dark Side of the Moon. While I am on medication and I have a therapist who helps me steady myself, I was still scared about the impact of so many hormones.
As it turned out, the worst side effect that I experienced was bloating, and it wasn’t that terrible. Another challenge, though, of asking so much of my ovaries, is that I was not able to work out during the stimming, or even until I had gotten a period after the egg retrieval. There was no yoga, no running, no lifting anything over 10 pounds — all in order to protect blood flow and the health of the ovaries. Bending and twisting and heart pounding workouts can cause an ovary to tork, or twist around itself. This is painful, and can also result in the loss of that ovary.
With my mom, sisters, and friends, I speed-walked my way through stimming. Team Sexy Drifter Mama needs all her players. I went into the clinic about every other day so the nurse could check the progress of the follicles and the hormones in my bloodwork. On the ninth day, the nurse gave me the green light to administer the trigger shot. The trigger shot’s needle is … long, and has to be administered in your booty. By this point Nurse (Auntie) Gina had gone back to Idaho, so my sister was up to bat.
Th egg retrieval procedure and beyond
36 hours later I was at the clinic, ready to go under 20 minutes of anesthesia so that the doctor could use the transvaginal ultrasound and a needle to extract the mature eggs from inside my ovaries.
When I came to, I was in a small curtained-off room with bright light from the windows washing over me. My mom and grandma were seated on stools near my bed, and the doctor was at my side to tell me how many eggs she was able to retrieve. It was better news than we had expected. For the first time in months, I felt I could breathe a bit easier.
The next day I got another call from the clinic saying how many retrieved eggs were healthy enough to freeze. It was solid news.
I was now ready to sexy drift over the ocean once again into my new life in Korea. I am grateful for the past and present moments of sexy drifterhood; someday I will love sexy drifting into motherhood. Freezing my eggs was an empowering decision; it offers me the gift of time and opportunity. The way my process became a whole female family affair, it reminds me of the support and grace that lies in the power of women.