Note: This is the final post in a series of five blogs in which I document going through the process of "oocyte cryopreservation" last summer. Click for part one, part two, part three, and part four. I share my personal experience in an effort to spread awareness of this fertility option to other women my age. Please do not consider it a substitute for advice from a medical professional.
The other day, I was describing to a wise older friend my emotional ups and downs over the past month as I've gone through the process of freezing my eggs.
"There have been many times in the five years that have passed since my divorce when I felt like a failure for not having a family of my own," I told her. "This egg freezing process has forced me to confront the self-doubts that have hung around in the shadows: 'What's wrong with me? I screwed up. I'm a loser for being 37 and childless and alone.'"
I cracked a tiny grin and added, "But on the whole, I have been able to manage the self-critical voices. Doing what I can to preserve my fertility has been a positive, empowering experience. Best of all, I've felt immensely supported throughout the process. I've told everyone what I'm doing: my family, friends, colleagues. Heck, I'm even blogging about it. And the support that has poured in from my community -- physical and virtual -- has helped tremendously."
My friend gazed at me in silence for a moment, absent-mindedly patting her white-blonde hair. I could tell she was cooking up one of her trademark provocative questions. "I wonder..." she paused. "What this process has taught you about love?"
I blinked at her use of the l-word. "What's love got to do with it?" I responded with a smirk.
"In all its different forms," she smirked right back.
I took some time to contemplate my friend's unexpected inquiry, and then shared my thoughts.
First, there is familial love. It is there like a mug of hot chocolate on a chilly night, cozy and comforting. My nuclear family has been extraordinary in expressing their support of my decision, and both my father and mother contributed financially (it costs about $11,000 to freeze eggs at the Stanford Fertility and Reproductive Medicine facility where I had it done -- insurance doesn't cover it). In response to my second blog posting, in which I mentioned my "Power Anthems" iPod playlist, my Dad sent two CDs he'd burned for me of his favorite female empowerment songs, entitled, "You Go Girl!" I am grateful every day for the unconditional love of my parents, brother, and sister-in-law.
Next, there is the love of friends. My friends are fiercely loyal, unwavering. The most sustaining bonds are formed when we recognize each other on a soul level, speak authentically, and yet can also let go, be silly, and have fun.
Of course, there is also romantic love. It can start out as a shot of whiskey, ballooning up your ego and giving you a false sense of security. But the buzz inevitably wears off, and it's easy to become grasping and addicted. Although our culture focuses obsessively on this type of love, I find as I get older that it's only one piece of the complete picture. I am seeking an intimate relationship that helps me to be my best self, with someone who can be a true partner, and I feel in a better place than ever to find it now that I've taken care of my own needs.
In addition, there is divine or universal love. This love is infinite, unfathomable, all-embracing. I feel this love most powerfully towards the end of a yoga class when I'm drenched in sweat, shaking and limber. It's the moment when I open utterly to the flow of life, letting go of my desire to plan and control, and embrace what is so.
And finally, there is what may be the most important love of all: the love I have to share with others. I had a poignant example of the power of this type of love earlier in the year, when I traveled to Haiti to volunteer for a week post-earthquake. While I was there, I adopted a new life mantra: "Fear less, love more!"
Whether I was working as a psychotherapist with people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, handing out food and supplies at an orphanage, or simply walking through the tent village to attend a church service, I poured love out in a constant stream. Life, I realized, is all about connecting to and loving people: listening to their stories, hugging their children, smiling and laughing and sharing joy. When I returned to San Francisco, I found that the insomnia I'd been struggling with for years had lifted, like the morning fog burns off our fair city on a summer day.
I know this much is true: The more bold, brave, shout-out-loud, open-hearted, cheerleading of others I do, the more I see the best in people, the more oneness I experience with all beings, the more fearless, uninhibited, authentic, passionate LOVE I give out to the world -- the better I feel. The less I fear and the more I love, the more I fall in love with this precious, fragile, tragic, astonishing mystery that is life and every living being on our planet. That makes all the pain and suffering, all the moments of self-doubt, and all the challenges worthwhile.
PS: I'm now living with the Love of My Life, Kiran, and we are trying to get pregnant naturally. I hope not to have to use my frozen eggs, but I am happy to have them as an insurance policy.