Freezing My Eggs In a Pandemic as a Black Woman Over 35

Every year I write myself a letter, typically on the last hour of my birthday, with a series of statements declaring what I aspire to accomplish in the next year. I schedule this email to arrive in my inbox the morning of my birthday the following year filled with my professional, financial and relationship ambitions. My 2019 aspirations email landed in my inbox this past March during the onset of COVID-19 and one particular goal that I had yet to achieve stung:

“A year from now,” I wrote in 2019, “I will have paid rent and storage fees on frozen eggs in the same month.”

I turned 35 in 2019, and egg freezing was the plan to prevent me from falling off of what felt like one big fertility cliff. It’s the year that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists projects fertility rapidly declines and it was also the year my gynecologist diagnosed me with “age related female infertility.”

Shortly after I had scheduled the email to my future self in 2019, I booked a pap smear and consulted my gynecologist on my egg freezing options. It was the first time since my 20s that my gynecologist’s face tilted to the right as if something was wrong. My uterus had been enlarged to the size of a woman who had just completed her first trimester.

The cause? Fibroids. I had joined the 60% of Black women who had multiple, benign white tumors or growths, also known as myomas, in their uterus by the time they turn 35. Mine, like many women, were accompanied with pain, a heavy period—that would soon result in changing my pad every two hours—and a protruding belly.

My gynecologist advised that because of the potential impact of the medications I would take during egg freezing, I should first undergo surgery to remove the fibroids—but there was a chance it could end in a hysterectomy. 

Undergoing surgery while Black is scary—especially this surgery, considering Black women are twice as likely to have a hysterectomy. As a Black Queer feminist, I knew that the history of women of color and sterilization abuse at the hands of trusted physicians is long.

As Executive Director of mRelief, a nonprofit championing the rights of people to access and retain government benefits like food stamps with dignity, I also knew of the Relf sisters—two young girls who were among the 100,000-150,000 overwhelmingly Black people surgically sterilized in the 1970s when forced to choose between keeping their government benefits or sterilization.

Faced with surgery as a Black woman in 2020, I navigate choices of fertility preservation with a large degree of privilege: namely, I had savings and health insurance. But given the history, when it was time to find a doctor, I sought out a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago—a city that is 30 percent Black. She had a 0% hysterectomy rate and that gave me the confidence to move forward. Still, before I went into surgery, I signed the paperwork giving my doctor the permission to give me a hysterectomy in the event it was necessary to save my life. 

It was then that my aspiration to freeze my eggs became a mandate. The possibility of losing my uterus filled me with conviction and I was determined to do everything in my power to preserve my chances of seeing the face of my child one day.

Among my friends, I am something of an ambassador for childbirth. I am that eccentric friend who seeks to engage anyone in my close knit network of friends about the relationship between childbirth and supporting a healthy democracy. I firmly believe that one way I can embody my political commitment to a fair and just society is to nurture my progeny with sage, political values. My hope is that they will continue the fight for racial, social and economic justice that may not come into fruition in my lifetime, but with continued efforts, might come true in theirs.

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