As a fertility doctor, I like to think of myself as bringing love into the world. Children are love. It’s an irrefutable fact.
Everyone’s journey to that love is different. In honor of Pride month, I wanted to share one of my patient’s stories and their decision to freeze eggs prior to transitioning.
I hope this inspires you to act on your fertility and normalizes whatever fertility journey you’re on. There is no right way. There is no one way. There is only a loving way when it comes to creating the family of your dreams.
CJ and her husband Pat struggled with fertility as many couples do.
This led the couple to adopt and to later be part of another fertility journey that would bring with it the same kind of love.
In her teenage years, their adoptive daughter Nicole came to learn that her inner gender identity did not match her outer appearance. With empathetic guidance from her parents, she took the steps to transition from female to male to honor his true self.
However, prior to transition, the doctor handed CJ’s then daughter, Nicole, a pamphlet about the option to freeze her eggs.
CJ’s adoptive child had a choice to preserve her fertility prior to transitioning
Ultimately the call was made to freeze eggs prior to surgery.
As told by CJ:
We all felt like he made a great choice and investment in the future.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most in Cole’s situation. A study done at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and presented at the 2018 Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Toronto found that the majority of young people transitioning were not willing to delay hormone therapy to preserve their biological fertility.
My husband and I thought that this was a progressive choice because you don’t often hear about transgender teens making this kind of proactive decision. But Cole decided he wanted to leave open the possibility of having biological children in the future.
We knew we would have to pay for it out of pocket because our insurance wouldn’t cover it and it’s pretty expensive, but fortunately we could afford it. We were happy to do it because it also meant that we were investing in our future biological grandchildren. We just knew we had to do it.
Not every fertility clinic welcomed the idea
CJ says that when she called around to find a fertility clinic that she was not met with very much enthusiasm. This is upsetting to me. However, I’m ultimately grateful that CJ and Cole found their way to my office, and I want everyone to know that they are welcome. Everyone.
As told by CJ:
I went online and watched a few of Dr. Aimee’s YouTube shows. I really liked her, so I called her office. The nurses were very helpful in setting up an appointment.
During the whole Egg Retrieval process, there were ups and downs. Dr. Aimee was a really good coach.
She would call Cole at home to check on him, cheer him up and root him on. She definitely helped the process go a lot smoother than it might have if it was with somebody else.
I was really happy that I found Dr. Aimee and that she was able and willing to help us. The whole office was very welcoming and accepting.
CJ wrote a book about their entire family’s journey. I’d like to share an excerpt specific to the egg freezing process. If you’d like to read more, I encourage you to get the full story here.
Love, Hope, and Acceptance: A Family’s Transition
“We were a bit under the gun as we had to get this process done before Nicole’s scheduled surgery in June. There was no way Nicole wanted to postpone this until after surgery and she really wanted to start taking Testosterone. So, we were on schedule to have the egg retrieval surgery sometime mid to late April. But when we went in for the final ultrasound, only 7 eggs were large enough to retrieve. Dr. Aimee wanted to wait another cycle and increase medication to try to get Nicole’s body to produce more eggs. Ideally, at least 20. That way, if almost half are viable, that would give Nicole several eggs for future conception. We were disappointed. Another month of uncomfortable bloats; another month of no working out; and another month closer to top surgery. Dr. Aimee suggested we wait until after top surgery to try another cycle but Nicole wanted to try again right away. She wanted to get this done. Ideally, she would have the egg retrieval surgery, start taking T, have the top surgery done, and recover during the summer before starting college. So, we started another cycle with a bit more aggressive medication in hopes of producing more eggs.
Nicole was miserable. The bloating was excessive. Her emotions were on edge, as well, because of the female hormones. But she was a trooper and was forward thinking during the process. She was bored and wanted to work out so much but had to take it very easy. At times, she even acted (and looked) pregnant, craving foods she never ate. There were lots of ups and downs and my anxiety level was off the charts. But with the help of Dr. Aimee, we stayed on course. Dr. Aimee proved to be a great coach and of great support to both of us, as did everyone in the office.
Finally the day came to do the final ultrasound before the target retrieval date. There were lots of eggs and all were large so we were happy and the surgery was a go. Nicole would be completely out on general anesthesia. And recovery time was a few weeks. There would be pain and bloating and a heavy period after the surgery. Nicole’s spirits remained high but was anxious to get this behind her. On May 29th, 2015, we got up early and drove to the Reproductive Science Center in San Ramon where Dr. Aimee would perform the egg retrieval surgery. We first had to go through all the consenting paperwork and the risks of the surgery and all that pre-op stuff. Then Nicole got prepped for surgery. They had a heck of a time finding a usable vein for the intravenous needle but finally found one. Nicole was feeling like a pin cushion.
I was able to stay with Nicole until it was time for the egg retrieval and then I had to anxiously wait in the waiting room. It didn’t seem like much time at all when Dr. Aimee came and got me and said the surgery went really well and the technicians were counting the eggs right now but that there were a lot of them. Nicole was still out of it and when she came to, she was in a lot of pain. They gave her something for it and she was so jubilant that the process was over. “We did it! Top surgery next” she giggled. The drugs were definitely kicking in.
The final count was in—40 eggs were retrieved!!! They wouldn’t all be mature enough but that was a great number of eggs to work with. When we received the final report later that afternoon, we were told 23 of the 40 eggs were mature a viable and where frozen! This was great news. The eggs would be transported to Reprotech Limited, in Las Vegas, for cryo storage. We would pay about $300 a year to keep the eggs stored until Nicole is ready to use them.”
Following the retrieval, Cole was able to move forward with the transition. Since then he’s been living a healthy and happy life true to himself.
A Final Word
I hope you read this and are inspired. That you’re reminded that everyone’s situation is unique. No two fertility journeys are the same. There are different motivations for freezing eggs just as there are different ways people become parents.
Today, and always, I hope that people know there are options for them. That whatever their situation might be there is a person to help them think through their fertility options.
If you love and want to bring love into the world then I am here to help you find a way.
Thank you for giving me a chance to share this story with you.