When I was a student at Princeton in the 90s, people advertised in the school paper for eggs. They were willing to pay as much as $80,000 for the eggs of Princeton students. More specifically, that was the price for eggs from young women with “blonde or light brown hair and blue eyes.” Women fitting my description (“brown hair, brown eyes, Jewish-looking”) could only get about $30,000 for their eggs. I never saw any ads for non-white eggs.
We girls talked about it around the dinner table. Nobody wanted to do it. It seemed shady. “It’s invasive,” said one girl. Another one said, “It could mess up your fertility later—it’s not as simple as they make it sound.” Back then I was idealistic and not motivated by money. That was also a place of privilege, because I had a lot of help with tuition and school costs. I thought about what it would be like to have a biological son or daughter out there, being raised in a New Jersey Jewish or Italian household, going to private school probably. I didn’t want to do it. I saw everything ahead of me—enough money, enough eggs, enough opportunity.
Years later, when a 401k was finally a thing that mattered to me, I thought about that long lost theoretical $30,000. I thought, “If I had invested that $30,000 back then and allowed it to compound, what sort of nest egg might I be on my way to having?” I also began to think, “What if I never have kids, and so it never mattered about keeping my own reproductive system in good shape?” The answers didn’t matter, because I would never have changed my thinking as a kid. It was all hardwired in to my youthful sense of self and integrity.
Now that I’m 37, I’ve spent years churning and cycling through different thoughts and mindsets about having kids. I’ve been single for several years, so I had to call my own bluff about wanting to have kids badly enough to want to be a single parent. I don’t think I do. Mostly, I’ve concluded that I can’t bear to be on the fence. That never having kids is better than this agony of waiting out your last child-bearing years in indecision, with the over-thinking and jealousy and fear and the feeling of being empty. At the end of the day, I am still more afraid of being a parent than of never being a parent. I mean, yeah – I hear there is great love involved, and also that you shouldn’t be ruled by your fears. That doesn’t mean I have the hubris to summon new life into the world.
My wandering back and forth across the line of wanting and not wanting kids has been milder lately, but I still flip flop several times a day. I think about pregnancy. I think about foster-to-adopt. I think about money and fatigue and danger and oceans of regret. Every day I build a case, watch it crumble, build an opposite case. I feel rattled, I feel bad about myself, and I retreat from the subject again. I’m alone with it, and it always seems to come down to the meaning of life and how we’re all hurtling toward death.
Today I heard a radio story about women my age and younger freezing their eggs. How much it costs. What it entails. What the big plan is. Without any dithering or doubt, I thought “I am NEVER doing that.” Twelve hours later, I feel the same way. I think I’m still going to feel this way when I wake up tomorrow.
After the radio made me realize I am unmotivated to see my DNA running around, I thought of all the times something on the radio has motivated me. I’ll hear something and want to rush to produce some answering expression of my own. But I don’t want to reproduce. I know I’m not supposed to freeze my eggs and that any resulting sadness will be livable. I might just bloom too late for things, but I know I’m interested in all of us who are here now. In a few years, maybe I’ll see how much room is in my personal life boat—and whether it seems like I should try to fish someone else out of the muddy water and towel them dry.