As a 40-year-old happily pregnant woman who froze her eggs at age 37 in a desperate attempt to preserve her fertility, I find myself baffled and bewildered over the current controversy surrounding Apple and Facebook's decisions to cover the costs of the procedure for their employees. I've seen headlines in the New York Times, Forbes, Business Insider, and NPR to name just a few media outlets. To me, it feels a bit like false hype. Then again, when I posted to Facebook about how fabulous this news is in terms of women's rights and women's health, I got pushback from a few female friends saying they don't support the policy, and it shocked me.
The argument against coverage for egg freezing goes like this: These companies are just trying to get women to postpone childbearing so that they can get more productivity out of their female employees. It's just another sign of how biased the corporate world is against women and motherhood. The Daily Beast wrote: "It's hard not to perceive the inclusion of egg freezing coverage as an attempt to squeeze more value out of women before they abandon the industry altogether." A Business Insider article quoted a female tech networking company founder as saying, ""My phone has been ringing off the hook with women who found it insulting."
Insulting? Are you kidding me? What is going on here?
In my humble opinion, this condemnation of the egg freezing benefit is cynical and ridiculous. Why can't we just be grateful for companies wanting to offer coverage of an expensive out-of-pocket healthcare procedure and, even more importantly, provide women with more options about what to do with their bodies?
First off, let's talk about the biological reality of fertility. Men do not suffer the same constraints on childbearing as do women. Period. Men can have a family whenever they like, waiting until they're 40, 50 or even 60 to have children. Women do not have that same luxury given the hard fact that their fertility steeply declines after age 35. Offering women the option -- not requiring or even recommending it, but just saying, hey, we'll pay for this $10-$12,000 procedure up to $20,000 -- gives employees of these companies a choice to wait. This is great news!
Second, let's discuss the idea that these selfish corporations are sending a message to their employees about not having kids because they "want their most productive years." This is a completely irrational argument given that these very same companies have for years paid for multiple rounds of IVF, surrogates, adoption and other expensive pro-childbearing medical procedures and practices! Furthermore, Facebook, for instance, offers four months of paid parental leave, which is pretty great for America (if not compared to Europe). Both companies have on-site healthcare, and Facebook subsidizes daycare. So are you really going to try to argue that the companies don't support employees having families?
If I were as young as 25 years old, not to mention over 30, and working at Apple or Facebook, and I knew that I wanted a family but wouldn't be ready to start one in the next few years because either a) I was enjoying my work too much or b) I hadn't found the right partner or c) I just wasn't there yet for whatever reason... I would definitely take advantage of this new policy and freeze my eggs. I mean, why not?
I did, in fact, freeze my eggs at age 37 when I found myself panicked about not being able to have kids. And it wasn't because of work, as so many of these articles seem to suggest. The only reason I was waiting was because I hadn't created the life I wanted with a loving, committed partner. So I paid for the egg freezing out of my own pocket -- and I would have loved to have an employer cover the expenses for me. Just six months later, freed from the anxiety and stress of "the ticking clock," I united with the love of my life. We were married and trying to get pregnant just six months after that.
While it didn't work out for me to use those frozen eggs due to exceptional circumstances, I nevertheless have recommended the procedure to dozens of women because it significantly improves your chances of getting pregnant with your own biological children down the road and because it offers you control -- a way to give yourself the gift of more time.
Again: This egg freezing coverage isn't an order coming from Silicon Valley corporations... It is a just an option. But one that, if you know you want to be a mom, is definitely worth considering and appreciating. What's the controversy in that?