I’m Queer, Single, Uncertain About Kids, and Freezing My Eggs

All-year round icicle Christmas lights. The rainbow kind. Stained wood floors and tables. Flowers picked from just outside. The tatted barista whistling at a Snow White caliber overtop French music unrecognizable to Shazam. Stucco walls covered in local art that surprises and delights. Sipping my latte while I submit receipts for Pregnyl, Menopur, Gonal-F, and the rest of the crew. It’s a Friday morning in late May before the work rush.

The company I’ve worked at for over four years added a benefit of reimbursement up to $10,000 (highly taxed) for egg freezing. Nearly 32, this idea had been humming in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t ready to commit to the cost. Even with this new coverage, and only going for one retrieval cycle, it came to $6,000 out of pocket (plus $625 annually to store), 19 self-injections and seven visits downtown. I’m not even certain that I want to have a kid.

With three serious adult relationships in my rearview, I’m a single, queer woman living in San Francisco. This year, apparently, I celebrated Pride by giving myself more assurance I could start a family and have my own gene-sharing tot, regardless of my future partner. I’m not alone in that quest. This elective, pricey procedure is on the rise in the U.S. It’s a pain and a privilege.

I recently learned the word “interdigitate” from a surgeon. It means “to interlock the fingers of two clasped hands.” That felt like what I did with myself. I held my own damn hand. Lighting a candle and injecting yourself in the abdomen every night for two weeks for your potential future family feels like you’re holding your own hand.

Romanticize your life, they say.

When I finish my shots, I treat myself to a long shower and some peanut butter Quadratinis. It’s my version of a lollipop at the doctor.

Parent yourself first, I say.

It feels like the hardest choice in the world. On the one hand, I want to be this TikTok mom, her kid adorably drawing out their awake time together, “Do you love my heart bro? Do you love my eyes bro? Goodniiiiiight bro.” On the other hand, I find myself tired managing my own simple life — work, exercise, cleaning my apartment, laundry, seeing friends, traveling some, doing my taxes, going to the dentist, cultivating hobbies. The 24/7 of it all, with kids, is unimaginable.

I’ve heard an idea that builds on “you can’t have it all.” It goes, “you can’t have it all at the same time.” So, the question becomes: What do I want to prioritize and when?

Legs crossed. Blundstone twitching. Waiting to be called for blood work. I turned the pages of the quote book. Those always feel cheesy. The elevator music of books. But this one stuck with me. From the last line of Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison wrote, “If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.”

But what if the air is thick with the particles of patriarchy and it’s smokey as hell? How do I know what’s real to me when the air I breathe isn’t mine?

People like to assert, “if it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a no,” especially when it comes to romance. It feels truer for having kids. Because you can’t take that back. But is “hell yes” a fair bar?

There’s a mountain of factors to weigh and the need to come to peace with a lot of uncertainties. Whose sperm? Whose love? How do you feel about being pregnant and birthing? Then there’s the risk of miscarriage. Of postpartum. Identity whiplash. Emotional bandwidth. Not knowing what the future holds in terms of access to water and vegetables and human rights and a breathable outdoors. The fear of getting isolated and nuclear even if you want to be a village. And then there’s holding your palms open to hope and joy and the teeny tiny feet that can usher in more hope and more joy than you ever thought possible (that’s what they say!).

There are books to help you think through the subject. I’ve started So When Are You Having Kids? By Jordan Davidson. I plan to read The Baby Decision by Merle A. Bombardieri. I’m sure there are many more. Sound off in the comments.

I do think there’s this extra layer of questions when you’re queer. And being a later-in-life queer means my zigging & zagging got delayed. But at least I can bring some certainty to the fertility side of things with egg freezing. Finding your life partner can’t be timed. Sometimes it’s loving and learning and loving again and learning again and loving again, and, and, and biological clocks just don’t give a shit.

“You’ll feel a little pressure,” the nurse says, just before the transvaginal ultrasound probe. I was tempted to make a joke about the vaginal, biological, societal pressure triad, but didn’t know how to land it. Still don’t.

Flash forward to the morning of the retrieval. Alarm went off at 5:45. I touched water to my lips but didn’t swallow (recovering rule-follower). Got in a Lyft and made it to the clinic by 6:35 a.m. A fuschia mask-wearing, eye-smiling woman greeted me with, “big day!!!!” I was brought to the side of the floor I’d never been to before. The serious side. I was greeted by more smiling eyes, escorted to my curtained off “room” and asked to change into my gown, the socks with the sticky bottoms, and a gorgeous blue hairnet.

“Take off your watch and jewelry. Empty your bladder.”

My nurse went through the paperwork, I signed that I wanted “full code” if something went wrong, and she hooked me up to the IV. The anesthesiologist came in to talk through the plan. I learned a low dose of fentanyl would be used. I asked about it, because I heard the girl in the “room” over asking and because I recently watched Dopesick on Hulu so opioid addiction was on my mind. She said there was another option, but it’s not as good. I said, give me the fentanyl, just don’t send me home with any. My doctor stopped by to introduce herself.

I was walked to the OR, weighed, then directed to put my butt into the hole on the table. There were a bunch of people walking around me, introducing themselves, making sure I could identify my name, birthday, and social security. There were tubes moving around. A mask was placed over my mouth. It tasted like purple, and I coughed. Simultaneously, two people manipulated my feet into the stirrups. My gown slid open, and I felt grossly exposed. In my mind I was saying, I don’t want to do this anymore, but that was never vocalized. Next thing I knew, I was in my “room” again and Cool Nurse asked if I wanted a straw for my Coke. I woke feeling blissed out. But then I went to scoot myself up on the bed, and it was excruciating. Like a nervy knife.

After snacking on my sleeve of Ritz, my doctor walked back in and asked how I was feeling. She said it went really well and flipped a sheet of paper to reveal my big number in blue sharpie. Comparison is the thief of joy. But it made me laugh. I felt like I was on a gameshow.

About 75% of the eggs you retrieve get fertilized. The more you retrieve, the more pain you feel. Twenty-four hours post-retrieval, I was carrying 10-pounds in water weight. It hurt to sit and to sit up. It felt like my giant enlarged ovaries were compressing my spine. Heat pads, all the Tylenol, and rewatching Insecure made it bearable. I’m so lucky I got enough eggs on round one to feel good about never doing this again. I’m so lucky I was not a patient at Yale Fertility Clinic, the centerpiece of the new podcast, The Retrievals, about the ~200 women given saline instead of fentanyl during their procedure. To experience the best case scenario and deeply wish to never go through it again makes you really feel for these patients, some of whom were alert enough to drive during the retrieval. Beyond the acute deception, their pain was repeatedly dismissed. This is a tale as old as time, and still, listening to their personal accounts rocked me.

Sixty hours post-op, my body was almost back to baseline. I took a shower and blasted The Dip to help reset. I got out, wrapped myself in a towel, and swayed. My eyes burned. I felt hot tears form. Mirrors steamed over. The warm hug of my tiny bathroom. Upbeat blues filled my pores. A slideshow sprinted across my mind. Some new characters. My trip to New York. The faces of love lost. Like I was in a jacuzzi kaleidoscope of my life, past, present, future. Like I was drowning, and surrendering to it felt sweet. Heels thumping into the bathmat. My estrogen levels were skyhigh from the hormone injections. I let it all wash over me. Let myself feel the way life happens to you. Not in a sad way. In a trusting way. My body reminding me that it’s got me. I think that’s what fancy folks would call a “somatic experience.” In the same way that touching grass and an open sky of stars can place you in your body and make you feel full. So can steamy small compartments. Big feels come in all-sized boxes.

About a week after the retrieval, on the Muni ride home, the car was packed with Giants fans commuting back from the game. An older woman with a cap covered in decades worth of pins met eyes with another swagged-out rider, “Sucks we didn’t win, but that was an exciting game.” She replied, “I want it all though.” The cap queen said, “Of course you do. You’re a woman.”

In Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar, Column #71, she advises someone torn on this very topic: to have a child or to not have a child. She says, “I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

We can’t have it all at the same time. Feeling grief doesn’t mean you made a wrong decision. It means you made a decision.

I’m back in the rainbow-lit coffeeshop, trying to metabolize the experience and figure out if it has tipped me one way or another. The truth is I still have a million existential questions and tactical knots to ponder. Like what is my purpose on this earth and does anyone have a template kid budget I can tool around with. But now, the rush to answers has become a little less rushy. And that’s really something for this zig-zagging me.

Carry on. Question on. Love on. Whatever you choose, know I’m saluting you from the shore.

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Julia Smith-Eppsteiner

Julia lives in San Francisco and is learning to write again.

Julia has written 3 articles for us.


  1. This is a really moving and excellent piece, thank you so much for sharing it! “ Feeling grief doesn’t mean you made a wrong decision. It means you made a decision.” is a line that will stick with me for a while

  2. Oh hey I am also queer and single and uncertain about kids and thinking about freezing my eggs! Thank you so much for your lovely writing, it’s great to read other people’s experiences with this whole reproduction thing.

  3. Book recommendation to add: The Panic Years by Nell Frizzell. A memoir about the time from late 20s and beyond where the question of whether and how and when to have children looms large. (From a cis woman who decided to get pregnant with her partner)

  4. Thank you for sharing this with us! I’ve been grappling with many of the same questions. This line especially resonates: “The fear of getting isolated and nuclear even if you want to be a village“

    • Thank you for sharing this beautifully written piece. You so beautifully capture the pain (or numbness?) that comes with uncertainty itself, along with the realities of a procedure that queers are I think increasingly going to have to face.

  5. This was beautifully written, thank you. I also had my eggs frozen this year (well, embryos) though thankfully had no pain from the procedure at all. One thing I didn’t know to expect was that the level of hormones stayed for a while – decreasing with each period but still having an impact for a few months after. I felt much less able to control my emotions. I do have a lot of other stress factors but getting better coincided so well with each period that I’m pretty sure it had a big impact. Hopefully hearing this will help anyone else going through the same thing. My wife will be doing the getting pregnant so it’s good to have a taste of the impact of hormones to hopefully be a better partner for her if the same thing happens.

    I could write a whole essay on my decision to (try to) have a kid. Certainty doesn’t feel achievable. Society is not designed for parents. I think if you’re entirely certain, and not someone with a strong body urge (which is an experience I can’t imagine), you probably don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on in the world! It will 100% make life harder, but I have to trust I will be good at it (everyone else is convinced) and it will make life much better too.

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