My name is Ellen McCarthy Rosenthal. I was 30, single, and working as the wedding reporter for The Washington Post. A few months earlier I’d gone through a breakup on the same day I was hired for this most amorous of newspaper beats. It was a perfect cliche-and-Chardonnay-filled storm. I spent my days immersed in the glories of other people’s wedded bliss — and my nights staring out at my fire escape, distraught that I might never experience lasting love.
The problem wasn’t just that I wanted to find a life partner — something I’d always envisioned — it was that I felt I needed to find him immediately. Because, of course, the clock was ticking! Thirty was far from old, but I was forever doing the mental math: Even if I meet the right guy today, a couple of years of dating, plus an engagement period and a little time being married means I’ll be in my mid-30s by the time I even start trying to conceive.
And there is almost nothing we can do about it — almost. We have in vitro fertilization and other fertility treatments, costly and not available to most, but a godsend for the families who’ve born children as a result. And there is egg-freezing highly imperfect, relatively new and wildly expensive. But it’s what we’ve got.
My new book, “The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life From a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook,” is filled with the wisdom of the couples and relationship experts I met on the beat. In it, I urge single readers to do whatever they can to quell the panic — or at least beat it back. Maybe that means talk therapy, or Transcendental Meditation, or some new creative passion. Whatever allows you to live life with more ease in this moment, without worrying so much about what might happen in the future.
Naturally, I met the man who would become my husband while I was saving up to freeze my eggs. It’s not that easy to tell a guy you’ve been dating for only a few months that you’re planning to put your future children on ice. Especially a younger guy who, at 28, wasn’t spending a lot of time thinking about the female reproductive system. But Aaron was deeply supportive — and frankly relieved. This gave us some leeway to let the relationship develop on its own timetable, without the perpetual nagging of my biological clock.
And of course, the outcomes you fear most usually don’t come to pass. I recent just gave birth to our second child within two years. This one was a total, delightful surprise. Infertility, it turns out, is not my problem. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of other issues to keep my neuroses humming.)
I don’t know if we will ever inseminate any of the 13 eggs sitting in a freezer in Rockville. (My mom has named one of them Gigi.) But I wave to them whenever I drive by on I-270. I like to think they will be of use somehow in this world, and I’m already grateful for what they’ve done for me. For more than four years, they’ve given me some crucial peace of mind.
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