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Dreams on Ice

Brigitte Adams '94.

When actress Marisa Tomei—playing the part of Mona Lisa Vito in the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinny—famously stomped her foot and declared, “My biological clock is ticking!,” she coined an instant classic movie quote. But the fact that she’s still quoted today, a full 20 years and an entire generation of women later, may be a sign that many women can relate to that nagging, ticking biological clock. In fact, it may be center stage more than ever.

As women enter and navigate their 30s, that infamous biological clock starts ticking more loudly and the window on healthy, viable eggs and natural pregnancy begins to close, for some rapidly. Meanwhile, life is different for today’s generation of women. Taking the time to pursue higher education, forge a career, and (eventually) find a partner have delayed, for some, the prospect of motherhood. Put off motherhood for too long, though, and it may not happen at all. Brigitte Adams ’94, founder of Eggsurance.com, is one of those women.

A marketing consultant for tech companies, Adams found herself in an unexpected place. “I was at a point in my life where a lot things I never thought would happen did,” she says. Most importantly, “I really thought I was losing time, and am I ever going to meet anyone and have the traditional family unit I’ve always wanted.”

Enter egg freezing, the process of harvesting and storing healthy eggs now, in the hopes of having a biological child later. One health blog called it “hitting the snooze button” on the biological clock. TIME called it putting “a dream on ice.”

Adams—who recently turned 40—first considered freezing some of her eggs at age 37. Researchers had recently pioneered a new “fast freeze” egg vitrification procedure that boasts a much higher success rate than earlier “slow freeze” methods. Adams researched her options, but waited. One year later, she was in the same position, with her clock still ticking. “Now was the time,” she says. At nearly age 39, she froze 11 eggs. “It’s not a guarantee that you’ll get pregnant. But it was a huge psychological lift, a weight off my shoulders, the possibility that you can get pregnant sometime in the future.”

One thing became very clear during her search for information: few resources existed, and the ones that did offered up their info piecemeal. And so Adams launched Eggsurance.com, a comprehensive, one-stop-shop for egg freezing information, plus a database of clinics across the country. When Eggsurance officially launched in May 2012, it was one of the first (and still few) websites dedicated to the topic. It’s a crash course in Egg Freezing 101—what is it, why do it, how does it work, how much does it cost, what to expect. There’s also a blog and community forum.

Eggsurance.com helps women understand the journey of the egg freezing process.

Egg freezing, and Eggsurance.com, offer an option, says Adams, “for women who want to get pregnant at some point, but not right now.” Her motivation for launching the site was born of her own journey. “I was really quite ignorant to aspects of my own fertility,” she explains. “I wanted to get some education out there and start that conversation. If I had known then what I know now, I would have done this earlier.”

To wit, egg freezing awareness is on the rise. In the wake of the launch of Eggsurance.com, the New York Times, TIME, and Jezebel all ran stories. Adams has helped to spur what she calls “a personal conversation about your own fertility.”

That conversation is reaching a broad demographic: single women uncertain about their future, married women who want kids but not yet, even prospective grandparents exploring the option for a daughter.

Just as Anne-Marie Slaughter questioned whether women can, in fact, have it all in her recent Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Adams suggests that, hopefully, yes they can … with the aid of technology and deferred parenthood. “In the context of women doing it all, or high-achieving women who have a career and the perfect relationship, waiting is the new normal,” Adams says. Having children is still a priority, she says, “but we’re pushing it back. Maybe you can have it all, but it takes planning, and knowing about your body, and timing, and availing yourself of technology that could help you.”

Of course, Adams readily admits, getting pregnant via frozen eggs isn’t the goal. Natural conception remains the overwhelming preference. As the Eggsurance name implies, it’s a backup plan. And while it may not be a guarantee, for many—including Adams—it’s an option worth exploring, and a conversation worth having.

–Peter Bronski

Images courtesy Brigitte Adams / Eggsurance.com.