On a date night a few years back, my (now ex-) husband put his hands on my shoulders, looked into my eyes and told me lovingly, “Amy, I will never leave you.”
But the morning after his proclamation, his expression looked quite different when he told me “We have to talk.” Seemingly overnight, he was done with our marriage. Two days later, he’d signed divorce papers and jetted off to the Caribbean on vacation with his family.
I was shocked to my core. The life and love I had thought were solid suddenly crumbled in my hands, turning to a dust that slipped through my fingers and drifted out of sight. Everywhere I looked, every sound, every smell reminded me of what was gone: my husband, my security, the future we’d planned. The biggest offender was my engagement ring.
It was a cushion-cut diamond solitaire, just over two carats. Simple and elegant. He’d chosen cushion-cut because it had rounded corners and wouldn’t get damaged when I bumped into things, as I tend to do (a lot). He’d opted for one single stone so that food wouldn’t get caught in it when I cooked, which I also did a lot. I was touched that he’d chosen something was from the heart and meant just for me. When we got it appraised, I learned that I’d be walking around with a diamond on my finger that cost almost as much as I’d earned my first year out of college.
The truth is, it could have been a Ring Pop for all I cared. I valued its meaning, not its price tag.
After my marriage ended it took me a few months to pick myself up off the floor. When I did, I found myself 35 years old and suddenly single. We’d tried to have kids when we were married, but it had never happened for us. Now here I was, on my own, with the window to safely have children getting smaller each day.
To me, a ticking biological clock was not a good enough reason to jump into a relationship with the wrong person. I needed to take back the control that I had lost and the ring was the key. I decided to sell it and use the money to freeze my eggs. What had once symbolized everlasting love and commitment would now buy me freedom and peace of mind.
The egg-freezing process was overwhelming and scary. I came home from the pharmacy and laid out the necessary medications and supplies on the kitchen counter. Needles of all sizes, syringes, pills, powders and even a medical waste disposal container of my very own.
Several days a week I’d trek to the fertility clinic and see familiar faces in the waiting room, women going through the same process, whether to bank their eggs or to start IVF. We became a sort of silent support group, greeting each other with small nods and half smiles as we each waited our turn to get poked with needles and probed with ultrasound wands.
I was required to mix and prepare medications that I had to inject into my body in the morning and the evening. The first time I had to stick myself, I stood with the needle hovering an inch above my skin for a good five minutes. I thought, “This is why women are supposed to have partners when they go through this.” It was yet another reminder that I was now going through life alone, but it was also a turning point for me; I didn’t think I could do it, but I did. I was finding my way, figuring out how to navigate difficult situations on my own again.
Every day my body became less mine and more a vessel in which to grow healthy eggs. When I finally went in to do the retrieval, my belly was so swollen that I looked like I was six months pregnant. Afterwards I felt elated and unburdened, until the pain meds wore off. For a week following the procedure I was bleeding and cramping so much I could barely leave the house. It was agonizing and lonely, but it was done. Biological clock stopped.
I emerged on the other side with 23 eggs. (The doctors joked that they’d looked for one more egg to make it an even two dozen.) I call them my 23 potential children, and they currently reside safely in a cryogenic freezer in Philadelphia.
I may never need them, but I am comforted to know they are there if I do. Maybe I’ll get pregnant naturally someday, or maybe I’ll decide that I don’t want to have children after all. Whatever happens, I’ve been empowered with a self-made freedom that is worth more than any diamond. Even a two-carat cushion-cut solitaire.