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Chronic Disease Chronicle

How Much Money Did My Unborn Child Make You?

I’ve never been much of a privacy nut. I figured I came of age too far into surveillance capitalism to ever truly recapture the dignity of my own body. I thought the classic tag joke “Your Privacy Is An Illusion” on Gawker was genuinely funny. What was the worst that could happen to me?

I was an early adopter of quantified self. The industry’s rise dovetailed just well enough with the security Obamacare provided. By outlawing insurance companies from discriminating against preexisting conditions I figure it was safe to use my data to improve my health now. Prior to that I engaged in various bits of dodging having my chronic conditions logged avoiding telling doctors I took even the most banal of medications. After it passed I joyfully logged everything.

In hindsight, this may have slowly shifted my mindset towards my own commodification. Again, an issue never at the forefront of my mind as I worked in aesthetics. My job has often relied on putting metrics on the physical ephemera of bodies. But the inexorable progression of viewing my body as a commodity led me to a terrible choice: I froze my eggs.

At the time my husband and I were busy with careers. We had the disposable income to “buy an insurance policy” that would allow us to treat a life altering decision like having children with the casual mindset of buying an insurance product or making a moderately sized investment decision.

We were referred to the “La Mer” of fertility clinics by a friend who had successfully conceived through their help. Mind you we didn’t know if we had fertility issues, this was purely about optionality. Indeed genetic testing didn’t reveal anything shocking. We did it because we thought “why not, it’s just some money” as we may regret not having saved ourselves the option. God damn we were stupid. We got sucked into the marketing hype.

Freezing my eggs was invasive in a way I simply couldn’t conceive ahead of time. No pun intended. I thought it was some extra time and drugs. At every step of the process our fears and questions were allayed with the utmost professionalism. It felt like we were buying a mutual fund. Sure there were some risks but really we were investing in our future. It’s only now that I realize if I thought it was such a wise investment why were both sides so clearly invested in the transaction closing? Surely at some point someone would have pointed out it’s not without risks. And it’s also not remotely guaranteed. The cohort of women in my social circle were all sold on the benefits of egg freezing with its potential to finally liberate us (from what who knows) only to find it was just another product that had a high price tag physically and emotionally.

You see pregnant women are worth a lot of money to data brokers and advertisers. So of course the people at the start of that arc are going to cash in on that land grab. The clinic was getting upwards of $30,000 from a few months of care from me. Plus a subscription fee to keep them on ice. No wonder the egg freezing game is quickly becoming a status symbol for the upwardly mobile making it just another purchase for well funded venture backed millennial girl bosses.

I’m honestly astonished no one said a fucking thing. Not a peep. Maybe you should talk to a counselor. Here is what could go wrong. Here is how you might feel. Here are some of the outlier cases of how these hormones might impact me. Where were the angry right to life folks when I needed them? Because I wasn’t a picture of health. I’d struggled with some inflammatory conditions as a kid along with a never ending parade of “allergies” and aches and pains I mostly ignored with an Advil. But no one ever brought up that being stimulated to produce eggs for harvesting might set off a chain reaction with my latent autoimmune complaints. Highly unlikely. It’s just not discussed.

And so I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. Except that it was. After two rounds of retrieval (11 eggs of which a portion are fertilized) life was supposed to go back to normal. Except that it didn’t. Slowly but over time I became quite sick. I developed an autoimmune disorder that leaves me in constant chronic pain. I had to sell my startup and stop working entirely.

It’s still not definitive that the hormone treatments kicked off my illness but the endocrinologist and the rheumatologist tell me it’s the most likely culprit. So what I want to know is who made money off my unborn children? That I may never have as three years later my health has not fully recovered. Who Profited off my poor health. Who thought this was a consumer product. And why oh why was I dumb enough to believe them. My best guess? The business of birth is simply too lucrative for us to treat it any other way. I’m just another outlier. And someone else will use those eggs and unwittingly trap their kids into the next cycle of datafication and commodity childhood.