This year, hundreds of people froze their eggs in Australia. Some did it because they feared they were running out of time to find the right partner. Others did it to preserve their fertility before cancer treatment.
Cody did it to ensure his transition to become a man would not disrupt his goal of becoming a parent one day.
It was a big step in a process that has had many highs and lows for the 24-year-old architecture student. And now that it’s finished, he’s excited to have 29 eggs in storage - enough to give him a 90% chance of having a baby with somebody he loves one day.
“Whatever ends up happening, I feel like it’s an investment,” he says.
There’s a chance he might end up trying for a baby with Samantha, his girlfriend who supported him through the egg freezing process. From day one, the pair have had open discussions about their mutual desire to have children in future and the need for a sperm donor.
“I was worried that I might find a partner who really liked me but wanted biological children,” Cody says, reflecting on some of the thoughts he had while coming out as a queer, transgender man.
But Samantha, a queer woman who has previously been in same-sex relationships, had already come to terms with that.
“I could say without a shadow of doubt that I want to be a mum one day,” she says. “But having children that are biologically mine was never something I had settled on.”
Cody and Samantha describe their relationship as heterosexual. They’re part of a generation who have had to gently educate people about their identities and relationships. But sometimes it feels like the world hasn’t caught up.
While Cody has mostly encountered healthcare workers who respect him and understand the sensitivities of medical treatment for transgender men, there have been some difficult moments.
For example, when he arrived at a private hospital to have his egg collection procedures, the staff always presumed Samantha was the patient. And when Cody chose to have “top surgery” in 2018, to alter his chest to become more masculine, there was only one surgeon in town available to do it.
Having said that, Cody says the egg freezing process took a long time but was relatively smooth. To freeze his eggs, he had to stop taking testosterone — the hormone that helps him feel like himself — for nine months.
When Cody started taking testosterone four years ago, his voice lowered, his shoulders became broader, his menstrual cycle stopped, and he grew thicker, curlier hair.
The treatment completely changed his life.
“I felt more confident… Before testosterone I would never speak in public because I hated the sound of my voice and felt it ‘outed’ me,” he says.
And so it was stressful to come off testosterone and feel his body change again. He had to wait about six months for his hormones to settle down so he could start taking fertility medicines to stimulate egg production. During that six months, he lost weight and felt more lethargic and more emotional than usual.
“That was the worst of it. The waiting. I was thinking what if all of this is for nothing? What if something goes wrong?”
But by the time he was injecting the daily hormones required for the egg collection procedure, he felt like he was on a mission to achieve something important. In the end, he had three months of hormone treatment to collect eggs in three separate procedures. After the third operation, he could start his testosterone injections again to return to his true self.
While Cody has no immediate plans to use his eggs, he feels confident they will be used in future. And he likes the idea of telling his child how much planning and investment went into their life during a pandemic.
“If you’re happy to pay for them 10 years before they’re even born, you know you really want them!” he says. “IVF babies are always wanted”.
For anybody considering transition or who has already transitioned, Cody recommends finding a GP who advertises themselves as trans-friendly. And if it’s financially feasible, he says it might be less stressful to freeze eggs before starting testosterone therapy, so you don’t have to come off it for many months and then start again.
He also recommends doing some research and asking questions about where you can access fertility treatment because you might be able to get it cheaper with government rebates or other funding through different services.
Cody says he was extremely lucky to receive funding for his egg freezing. The whole process cost him about $200 because he had a healthcare card due to the pandemic and a referral to the Royal Women’s Hospital. He now has to pay $500 a year for storage. For him, it’s a small price to pay for something so precious.
For more information about how to improve your chance of conception and a healthy baby, visit yourfertility.org.au.