We don't need "Baby Mama" -- the new movie starring Tina Fey as a successful, single, infertile mommy wannabe -- to tell us increasing numbers of women are using unusual methods to secure career and family with or without men.
In case you haven't seen the trailer yet, a doctor tells the film's heroine that while her eggs are healthy, her uterus is not up to the task. Cue in the ridiculously juvenile blond surrogate.
Yet for most women in Fey's character's position, the opposite is true. Barring fibroids and other abnormalities, the average uterus can stay viable indefinitely. Eggs, on the other hand, have a definite expiration date. On the extreme end, some researchers say they start losing their verve before a woman turns 30.
The "career girl's" baby dilemma -- so cliche, so true. You attend school with men, embark on careers, go out for drinks and imagine that your futures will share similar trajectories.
It's easy to think that way when you're strong and shiny and blissfully unaware that by the time you're 35 (the new 25, right?) your fertility is sliding like a novice down a sheer rock face.
Cue in the egg freezers. Sperm has been banked in the United States since the '60s, but until recently the storage of a woman's unfertilized eggs has been next to impossible. That's because eggs, with their high water content, have a tendency to produce destructive ice crystals.
That was before Eleanora Porcu.Three years ago the Italian endocrinologist figured out a slow-freeze method involving a patented cyroprotectant (protective freezer juice, in lay terms) which, boosters report, has dramatically expanded women's options.
Now, in theory, a 32-year-old woman on the partner track with no acceptable sperm in sight and no time to date can bank her eggs for later. When she's 40, with cash in the bank and maybe even an adoring partner, she can have her eggs defrosted and fertilized.
Ronald Dworkin, a bioethicist who last year wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal comparing advances in egg freezing to the advent of the birth control pill, says the hypothetical 32-year-old has a better chance of getting pregnant with her young, previously frozen eggs than she does with her fresh but battered 40-year-old eggs. He's but one of a growing number of true believers.
Even better, from some perspectives, is the prospect of a 21-year-old go-getter harvesting her eggs while they're at their rosiest and making a deposit -- thereby exempting herself from the tired old career girl's dilemma.
"That's my fantasy," said Marla Libraty of Extend Fertility, the market leader in egg freezing. "I wish every woman would bank her own eggs."
Libraty, however, not wishing to fuel a stereotype distasteful to some, takes pains to add that not all of Extend Fertility's clients use its services because they wish to delay childbirth for professional reasons. Many do so out of medical necessity.
Still, in one version of utopia, young women not unlike the fresh-faced models featured on Laterbaby.org -- a Web site sponsored by Extend -- will be as free as their male counterparts to pursue grad school and high-powered careers untethered to a cantankerous old biological clock.