Wednesday, August 1, 2007

IVF then.

On Monday this week, 30 July, Sue and I made a very important decision. I won't share it with you just yet because it would mean revealing the outcome of all this fertility lark (to date) and I kind of want to avoid that because part of the slog of fertility treatment is not knowing what the outcome will be, so I would like this blog to be read without the reader knowing too. I hope that makes sense...?

Ok, back to the story – no doubt very good, but personality defficient private doctor number 1 is now out the window. No way am I going to pay someone to treat me like that, there are far too many emotions involved already for that sort of messing around.

A bit of research with the HFEA's clinic guide and a personal recommendation or two later, we make an appointment with another private clinic in London. We go, doctor is lovely. He even has a book on the shelves behind him with a title something along the lines of "The Emotional Side of Infertility". I'm sold. Even if he's pretending and hasn't opened the stupid book. The whole question of Hydrosalpinx is raised again and although Doctor No. 2 knows Doctor No. 1 and Scan Man, and has no reason no doubt either of their findings, he decides to scan me himself to verify the condition of my tubes. Hydrosalpinx is very visible (I believe) even with a 2d scan. He sees no evidence of Hydrosalpinx. To be sure however, he asks me to come back a week or so later at a different point in my cycle, to double check that it is not present. I do. It isn't.

IVF then.

Your first cycle of IVF (or ICSI or whatever) is almost great. Because finally, after months of tests, results and appointments to discuss things, you are doing something that may result in a baby. You discuss the protocol with the doctor, you get your schedule, you collect the hormones, they show you how to inject yourself with a fake belly, you stick the timetable on your fridge and you start marking off the days, one by one.

The first injections are terrifying. I was obsessed with the air bubbles and making sure the syringes were bubble-free (almost impossible especially when with sweaty nervous fumbly palms you drop them on the floor a few times) in order not to die from an air bubble making it's way to my heart. Dramatic, yes. But those are the places the mind goes when suddenly you are immersed in a medical world. But I was also surprised, pleasantly, at how thin the needles are and how easily they slide into your flesh. Like a hot knife into butter. For the next 2-3 weeks this is what your life is about: injections, scans and blood tests. Work is something you do along the way. I was very VERY lucky to have incredibly understanding bosses (one of whom had experienced infertility therefore knew directly what I was undergoing) which meant I didn't have to lie and cover up why I might be behaving oddly, and why I was coming and going every other day.

At this point, cycle number one, you are filled with hope and that hope carries you a long way. It carries you through the pain of sticking needles in yourself every day and having little bruises all over your legs and belly, of going for appointments, of having your life governed by this medical procedure when other people just get to have a shag. In my case, having been told by all doctors that I was a great candidate for IVF, I was brimming with hope and optimism, certain that I was on the path to having a baby, that it was now in my reach. I specifically waited to do it during August so that it was warm and life felt more relaxed.

I responded well to the hormones, very well in fact, to the point where toward the end of the hormonal stimulation phase (and I was on the short protocol anyway) they had to coast me to avoid Ovarian Hyperstimulation. I apparently had a 'beautiful' uterus and ovaries that looked like the surface of the moon, follicles a-go-go. I was drinking enough Evian to pee pure mineral water and I was feeling frankly good all things considered. They told me I was ready for the egg collection, the final injection was given to me with strict instructions on what time to have it, and told me to bring myself in on Sunday morning 7am, food and drink-free from midnight.

Apparently drinking lots of water helps during the hormonal stimulation, especially when you have lots of follicles. It's something to do with pockets of fluid left behind when the eggs are harvested, being well irrigated means you are less likely to suffer ovarian hyperstimulation following the egg collection. Drink 2-3 litres per day. Treat yourself, buy in Evian from the supermarket to make it easier.

Saturday felt like a national holiday. A day without drugs. No blood test, no internal scan, no toing and froing between the clinic and work, no needles. But it was the calm before the storm. I had never been under general anasthetic, but because I had so many follicles they would have to knock me out completely as egg collection would take while, too long to be kept conscious. I arrived with Sue, we're both incredibly nervous, you kind of don't know what to do with yourself. At this point you realise how important it is that you trust the clinic in whose care you are, it's imperative.

I get called, I say bye to Sue as he goes upstairs to have his special moment. I go to the room attached to the surgery room, I undress, go in, lie on the bed and see nothing but the shiny metal stirrups staring at me. You start lying flat on your back but you know that very soon, your feet will be up there... it's a very wierd thought that you will be unconscious and someone will whip your legs up and be fiddling around, down there, with your mimsy. I'm a strange mixture of calm and terrified. The anasthetist chats inanely and I feel the cold curtain of blackness descend.

... Next: post-egg collection and all that goes with it.

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