Defining Mum

4. IVF – Cycling Without Stabilisers

The arrival of the drugs along with the associated needles, syringes, vial snappers and sharps bins was particularly overwhelming. The huge box that arrived reflected that I was on a high dose of ‘stims’ to shock my ovaries into producing something…anything. As much as I was excited about the prospect of becoming pregnant, the practicality and realisation of what I was embarking upon suddenly dawned on me. I’d been terrified of needles since the tender age of 11, ever since sliding down the wall of the GP surgery reception (post MMR jab) and the wall of Mrs Adams’ French classroom (post TB jab) to the sound of “euugghh, Miss, she’s gone green!”. I couldn’t bear to inject myself but thankfully Matt overcame his own initial reluctance and agreed to ‘jab’ me each evening. Switching sides of my poor stomach every night, our routine involved me lying back singing Estelle’s ’American Boy’ at the top of my lungs whilst Matt did his ‘pinch, inject, relax, remove’ routine that he’d memorised from the clinic nurse.

Having barely grasped the basics, day two of ‘stims’ saw us off to a friend’s wedding, as if our new routine wasn’t complicated enough! I made my excuses about not drinking and offered a lift to a couple of friends. Ironically, I can imagine some eyebrows were raised in thinking that I might be pregnant – oh how I wished that was the case! As I drove into the car park I’d imagine they probably thought it quite bizarre that I headed for the furthest, darkest corner I could find. Post meal, pre-first dance, we made our escape to the car. In we climbed, reclined the passenger seat, hitched up my dress and did what we needed to do to make a baby! Straight after we were back on the dance floor, giggling about our little secret escapade with a slight sting in my stomach from the injection site.

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It was at this wedding that I first held my close friend’s week old, beautiful baby girl. Here I am, full of hope (with a tinge of sadness) cuddling this precious little girl. With such a mixture of emotions, in that moment I knew that a baby was everything that I wanted. I knew that, as daunting as the IVF process was, I would do anything that was necessary so that I could soon be holding our own baby in my arms.

For those who aren’t familiar with the IVF process, I should probably explain the basic steps within a cycle so that I don’t lose you completely. (Please note that I am not a medical professional so I would advise you not to take this too literally!) We’d already had all of the tests to ensure we were eligible. Then followed a blood test on day 3 of my cycle to check my FSH level, our consultant wanted this to be below 10 to proceed. At 10.1 they agreed to go ahead – phew. I then had to take an equivalent to the contraceptive pill (how ironic when you’re trying to get pregnant) to bring on a period at the correct time. This was before starting the stimulation drugs to kick start my ovaries into producing as many follicles as possible. The follicles are like gold dust, it is within these that lay precious eggs. Regular monitoring scans every few days review the number and size of these follicles before determining the best time to pull the ‘trigger’. This is another injection administered 36 hours prior to egg collection in order to ripen the follicles before collecting the eggs. I just needed my body to respond to the ‘stims’ and actually produce some follicles.

With my extra tiny ovaries being impossible to find, it meant that every invasive, internal monitoring scan involved me in pain, lying on my fists, having to listen to yet another sonographer tell me how ‘hard to find’ and miniscule my ovaries were! Despite this pain, my excitement every time we saw a follicle developing was almost as if I had seen our baby for the first time at a 12-week scan. Every single one gave me hope. I’d phone Matt and my Mum brimming with excitement on my way into work post 7am scan. To me, each follicle increased our chances and was potentially my 50% contribution to our baby, bringing us one step closer to our goal.

Egg collection came around quickly. Having thankfully never needed to be in hospital before, the idea of being sedated was daunting, although everything seemed insignificant when I wanted a baby so badly. What I didn’t realise was that Matt wouldn’t be able to be with me the whole time. He was taken to a different part of the clinic to produce his sample (the easy bit I would say!) whilst I nervously waited to go into theatre. Matt would be waiting for me in the recovery room as I returned.

Sleepily coming around from the sedation, still slurring my words, I tentatively asked how it had gone. 5 eggs. They had predicted 1, maybe 2, 3 at best. I thought I had misheard. 5 EGGS! I was ecstatic and very proud of my tiny ovaries.

The next step was now totally outside of my control and something I really am not very good at…waiting. Our eggs were left in the hands of a modern version of Mother Nature in a laboratory 30 miles away as we anxiously waited to find out whether any had fertilised.

Of the 5 eggs collected, 3 were mature.

Of the 3 mature eggs, 2 had fertilised.

In my mind it was a terrible 60% failure rate. My much more optimistic husband however saw it from a different perspective – a 40% success rate. His glass half full outlook was the perfect balance to my knee-jerk emotional responses many times throughout our struggle. He made me see the positives when I was really losing all hope.

Of the 2 that fertilised, only 1 made it to day 3 to be transferred.

On transfer day, we excitedly went to meet our little embryo. I took the advice ‘to have a full bladder’ far far too literally. Whilst I had hoped for a magical experience, in reality it was so uncomfortable. My bladder was so full, if I had relaxed in the slightest I am pretty sure I would have embarrassed myself! After transfer, whilst the nurse (rather surprisingly) popped a pessary somewhere I did not expect, I desperately asked when I could go to the loo. I wanted to wait as long as possible, being terrified that the embryo would fall out! As uncomfortable as it was, I would have held that wee forever if it had meant we’d have that baby.

And that was it, I was officially PUPO (Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise) as the fertility forums called it. The only thing we could do now was hope and wait…

NEXT POST – Testing My Resolve

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