The IVF round had taken a total of five months, seven pre-treatment appointments (with various nurses and consultants), fifteen blood tests, twenty-three injections, five ultrasounds, £13,500, and there we were . . .
It was the moment of truth! The eggs were about to be harvested.
I walked into the small, cramped theatre and glanced nervously around
Bland sterile walls, unidentifiable people, beeping equipment, blue gowns and face masks. All I can see are pairs of eyes that peer out from behind the fully-disguised individuals. Their focus jumps from the sheet of paper in their hands to the equipment, and they make eye-contact with one other. Without muttering a word, they appeared to be communicating in a language I do not speak or even hear.
The open-backed gown was loosely draped over me. My braless boobs, didn’t quite bounce (alas they’re too small for that) they nodded on my chest as I walked in, feeling free, but vulnerable.
The nurse pointed to the uncomfortable-looking part-seat-part-bed-thing in the middle of the room
As I positioned myself, there was a pull on my gown, then an instruction to open it at the back so that my bare, pimply bottom was displayed. Inside a part of me curled up in utter embarrassment.
I wondered, when Beyonce or Kim Kardashian disrobe in a clinical environment do they, even then, exude the confidence depicted on screen? Do they strut their stuff in the operating theatre before jumping onto the bed? I really hope so.
To have an alter-ego that brims with self-confidence and to be someone who flaunts their “assets”, would be liberating!
However, it was not the time or the place to start practising. Mind you, walking in with a confident swagger wouldn’t have done any harm.
To kerb the embarrassment, I promptly parked my derrière on the seat and wiggled into position. The relief lasted only a moment, as I was instructed to spread my legs. I hooked my feet into a pair of stirrups that left my legs akimbo and my nether-region on full display for everyone in the room to see: the anaesthetist, the nurses, the consultant. Anyone could take a look at my fairly unkempt hairy little ginger bush and vaginal flaps that nestled (usually quite stealthily) between my legs.
Should I have had a wax?
This is the thought that enters my head. Do other ladies beautify their vagina for this moment? How many of these professionals have seen a ginger bush before?… is it a novelty to any of them!? Should I have prepped myself so that my little eggs are pulled out of something that is beautifully pruned and lady-scaped!? Will the appearance of my bush impact what the professionals think of me, and how my eggs are treated, and therefore the success of this whole saga? I have friends that got waxed before they went into labour… is that the norm when any clinical profession ventures down there!?
This litany of questions left my mind as quickly as it arrived
My groin felt swollen and sensitive, the last thing I wanted to do was to wax it. Ouch! The goal was for my body to feel normal again and all this to be worth it. If I have a stray ginger hair or two (or maybe twenty!) sod it – there are bigger things at play.
How to lighten this awkward situation? Whilst the workers busied themselves around me and I lay there with my most intimate part on show, I decided that humour or distraction were the two best options to lighten this very quiet, self-conscious, moment. In my hormonally-bloated uncomfortable state – and given the rather sterile tone of the room – the easiest solution was distraction. Talking! Ask questions. I am inquisitive (this is very different to being nosey FYI) and learning about people is what I do for a living. I love it almost as much as people love talking about themselves. So, I asked the anaesthetist a whole host of questions, how long had he done it for, what he loved, least liked etc.? He enjoyed himself and I hoped that this might make him like me a bit more, so that – god forbid – if there’s a life or death moment whilst I’m under, he’ll try that little bit harder to keep me alive and save my life. One can hope!
An hour later I woke up from the procedure. I couldn’t recall any of his answers, but I survived. Result. #Winning
The last time I had this procedure the conversation with the nurses was about our favourite alcoholic beverages and we each described the tastes of our favourite drinks – it was a brilliant way of easing me into the nothingness that comes with being put under. When I woke, with the gas and air mask around my face, I was telling anyone that would listen how brilliant it was, stating quite defiantly that I wasn’t selfish and that others really should try it. I then took it off my face and tried to hand it to whoever was near me. The husband (aka Gonzo) sat there chuckling away to himself.
This time I woke up sombre
It felt like something had been sucked out of me, but it also felt pleasantly emptied, a return to normal. The moment consciousness kicked in all I wanted to know was “how many eggs did they get?”
I asked Gonzo how he had got on with his sperm sample. The one joyous thing the men have to do, although undoubtedly there is pressure. Gonzo said he had had a bit of an accident… Apparently, at the crucial point of ejaculation, he had somehow missed the tub and most of his best swimmers had instead ended up on the floor! Disaster. I imagined him on his hands and knees, scraping them up into the container, salvaging whatever he could. Had I of been more corpus mentis I would have burst out laughing – to have been a fly on the wall!
He had been assured that if his sample wasn’t enough, he would have been asked to provide another
Although Gonzo was told not to ejaculate for three days before giving the sample so I’m not sure how that would have worked.
Throughout the wait to go in, I heard the embryologist talk in hushed tones to each of the hidden patients. Parted by no more than two metres and a thin, long-lasting curtain, hanging partly down from the ceiling. I had been placed right in the middle of the room. I hushed Gonzo every-time the embryologist went to talk to them. One had collected fourteen eggs, another had five and one lady only had the one. I knew nothing about her situation (maybe it was good?) but that result would have crushed me.
As the doctor approached, my stomach somersaulted
I felt nauseous, excited, frustrated, impatient, scared and hopeful. I had been told there were about twenty ripe follicles from my last scan… my expectations were high.
“So,” he began in his equally not-so-quiet hushed voice, although I didn’t mind if other people heard, it was only fair “there were fourteen follicles and we got nine eggs”. I felt somewhat deflated. “although we would expect a higher follicle to egg ratio, that is still a good result”. My husband beamed, he was pleased.
I had higher expectations
I assumed twenty follicles so at least a dozen eggs, right!? At every stage the number of useable embryos goes down, so I wanted as many as possible at the very start, to give me more chances at the implantation (the bit I fail at).
But in this crazy game of baby-making, there are no dead certs, no winning streaks, no track records – it all seems a bit pot luck from one round to the next.
My head had felt more at peace this time. I thought that would help the process and I would get more eggs than the first IVF attempt. But that was almost three years ago, and those years that took me from being a 35-year-old to 38. That all important age bracket – where a female’s fertility starts to plummet!
The rest of the day I wandered around a deserted former golf club with Gonzo and my beloved dog
Meandering nonchalantly through wooded areas, over the smooth grassy unkempt verges (remembering to book a wax in!) whilst the dog wagged her tail merrily at every passing person. Nine was a good number, but it took awhile for this to wash over me.
More than anything I felt relief. The responsibility for making a baby had been temporarily taken off me. I could breathe, relax. Inhale and exhale fully. Smell the flowers, feel the breeze and appreciate the crisp blue sky.
The process was now in the hands of the brilliant scientists and their super-duper equipment in the lab
All those futuristic, blow-my-mind resources were being used (along with ICSI) to help create some embryos.
Only time would tell how many would fertilise and get to that all important blastocyst stage.
Until then I would enjoy the ignorant bliss. It wasn’t raining, the sun was shining, I had my health, my beloved dog and (occasionally-beloved) Gonzo. And in my head, I kept muttering, “Come on little embryos, you can do it. Come on little embryos, you can do it.”
Good luck my fellow fertility struggling friends,
Thora Negg x
IVF is a gamble and everyone’s fertility journey is unique.
I am not a medical professional, fertility coach or psychologist.
I have no idea what my story will be, but I will share it openly and frankly.
Hopefully it will provide you with hope and reassurance.
And don’t forget, underneath all the totally justified, mixed-up emotions, there is still a strong woman at the core – follow your instincts and forgive yourself, this isn’t your fault X