Saturday, August 10, 2013

How To IVF

I'm suspended 2 metres above the ground between cold metal stirrups and a blue vinyl seat. The paper sheet across my legs hides nothing as his head pops up into view.
The headlight on his forehead is bright as he asks me "Do you play Golf?"
Ummmm, No!
His head disappears between my thighs and I start my meditative chant again.
"You are not here. This is not happening. This is a tropical beach paradise. You are lying on a beach Lisa. Breathe Lisa Breathe. "
There is prodding and poking. The room smiles and several heads nod as the 'right place' is chosen.
IVF is not for the faint-hearted and it certainly is not for those without their sense of humour.
Amongst the driving desperate yearning for a baby comes moments of sheer absurd hilarity.
Our Miss 9 is an IVF blessing.
I had my tubes cut, burnt and tied at the ripe old age of 25, thinking I would not want any more children. I was wrong.
For the next five years I cried whenever I passed through the baby aisles in Target or Kmart. I craved a baby, even as I watched my other children grow.
The Man I Married resisted and hedged but eventually agreed to follow the IVF route to have our sweet girl.
IVF is a weird hormone driven beast that can take you from high to low in a heartbeat.
First of all there are appointments and blood tests, counselling and assessments to decide if you are a suitable candidate.
In our case, the swimmers were swimming, the eggs were hatching and for some reason they decided we were sane enough to parent another child.
Next came sprays up my nose to make my schedule match the schedule of the doctors clinic. Everything needs to happen Monday to Friday between the hours of 8 and 5 and they make that happen with a nose spray.

It was time for injections in the belly.
At this point many readers might wince but I've had worse mosquito bites and the endlessly dangling carrot of a baby just makes it not so bad. It's not fun, but not bad.
I remember one night when I'd gone to the celebration dinner of a friends Yr 10 hospitality class.
I ate, I clapped but always on my mind was the deadline - 9 pm = needle time.
There I was in a high-school toilet cubicle, having just injected my daily dose of hormones, when I dropped the syringe.
In slow motion, I watched it drop and roll out into the main bathroom area, where it came to rest against a beautiful 5 inch cream suede heel.
"Oh, for god sake" I heard the owner of the shoe mutter, and she turned on her gorgeous heels and marched out.
Emerging from my cubicle I picked my syringe up and felt strangely guilty for absolutely no reason at all. 
I didn't re-enter the dining room. I went home with a big bag of chips and climbed into my comfy PJ's. I didn't want to know who owned the cream shoes. I just wanted a baby.
My ovaries did what they are supposed to do for IVF and instead of producing the usual one follicle for the month they produced 15. Yay!

You know that full, off-colour feeling you get a few days before a period? Multiply that feeling by 1000 and that is what it feels like to have 15 + follicles swelling in your ovary. Jeans didn't do up, elastic pants felt too tight, for a while I considered wearing a Muumuu.
The idea of a baby made it okay
Every couple of days I would drive 80 km to the clinic where a nurse would stick an ultrasound wand up my Hoo-hah to count and measure the diameter of the follicles. This was great social event every time with random nurses popping in throughout the exam to discuss progress, the weather and the perfect way to poach an egg while I laid back and smiled.

Two days before the determined collection date I was instructed to give myself Trigger injections to tell my ovaries it was time to Set Them Free.
On Collection day we arrived at the clinic and I changed into another paper gown, while hubby wandered down the hall and tried to pretend he wasn't about to have an intimate relationship with a paper cup. I went to sleep and woke up feeling as though a small alien space ship may or may not have run me over.
Then came what we like to refer to as The Long Wait.
The 3 days when you wait to see if anything, anyone, fertilised.
Do you remember, back when you were a kid, on the night before Christmas. You were waiting, on the brink of something good, but the anticipation and the underlying fear of complete disappointment was enough to have you bouncing around like a cat on Crack. It feels like that. But worse.
We were lucky enough to have 7 fertilised eggs, and so the time was scheduled for a transfer.
Which brings me back to my opening , legs in the air,  a mining helmet and me trying to think of witty comments about golf while the Doctor held in his hand the most precious little bundle of cells I have ever known.
I would have laughed at anything at that moment, paid for 100 lessons with Greg Norman. I would have agreed to a Saturday morning 6am Golf game every week for the next 50 years if only good Karma and luck could tell me this little bundle of cells were going to stay put. Guided by ultrasound, the good Doc selects the best place in the uterus to place the bundle and oh-so-gently, releases it into the world.
The bundle of cells transferred, I was sent away and told to carry on with normal life ( which I took to mean go immediately to bed and don't move unless the house is on fire).
This led to my "Addiction to testing". Those readers who have been in a similar situation may know what I mean. 
I became hyper-aware of the pregnancy tests in the toiletry aisle of the supermarket. I could spend an hour reading them all, and deciding which one was the most reliable. Which one could give the earliest prediction of success or failure. I knew them by size, colour, days before period, lines or dots or +'s.
I must have bought every Clear-Blue, Pregnosis, Crystal Clear and 1st Response pregnancy test within a 15 km radius of our home.

I peed on every stick, analysed the varied shades of white, almost white, off white and "if I put my head on the side and screw my eyes up I can almost imagine a second pink line" white.
Even now, passing the tests in the supermarket is a sombre moment as we carefully nod to each other and avert our eyes.
The first transfer result was amazingly positive but I knew almost from the start that something didn't feel right. At 9 weeks we returned to the IVF clinic for a scan where they told us that there was no heartbeat. The little bundle of cells had implanted and tried very hard to grow but for some reason it just couldn't keep developing. We were so very sad, heartbroken and generally ripped-off. I probably could have dealt with a no-pregnancy result , but to get a positive result only to have that squashed was hard. Of course my body doesn't do things easily so I ended up having a curette.. some drama.. another curette... drama....
A few months later after A LOT OF DRAMA that is far too complicated to explain, I found myself back on that blue vinyl chair, two metres above the ground. Two little embryos had been thawed and one of them had successfully defrosted. Doc still had his headlight on and once again we were discussing Golf. I zoned out. I breathed.

This one stayed!
Even now, nine years later, I sometimes look at her in amazement and say "You were frozen. How can that be?"

The best Icypole ever -

I know we were ridiculously lucky, that we are blessed beyond measure. I don't take any of this for granted. I promise.
We donated our remaining embryos to a couple, but sadly they did not result in a positive pregnancy. I feel so sad for that couple and yet I know we tried.
Many readers also know I donated eggs, a couple of years after our darling girl was born, to a couple who had no hope without donated eggs. You can read about their story here. (It ends very happily :-)

For those who have questions, I am an open book, ask away. If you are considering donating eggs, or wondering how your body will cope, all I can say is the horror stories in the movies are not always a true reflection of how it will be. IVF is not on my top 10 list of fun things to do, but it certainly isn't on my worst either. xxx

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  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing. I have been fortunate to conceive the natural way pretty much first go for every one of my 6. I never lose sight of how precious that gift has been.
    What a buzz to have an image of those first cells!

  2. "The best Icypole ever" - lol!!

  3. What a perfect and amusing description of IVF! I've gone through two stimulated cycles, and 5 frozen embryo transfers. We got pregnant the first time and then lost the next five trying to give our little girl a sibling.
    IVF is a roller coaster you never want to get on, and a roller coaster you never want to get off.
    Thanks for sharing your story, Lisa.

  4. Very interesting! I don't know much about IVF so this is a good insite.
    Visiting from DP blog Carnival. Nic @ Mums Take Five

  5. I am lucky - and I know just how lucky I am, with friends who have been (with differing results) on the IVF merry-go-round.

    Read your donation story too - how wonderful.

  6. What a fabulous post, and as someone who could not have had her precious little girl without a very generous sperm donor, let me thank you on behalf of wanna-be parents everywhere for your generosity. :) It's funny what we'll go through to have a baby, but thank all that is holy that we live in a time and a country that makes it all possible! Saying hi from Digital Carnival :)

  7. We are looking at having to do IVF in a couple of months if IUI doesn't work and I'm so grateful for this insight Lisa. Its so much better to hear personal stories than read about it on medical websites :)


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