The injections are becoming a thing. Zee and I stand in our little kitchen waving a syringe about. There’s definitely a learning curve – the first time Zee tried he wasn’t fast enough – he slowed down at the last minute because he was scared of hurting me. The second time in it went, sliding into my stomach smooth and easy like butter. Such a bizarre moment, standing there with a syringe sticking out, both of us waiting to see if the other will push it down and inject the medication.
Turns out that it’s that bit that hurts the most – pushing the medication in. The menopur stings and I grimace. I feel like I’m being a bit of wuss about it and I’m sure if I had to do it every day long term I’d get used to it, but right now I feel delicate about this road we’re on. We’re determined and we reassure ourselves that we can do anything we want to, we have a plan and we’ll follow it. I know I can be stubborn when I put my mind to it but I’m glad Zee’s here. I’m glad he’s leaning in and I’m so grateful we’re in this together.
Nothing like a little IVF and large life changing existential questions to bring you together and make your relationship stronger
Headaches are a thing. Everything I read said it means I’m not drinking enough water so I’m trying to be conscious about drinking more… I started tracking it but struggled with a goal… How much water am I meant to be drinking?? I read some Internet forum things that suggested 4 Litres a day (what?!) – and that seems insane.
I am tired, my belly is sore from all the injections and from growing all the follicles. I am tender (physically) and delicate (emotionally) and very tiiiiired. The orgalutran hurts so much more than the menopur. The needle is fine, but it always makes me grit my teeth. It stings for ages, no matter how much belly massaging I do. Add the weird nausea and it’s peachy.
I’ve also spent too long reading IVF horror stories on the Internet. Oh Internet. I’m not sure about this part of IVF. It’s definitely no fun.
Well, we’re definitely in a routine now. It feels like something we just do. I’m tender all the time, I don’t drink anymore, I eat healthier and every night Zee stabs my belly with medication.
The routine doesn’t make it easy, though. We both hate the injections (though, I enjoy the closeness that comes after). I’m also getting pretty familiar with the clinic, going in every few days. I had a dream that they only extracted one egg, and after fertilisation it only cleaved to a eight-cell morula and couldn’t be frozen. I woke up in a such a state… That all the time and effort and money was for naught. There was despair at the idea of doing it all over again for another ‘maybe’. I was relieved to wake and realise everything was still fine. Only a few more days to go!
I think I’m really lucky, in that I can afford to have this round. That I had savings I could use… I’m lucky that I had a pot I could use. Without it there would be no Plan B, or IVF or anything. I’m not sure what we would have done… I’m feeling all the weight of privilege right now.
We’re talking about an egg extraction day soon. Hopefully in six more days! I’ll be glad to have Plan B in the freezer.
We started a round of IVF today. Cycle Day 3. I had scans to check the follicles in my ovaries (five in the right, ten in the left) and bloods to check FSH, AMH and estrogeon. It was intimidating. I’ve never been in this situation before. Legs up in the air, wand up my hooha and my doctor is casually telling me how beautiful my uterine lining is. Beautiful, beautiful lining, apparently.
I’m getting the hang of it now. We do a scan, and then shuffle next door into her glorious office for a chat. I was shocked to learn that if my FSH was over 15 we wouldn’t go ahead with the IVF. They’d call me, if it was too high. My doctor thinks it’s unlikely that it will and based on my previous levels we’ll go ahead for now.
Then came a lesson in self medicating. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t jab myself with a syringe, no matter how much I talked myself into it. I just couldn’t. It was such a mind fuck. I did try. For twenty minutes a nurse and I sat in a little cubicle, syringe in one hand, my belly bunched in the other. I was so upset – I’d start fast and by the end I’d stop just as the needle was touching my skin. It seems impossible and ridiculous and oh. I’ve never felt less capable than I did in that moment. I’m a determined person and I don’t like to admit failure. I was furious with myself and stubbornly kept trying.
In the end the nurse gently took the syringe and did it for me. Just like that, we’ve started. Zee has offered to take over the medication giving and I’ve grateful that I’m not doing this alone. I love him.
I carted a ridiculous amount of medication (boxes and boxes of it) on the tube home, which was a bizarre feeling. If I’ve carried thousands of pounds worth of drugs through the tube, I wonder what other people carry?. My fridge looks ridiculous – there is a whole shelf of medication.
So, I have a plan with medication amounts and times and a million scans booked in. IVF, it’s happening you guys.
I’m on the Victoria line tube, and it’s filled with ordinary Londoners doing ordinary things. I feel different, and outside of their ordinariness.
I’m ahead of myself. Zee and I are on our way back from our screening appointment. (Prepare yourself for TMI….) I got my period today, and I was both relieved and sad. Relieved because its come before the appointment and I can put off all the things till next month. The big scary future not-yet-babies things. Sad because it meant I’d have to wait till next month to do a round of IVF and start The Plan. Anticipation, worry and fear do not go well with months of free time in which to dwell.
I met Zee at the clinic, his first time there. I could see immediately that things were becoming much more real for him… That it was one thing to talk about it on the couch while we watch tv and another to be standing in the clinic reception ready to get on with it.
First up, a semen analysis… It was crazy to see his little sperm wriggle around (at x50 magnification), funny little organisms with no brain but looking very much like independent little beings as they wriggled about. It felt very bizarre and a bit teary, all those not-babies. I very quickly realised I was getting teary over sperm and pulled myself together (also: period. Go figure).
The Dr man who did the analysis was quite funny. He went out of his way to tell stories and set us at ease. He also said that the sperm was good, good sperm. Lots of active little wrigglers. That’s good.
Bloods after, for both of us. It was late and the lab was a dark and cold. Three vials, a teaspoon of blood on each to make sure we were all happy and healthy and disease free.
And then we found out that actually, despite what I thought, it can start IVF this round. Tomorrow.
I was shocked and felt my future surging forward. Oh fuck. Fuuuck. Okay. Okay, calm, this is alright. We’re just freezing some embryos. We’re just giving ourselves some time, this is our plan b. No need to freak out about injecting yourself with hormones and creating frozen not-yet-babies. Calm. Down.
What got scary was the consent forms… It felt like a massive thing. We spent two hours reading forms so we could agree, legally, what should happen to our unborn embryos in the events of death or disagreement. It was a commitment as big and forever as marriage without the big dress, witnesses and a party… I read all the long, often morbid and scary terms out loud, and we agreed. We’re doing this.
Everything feels much more real now, but also more clear, slightly less scary. We’re doing this. I’m determined and even though I’m not yet 100% aligned with the changes that will come with parenting a small child right this moment, I know what I want and I’m making it happen.
Alright future, come at me.
I did it. I booked the appointment. It was the last thing on my todo list, so I did it. I had to stop thinking to get it done, but I did it just the same. Then, because it was booked, I went.
My doctors office is huge, the size of my apartment almost. She’s got these white fancy suede chairs and this ridiculously large window and this desk bigger than my dining room table. What does she even need a desk that size for? It’s so big, she has to really lean over to take my hand when she says hello.
I guess that’s where the stupidly expensive fees I’m paying go towards. Ridiculously sized desks.
I’m nervous, because this is the appointment where I say yes to the impending family that I’m about to create. She smiles a lottery winning smile, and pulls out a worksheet that explains The Timeline. When I’ll take all the drugs, the ones that are going to fuck up my cycle by suppressing it, and then make it go crazy…. and when I’ll have scans and the development of my little eggs.
There will be an extraction (she shows a little animation with a wand that will violently stab my ovaries through the wall of my vagina to suck out each little egg one by one. It takes a moment to realise that I’m admiring all the work that went into making that 3D animation look smooth rather than paying attention to the content).
Afterwards, she explains about how we’d fertilise our cache of eggs (we wash them with sperm, or we inject them with sperm… depends on how well they swim apparently) and then we come to a gate.
We can either freeze them (Option a), or let them grow into little blastocysts and then freeze them (Option b). She said that of the eggs we extract and fertilise, only 40% of them are likely to make it to blastocyst stage. We’ll lose most of them, she said. We might even lose all of them (a negative outcome, she called it. When there were no viable embryos for freezing, that’s a negative outcome). That’s true whether we freeze them at day 1 and unthaw later, or whether we wait. Only 40% will make it regardless of the option we choose.
The bonus is that if they make it to Day 5, and their little cells do all that they’re meant to do, they’ll freeze better. They’ll thaw better, and they’ll be more likely to grow into babies. If I’m freezing them, surely it’s better to know that we’ve got some good ones straight up, right? So that if none of my little whatsit reach it to blastocyst stage, then I can do another round while I’m still young and my ovaries still have eggs left to harvest?
I can’t believe I’m doing this. That my thoughts are now consumed about the stages of zygote development (I can draw you the different stages, the difference between a morula and a blastocyst). It seems surreal that I’m debating the various pros and cons of freezing Day 3 or freezing later at Day 5.
This world is unfamiliar and I’ve got my head buried in IVF forums where they use all sorts of acronyms (BFP = big fat positive, FET = frozen embryo transfer, MMC = something miscarriage. Sad face). I read from the sidelines as the ladies from last year cheer each other on with all their highs (BFP) and lows (BFN).
I feel like I’ve just pushed the ‘accelerate’ button on my life. There is this epic since of urgency, and I feel like I’ve been betrayed by my body. That my body had ages faster than I want it to, faster than I’m ready for it to. And in this urgency there’s been a path to give myself more time, so I’m following it. White knuckled on the steering wheel as we accelerate into the big and scary world of IVF, and the world of scientific procreating.
Next up we’re doing all the screening tests. Both of us. Just, woah buddy.
I find myself dragging my feet. It’s taken a few months, but we’ve come to a round-about agreement. We’ll do IVF and we will freeze some little embryos and then we will start trying. The conventional way. We haven’t tried proper, and there’s only a few bloodtests and an expensive doctor telling saying my chances are non-existent.
We sat on the couch one day and talked about logistics, with spreadsheets and numbers and dates and had this vague plan come together into something more concrete. That is The Plan: IVF, and then trying. For a family. For the future.
I’m okay to talk about The Plan and tell people about The Plan without fear or fuss or any justification (though, yesterday as I ran along the river as night fell early, I was grateful for my 6 foot Welsh friend who ran with me. He took the moment to acknowledge its enormity, and say woah, this is a big moment. This is a big thing, this thing you are doing. And I said yes, yes it is. And we ran on).
So, Zee and I have The Plan. And yet I have a week or two out in front of me, the perfect opportunity for all of the things required for actioning The Plan… and I’ve done nothing. I haven’t yet organised an appointment at the fertility clinic. I’m procrastinating, and think about how I want do more research into the ‘right’ clinic and find the ‘best’ one. I’m not quite sure how I’m meant to do that exactly, I think internet reviews work great for restaurants. Probably a bit less for a fertility clinic who will be extracting my eggs from my body and storing them. I’m knee deep in HFEA statistics but I’m really quite overwhelmed.
I’m scared you guys. Time is of the essence (tick, tock and all that) but I’m reluctant to move into the unknown just yet. I don’t feel like I have the luxury of time and yet I don’t want to dive right in.
This cognitive dissonance has me all wound up. I feel like emotionally this is such a huge thing to get my head around. I’m not there yet. Oh infertility.
So. It’s been a while since my doctor instilled this insane sense of urgency with procreating.
At first it was all of the shock. What do we do, what does this mean, how do I feel about it? How does Zee? What does it mean for us? And our future? Can we handle the logistics? Can we afford a child? What does it mean for all our dreams??
For a while there I wasn’t sure whether Zee was in this with me. Not because he wasn’t, but because that was my ultimate fear: that if I wanted a child of my own I might have to do it now and alone with a faceless donor. Oh fears, look at you with your big scary takeover-ness.
There was a lot of crying before there was talking, but eventually we had ‘conversation’ spurts. It was this really long conversation about everything that was going on over several weeks. It paused when real life (jobs, social events, other people) got in the way. Slowly the conversation moved from what do we do/why has this happened/what does this mean to should we get married/would one of us stay home and parent full time…
All of the questions, including a handful of plan type questions. Because somewhere in that ongoing conversation we decided. IVF? Freezing little blastocysts? Okay. Okay it’s scary, but let’s try that. We’ll make it our back up plan, freeze some blastocysts for later and call it Plan B. Plan B, we can manage that.
But let’s not get too hasty. There were a few moments where we’d emotionally backtrack. No, we can’t possibly do this now. I’m not ready. I can’t possibly be a parent. I don’t want to talk about baby names *subject change*. I’m not in this, I’m not sure this is the right thing to do, the immense heavy future and commitment and oh, I just want to go back to drinking all the bubbles and dancing on bars again. This sense of ominous and heavy future decision making is hard.
It’s been a big back and forth, with all of the feelings. We’re doing this. We have a plan, and we’re planning for a family…
I’m freaking out. I feel like everything is moving so fast, fast forward future, here we come. A family.
Fertility isn’t something I ever worried about. Children, babies. They seem like such a future thing – once I’ve done all the things I want to do then I’ll think about it. But I’m not done yet, I’m not done travelling, or having all the freedom or doing exactly what I want to do when I want to do it. I’m not ready for all the responsibility that comes with being a parent. I’ve only just turned 30!
Except, my FSH levels are too high. Apparently FSH stands for Follicle-stimulating hormone and is my pituitary glands way of telling my body that it should mature an egg in my ovary, to kick off that whole fun cycle. It’s too high. My FSH is too high, and my AMH (whatever that is) is too low. Which, essentially means that despite everyone telling me how young I am, and how I have loads of time – that’s not true. I’ve got very little time, and essentially it’s now or never.
Just in case you missed that – NOW or NEVER.
What. How do I decide that? Children – now or never. Whaaaat. Now has never seemed so immediate, or so scary. At first I was all, pfft. You doctor, clearly are lying. All of society tells me I have plenty of time and I want that time, so you must be wrong. And so I took my results an expensive fertility clinic and oh… Perhaps not so wrong.
(Fun side note, turns out the NHS will help you out, but only if you’ve been trying for a year… They will help you interpret existing results, which is helpful if you happen to go into a private fertility clinic to figure things out and want a third/fourth/fifth opinion).
So, there I was. Expensive fertility clinic, fancy art on the walls (koi watercolours, lake vistas. Clearly aiming for calm, but with the fear and urgency whipping up a storm in my head, calm wasn’t happening today). I wanted to hear that my GP was wrong. That is what I wanted. And after several blood tests and a wand up my vajayjay this expensive fertility doctor, with all her knowledge, told me otherwise. I was at the end of my fertility season.
Womp. I was disappointed and quite close to panicking. Seeing this, my doctor said if I don’t want children right this moment (or if I’d like more than one child down the line) I could do IVF now (as in, next week, next month, definitely within the next few months but ideally right now) so we can harvest eggs, fertilise and freeze the little embryos. Store them, till I was ready to have babies. It was an option I latched on to, filled with hope. Babies, I could still have them *and* I wasn’t forced into having them right this minute.
However, if I wanted that as an option, we should do that now. Literally, as soon as possible. Don’t delay. Don’t delay don’t delay don’t delay. This sense of urgency is overwhelming. My body is broken and I feel so betrayed! But no time to process, let’s get started. Tick tock.
I’ve been reading as much as I can find on all the things, and the success rate is not awesome. The idea of needling myself with hormones freaks me out, especially because the possibility of what is called a ‘negative outcome’ is so high. The odds? Not in my favour. Very much not in my favour.
I’m scared. Everything feels urgent, and I’m terrified. I’m scared about what this means. I’m not ready for now, and never seems to impossible to contemplate. I’m only half of this equation, too, there’s Zee to think about. I’m scared about what it means for us. About what it means for our future. The unknown is scary, the future is scary, change is scary as fuck.
So. Fertility. Woah buddy.