IVF retrieval. Done! I'm on the other side of it and very glad that I listened to both the gruesome stories from people who had bad experiences and the 'it's not as bad as you think' stories. I was somewhere midway between.
I was up at 5:15. At the clinic by 6:30am. Took my Ativan in the morning, and then did my intake. Got a bracelet with my name on it, changed into the double hospital gown. Socks on.
I sat in a big recliner as the nurse looked for a good vein for the IV. First the hand, then settling on my inner arm. The drip gave me a nice drug cocktail.
I wrote the next part after the surgery in the car, directly following:
Allia is laughing at me. I have the hiccups. Got 21 eggs retrieved, don’t know if that was one from every follicle but that’s the number they told us. I want a cinnamon bun. Need to call the Mississauga clinic and they will set up an ultrasound check up to follow up and sign consents for the frozen embryo transfers. Allia was my rock. She was my everything. And she’s going to get me a cinnamon bun. And she made me a playlist with Fleetwood Mac and the Pretenders.
Here is what I remember. I started to feel really relaxed. As that happened, they continuously checked my heart rate/blood pressure with an arm band and finger monitor. Then, once I was nice and woozy, they got me up with my IV and told me to empty my bladder. Super fun walking all-drunk-feeling with a needle in your arm. I felt like the slowest, most careful person in the world.
They took me into the room (I don't know what to call it; not a lab, not an 'OR') and got me onto the table, IV beside me, Allia sitting by my head, stroking my hair and talking to me. Calves up in stirrups so your knees are at 90 degrees and the doctor sits between your legs. Then… they open the saloon-style half-door/window into the lab where a team of people can see into the room (and by room I mean 'my vagina'), but they are important; they count the eggs that are retrieved by the doctor. They can stay.
The meds to were put into the IV, cold-feeling. Apparently this takes some of the pain away. I felt pretty calm and breathed my way through the most uncomfortable parts. Because I had so many follicles, they spent a lot of time in there. The speculum is inserted, then a needle that goes through the vaginal wall into the ovary. Then, one by one, they drain the follicles. This was sometimes just 'pressure and mild discomfort'. Sometimes though it was a LOT of pressure, very deep breaths and lots of 'you're doing great. We're almost done.' I have a very high pain threshold. So, I imagine for me the reality was somewhere in the middle of terrible and okay, but mostly because I was ready for it to be brutal (just in case). It took a really long time to get everything, but you sort of just keep in mind that the longer it takes, the more eggs they are potentially collecting. And that's what all of this has been for – all the meds, the driving, the discomfort, the money.
In the end, they got 21 eggs.
I'm not going to go torturing myself with looking up how many is 'normal' or 'average.' I feel really happy with that number, not really knowing comparatively what should be 'a good number.' It feels good to me because that's what we've got to work with.
I spent the rest of the day, as promised by Allia, helping her carve a pumpkin, while doing as little bending and/or lifting as possible. And eating the banana muffins I asked her to bake, and the scones/chelsea buns I made her get us (which was the next best thing to cinnamon buns).
I was sleepy by 2 pm and fell asleep for a few hours, then went back to bed at 8 pm, deciding that I'd see how I felt about going to work at 6am the next morning when I woke up.
Oct. 31 – I felt so much better than I anticipated, so I rallied, determined not to miss out on my kickass Hallowe'en costume. I had a day of trivia, anti-oppression lessons and candy for my students, plus a really good wig. I could definitely have stayed home, because I was certainly uncomfortable. But being distracted really worked for me. And the kiddos are really lovely and kind, and funny!, so it was nice to be there with them.
I almost forgot that you get a daily update. Until the phone rang.
Update 1: 21 eggs harvested. Of the total number collected, 17 were mature. 11 fertilized. This sounds good!! They are doing a freeze all, so my body can calm down (to avoid the OHSS). So, after a nice day of sugar and hormones, I got into a onesie with cat ears as soon I got home from work and we handed out candy on the porch.
So how bad was it, all in all? I’m a trooper/pride myself on being tough physically, and this much can be said: my procedure was uncomplicated enough that I was able to rally and put on an awesome costume the very next day. Could I have stayed home? For sure. But… I’m used to being uncomfortable. I’ve been a dancer my whole life and prone to injury, sprains and two decades of brutal period cramps. I think my day went much more smoothly than some people’s, but I also had no adverse reactions to the medications.
I am used to dealing with the regular discomfort that comes from dancing six hours a week and working on my feet full time. I definitely think this made it easier for me. Plus I slept lots before and after, and hydrated. The worst part was just before the procedure (both physically and mentally, dealing with the anxiety around how it would go) and then the actual extraction. I was supremely relieved afterward and was really only as uncomfortable the day after retrieval as I was before the procedure.
-———— By night time I was feeling even better than yesterday, but at the end of the evening I was sore and puffy-bellied.
Nov. 1 – feeling lots better today. Almost normal.
Update 2: Down to 9 embryos from 11. The nurse actually provided a reason: the other two didn’t divide evenly. The genetic material didn’t split as they would want (I didn't expect to get details, so that was nice). Even though I'm framing this in the language of loss (down to 9), there is some really positive news: they grade the eggs on a scale from 1-4 (One is lowest, four is highest). All the other 9 embryos received a level 4 on the scale. Day three (tomorrow) will be the critical day to see how we are doing with survival rates.
My colleague, who has gone through 5 years of fertility and is now expecting, asked me:
Isn't it weird to think that your future baby is growing in a dish RIGHT NOW?
Ps. I'm glad we still celebrated Halloween. And I channeled badass Charlize in Atomic Blonde. If you are queer and haven't seen this movie yet, what the hell are you waiting for?!