After two days of searching we finally found The Dressing Gown. The weekend before my egg collection was scheduled we went everywhere in search of it. I wouldn’t settle for any old dressing gown, this one had to be just right. Whether it was a hormonal thing, or just a welcome distraction from the impending event, I was determined to treat myself to something warm, cosy, snug and soft – a virtual hug – the dressing gown which I would be taking to the hospital with me that Monday for my egg collection. Sometimes during IVF you’re allowed to treat yourself – in fact I’d thoroughly encourage it.
The Egg Collection felt like reaching something of a pinnacle during the IVF process. While there are still further steps to be taken, and still the ever-present risk of failure past this point, it’s a significant event. And while ‘egg collection’ (or ‘egg retrieval’ as it’s sometimes known) sounds like something a friendly chicken farmer, or perhaps the Easter Bunny, might perform, it unfortunately isn’t quite as fun.
As with several other aspects of IVF, the details can vary from clinic to clinic. Some use general anaesthetic, others sedation and pain killers. I felt glad that I would be having general anaesthetic, but nervous as this would be my first time.
We arrived at the clinic for our 11am appointment, The Dressing Gown in tow. Then followed one of the most anxious waits I’ve ever had. If you’ve read my post about The Injections you may recall that 48 hours earlier, at a precisely determined time, I’d had the ‘trigger’ injection. This injection puts you past the point of no return and is timed to directly coincide with your egg collection appointment. So we sat watching the hands move round the clock, wondering why we hadn’t been called through yet!
Eventually we were invited through the double doors and through into a small side room where I was invited to undress completely, donning a hospital gown and my delicious new dressing gown. To say I was nervous is a massive, massive understatement. So much hung on this, and I didn’t really know what to expect. What I hadn’t expected was the doctor coming in to ask me if I consented to having a painkiller slipped up my bum during the operation!! I had to laugh (well you have to right?!) and of course I agreed.
Alex was allowed to stay with me until it was time to go through to the operating theatre. At this point I realised that, having been so distracted by the meticulous selection of the perfect dressing gown, I had completely forgotten my slippers! And so it was that I stomped through to the theatre room, wrapped in my soft, soft gown paired with my muddy, chunky winter boots!
Once on the table it was only moments before I was sound asleep. I don’t remember falling asleep, and of course I have absolutely no idea what happened while I was. I knew from what I’d been told that the doctor would have skillfully gone through my vagina wall to get to my ovaries, emptying the follicles which had so dutifully grown on them, in the hope that each would contain a mature egg.
The next thing I knew I startled awake in a hospital cubicle to the sound of a nurse gently saying my name. Immediately I felt intense pain all around my lower abdomen and burst into tears. I’m not ashamed to admit that, even at the age of 32, the very first thought in my head was that I wanted my mum! The anesthetist swiftly swooped in and gave an injection into the IV tap that was still in my hand causing the pain to very quickly subside. Two thoughts quickly came to me: 1) Alex, 2)how many???
The nurses at the infertility clinic know that upon waking every woman is desperate to know how many eggs were retrieved. As soon as she could see that I was comfortable she showed me the number written down on her clipboard: 8. My immediate feeling, honestly, was disappointment that it wasn’t more. Having spent too much time reading online forums I had heard of women having numbers in the double figures, but the nurse reassured me that 8 was good. I understood why she had shown me the number rather than tell me out loud, when a different nurse told the woman in the cubicle next to mine, in a loud voice, that they had collected 12 from her. I wished that her nurse had shown the same discretion – because of course, as soon as I heard 12 I once again worried that 8 wasn’t good enough. I tried to remember that we only really needed 1.
Before Alex was allowed in to be with me there was one more thing the nurse had to do. Another lovely surprise I’d had upon waking was to be told that they had inserted a tampon into me to stem the bleeding. And what goes in, must come out (cue cringe face). I don’t think I need to tell you that having a nurse remove a tampon for me was just about one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever felt. Logically of course there was no need to feel embarrassed, by now I’d been scanned, examined and operated on ‘down there’, but there was still something about that particular moment which I just found a bit horrendous.
Finally Alex joined me and assured me that, as far as he could tell, his end of the arrangement had all gone well! I nibbled on some snacks I’d brought along with me (dried apricots if I remember correctly), as I had been nil-by-mouth before the op, and gladly welcomed a cup of camomile tea, made with the tea bags we’d also brought along. After some time had passed I was told to slowly get up and go to the bathroom to get dressed. I was shocked to see how much blood was on the absorbent pad I’d been laid on when I got up.
I had to sit and wait for a while longer, as I continued to bleed for some time, but eventually I was allowed to go home. I got in to bed and tried not to think about what would *hopefully* be happening in the lab that night. Because that is the big thing I’d almost forgotten about the egg collection day: it is also the day of conception. That night my 8 little eggs were introduced to Alex’s sperm. Until that moment I had completely taken for granted that some of them would fertilize – but then in crept the sudden fear of ‘what if none of them do?’ It could all be over. The pressure felt immense; that along with the physical effects of the operation left me a bit of an emotional wreck for a few hours once I was home.
Somehow, perhaps thanks to the painkillers, I managed to get some sleep. When I woke I didn’t feel too uncomfortable, just a bit tender. Mostly it was my mind which was in need of soothing: that question rang out again – how many??
Alex was downstairs making me tea when the phone rang. It was the embryologist. My heart stopped; I could barely utter a word. And when she told me that 6 of my eggs had fertilized I burst into tears! No sooner was I off the phone than I waddled as quickly as I could to the top of the stairs to call down to Alex. We embraced in a a tearful hug and thought of our 6 chances which lay on the other side of town, willing each of them to keep growing.