Oh gosh, so much has been going on that I have been meaning to post for ages and just flat-out not managed to get round to it. While Japan does not celebrate Easter and I am not Christian myself, I was raised in the UK and like Easter-related foods (namely pancakes at the beginning of Lent and hot cross buns for the Easter weekend), so I was busy getting ready for/making those. Then on Sunday afternoon my husband had his 3rd dose of covid vaccine, was off work to recover on Monday, and with various bits and pieces plus preparations for my daughter’s second birthday this coming Saturday, it has been pretty hectic! And yet, I want to get this update done and dusted today, because more stuff will happen before too long.
Another reason for my procrastination on this post is that I have been feeling as though these updates are a little… samey? a little formulaic – went to the hospital, not much happened, feel vaguely pessimistic, the end – and I am conscious of completely losing the interest of my little handful of lovely readers. But on the other hand, I had decided this time that I would write absolutely everything down, both for the people who want to know more about IVF (are there actually any of you out there?) and for the people who are going through it and who might be feeling the same way. And honestly it is fairly repetitive, it is a bit unexciting at points, so I guess, like with so many other things in life, I just need to roll with it, and push through.
So on Wednesday last week, just like the last time (wow that post is nearly a month old already) I went in at lunchtime, with a full bladder, wearing a dress, and with a sanitary towel in my bag. I’d misjudged my pee timing and was absolutely bursting for the loo, but having a fuller bladder makes the ultrasound images clearer (which is why they ask you not to go to the toilet for two hours before your appointment) so I crossed my legs on the chair in the waiting area, and thought arid thoughts. The nurse called my patient number and I went in to the consultation room.
“Hi,” said the doctor. “Your egg thawed fine! Here it is.” He pointed to an image on the screen, and that was relief # 1 because part of me was expecting there to have been a problem right there. “We’ll give you a printout with that picture later. Are you ready for embryo transfer? Then go get ready, and I’ll see you in a minute.”
Yep. Yes, I’m ready. Go go go. I went into the nurse’s room and received the medicines I would need to take – more patches, more pessaries, new pills (Dydrogesterone, which is used to supplement progesterone levels for both fertility treatment and hormone therapy, and to help prevent miscarriage, that sort of thing) – and then went behind the curtain to remove my knickers, as instructed. Once I called out to the nurse that I was ready, she led me down the corridor to the room where the egg retrieval was carried out. Clinic slippers off and left at the door, room-specific slippers on. There were about four people in there: the doctor, and three other nurses. It seemed like a lot of people.
“Relax!” said the doctor as I walked in. He’s a bit like that. I must have looked tense.
“Saying that is the easy part!” I quipped back, and he laughed. You may have noticed that I have used both he and she pronouns for doctors in all of my posts, and if this has confused you, I shall quickly explain here: “my” doctor is a woman, Dr O, but she isn’t at the clinic every day, so sometimes I am seen by Dr Y, who is a man. Dr O was the one who looked after me during my previous fertility treatments, but Dr Y also works at the actual hospital where I gave birth, so I am pretty familiar with and fond of both of them.
Anyway, back to egg time. In that small room, they got me to confirm my patient number, name, and date of birth. Then I had to sit on a small stool next to a dark brown door and have the guy in the lab next door confirm my patient number, name, and date of birth again before he placed a petri dish into a small hatch to my left. When the nurse with me opened the hatch, I had to once more confirm the patient number, name, and date of birth. Honestly, while it might seem excessive, it’s incredibly important and I’m glad they do it, because of those awful cases of mixed-up embryos and mistakes made during transfer. Such a mistake would absolutely destroy the clinic’s reputation, too, so it’s in everbody’s best interest to take plenty of care.
I was then allowed to sit on the fancy high-tech chair, and while the chair went up, the nurses talked to me about various different things to take my mind off the situation. Ultrasound gel was applied to my lower belly. The doctor disinfected my skin. The technician from the lab next door came in to provide the embryo, and then it went in. I didn’t feel anything beyond the regular weirdness of having medical instruments in my vagina (which I am vaguely numb to now – what’s new there, eh), and then they told me it was done.
“There you are, it’s all over, well done.”
The chair lowered and the doctor left, as did two of the nurses. The last nurse and I waited for the technician back in his little room to call out and confirm (after looking through a microscope) that the embryo was properly gone from its container, and then I could go back and put my knickers back on. I really needed a wee! The nurse then gave me a printout with the data of my embryo thaw and transfer, complete with the photograph, and then I was free to go to the loo (hoorah!) and then out into the waiting area to be called to pay.
The cost this time was fractionally under ¥200,000. This won’t mean that much to anyone outside Japan right now because of how bad the exchange rate currently is, but that’s another topic entirely!
The advice after embryo transfers these days is not particularly to rest or take things gently, in fact it’s the opposite: exercising is fine! Resume your regular activities! I mean, don’t have a hot bath (bath culture is big in Japan, as I’m sure you will know) and avoid having sex for a bit, but it’s largely life as normal. I think this is probably in order to try to stop people dwelling too much, and there is plenty of merit in that. I have tried to keep fairly busy this week for that exact reason. But also: whether it be from stress or from the artificial messing with my hormones, I’m just so tired! The day of my transfer, my husband took the afternoon off work so he could look after our daughter in my stead, and honestly when I got home, I just went upstairs and slept for a good two hours. A week has passed now and I’m still sleepy. I’ve fallen asleep twice while writing this post. I could sleep for a week.
But a week would be too long! Tomorrow, my daughter’s best friend is coming over for a morning playdate and lunch. They have the same birthday, so we’ll be celebrating early together. Then on Friday, my husband has taken the day off work and we’ll be having a photoshoot with the company who took photos for us on her birthday last year. And then… at 3pm, I go to the clinic for my results.
My brain is blank. I have no inkling, no gut feeling. I’m bracing for bad news, as usual. But, y’know, you can’t help but wish…