Well, the trigger shot was easy after all the other injections lately, so that was swiftly administered at 8pm on the 15th, and then… nothing really happened for a day or so.
No, I lie, I was insanely horny. All the various different hormones were making my libido go crazy, which was unfortunate as the injections were also giving me great discomfort which turned into actual pain from Wednesday morning onwards! It was so different this time to how anything had gone before that I began to idly wonder if I had ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS). Still, the pain wasn’t too bad so I decided to just stick it out, since I’d be going to the clinic first thing on Thursday morning anyway.
Insurance wouldn’t cover the rehydration drink I was supposed to consume between Wednesday 9pm-6am Thursday, but it was readily available from the first drugstore I walked into, which was convenient!
That night I was so anxious about waking up in time that (despite having set multiple alarms) I slept awfully, waking up every hour from about 1:30 am. At 5am I gave up, and got out of bed to go and walk the dog. It was pretty cold that early in the day, and I remembered the last time I went in for egg retrieval back in March, and how anxious and pessimistic I was back then. How would things go today, I wondered. It was really uncomfortable to walk, with pains in my abdomen, so I walked fairly slowly and didn’t take the dog too far.
Still, the morning rolled on without a hitch and at 7:20 I left my husband and toddler still eating their breakfasts and trundled down the hill to get on the train into town. I would normally cycle or even walk, but needing to keep my cupful of sperm warm enough coupled with the pain I was already feeling made public transport the only reasonable option. In the spring I had arrived way too early for my appointment, so I was fairly pleased with myself this time for reaching the outside of the building exactly five minutes before my appointment! If only everything in life went that smoothly.
Once inside, they took the sperm sample from me, then called me into the regular gynaecological examination room to make sure I hadn’t in fact ovulated prematurely (a risk you may remember Dr. O had warned me about with the insurance-type IVF, due to the reduced number of consultations). Luckily everything was fine on that front, and then it was time for me to get changed into the hospital gown they provided.
Next up was getting my IV inserted, blood pressure taken and temperature checked. No problems there! Time to go into the room with the fancy chair. Oh how I appreciate that chair, given the awful brown bed thing that was there before! IV hooked up to my left, legs strapped in, blood pressure monitor around my right arm… here we go again, then.
“I’m putting anti-nausea medication in your IV,” said the nurse in charge of my anaesthesia. “And now the anaesthetic.”
“Ah, it’s here,” I said, feeling a numb cold tingle wash over me. “Here we go.”
And then I was TINY, becoming increasingly smaller and smaller until I was subatomic, seeing everything in its minuscule components stretching out before/below/above/behind me at a dizzying speed, rushing by and twisting and turning until I became too small to comprehend, I was the architect of the universe in control of everything, atomic nuclei were fiery balls and electrons went zipping past me too. What was I? What am I? There’s something I’m supposed to do, I’m supposed to keep focused on my mission but I don’t even know what that mission is any more, I’m losing control, everything goes dark and then there is a high pitched ringing noise, all around me is black, then a pinpoint of light that I rushed towards, and I unfolded to be so much larger and the lights above me were spinning and everything felt scrambled and swirling, my body a million scrambled whirlpools of cells, and there was a person? A person standing there beside me? A person with dark hair and her hand was warm, hand on my hand, I had hands, where were my hands? How many fingers did hands have? Is that what hands look like? The hand holding mine is so comforting and oh it belongs to the nurse.
“I’ve come back to the human world again!” I slurred at the nurse.
“Yes, you’re human again,” the nurse said. “Welcome back.”
My body was becoming increasingly concentrated and increasingly real and oh, so was the ache, my body hurt and I was shaking from the cold even though they’d covered me with blankets.
“I’m still in this room,” I slurred.
“That’s right,” the nurse confirmed.
“Last time I remember being transferred to a stretcher…?”
“Ah, you remember that! We used more anaesthesia this time so needed to keep you here for a while longer to check you’re okay.”
“What time is it?”
“Only 8:30! Tell me when you think you can move and we’ll get you back to bed.”
“Everything is spinning…”
“Do you feel sick? No? Then rest a little longer. I’ll get you another blanket.”
I eventually reconnected with my arms and legs enough to be able to climb onto the trolley mostly by myself, and then the nurse wheeled me out where I then transferred myself from the trolley to my bed (again, with assistance) and promptly dozed off.
Every now and then various nurses would poke their head around the curtain, checking my IV and asking me if I needed a wee. I couldn’t understand why they were so obsessed with me needing the loo until I remembered that they needed to make sure the retrieval needle hadn’t nicked my bladder or anything else in that area and caused any injury that they might have somehow missed. That’s fair, that’s important!
At 10am they brought me some water, some green tea and a small waffle. Delicious sustenance. “It’s taking me so long to come round,” I said. “Why do I feel like it was harder this time?”
“We used more anaesthetic this time because it seemed like there were more eggs; the technician is checking now so we’ll be able to tell you how many soon!”
By 11am I had managed to wobble to the bathroom a couple of times and confirm that I wasn’t dying. The nurses still had me rest, but by 11:30 I felt well enough to get changed back into my regular clothes and go sit outside in the corridor. There was still gauze inside me to stem any blood flow, so back into the examination room I went to get that removed before finally being called into the consultation room to talk with my doctor.
“So,” she said, “we got eighteen eggs.”
“WHAT? Wait a minute, what? Eighteen?”
“Yes, eighteen,” she said.
“Well, you had better conditions to start with, plus you used more injections this time than before… But because of that, and I’m really sorry, but you’ve ended up with OHSS.”
“I… kinda guessed that already, actually, because it’s been kind of painful this time.”
She nodded, and then winced. “I hate to say it, but it’ll probably get much worse over the next few days… You need to keep your fluid levels up, and come back in for a blood test so we can make sure you aren’t at risk of developing blood clots.”
Okay, that’s fair. But 18 eggs?!
“Because of the OHSS your uterus is inflamed, so we won’t be transferring anything this month,” she said. “We’ll give you some medicine to help reduce the inflammation and so on. It should get better as soon as your period comes, but it might be a bit rough for the next week or so.”
“So the eggs will be frozen and we’ll try transferring next month?”
“Yes. Come back tomorrow and I’ll be able to let you know how many could be fertilised.”
18. That’s significantly more than the one or two I had before.
Now, I know that just because you retrieve a higher number doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all going to be viable eggs; some could be immature, some could fail to be fertilised, some fertilised eggs could stop developing before they even get to the transfer stage, and some – like my last IVF cycle – could fail to stick once transferred, BUT. The number of chances is so much higher than ever before! My god, what a difference. My body hurts and I feel super nauseated but my god. I made an appointment for the following day, texted my husband the news and then shuffled off to go back home.
The following day (that’s today, dear blog friends), I went back to the clinic. They had me fill out a checklist regarding my OHSS symptoms, which have been fairly mild thus far. Another transvaginal ultrasound revealed that I was doing okay internally despite the pain, and then another blood test (20ml drawn today! Still keeping tabs!) before going in to the consultation room to see my beloved Dr. O.
“Okay,” she said. “There were 18 eggs, right? Of that 18, six were immature eggs that we couldn’t nudge to maturity. That leaves 12. Of that 12, ten could be fertilised.”
Ten! That was about nine more than I was anticipating. Over 50%!
“You’ve said you’re happy to have us grade the eggs, right?” she asked, and I nodded.
“Now,” she continued, “insurance only covers transfer of six blastocysts. We can freeze them all, and transfer up to six times under insurance if needed…”
“And any remaining ones can be transferred out of pocket?” I asked.
“Yes,” she nodded. “I’m assuming this is the course you would prefer, rather than potentially having to go through retrieval again?”
“Absolutely, yes,” I said, pulling a face. “Retrieval is not exactly my favourite part of this thing!”
She smiled. “I suspected as much. Okay, well, for the time being, if you could come back on the 21st or 22nd to get the results of your blood test…? Then we’ll be able to plan more later.”
“That’s fine, yes, okay,” I said, and then the consultation was over. Another hasty round of messages sent to my husband, and here we are.
…I’m still a bit gobsmacked by it all. I have another friend who had OHSS with her IVF (it’s a lot more common with certain people with others by the way, including if you have PCOS) and she had to be hospitalised with it, which is (I have been led to believe) really quite rare, so I know I’m lucky if my case is only mild, but the sheer number of eggs retrieved – and then the number of which managed to be fertilised?! – has pretty much blown my mind.
I know, I know not to count chickens before they’re hatched and there’s still a chance that they might a) not develop well despite being fertilised, b) fail to survive being frozen, c) not stick, d) not develop well despite sticking and lead to a miscarriage, like I know there are so very many obstacles in the way still. But I went into this thinking that I was going to get maybe one (remember? The doctor warned that the insurance version enabled less monitoring, fewer checkups, only allowed limited types of medication, ran the risk of ovulating too early and/or retrieving fewer eggs!) and the fact that we ended up with so many makes me feel like the odds are so much better this time. Have I jinxed it by saying this? Maybe. Who can tell.
I guess there’s not much more to say for now, so wish me luck this weekend! I need to take our toddler to the clinic for her second flu jab (they’re split into two doses for under-13s) and with my own pain and sensitivity from the OHSS this could be a bit of a challenge 😅 Will update you again later!