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Egg Collection to #IVF Failure in 24 Hours

The last couple of days have been an emotional rollercoaster so although I’ve done brief updates on Instagram and Facebook I haven’t felt up to writing a full blog post. But I started blogging about my IVF journey intending to post about the good, the bad and the ugly so here I am.

Egg Collection Day

Wednesday saw an early start to drive up to London with my parents for a my egg collection appointment. I’d had my trigger injection at 23.30 on Monday and then was injection free on the Tuesday which was nice after 16 days of nightly jabs. I tried to spend Tuesday relaxing and not getting too anxious. Easier said than done.

Wednesday morning was spent snoozing in the car whilst my dad drove and then panicking we wouldn’t arrive in time. I was asked to arrive at reception at 9.30am. We left Poole at 5.30am and arrived at the clinic at 9.30!! Ah well I thought – no time really to get anxious about the general anaesthetic – although I didn’t end up going down until nearer 11am so then I started to worry.

My worried face

One of the benefits of having IVF at a private clinic was I got a private room. I also got to choose some lunch to have after my procedure having not been allowed to eat or drink from midnight. The nurse welcomed me and I had blood pressure, pulse, height and weight (joy) taken. My blood pressure was 119/80. I don’t think I’ve ever quite seen it so textbook. My pulse was over 110 – I think the speed walk from the tube station didn’t help. Height and weight showed I haven’t shrunk and I’m still pretty much where I was at my last Slimming World weigh in.

At some point the Dr came in and got me to sign a consent and offered to go through any questions I had. I’ve actually had a General Anaesthetic before when I broke my arm after a car accident so I got most of my anxieties about that out of the way then.

Over the course of the morning I was asked to confirm my name, date of birth, allergies, presence of metal work etc a number of times. They definitely made sure they had the right person. I couldn’t get my pineapple necklace off as I’d wrapped it around my wrist so it was taped down instead. Oddly I was comforted I still had this totem on.

I was also given a very fetching outfit of a purple one use gown, nude slipper socks, a dressing gown, and one use knickers that I promptly stuck my finger through when pulling up. I knew they’d pretty much rip them off to access my lady parts later so I wasn’t too worried about that. (In preparation I had re-shaved my lower legs and I had trimmed a little a few days before but hey I’m single and can’t be bothered with having unnecessary itching going on down there!!).

Non-Slip Sexy Slipper Socks

I wondered down to the ‘theatre’ with the nurse and a porter and my asthma inhaler and then was in a room adjacent to the theatre to be given my anaesthetic. The chap I was speaking to was friendly and we discovered some welshness in common (My mum and her family are from Wales) and we talked healthcare. The anaesthetist came and introduced herself and confirmed that I could/would have the canula in my inner elbow rather than the back of my hand (definitely preferable). Then I got hooked up to a blood pressure cuff. A sharp scratch as the needle went in. I was told that the anaesthetic was being trickled in and that I might taste it at the back of my throat or get a tingling face (I got the latter) and then I know absolutely nothing until I woke up in recovery less than an hour later. During egg collection they pass a needle up your vagina to your ovaries to collect the eggs – not something you’d probably want to be awake for.

In the recovery room every now and then the cuff would take my blood pressure – it was lower than earlier although fairly quickly returned to normal. I had an oxygen mask on and was coughing a little so was given my inhaler to take. I was asked by the recovery nurse how many eggs I had been expecting and I groggily said a max of two and she confirmed they had indeed retrieved two. I was very relieved. But also woozy so did later confirm that’s what I’d been told to make sure I hadn’t made it up.

I had two follicles. They collected two eggs. The best outcome I could have expected.

She also asked to check a pad they’d put in place to make sure there was no major bleeding. There wasn’t. And it seems the pad had got stuck on my stomach so it was put back where it was meant to be!! There is very little dignity being a lady having this sort of intervention.

There was good camaraderie amongst the staff and talk of the football. My recovery nurse was Portuguese and one of her colleagues was Moroccan (or at least supporting Morocco). I asked him who was going to win. He said Portugal due to Ronaldo.

At one point the anaesthetist came back in to see everyone in her civvies instead of scrubs – her morning’s work obviously over.

At around 12.30 I was taken back upstairs and was able to tell mum the positive news and dad when he got back from a walk and my sister over the phone. By this time I was feeling quite awake – which is an unusual occurrence for me and that feeling lasted around an hour. I had a tiny bit of discomfort in my abdomen and where the canula was. Once again regular blood pressure and monitoring took place.

I had to call a nurse when I first wanted to get up and walk. I felt fine but they had “Call don’t fall” stickers up so I complied. Also I had nearly passed out the first time I got up after my last anaesthetic (however that was after well over 24 hours in bed rather than 1). I was fine and made my way to the en suite toilet for dad to point out my ripped knickers on the floor. I put my own back on. There was a tiny bit of blood (this is normal) so I kept the pad in place.

Then I wolfed down my food and a few glasses of water and the tablets I’d been unable to take in the morning. I let dad have the tea they bought. Didn’t fancy any milk. I had carrot and hummus sandwiches and granola with yoghurt and berries. It was actually tasty – or was I just starving.

Private hospital day case lunch

An IVF nurse came to see me and asked the somewhat random and vague question if I knew what I was to do next. What she meant was to start taking progesterone pessaries the following morning and to await a call from the embryologists in the morning to let me know if the donor sperm had managed to fertilise my eggs. Progesterone pessaries are taken because where the eggs are collected the follicle doesn’t do what it normally does when you ovulate and release the relevant hormones. I think it also helps keep the womb lining thick and repair the holes caused by the needles. If you are to get pregnant by IVF usually women take these for the first 12 weeks. They are usually taken twice daily vaginally although occasionally need to be used rectally (such as on the day of egg transfer).

Finally at 2.30ish my final blood pressure measurement was taken and was back up to where it had started. Canula out clothes on. Paperwork completed and I was allowed home where we arrived about four hours later. I had snoozed most of the journey back. My sister popped round for hugs with some paracetamol and then I ate some comfort crumpets with melted cheese and I was in bed by 9pm with my alarm set for 9am so I’d be awake for the phonecall.

The call from the Embryologist and a mix up

Naturally I woke anxious about the outcome and felt my heart skip a beat when the phone rang at just after 9.30. A withheld number (as most hospital numbers are). It was the embryologist from the clinic. After confirming my name and date of birth I was informed that only one egg had fertilised normally and that they had booked me a transfer appointment for the following day – Friday at 10am and as long as everything went as planned that would be what would happen. I don’t really know what I felt. Obviously I had hoped for both to fertilise as if they had – at my age – they can implant two embryos to increase the chances of conception. But as people say it only takes one so there was still a chance things could work out.

I was on the phone to my family arranging our journey for the Friday when not ten minutes later the phone rang again from a withheld number. I put my parents on hold to answer it. It was the embryologist. She was sorry. She’d made a mistake and not properly read a note made by her colleague. Although one egg had fertilised it was showing signs of abnormality. My heart sank.

She went on to say her previous call was premature and to explain that although in other countries they do transfer such embryos because they are generally not viable (?why) that in the U.K. it is illegal. But they would check again at 10am (it was 9.47am) and 12pm to see how things were dividing. I started crying before I was able to put the phone down.

I had to phone my sister and parents back to tell them. They were angry and upset on my behalf.

At 10 the call came again saying nothing had changed and it wasn’t likely to. She apologised again for the earlier error. I felt numb. I barely spoke but sniffed trying to hold back tears. They would check again at 12 and the end of the day and if anything developed they would give me an appointment but that they would let my consultant know so I could arrange my follow up appointment to discuss what happened.

I private messaged close friends and family and a friend who has been through the process. My parents and sister popped by for hugs and tears. I’d already had hugs from my lodger. My parents were heading to Asda. I had only been able to pick up part of my pessary prescription from there before hand so had some still owing. Some I no longer need but had paid for. I asked my mum if they could collect as I didn’t think I could cope with that. I cried … again.

Now I don’t know if I misunderstood but I had expected a call back later to confirm once and for all. Nothing by 12. I had arranged to meet up with friends at a local coffee shop to get out of the house. More hugs and tears but also panini, tiffin and hot chocolate and paracetamol. Purely medicinal of course. A little girl was celebrating her 3rd birthday. We all sang to her. On the walk back home my friend and I went on the swings in the empty playground. I swung without moving my legs because my stomach was aching but it did feel good.

I e-mailed the fertility nurse from the satellite clinic to let her know as they don’t get informed automatically. I checked if this meant I didn’t have to continue with the pessaries.

I spent the rest of the day with my eyes leaking on and off. I did some shredding and ripping up of things. My stomach ached bending over to the shredder but I did it anyway.

I didn’t hear back from the clinic. I went to phone at 4.30 to find out that’s the time they close. I posted a quick update online as I know there were people who would be waiting to hear.

An IVF Milestone card you hope you won’t have to use – but it exists so this outcome is common

I worked on a sculpture I’d made to fix up bits that had cracked when it was dry. I responded to lots of lovely supportive messages from people on Facebook and Instagram. I tried to keep busy. Another friend had popped round some chocolates and a card but left them on the step kindly not wanting to put me under pressure to talk. My lodgers got me more chocolates. I’ll deal with the gain on Monday’s weigh in and hopefully put a line under it and move on.

I went to feed my sister’s cat. He let me cuddle him for 30 seconds. I fed and watered him and gave him a treat. Then he pissed off outside. Good to know some things don’t change.

Hope and Breaking/Dealing With Bad News

It still would have been hard to hear a no straight away this morning. The thing with this process is that a no can appear at many steps along the way. But to hear a yes followed by we made an error was extra gutting. I know mistakes are made but this is already such an emotive process. Your body is full of hormones too which certainly won’t help with producing rational emotions. I wrote a poem about how I felt.

Short cathartic poem

Hope is a funny thing. We need it but it can be overdone. Everyone wants life to be easy. People want to tell you that the miracle will happen for you. That you’ll be one of the lucky ones when chances are that actually you might not be. At least not first time. In the clinic they went through the steps you’d take if the results were positive. Nothing was said about the negative initially. People need to be better prepared for all eventualities.

If you’ve read all of this. Bless you and thank you. I said to someone that I wanted to share to raise awareness because there are women and couples going through this every day. I want people to just think a little before asking some of the questions that trip off our tongues about when people plan to have a family because they may just be trying their damnedest without success. This is only my first attempt. I’ve lurked on forums and I know people who have had many failures and it’s devastating. But we all deal with it differently. I have chosen to share. Some people won’t want to or be able to. I want those who need to to feel that they can. To feel that social media doesn’t just have to be a highlights reel. We can share the lowlights too. We can help each other feel and cope with negative emotion. We can say I’m here for you – I don’t know what to say but I care. And you don’t need to fix things for people straight away. If something crap happens it’s normal to feel sad at first. It’s normal for people to want to vent without you having to offer a solution. Often there isn’t one. Or your solution won’t be there solution. Just listen and think – not what would I need but what do I think they would need – if you don’t know simply ask.

This isn’t the end of my journey so I will continue to share. I don’t know what the next steps will be apart from arranging to see the consultant to talk things through. I’m sure there will be more tears and more hugs and that things will feel shit and then they’ll start to feel better. Thanks to everyone who sticks with me through that.

Posting this before I head to bed and I’m

hoping to wake up and cry less tears tomorrow.

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The Process of Sperm Donation for IVF

Sperm gif via giphy

On a recent post on facebook I had a comment from someone disagreeing with my choice to use a ‘random sperm donor/random artificial insemination kit’ where any future child would not be able to know their father.

Now believe me when I was younger and dreaming of having children this was not the way I thought I’d have to go either but there are a number of factual inaccuracies with these views and this was not a decision I took lightly so I just wanted to enlighten people about the process. I am aware that there are other options available such as adoption and fostering and I am not ruling those out but to have a biological child my options were waiting to find a partner (not really an option as biologically time is not on my side), a random hook up (ethically not something I would be comfortable with and based on my results actually unlikely to be successful anyway – and potentially likely to end up knowing even less about a biological father than via donation). Basically that leaves regulated sperm donation.

UK Regulations and the HFEA

Please note that I am in the United Kingdom so things may very well be different in other parts of the world. In the U.K. the process of using donated sperm or eggs is regulated and monitored by the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority). As a side note it is not just single ladies that may need to use donated sperm, same sex couples or couples where there is a problem with the male partner’s sperm may also need to use this route.

Firstly I was recommended a couple of sperm donation banks by the clinic I had my assessment with – one was European and one American. There are some in the U.K. but I don’t think these are necessarily as well “stocked”. Despite using a bank outside the U.K. I had to select a UK compatible donor. That is one who had agreed to meet the standards required the by HFEA. Namely that they would be an Open donor. More on this later.

Before I even got to this stage though there was other steps I had to take.

Implications Counselling

Firstly a single lady or couple planning to use donor sperm or eggs has to have implications counselling. I was referred to a fertility specialist counsellor by my clinic and ended up having two sessions over Skype. During these sessions we discussed any concerns or questions I had about the process and also we had to discuss the legal and ethical implications of using a donor.

Some of these are: (can’t be sure I’m remembering everything but I was relieved I’d already considered most of the implications)

⁃ If you are having treatment in the U.K. you have to agree to using an Open donor. This means that any future children will be able to find out if they are donor conceived when they are 16 and to be put in contact with any half siblings that have also registered as wanting contact. At 18 they can get identifying information about the sperm donor including their name and last known address. This doesn’t guarantee future contact.

⁃ A donor can change their mind at any point up until a fertilised egg is transferred into the woman’s body. If this happens there is a year cooling off period where any created embryos are frozen. If at the end of this they still don’t want to go ahead these have to be destroyed. This was the one aspect I wasn’t aware of and I think is more likely to be an issue in the case of partner donated sperm (perhaps after relationship break down) rather than anonymous donors who have signed up to this voluntarily.

⁃ That donors are not fathers. They have no legal rights to donor conceived children and are not listed on a birth certificate. Donors do not get paid (they may get expenses) and generally do this because they are generous people who want to help others have a family and for that I am immensely grateful.

⁃ I wanted to discuss how to raise the manner of conception with a future child (Tomorrow’s post).

⁃ Other aspects that are more general IVF factors are the risks of multiple births and risks of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome that can occur with the use of the hormone medication.

CMV Status

It is recommended you have a blood test to assess your CMV status. This is a virus that many people get without really being aware of it but there is a little evidence to say if a woman who had never had the virus and they use sperm from a donor who has had it that it might cause problems. So if you are CMV negative it’s best to pick a CMV negative donor. You can choose a CMV positive donor but you have to sign something to say you are aware of the risks. If a woman is CMV positive you can choose a donor with either status.

There was also a panic about some new regulations about the importation of sperm that may affect importation from the US company in the short term. Hopefully your clinic will be aware of this but it came in just after I’d made my ‘order’ and put me into a bit of a panic that it would delay everything. I had to import this to a HFEA registered clinic – I don’t believe you can randomly import it to your home address.

Booking a Pregnancy ‘Slot’

To use donor sperm you have to book what they call a pregnancy slot. This is so that they limit the number of women in a particular country able to become pregnant by one donor. In this case to ten women. The cost of this was 500 Euros and this is refunded if IVF does not result in a live birth. Any live births have to be registered so that donor conceived children can find out about siblings.

Choosing a donor

This was the weirdest part of the process.

I chose to pay a fee to the sperm bank I had chosen to be able to access more information than the basic profile which is basically eye/hair colour/ nationality.

Here’s what I could access:

Baby photos of the donor (which no I won’t be sharing publicly).

An audio file of the donor answering questions in English about why they wanted to be a donor and about their personality, family etc. Some of this information is also provided in a written document too.

A scan of a handwritten letter they have written to a future donor conceived child.

Clinic Staff Impressions of the donor.

A full medical history – they have had full medical screening / this also includes family medical history where known. (And as a friend noted I know probably more than she does about her husband’s family medical history). I’m also pretty sure they also have to update their clinic if anything notable happens medically.

Occupation

How many children have resulted from their donations or if they are a new donor.

On the US site you could even access adult photos which I felt a bit strange about so decided not to use this option.

Process of Elimination

Now due to confusion I believed I was CMV negative so this led to me reducing the pool of donors I was able to choose from. It transpired I was positive but by that time I’d already selected the donor and was happy with my selection.

I likened this to being vegetarian and having two thirds of the menu taken away which actually helped me because it made the amount of choices less overwhelming.

I then took away any donors it indicated were still in high school because personally I just felt uncomfortable with that.

I then looked at general characteristics and the full information and made my decision based on all of that.

Availability

This was the final deciding factor. Because I felt my time was limited I ended up choosing the donor from my short list who was ‘in stock’ or would be very shortly. Often donors donate regularly and obviously samples have to be assessed for quality before they are released.

You are recommended to order enough ‘units’ for a few rounds of IVF because things aren’t always successful first time. I chose to order enough for 3 rounds and then this was shipped to the clinic in London where I will be having my treatment. They arrange this between them and then store this (at additional cost) until your treatment. It was a little weird ordering online and adding sperm to an online shopping cart. The sperm bank staff were super helpful and responded quickly to any e-mails or queries I had.

So that’s the process so far and as I hope I’ve clarified – it is not random, it is well regulated and safe and a donor is not legally a father. But donor conceived children in the U.K. when they are adults are able to find out information about how many half siblings they have (and contact them if they both register to find this out) and the name of their donor.

I hope if this is all successful and in the future I find myself in a relationship that that man would become my child’s father but I will make sure they have positive male role models and relationships anyway.

As a final aside there is no sperm emoji so my friends and I have had to make do with 🐳.

Tomorrow’s post – Telling a donor conceived child how they came to be

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