Sweet, sweet company

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Maypole – all about fertility – on ‘The island’ in Sweden

After almost 2 weeks in Athens and everyday filled with some medical procedure, drama or other event I was champing at the bit to leave and was starved for company.

The fact that I had stayed the extra time (I had had to guesstimate my time when I had booked my tickets as I had NO idea how long everything would take – a rough idea wasn’t quite right, so I was glad that I had booked the extra days),  meant I was able to head to Serum every 2 days after the transfer to receive ‘butt shots’ (progesterone), that I was unable to do myself.  After 3 shots, I was very happy to leave.

I must say I was pretty damn ecstatic to discover non-alcoholic beer (thank god!), to get me through the long list of rules that I had to partake in:

  • No swimming (this was a tough one)
  • No baths
  • No excess sun (a bit hard when it is between 38-45 degrees each day)
  • No getting dehydrated (again – a bit difficult…my BPA free, squishy, roll up water bottle became my best friend and was attached to my bag everyday)
  • No penatrative sex (well, I wish that was even an issue)
  • Gentle exercise: no running (definitely NOT a problem…although by the end of the 2 weeks I was desperate for any kind of exercise!)

And don’t forget the myriad of pills and that elusive injection that dictated my schedule each day.

So with a 2 week wait ahead of me and the ‘No fun list’ dictating my every move and being something I HAD to stick to, I was so relieved to be heading to Sweden to meet up with my brother, my brother from another mother and some of my gorgeous friends.

It was the best thing for me to be around so many positive, fun, amazing and caring people and to chat about what I had been through (and was still going through), was a relief in itself.  To be around people was the best feeling.

I was lucky to be busy enough to forget about my ‘ordeal’ and to have time to unwind and be myself again, not some person going through something awful.

I was also very fortunate to be around 2 people who had been struggling to get pregnant (a couple), and to talk about it to people who truly understood was such a blessing.

Sweden offered many alternatives to alcohol and I was spoilt for choice – it will be hard to go back to Beijing where there isn’t much in that respect out in restaurants and bars, unless you want fizzy drink.  I always felt like part of the group and never felt left out – apart from when we went to ‘The island’ and everyone was doing amazing bombs off the wharf and swimming.  My wading up to my thighs technique and dunking my hair in and flicking it back to get wet was perfected to a tee.  Not quite a ‘Wella’ ad but it did the trick.

My gorgeous friends had also helped line up a blood test at the 2 week mark (the day I left Sweden), to see if I was pregnant or not and how my progesterone levels were (basically if I needed the 3 extra butt shot injections I was hauling around to each airport with an ice pack attached).

That second week of waiting was exactly what I had needed – thank god for my brother and those amazing friends.  I am truly thankful to them.  If I hadn’t been with them, I think I may have gone insane.

Next stop: results

***On a side note – Sweden (Stockholm), absolutely blew me away – absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anybody!

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Like a shooting star

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4 days post transfer, overlooking Athens. I finally felt up to venturing out and about.

No matter how much I convinced myself to stay calm and that things were out of my control, I had an incredibly massive pit in my stomach the closer I got to my appointment time.  I tried to prepare myself for the worst case scenario and I had even looked up flights and boats to other places so I could escape Athens and move forward as quickly as possible.

It is a tough situation to be in when all your hopes are riding on something that is completely out of your control and that is for the most part, a right of a womans existence or life.  Unfairness at it’s peak – how do you cope with that while tying to stay positive but trying to prepare yourself for the worst, just incase?

Through this process I repeatedly and truly wondered if I was actually cut out for this.  I constantly questioned myself.  ‘I am not strong enough for this’,  being a thought that was a regular in my head, popping up and starting the emotional train wreck going again.

I had the longest wait yet in the waiting room (always bring a trusty book – though I had to re-read that chapter again later as I had taken none of it in), and then I was taken to have a blood test to check my Progesterone levels – they need to be high – apparently that’s what some of my pills had been doing.

I was getting to be a pro at blood tests now.  The mid wife laughed as she called me for it and as I proclaimed ‘Awesome, fab, can’t wait’, she told me she had never heard that reaction for a blood draw before.  No shit Sherlock.

After another wait – this was incredibly nerve wracking – more so than the wait to see if my meagre number of eggs had been fertilised.  I didn’t have another chance, I was screwed if it was not a good grade.

I was asked to go up to the illusive 3rd floor – that had to be a good sign right? – this is the procedure room floor – no offices in sight.  I went through the same routine as the retrieval with the full gown, although I was pleased I was allowed to have my top half remain covered which made the ‘hospital shuffle’ much easier this time.

The embryologist appeared – and SUCCESS!!!!  My little embryo had continued to fertilise and although it wasn’t at day 5 (which means it would be a blastyocst and have a better chance), for a day 3 transfer it was excellent quality – NO FRAGMENTATION.  Relief flooded me.  I had an internal celebratory dance party and then it hit me, my god….this was actually about to happen.

It was then into the next room and legs up into my “favourite” stirrups and Penny came in and explained how the procedure would go.  She did a ‘dry run’ of the transfer, meaning that after the usual speculum, she inserted a long, tiny catheter which we could see on the screen.  The mid wife and her really ensured that I could see everything so I was able to see how it worked and  they told me what I needed to look for when the transfer happened.

The embryologist was then told we were ready and came in with an identical catheter which contained my embryo.  It was then inserted and I was told to look for the shooting star and it was exactly that.  It was crazy cool – as they transferred the embryo it looked like a shooting star going across the screen/ my uterus.  Super cool.

The catheter was then removed and they took it away to make sure everything had been transferred and it was empty.  Penny rubbed my belly and said ‘C’mon on blue eyed baby, grow, grow, grow.  She then gave me a photo from the transfer where you can see the little light of the embryo sitting there.  I felt pure elation and awe looking at those pictures, it was all a bit insane and surreal.

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My plastic bag filled with needles and pills

I then needed to transfer to a bed and be wheeled into the nearby cubicle to ‘rest’ while I was delivered a thick wad of notes on the medication and injections (oh god, not more of those!!!!) that I needed to do, detailed right up to the 13th week of pregnancy, if I was lucky enough to make it that far.  As I tried to take in the fact that I had to do daily self injections and had 3 more ‘butt shots’ of Progesterone to do, I lay in a daze.  Thank god I was staying in Athens for a week longer and the clinic would do the shots for me (well the ‘butt shots’), – for the daily ones I was all on my own.

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All laid out – it only took up a quarter of my suitcase – lol!  Major resentment!

When I was allowed to stand and get dressed (around an hour later), I went through the pages with the mid wife a few more times, sat and waited for my supermarket bag full of medication and needles (only 1 months worth), and then asked if they would show me how to do the daily shots.  Long story short – they tried to do it, I told them that “no, I needed to learn” and then as I tried to stab myself 3 fingers from the tummy button, I got very upset (was there any doubt), only put it in a small amount and had to pull it out and then finally pushed it all the way in, pushed down and withdrew.  She told me it was like a little mosquito bite – at that point in time, my arse it was.  She also told me that it was a good idea to alternate sides for the shots in a smiley face pattern – at least something would be smiling! They are all preloaded thankfully.

As I left I was told that my Progesterone levels were excellent – another small win and I was off back to my apartment officially inseminated.

Crazy, just crazy.

Bring on the 2 week mark when I would have my blood test to see what was going on and to tell me if I I needed 3 additional ‘butt shots’ of progesterone – luckily I had trips planned and plenty of awesome people to distract me until then.  Thankfully they are fabulous friends and helped me arrange blood tests both in Sweden and France as I needed to have 2 tests, 2 days apart.  My mind could rest a bit easier with that sorted.

Pregnancy test here I come – never thought I’d be saying that being 33 and single.  My, how things change and how life works out

I AM strong enough for this.  It just took some convincing.  What’s llfe without a little (or a lot), of challenge.

 Although, I still would not wish doing this process alone on my worst enemy.

The verdict

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Putting a face to the name – introducing Serum

Overwhelmed and shattered emotionally I spent the next day in bed feeling a little under the weather – some mild cramps but nothing too unbearable.  I had felt so good the day of the procedure that I had even organised to visit some friends who were moored at a neighbouring island, however I was incredibly over ambitious thinking I would be able to do this.  I think the fact that with too many orifices being violated, a myriad of pills, being told to do limited exercise and that I couldn’t swim sealed the deal.

Because the day after the egg retrieval was a Sunday, I had to wait until Monday to visit the clinic to find out how my eggs had done and if they had fertilised.

Holy moly – some pretty important things these eggs were going through at this point and I had no choice but to try and relax and watch the hunky men of Chicago Fire (my new found binge watch TV show) to get me through.

2pm on Monday I got up the courage to leave the house and make the journey to the clinic.

An embryologist was called and came down to meet me in the waiting room.  She then started to tell me how they were looking.  The fact that I wasn’t taken away to a room and was talked to in a public waiting room had to be a good thing right?

I’m not so sure about that!!  If there is one thing that Serum needs to work on it is not delivering their news in a public area.

Unfortunately (but fortunately), only 1 egg had been fertilised.  I had a massive pit in my stomach but had prepared myself for maybe having heartbreak so was also relieved that I have 1 fertilised egg – it only takes 1.  I later asked and found out that it had been my natural egg that had survived/ been fertilised – nature is a pretty awesome thing.

Well, no need to further agonise over the decision to put 1 or 2 back. 1 it was.  At least that decision was taken out of my hands.

The embryologist then went on to tell me that they had looked at the embryos yesterday and as they don’t like to pull them out and disturb them very often, they would look at it tomorrow.  This would allow them to see the grading and the transfer would more than likely happen then, as I only had the 1 and they didn’t want to risk it by waiting until day 5 (something they usually try and do).

Grading?!?!  What the hell was that?!?!  She proceeded to then go through that with me (still in the waiting room)

Basically:

Grade 1 – means the embryo is in excellent condition, no fragmentations

Grade 2 – it is usable but has some fragmentations

Grade 3 – it is useless (well, she didn’t exactly say that but it is pretty much a summary of what she said),…they wouldn’t use it.

So, it was a quick chat to the mid wife to confirm which pills I needed to stop before the transfer, just incase it did happen the next day, and an appointment was made for 2pm the next day and it was a dazed walk home to hope and think as positively as I could that that little embryo made it.

I never want to be a Mum that strives to have high achieving children or puts pressure on her kids to achieve but this is one time where I was absolutely in need of nature and that 1 embryo to be high achievers.

C’mon little embryo – you can do it!

Harvest time at the farm

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A fabulous way to recuperate – loving the hammock and shady plant filled balcony

It was up and at ’em bright and early for ‘Egg retrieval day’ – bright, bushy tailed and bloody hopeful that they would be able to scrounge 2 eggs from my measly ovary crop.  C’mon egg number 2 – right ovary you can do it (you lazy little toad!)

Feeling naked – no make up, jewellery, perfume allowed – I took the walk down to the clinic to be there by 8.30, ready to be all systems go for my 9am harvest.

On my ‘most bestest day’ I had also been given a contract to sign entitled ‘Consent Form for an unmarried women undergoing assisted reproduction with donor sperm’ – hows that for a mouth full?!?  I had a few questions – namely about not being told any risks yet and also one about the mention of Greek Law – what the hell did it actually refer to.  It stumped everyone – apparently it isn’t asked about often – and they had to look it up and it was a few pages long.  So after it was paraphrased to me – perfectly acceptable – I signed the document.  Resentfully, I skipped the part where they ask you what you want to do with your extra embryo’s – lucky people who have excess eggs!  In my head I had choicer words to say about it.  The law basically stated that it covered me for all things etc,etc.

Again I was up on the 3rd floor, this time stripping properly naked and dressing myself in the beautiful backless gowns you see on all the hospital TV shows – and thankfully I was able to wrap it around enough to cover my behind.  I got versed in the ‘hosptial gown shuffle’ very quickly.

I was taken through to the same room I had my scans in, legs up, this time they were strapped in and heavy booty things were put over my legs to keep them in place or maybe just for the embryologist to lean on – who knows, I was out to it.  The anaesthetist came in, a very sweet women, I had pshsyced myself up for this needle and she tried to put a line in. my hand.  Apparently I wasn’t relaxed enough and she began flicking my hand and wrist to try and get another vein up to put in another line – lucky me.  My yoga breaths came in very handy through this whole process.

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My 2 entry points – later on half of my hand was entirely bruised and stayed that way for a week due to blood thinners.

The embryologist walked in – I’d never seen him in my life and never saw him again, even after I woke up – told me he would do a scan and showed me as he did it.

Did I just see a decent sized egg in my right ovary???  Tentatively I asked how many eggs there were. 2 he said. 2!!!  Woohoo – thank you stimulants!

Next there was an overwhelming sense of ‘woah’ as the embryologist stroked my head and asked if I was ok, then I was out.

While I was out, they retrieved the 2 eggs by a needle going through the top of the wall of the uterus under ultrasound guidance to get to the ovary and follicles, then the fluid in the follicles is aspirated through the needle and the egg/s detach from the follicle wall and are sucked out of the ovary.  The whole process takes about 15 minutes depending on how many eggs you have.  Lucky for me it was only 2 holes and a very quick time.

I awoke with no pain and was helped from the room by 2 people – god knows who and was told to rest in the room I usually got changed in.  I think I dozed, I have no idea for how long and was checked on by a member of staff and my hand was checked as it was still attached to the sedative bag.  Penny came in to check on things and breakfast was brought in as I had to fast from the night before.  My needles were finally removed – the first entry point was extremely tender and in the following days came out in a bruise that covered almost my entire hand – a complete rock’n’roll badass bruise – can you tell I hardly ever bruise!

I was able to sit up and eat my cheese toast when Penny came back in super excited that we had 2 eggs and gave me a huge hug.

I had the next stage of medication explained to me – so not fun!  I had to put pills 4 times a day in places pills should not go and then 2 times a day in another place pills should not go, as well as an array of different pills through out the day. Worse was when I found out that they had already given me one of them while I was under – lovely…I had no idea I had already been violated…that was a worry! I did laugh with the mid wife at that though – if you don’t laugh you cry!

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More instructions for the following days medication and procedures – lucky me.

After getting all the medication from reception and making sure I knew what I had to do, it was a slow walk back and an easy rest of the day, not doing too much and being lazy.  I was extremely lucky and felt fine – no niggles, just the horrendous putting of medication in different orifices.

As the next day was Sunday, the clinic would not be open after 1pm (optimum time to check the embryos), so I had to wait until Monday to check on my embryos and to see if they had ben fertilised.

Fingers crossed!  Come on little donor sperm – you can do it!