As I have mentioned multiple times, my blog is delayed. I have done that on purpose to give me the time to grieve or to come to terms with what ever the outcome was from October – good or bad. Little did I realised that writing once a week just wasn’t going to cut it when so many things happened over the course of the month that I spent there. These weekly post updates could have gone on for months, leaving you all in too much suspense and I did not think that that was fair. So this post will aim to be an informative but long one to play the catch up game.
Here goes….this is the post that is probably going to be epically long but it will give you a HUGE catch up all in one to see what happened during the rest of my trip to Athens in September and October of last year.
We last left off with 3 follicles and a next morning appointment that would hopefully be the one where they would tell me that we would be ready for a ‘harvest’.
The next morning
It was all good news as the right side was ‘ready to go’ with 2 eggs and the left side with 1 and 2 smaller possibilities….we were back up to possibly 5, people….believe me…it was a daily roller coaster.
The ‘egg removal guy’ (with so much else going on, all the medical jargon and terms I was learning, not to mention those damn acronyms…can you really blame me for having no idea what his proper professional title was?), told me that we would aim for retrieving 3 but quite often in cases like this they may be able to retrieve more – 4,5 or even 6. I have no idea where the 6 came from but I’ll take it. I was happy with 3 (better than the 2 last time), and starting crossing fingers for any extras. However we would have no idea of the quality of the eggs until they were removed so it was another ‘wait and see’ situation. I was very used to this by now so wasn’t too bothered by it – 1 step at a time. Let’s go 3 – thankfully it’s my favourite number.
It was also my last stimulant day – woohoo! I was also not allowed to take Clexane (the blood thinner), so was on cloud 9 until I remembered it was all systems go and that I had to go at 10pm that night and get the mammajamma of all injections – the ‘Trigger shot’, not so affectionately known by me as the ‘butt shot’, as it goes directly into your butt muscle and hurts…not so fun! It had to happen precisely at 10pm to coincide with the egg removal time a few days later at 9am. Basically it starts the ovulation process making it easier to retrieve the eggs. There was no way in hell that I was going to do this myself – injections into my stomach fat was all well and good but into a muscle that I could barely reach with a full sized huge needle….no way hose…I didn’t need that stress and pressure, so they gave me a note in Greek and as I had done this before I knew where to go (ridiculously a maternity hospital!), and I felt more relaxed about it.
The next day was a ‘drug free’ day, however not really as I still had to take all the pills I was currently on (6 a day) but no needles! Still celebrating the small things!
As I finished my appointment I met a new friend! She is fab and is in a similar situation to me which was really nice to chat with someone with a similar condition. She is married but was in Athens alone for a bit so I was thankful to have someone to chat with, meet up with and explore with – I didn’t realise how people starved I had been. Over the course of the next week we ended up spending a lot of time together and she introduced me to another lovely couple and we are all still in contact. I am so grateful to have met them.
9.30pm I started the 25 minute walk to the hospital and the pain in the butt came right on 10pm – ouch! The walk home helped though and I had the added distraction that my ‘friend’ from Agistri came over the spend the day with me the next day which was a lot of fun and a great distraction on my ‘drug free day’ – the day before and morning of the retrieval.
It was up bright and early with no food or drink from midnight, sans makeup, perfume and jewellery and onto the metro to the clinic on the day of my retrieval. It was a bit of a wait once I had got changed into my sexy blue gown until I went in – got to love a wait when you are completely naked and nervous waiting to be put under and have big needles poking holes in your uterus!
Then they were ready and it was time to go. Thankfully the anaesthetic went in fine this time, so no moving the needle in my hand and no entire hand bruises afterwards like last time. Unfortunately I reacted badly to the anaesthetic and woke up crying and upset but managed to calm myself down quickly as I had no idea why I was upset or crying. I have only been under anaesthetic 3 times and once before I had had a really bad reaction upon waking and they thought I may have been awake during it – not a fun feeling.
The magic number was 5!!! Way better than the 2 from round one and the none from the cancelled cycle!
I finally ate and drank something and felt very woozy and drunk-like until an hour and half after I woke up, which made for a hilarious metro ride and walk home. I took the rest of the day to rest and made it a lazy day, which was prescribed and needed. There are a lot of rules on this IVF journey but I was glad for the list that was tagged to this day.
I would have to call the clinic at 12.30pm the next day to see how the eggs were coming along, if they were good quality and if they had started to fertilise or not. This was always the nerve wracking part for me, as it was totally out of my control, I could no longer rely on my body to help things along or stimulants. It was donor sperm and my eggs, all having to do this on their own. Fingers crossed!
DAY 1 – post egg retrieval
It took me half an hour to work up the courage to make the nerve wracking phone call and I had a huge pit in my stomach while doing so.
One day 1, I had 5 fertilised eggs, which had now turned into embryos. This was unbelievable as no one thought that my body, with my condition, would be able to produce that many or it was always a best case scenario/rare chance. I was hoping for at best 3 but preparing myself for less so I was beside myself. At this point last time I had 2 eggs and only 1 fertilised. 100% this time – go embryos go!
However again, I had to check myself…this does not mean that they would be of good quality – that was the next check at the Day 3 point. While talking to the embryologist (yes – I have one medical name in this process down!), she mentioned that they could not see any severe abnormalities, which was great news.
The next appointment was in 2 days time, in person, to see how they were doing and depending on the number and quality, the transfer would happen then or we would wait until day 5. If we waited until day 5 they would have developed into blastocysts and have a much better chance. However with my previous situations and limited egg supply it would more likely be a day 3 transfer again, so that was what I prepared myself for.
I obviously would love them to develop to day 5 as you aim for this and getting the best outcome and quality but it was also a catch 22 for me as it would mean more time off work and more money spent on flights and accommodation etc. But it is a step by step process and we would have to see how it went over the next few days.
Celebrating the small things – c’mon wee embryos!
DAY 3 – post egg retrieval
Holy s*#t…excuse the french but this was the exact words I sent on this day to my friends and family and to be honest there really is no other way to describe what happened…all 5 had continued to grow.
3 were Grade 1, 8 cells, meaning they were the best grade and cell number, whoop whoop. 2 were Grade 1.5, 6 cells, meaning they were smaller and had a small amount of fragmentation but were still pretty damn good.
I also had my 7th blood test for progesterone levels, so hopefully they would come back ok.
As the 3 are doing so well, they expect all 3 to get to the Blastocyst stage, so the transfer would happen on Day 5 – the day I was supposed to leave. You are not able to fly long haul for at least 48 hours so I had to spend the day changing my flight, talking to my boss…eeekkkk…. and finding another apartment as all the ones in the building were going to be occupied – buggar!
My work was amazing and totally understood – all my sick leave was officially eaten up and I was now operating on ‘leave without pay’ – ouch! But so worth it if in the long run this works! Due to Turkish Airline rules, as I had already changed the flight I had to go in person to the airport desk and change it there and pay a huge fee (better than buying a new ticket by far though!), and it made for an afternoon adventure on the metro. Luckily I also found a great apartment with a stunning view pretty much across the road from my current place – gotta love Airbnb!
(Celebrated and again distracted myself with a trip to the Acropolis and an incredible lunch….so good I licked the plate)
DAY 5 – Embryo Transfer
Previous to going in I had to really think about what I might do if all 5 made it, if 4 made it, 3 or even 2. How many would I put back? Greek law states that for my age range they would only let 2 be put back as I have a higher chance than others – go the age! Would I risk 2? Could I handle it alone if both worked and I had twins? Again – I had to try and slow my brain and think ‘one step at a time’. I just had to wait and see what I had got and take their advice onboard too.
Out of the 5, 2 made it to Blastocysts, 2 arrested on day 3 and 1 made it to morula stage and we would wait to see if it made it to a blastocyst the next day and decide whether to freeze it from there. However it looks like it may have arrested yesterday (day 4) – it ended up that that was the case.
Both blastocysts were AA and one was 3 and one was 4. 6 is the top and means that the embryo has hatched. This basically means that one embryo was excellent and one was very good. They expected hatching from both later today, which would be after the transfer. Pretty cool.
I had to make that decision about how many embryos to put back and as I mentioned above that with the prospect of 3-5 it was very daunting. However with only 2 and after talking it over with both Penny and the embryologist, I decided to put both back – transfer them both.
In terms of statistics there is a 50% chance of a single pregnancy resulting, which is because of my age and is great news comparatively, as IVF rates are on average more of a 25% or less chance with low AMH, however it is still a low chance. The twin thing was of course discussed and the clinic doesn’t like dealing with numbers but there is a 30% chance but as the embryologist said, if it happens to me then there is a 100% chance.
(The white dot above my finger are the blastocysts – watching them go in is the coolest thing)
So now I continued to take lots of pills on a daily basis and wait for the 2 week mark to see if the embryos had ‘settled in’.
Oh, and lets not forget the butt shots – I had one Pregnyl injection on the day post transfer and had to expose my whole butt, as it was done during the ‘resting stage’ after the transfer – just stunning. Now, that one was painful. I had to do 2 more, one in 2 days before I flew and another on the Sunday when I was back in Beijing. Thankfully my doctor was working this day and was able to do it for me. They have a policy that they would not do it unless it is prescribed by them but knowing my situation my doctor was amazing and obliged.
So it was another mandatory 2 days of rest in the hopes that these 2 little guys hatch and started to settle in.
I had had no idea but luckily my new apartment happened to be situated in the tallest building in Athens and the view was just insane!
My month in Athens had finally come to an end after 1 cancelled round, 2 trips to Agisitri, countless injections, one miracle, 2 rescheduled flights, 5 accommodation shifts, broken veins, 0 then 5 then 3 then 5 then 2 eggs, unexpected 5 day transfer, new friends and 2 embryos hopefully setting in, it had been one hell of a ride. Who knew when I left from Beijing for 2 weeks that this is what would have happened.
I spent my last day getting my second butt shot – yay! (sarcasm), and raiding all the pharmacies trying to gather as much Clexane injections as possible as the prices in China were insane and I wasn’t entirely sure I could get them. I even bought 2 pregnancy tests – such a weird feeling and it was so hilarious when the cashier said me me ‘I hope that you get the result that you want’ – what a great way to say it. It made me feel quite good ‘So do I’ , I replied (but it would be a wait!).
I had said goodbye to my new friends the night before and it was back to Beijing and normal life to begin that dreaded 2 week wait that everyone talks about and that I had experienced once before and that had ended in disappointment.
Back in Beijing – the 2 week wait
Thankfully carrying so many meds and injections went seamlessly and the only thing the airports were concerned about was the ice pack that I was carrying on board that was keeping my last shot of Pregnyl cold ready for my Sunday butt shot. Thank goodness for the Greek and English letters I carried with me.
Sorting out that third butt shot and then trying to sort the intense amounts of medication that I had to take each day was enough to keep me busy, as was returning to the realities of work and the cold weather in Beijing.
I was on 13 pills a day all spaced out at random times, so it took some getting used to to make sure I had taken what I was supposed to at certain times – luckily time management is my forte. All going well I had 14 weeks of this to look forward to. All I had to do was keep the 2 week mark in mind and get myself to that – 1 step at a time. I also had that blasted Clexane injection that had hardly marked me in Athens but was now making lovely smiley face patterns on my stomach – just beautiful. The glamours of IVF – maybe that it what I should rename my blog.
The 2 week wait – my old friend…..3 months on and here we go again.