Second time around

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My airbnb with a view of the Acropolis and a jacuzzi! Infertility heaven!

I always knew that the second time around would be different but I was not prepared for how much easier it was….well, day 1 that is.

Leading up to heading back to Athens for my second round was crazy busy but to be honest in my job and life -what’s new?  Working right up until the day I left gave me routine, consistency and a busy-ness that I did not have in my previous round, as it had been in the middle of summer holidays.  I still stick to my guns on the fact that I really did everything I could to minimise the stress and overthinking but going into this round I could fell the difference.

Maybe it was the busy-ness, maybe it was the acupuncture, maybe it was the counselling, or maybe I had just got my head in to a better space….whatever it was, I was just super glad.

The day I left I held it together nicely and felt incredibly loved and supported with so many well wishers dropping by my class or leaving messages for me.  It wasn’t until I had to wait 30 minutes in the bank to pay my electricity bill with nothing else to do, that it all hit me like a tonne of bricks….Holy shit, I’m going to do this all over again!  The panic rushed in- my heart raced and I suppose technically it was probably a mini panic attack.  Managing to get it under control with some tough love, I was able to push through it and with the distraction of a dinner date with a friend pre flight and the fact that I had managed to procrastinate packing (a very un-Amy thing to do, which I now realise was on purpose….at the time I thought I was just being either laid back or lazy! lol), I managed to calm down.

The airport was the craziest I had ever seen it and apart from a quick stop at Starbucks for a tea, I had no time for anything else and was on the plane.  Despite not having slept through the night since being back and not managing more than 6 hours sleep (I usually can only function on 8), I was out like a light and in and out of consciousness for a good 4-5 hours.  Major win for me.  Istanbul’s quick change and hideous lines, got me straight on the next flight and again I was out to it, arriving in Athens early with my bag making it all the way through and was the first one out.

My Airbnb host had been amazing and had organised a driver to take me to my appointment straight away , wait for me and then bring me to the apartment.I forgot what Greek people are like and a smiling woman greeted me with a hug and then straight away, after saying she had bad English, began to talk my ear off and worriedly asked me what was wrong that I needed to go to the hospital.  I have since realised that it was not a Maria thing (my Airbnb host from last time) but a Greek thing.  They are the most caring, non-judgemental, passionate people – they are incredible.  I need to either move here or marry into a Greek family!

I was early to my appointment and dare I say it, it was almost like coming home.  I even gave the driver directions to the clinic.  I walked in like I had never left, had a bit of banter with the receptionist, feeling like ‘old-hat’, as I looked around the waiting room at the nervous faces.

Feeling ‘old-hat’ meant that when I waited 40 minutes I wasn’t surprised or bothered and when I was asked to change in the operating room, as they were super busy and needed to get me done quick, it did not phase me.  A stark contrast to the last time I was in that position.  When I was asked to confirm that I was doing a’Natural Supported Cycle’, I knew exactly what that meant.

My favourite skimpy wrap around cloth on and in came Penny, just another day back at the clinic for her, so no big reaction to me being there.  It was down to business, or should i say, all up in my business.

My right ovary had decided to come to the party this time and had 1 (13mm) follicle and a half. Yippee.  They made sure I saw that, as last time the right ovary was not so excited to produce anything.

Next we looked at the left ovary and she asked me to tell her what I was seeing.  It was a big and very clear follicle.  I got excited.  That was incredibly short lived.  Turns out, it really wasn’t such good news, it was too big which meant that is was probably an ovarian cyst.  Crap!

This then meant that if they gave me stimulants there could be too many risks – one, that it would over stimulate and burst and two, that it would compromise my other egg.  Not having stimulants means that my chance to grow that half follicle in the right ovary is pretty much gone.  I now had to wait until Monday at 8.45am (it was Saturday at 10.30am), to see how this cyst was going and to maybe investigate more which could mean a cancellation of my cycle. Crappyity crap crap.

Choosing not to worry until I had to, after a phone call to my parents, it was off to my Airbnb.

They had rushed the cleaning for me and I was able to have access straight away to the house – which was insanely amazing by the way – stunning balcony, view of the acropolis and a spa on the balcony!!!  Just what I needed for those first few days….to feel a bit of normalcy in this ‘not so normal’ situation.

So, it was off to play tourist and wander the streets for the next few days, spending money to make myself feel better, stumbling across ancient ruins and soaking up the sun on that balcony.

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Feeling punished

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Taken right after the negative was confirmed -Sunglasses are an amazing tool, my new best friend.

Celebrating the positive is all well and good in normal life but throw into the mix the devastation of my first round not working, my body coursing with hormones and all those myriad of other feelings and thoughts, it tends not to lend itself to a positive pathway.

That was me, on the corner of a tiny little seaside town in France outside the pharmacy absolutely losing it and bawling at the unfairness of life…actually, it was the unfairness of IVF drug costs but that had just been the straw that broke the camels back.

After letting me know my negative result, Penny told me to take some time to ‘allow myself to come to terms with the outcome’.  Completely ignoring that advice, as I was painfully aware that I had to get onto organising my ‘comeback’ IVF round (remember I had paid for 2 rounds…not quite for the price of one! Haha), I forged ahead with plans and quickly realised that I need to obtain some stimulants.

China and a lot of Asia do not allow single women to partake in fertility treatments and having being in contact with a few clinics in Beijing early on in the year, I had learned that they could only supply stimulants to customers on their IVF programs.  Great, just great.  The only way to get on these programs was to be married – don’t you just LOVE life sometimes.  Ludacrious.

With Serum being on break for the month of August and with Penny out after a hip operation, I was in contact with another gynocologist who told me (in a round about way), that I needed to get ahold of some stimulants, as we would start them asap when my cycle was due.

Panicking I realised that that wouldn’t be able to happen in China, so with only a few days left of Summer vacation and a quick trip back to Athens out of the picture with the clinic closed, I was left with trying to locate some stimulants either online (with a very slim hope of getting them into China), and locating them in France.

Enter into the equation AirFrance’s strike, coinciding directly with my flight to Nice and then to Paris and them not answering any phone numbers in any offices or answering their emails over a period of the 3 days, both on and after the day I received my negative results, I was livid.  Not only was it cancelled flights but it was more money out of pocket and 5 hours plus on the phone with calls unanswered.

I cursed the clinic….to me it made perfect sense to tell someone after their first round, who has made it perfectly clear that where they live has a lot of limitations, to maybe consider purchasing some stimulants to take back with them just incase.  Apparently that is not the way they think and operate because if they had done that I would have bought some.  I mean, why not add a few vials of stimulants to my already drug filled suitcase and carry on. It would not have made a huge difference to me then but the stress that it was causing me now by trying to locate these drugs was two-fold.

My friend being the saint that she is suggested we go down to the local pharmacy and see what they could do.  Having searched online already I knew the generic name for Merional – I still don’t get why they have different names for the same, or almost the same, drug in different countries…makes no sense to me.  The pharmacy had no idea what I was talking about but after my friend took over and spoke in French and we gave them the generic name, they would be able to get it to the pharmacy the following day (just in time before I flew, on my new Jetstar flight – buggar you AirFrance).

The catch of course was I needed a prescription from my clinic, which I had but it was for Merional, not the French version called Menopur.  Ok, I could do this and hopefully we could make it back with the new prescription before 7.30pm.

The second catch – 10 vials would be the equivalent of $3000 New Zealand dollars.  By this stage I had had enough.  Not only were my eggs shit for some unknown reason, my first round a failure, my finances majorly depleted but now I was being punished for wanting children, something granted so easily to others, by being charged ridiculous prices.  In Greece, the stimulants cost  E17 per shot.  Massive price difference.

I was exhausted.  Who the hell was trying to punish me and for what?

At that point I gave up – on the corner of a street, in a little seaside town in France, I bawled my eyes out, pumped full of hormones and grief, on my friends shoulder.

I am so thankful, everyday, for that friend.  Without her I have no idea how I would have gotten through those initial first days.

Never underestimate the power of a non-judgmental, tolerant and ‘there through everything’ friend.  The kind that knows how to be there and how to help without you saying anything.

Long story short – there was NO way I was paying that amount for these drugs and decided to leave them.  It wasn’t worth the financial and emotional stress and if I had to take some more time off to make sure I was in Greece earlier to get the cheaper drugs, then that’s what I would do.

Also, thank god for those following 4 days in Nice – I finally felt like I had had a holiday.

 

The full story

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Post IVF body, uncomfortable, bloated and pumped full of drugs. Baring all to seek to the positive from a ‘Negative’ day.

While in Sweden having a great time, thankful for the friends and family that surrounded me to take my mind off things, my friend mentioned that she had a few home pregnancy tests in her bathroom and that if I wanted to I could use one.

Initially hesitant, on the morning of my blood test to find out my results (AKA my HCG levels and Progesterone levels ), I gave in to temptation and asked her if I could use one and took the test.

It was quite hilarious. Every TV show and movie that you watch shows the woman taking the pregnancy test nervously peeing on the stick and waiting patiently for the results.  It did not conger up any feelings of that for me.  It was nothing like I expected.  It was almost normal, another part of the process and a small step forward.  Sweet step by sweet little step.  Definitely no dramatic waiting scene here.

A few days previous I had noticed that two of the horrendous side effects that I have been experiencing – bloatedness and terrible face acne had miraculous disappeared (well the pimples had cleared but the belly bloat stayed around for awhile but the feeling of puffiness had mysteriously vanished (I have since found out that those symptoms are caused by Progesterone).  I had mentioned this to my brother and said to him ‘I’m not trying to be negative here but I have a feeling that it might not have worked’.  That bloody gut feeling getting put into play again.

A few minutes later and the stick was showing me a resounding ‘Negative’.  There wasn’t even a tad bit of a faded line or a glimmer of hope.  It was a flat out ‘NO’.

Wow.  That was not what I was expecting…with an embryo actually implanted and copious amounts of pregnancy enhancing drugs in my system I expected at least a slight faded line – the dramatic part of the TV show or movie came into play here.  Much to my surprise, apparently it doesn’t work like that.

It was a crazy feeling to explain, mainly because you are warned that you can have a false positive but you are never told that there is such a thing as a false negative.  Maybe there is a reason for that and that is that maybe it just doesn’t exist.  In my heart of hearts I knew and my poor friend had to see me try to take it in and try to hold it together as I waded through uncertainty.  All credit to her (she is a pretty phenomenal person) and she was like ‘Feel it, let it out, do what you need to do and don’t worry about me or others’.  So amazing.

For absolute clarity we ventured to downtown Stockholm to a clinic to get the blood test.  After a lot of chat in Swedish we were able to determine that we could get the results rushed through and while I was waiting to board my plane to Nantes (via Brussels overnight), I could call to get my results.  We then spent a very lovely afternoon riverside eating amazing Swedish food and then it was off to the airport I went.

My amazing ‘brother from another mother’ sensing my distress after saying goodbye to my actual brother in a flood of tears, jumped on the bus with me and helped me locate the next one to the airport and was there to just help me simmer down and get ahold of my emotions.  I really am so thankful to all of my friends and brother through this time.  It was great to have such genuine and incredible people around me, looking after me, knowing me and knowing what I needed without judgement.  True, true friends that I will always treasure.

Unfortunately at the airport there was a mix up and I was not able to get my results (wrong phone number was given), and I had to wait until the next morning to call.

After a good sleep in Brussels (sometimes emotionally exhausted comes in handy), I stood outside the airport hotel waiting for the shuttle and again was denied my results as they told me they had sent it to my clinic (Serum).

Frantically, before I lost wifi, I shot an email off to Penny to tell her what was happening and that I would appreciate it if she could email me my results asap 1. Because I then would know if I had to organise another blood test in Nantes and also someone to do more butt shots for me and 2. because they were my bloody results!

Arriving in Nantes I was greeted by my bestie’s father and luckily with no wifi, a long drive and me trying to recall my rusty high school French (her father only speaks French), I was distracted long enough to make it to the tiny, gorgeous seaside town on the West coast of France.

Unfortunately for my bestie she was now lumped with me on edge and anxiously waiting for the email that would seal the fate of my first round.

It came in 2 forms.  One from Penny and one from the blood test clinic in Sweden.

Thankfully the sereneness and the fact that I had already had over 24 hours to process the absolute negative from the home pregnancy test meant that I could take it on board a bit more easily.  Not too gracefully mind you but much better than I or anyone around me expected I think.  Don’t worry – there was a side of the road melt down a few days later to prove that I actually am human!

So we did the best thing we could do and that was to take my gorgeous friends wee one down to the ocean, where after 2 weeks of no swimming and following all the other ridiculous rules that I had to stick to, I waded out and dived straight into the ocean.

Celebrate the small things and look to the positive, that’s what I am trying to continue to do.

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!

 

 

Donor sperm request email writing 101

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Bath time for Amy -trying to match the donor as close as possible to my features

During one of my initial appointments I had asked how I express my ‘wants’ in a sperm donor.  I was told a simple email would suffice and to send it to her (Penny), and that she would match me as best she could, as she knew them and would try and match to make a good family dynamic.

I procrastinated big time on this email, as let’s face it – it was probably the single most weirdest email that I ever had to write.  I mean, how do you even start that?  Not to mention what do you put in the subject line. Crazy town.

Procrastination on the writing of the email did not mean that I procrastinated the thinking about it and I had already had a few characteristics in mind.

Not wanting to be greedy, I only had a few prerequisites.  If I have to do this alone, or if I am lucky enough for it to be successful, I want the child to look as much like me as possible.

So in the interest of telling it like it is here is the exact email I sent:

Hi Penny,

I just wanted to touch base with you about the sperm donor, as you said to email you about it.

If possible my preference is:
– Olive skin
– Blue eyes
– Brown/light brown hair
– Thick, wavy/curly hair

Weight and height are not so much an issue although I would be happy with 1.68m or above.

Of course kind, charismatic and creative are a bonus – haha!

Many thanks for all you have done so far.  See you Saturday morning.

Many thanks,
Amy Martin

I added the weight/height part in last minute and tried to lighten the mood with the characteristic traits, knowing that they would not even come into it.

Super weird email to write as expected and even weirder getting the reply, although it was a relief to receive it:

Hi Amy,

Thank you for your email and for sending me your preference regarding the donor profile. I am sure I will match you most appropriately 🙂

I will be seeing you tomorrow!!!

Many wishes,

Pennyxx.

And that’s how you write the weirdest email of your life, all the while totally tripping out and asking yourself if you have missed anything or are being too picky!
That concludes today’s lesson on donor sperm request email writing.  Let’s hope there is no need for further instalments.

Best day ever: Sarcasm at its finest

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The ‘Trigger Shot’ – my hands were shaking even walking with it back to my apartment – icepack and all

8.30am and I was at Serum to get a scan to see how the stimulants had gone with the second egg – not so well and it was another round of stimulants (a shot of Merinol and one of Cetrotide), scheduled for between 3 and 4 pm that day.

Next it was on to the run down of how the egg retrieval would go as that was the next step in 2 days time…

And this is where it all fell apart….

The trigger shot (which helps induce ovulation), needs to be timed so that the eggs can be harvested at optimum time – (36 hours later) and namely be collected in the morning. So that meant that I needed I had to have the shot at 10pm at night and had to do it into the top, right hand side of my butt muscle. Ouch!!!

The mid wife knowing me by now, sensed my panic and her initial thought was to tell me to find a pharmacy that was open until late and have them do it.  Geez – another thing to try and suss out in limited time.  I of course asked her if she knew any nearby – she didn’t as most people come here either with a partner or friend to help them OR do not have an avid fear of needles!  So, I gave in and convinced myself “Amy you can do this”.

Turns out I was wrong and that needle phobia is a thing.

I was completely fine as she told me how to break the viles, draw up the liquid from one vial and then deposit it into the powder vial and then repeat with another 2 vials and then change needle points (to a smaller needle – for my benefit apparently), I even got through the what quadrant of my butt to put it in talk….then as soon as she started talking about putting it all the way into the muscle and then drawing back to check for blood incase it was in a vein….I completely lost it.  I felt like a child having a massive crying/ hyperventilation meltdown.  It came out of nowhere and poor Leah.  I felt incredibly awful.  Straight away she said, “Right, no, I’m going to stop explaining now, you can’t be stressed doing this and someone else needs to do this for you”.

I feel super embarrassed even writing this but I promised myself I would tell the whole story, exactly like it is.  I have convinced myself if someone else was doing it for me or if it was preloaded needles then I would have no issue but I have not had preloaded needles at all so I’m not sure how true that part is until faced with it (I have since been faced with preloaded needles and I am now able to self inject so pretty proud of myself that I called it when I wrote this post awhile back).

So armed with the letter for both the ECG and the trigger shot in Greek I was off (for all I know it read – ‘This great big wimp cannot do this so please give this to her at 10pm exactly!’ lol – but not really laughing so much! haha!)

Leaving the clinic, with poor Leah getting the blame from the receptionist that I was a mess once again – is it fair to blame the hormones at this point?  Are they effective right away? – I was off to suss out where Leto Hospital was.  I was told it was a taxi ride and that maybe I should ring them in advance to see if they could do my ECG before my shot.

Upon getting back to my apartment, super emotional, I called 6 times via Skype on both my phone and laptop with a crappy connection (apparently that is not just limited to China), was hung up on and if I got through no one understood what it was I wanted (there is not many ways to explain ECG apparently). I was again in tears.  I was incredibly frustrated and all alone trying to figure all this out and sick of all the unfairness of this situation and doing it by myself in a foreign country….yes, I still lay blame at NZ’s health system with this one and it definitely came out then.

I decided I need some distraction to calm myself down before I set off to walk to this hospital to sort it out in person, so engaged in some mindless TV show watching.

Luckily, my parents rang at that time – sarcasm at it’s greatest. I was a mess.

Finally I felt calm enough to make the trek to the hospital – a 30 minute walk, so not too bad, unfortunately on arrival the street it was on was full of shops with ‘Congrutaltions its a ___”, bouquets  and baby and maternity shops….turns out it was a maternity hospital.  Just great.

They were fab and right to the point, no appointment needed, I showed them the forms in Greek and the ECG could be done at 9pm and shot at 10pm.  Relief flooded me and joyously I walked back (well joyously is definitely a gross exaggeration…let’s just say I was much happier than when walking there).

Next, it was the wait for my 3pm appointment for my shots (unfortunately 1 actually hurt this time, same spot or increased dose…one or the other.  Once again I am thankful for not having 2 weeks of these), and to pick up ‘the’ shot, which I filled in with grocery shopping – another frustrating feat in itself (turns out I was at a dinky little market and the main one was only one street over! Found it the next day)

Shots went without a hitch – Leah pleaded with me for no tears and preceded to teach another staff member how to prepare shots, which made me feel better that it wasn’t just me that was learning today!  I was given a plastic bag with the needles, vials and ice pack and headed straight home.

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The quickest part of this process so far – my ECG with Greek results – all good!

I cooked to relax (yes, I know that is strange for some) and due to my exhausted and emotional state I set an alarm for 8.30pm.  Another 30 minutes walk to hospital. The ECG was extremely quick and easy, in and out within, I swear, 2 minutes and the results were all good – a super positive as this means I can go under the aesthetic for the egg retrieval. Because that was over so quickly I had a wee wait to dwell on the shot so read my book – clever plan Amy! – and then 10pm came around.  The shot in the upper left quadrant of my left buttock  was quick but oh, so OUCH!!!!! Muscle is not  a fun place to have a shot, bring on the spongy European paunch of a stomach.  Being able to walk it off really helped and it was straight into bed ready for my ‘drug free day’ the next day.

My drug free day literally meant no injections (whoop whoop) but all of the other pills that I had been taking.  Little was I to know that the pill taking would increase by ten fold.  I was just so thankful that my day of being examined, poked, prodded, pinched, injected and inspected in all parts of my body was over.  Next stop – egg retrieval.

And away we go…

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The time had come, it was off to Athens to start this part of the journey. Here I go.

Some how the time came, racing along at full speed, and I was heading to Athens to visit Serum for my first initial tests.

Due to the excuse of busy-ness and also trying to be as even and zen about what was happening to me, I had wanted to appear as relaxed and laid back as possible by putting all of my trust in the team at Serum and hadn’t asked too many questions.  Of course this was also part of my step by step, one foot in front of the other strategy.

I arrived in Athens on time and decided to make my way to the clinic via Metro forgetting that Greece runs on island time.  I had printed out directions and had made an appointment directly from the airport on the advice and suggestion of almost everyone involved in the process and from the many, many posts on ‘Fertility Friends’ websites.  Dragging my suitcase behind me over cobbled, narrow and uneven streets I arrived 20 mins after my ‘rough time’ which seemed to be no problem as it appears they keep quite a loose scheduling system, very well suited to cases like mine and overseas clients.

It was strange not having to fill in forms or confirm payments, they seem very laid back. After a small wait I was told to go to the 3rd floor where I was greeted and lead to a small room where I was told to empty my bladder and then get changed.  Ok – straight into it then.

Upon returning the nurse asked me what tests I was getting done – I looked at her blankly.  Finally we cleared up the fact that it was my first visit, that I had no clue and she then confirmed a few other details.  We had a laugh and were back on track.  My initial thought was – stay calm, I am sure this was just a small hiccup.

I had to don this hilarious too small wrap around sheet about the size of a hand towel, I think I am going to have to get used to manovering it over my left thigh to ensure the least flashing possible….ooooo sexy!  I sat for a few minutes and then was told to come into the next room where 3 people were – 1 being the famous Penny, who is the clinic director and founder of Serum.  She had a huge smile on her face in greeting but was straight to business – ‘Please sit down and put your legs up here, I will first do a scan’.  My god, it is run like a tight ship around here, understandably so but for someone coming off 4 and a half hours sleep, an early flight and going into the unknown it was all a bit much.

It was amazing to have someone be very quick and precise and so obviously know what they were talking about minus the judgement – all things I have had to endure during this process.

She informed me that my left ovary had 4 follies and that unfortunately my right ovary was not a good producer and that it may have 1-2 follicles.  We then got into a conversation about my eggs being accelerated to the state of a 41 year old, she then looked at me in disbelief and asked who had told me that?  While answering, it caused me to lose it and get emotional, tears leaking out.  All 3 tisked at doctors, then she put my legs together sat me up and gave it to me straight:

P: “How old are you?”

Me: “32”

P: “How old are your eggs?”

Me: “32”

P: “If I scanned a 41 year old and they produced 19 eggs.  What eggs would be better?”

Me: “32 year old eggs” (I was sobbing at this stage)

P: “ Thats right, it makes me so sad to see beautiful young girls so upset by the words of others. How many eggs does it take to make a baby?”

 “1” – We all chorused -laughing now (well, I was laugh crying)

She gave me a huge hug and asked: ‘So, why are you crying?”

Next she explained that she wanted to do an Aquascan. Luckily I had read that this was quite a common procedure at Serum.  It involves inserting a catheter into the uterus (“There are 3 things that you need to make a baby – an egg, sperm and a good baby growing environment” repeated Penny), passing saline through the catheter, blowing up the uterus to gain a look at every nook, crannie, scarring, mark etc.  It was amazing to see it on the monitor, it looked so small.  Excitedly she told me this was a perfect looking uterus, absolutely nothing there to impair anything and that it was able to be ready for 1 or even 2 babies.  It was a textbook scan.

She then scraped the side of my uterus to make it more optimal for implantation.  Thankfully I could not feel that at all (until an hour or so later when I got some pretty intense cramping).  Unfortunately she then told me that because the liquid had only stayed in the uterus that meant that my tubes were probably blocked, however because I am doing IVF this was not a problem.  I decided not to press for more information and find out about that later if it would influence things further down the track at some point….small step by small step.  I decided to flag this bad news and move on.

I was able to get dressed and then went to meet with her and the embryologist in her office on the 4th floor.  This proved to be the most informative part of the day and enabled me to ask the questions I needed to ask and get a clearer picture of things.

In summary:

  • Because of my right ovary and the extremely low number of follicles she does not want to use stimulants unless absolutely necessary.  She explained it “It’s like if you have a gun held to your head, it impairs you and makes you seize up or act differently than you normally would.  Stimulants can do that to your eggs (causing abnormalities or making them ‘freeze’ in growth) and with a limited number I do not want to do that to you, we want it to be as natural as possible.”
  • I will be following a protocol called ‘Natural supported cycle’.  Which means initially I will only take supplements to help improve egg quality and to prepare my uterus: Steroids, antibiotics (to counteract the scraping and clear the uterus of any bacterial invaders that may be present), Melatonin (to aid egg quality) and extra folic acid on top of the prenatal vitamin I am already taking.
  • NO NEEDLES at this point!!!  There are some bonuses to sucky egg numbers!  There may be stimulants later after my Day 5/6 scan if some follicles aren’t developing properly (to help them along), but they will administer them! Whew!!!
  • This part is a little gross: I need to collect drops of my blood when my cycle starts so they can test it when I am back (as I won’t be there during it), to make sure there is no infection and all is good.
  • I will be back in Athens on July 6th, straight from the airport to the clinic (taxi this time), to ensure I have a scan to make sure everything is developing ok and then adjust anything that needs to be adjusted before retrieval.
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Pills only at this stage…whew!

After that it was the logistics of obtaining the medications and payment for the Aquascan (E200) and medication (E47).  This was way lower than the E1500-E2000 that I had expected after researching….although I may be paying big amounts for stimulants if they are needed when I am back.

I was then taken through the printed out sheet of instructions Penny had given me 1 more time, given a plastic cup and saline for blood collection and I was out the door on my way to the hotel up the street, emotional and desperate for a lay down but feeling a thousand times better knowing that I am in great hands with someone at the helm who comes across as your Greek Grandma.  Just what you need when you are doing this alone – “Amy, the lovely, kind, beautiful girl, who has not yet met her prince.  She will have everything ready for him”.