I’m currently parked on the couch with pillows, a fuzzy blanket, a heating pad and a hot cup of cocoa. I’m in minor pain – bloated, belly distended and cramps – but feeling so relieved and thankful. My second egg retrieval is over and we have NINE eggs to show for it!
I was so nervous for my first egg retrieval, and this time was no different. But with this procedure in my wake, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride. As of today, I have done two rounds of ovarian stimulation for in vitro fertilization and two egg retrieval procedures and, damn it, if that’s not something!
So, about that egg retrieval. Today is unusually warm for January, which made commuting into the city way easier than its been. We arrived at the IVF Suite by 9:00 a.m. and I checked in and changed into the standard IVF “mommy-making” attire: green scrubs, gray socks, and a white robe. Vitals were taken, my IV was administered, and then my name was called along with two other women to head through the big white doors.
The nurse walked us down the long corridor and dropped us off at something called the “internal waiting room” – a dreary 50-square foot space with no door, hard plastic chairs, and two worn magazines dated from May of 2014. Located just a few feet from the operating room, this sad space felt like egg retrieval purgatory.
“Good luck, ladies!” the nurse smiled before turning on her heels to leave us. I visibly rolled my eyes. Everyone from nurses to receptionists to endocronlogist loves to chirp this sentiment on egg retrieval day, as if us “ladies” haven’t already done our part, invested our bodies, our time, our emotions, and our fortunes. At this stage of the game, it’s up to doctors, the skilled hands of the surgeon, the exacting science of modern medicine to decide our fate – not the elusive whimsy of chance, as if this is some silly lottery that I’ve decided to play today. This is a medically sound protocol and procedure that this institution has encouraged me to follow and what I really need to hear right now is that I can relax because I’ve done my part and now you’re going to do yours.
I’m pretty positive that no receptionist, nurse, or doctor is singing, “good luck, boys!” when our male partners arrive on egg retrieval day to deliver their fresh semen sample. Why? Because there’s no need to put unnecessary pressure on people and make them feel slightly inferior right before they go into a procedure (plus, can you imagine a man feeling slightly inferior?) 🙂
Back to purgatory: the two other women and I starting talking, comparing our stats and histories. Suddenly, a name was called and one of the women stood up to head into the operating room. We each smiled at her, “You’re going to do great!” we said. And then she left.
The remaining woman was from Russia and she began to tell me that IVF in her country is all about keeping the patients happy and holistically healthy. She said that during protocol women go to something akin to a “spa” for two weeks and eat all organic food in the mountains with fresh air. “It is lovely,” she said. “Nothing like this sad, little piece-of-shit-place,” she gestured around the room. I totes agree, girlfriend. I totes agree.
However, she admitted that the science and technology in American clinics are much better than in Russia and that all of her IVF cycles failed there. And so the story goes of the failing American health system: first-world technology, third-world patient care.
As if we needed more proof, while she was telling me this story, a team of OR nurses started wheeling a totally passed out woman on a gurney down the hall. They passed right by the internal waiting room and to my utmost shock I recognized that it was the woman who had just been sitting with us 15-minutes prior. I was horrified! I immediately jumped to the conclusion that something with her procedure must have gone terribly wrong. Why else would this patient in a private, heavily sedated state be on public display for the nervous ladies sitting in the waiting room? But from the nonchalant manner that the nurses were wheeling her by, I knew that this was just standard protocol – or rather, a really crappy way to treat patients and a really stupid set-up of an internal waiting room.
Just like an assembly line, the Russian woman’s name was then called. She did a quick sign of the cross, stood up, and left the room. Man, nothing like upping the ante on the stress and the drama! I was officially nervous. I sat there biting my nails, flipping through the fashions of Spring 2014, and generally trying to calm myself down. But sure enough, 15-minutes passed by and I heard the squeaking of wheels against linoleum. There was the Russian being wheeled out on her gurney, totally passed out.
This “internal waiting room” is a waiting room from hell and they seriously need to rethink this set-up. I was, of course, next and my only thought at that moment was pure thankfulness that there would be no more women left in the internal waiting room to watch me wheel on by in 15-minutes. 🙂 They called me in.
“Hello, it’s going to be very cold and very bright in here,” Dr. S. shook my hand. I instantly liked his calm demeanor and his thoughtfulness in explaining obvious facts. “Cold and bright? Got it. Blanket for my legs? Thank you. Put my feet there? Will do.” When you’re this nervous in an operating room, your mind and your body stop working in sync. It is very helpful when someone gently walks you through every little motion you must do – so thanks Dr. S., and also, no techno music this time! Hooray!
After getting set up on the operating table, we had to wait for the embryologist. This was very different from last time and I didn’t like it. Please give me the anesthesia meds and put me out of this operating room misery! Instead, I had to lay there on the cold table with oxygen in my nose and my legs in stirrups as they did the vaginal wash, something I was asleep for last time. It was very uncomfortable and I told them that. Finally, the embryologist appeared and I stated my name and date of birth. “Are we starting the meds now?” I asked impatiently. And then darkness. I was out.
Like last time, I awoke in the recovery room, groggy and eating a bag of chips. My husband smiled, “We got nine eggs this time! You did great!” And I have to admit, nine does feel pretty great. While it’s not 20 eggs or even 15, nine could mean the difference in one additional healthy embryo in the end – and that is everything to us.
I’m very happy and proud that this second round of IVF is over and I can officially start the new year. This past month, I’ve poured everything into this cycle and have done little else. I’m excited to wait for the results and return to “normal” as the hormones leave my body and my attention and time can focus elsewhere. Which at the very moment is a bachelorette party that I’m planning, a wedding that I’m in, two big birthday celebrations, and my best friend’s baby shower! It’s going to be a very exciting next few weeks, and no matter the outcome of this round, we are really leaning toward a transfer of the one embryo that we have “on ice.” The fact that we have the opportunity to do that (no matter this outcome) is pretty freaking awesome and so ridiculously exciting! I have not let my mind wander there yet, but we are so much closer to that reality than ever before!