Thursday morning I woke up at 3am, sick with nerves and unable to sleep. My mouth was dry but I couldn’t drink anything; I was hungry but I couldn’t eat. It was a relief when our alarms finally went off in tandem 2 1/2 hours later and I could start getting up and moving towards my retrieval. After dropping Ross off at a friend’s (a very good friend who got up at 6am to watch him), we were on the road.
I don’t know why I was nervous. It’s not a major surgery by any means, and I’ve certainly been through much worse than this. But, at this point in the IVF cycle, it feels as though our fate is nearly set and whatever is going to happen will happen. I don’t like that feeling.
My nurse was great. She was a calming presence from the moment she handed me my gown, and she stayed with me, chatting until I was fully knocked out an hour or so later. I signed a bunch of paperwork and received a wristband with my name, wondering if it would end up in a baby book someday like the one I wore for the retrieval that resulted in Ross. Throughout treatment, Ross has been wearing a ladybug sticker each day for good luck, and that morning he picked one for me too. I wore it on the back of my hand, planning to take it off during the actual surgery, but my nurse insisted I keep it on, even putting a tiny piece of medical tape behind it for me when it started to lose its stickiness.
Dr. K happened to be the one doing retrievals that day, so he was already familiar with me and our case. He came to speak with me just before I was led back to the surgical room, and then it was finally time. Clutching my gown around me I walked into the room where I’d had my first retrieval and where both of our transfers had occurred. The last time I was there it was with Elle, hoping that that transfer would be the one (and it was). It felt different on retrieval day, crammed with so many people wearing masks and preparing the table for me this time. I’m so happy I get to at least do this part. As I laid back I could see on my right the door to the embryology lab and the little screen where I saw Ross for the first time just over three years ago when he was a 5-day-old embryo. My nurse helped me get situated and it turned out that she, the anesthesiologist, and Dr. K were all familiar with the area where I grew up, so they distracted me by sharing their favorite spots to visit. As I felt my eyes grow heavy and the familiar feeling of the anesthesia, I focused on that screen and thought of Ross.
It could have been 3 days or 3 minutes later when I came to– finding myself in mid-sentence in a conversation with my nurse about our upcoming life changes. In a moment of self-awareness I remember thinking, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” which I then heard myself repeat out loud a moment later, as if there was a direct feed from my thoughts to my mouth. She asked about my pain level and I was surprised to be able to say that although I hurt, it wasn’t too terrible. Last time I was surprised to wake up with excruciating pain from the surgery, so much so that I almost immediately passed out, but this recovery was more manageable. Kyle was able to join me shortly, and we waited together for the final count.
Seventeen eggs, ten less than before. I tried not to be disappointed, knowing that the only reason we were able to have Ross from one cycle last time was my (very) high egg count. Seventeen was the number of embryos we’d had to start with then. I hoped it would be enough.
The call the next morning seemed to take forever. Of the seventeen only twelve were mature, and from those we had nine embryos. For so many women, this would be a fantastic number, but historically, while my egg and embryo counts start high, very few survive to blastocyst stage, when they can be either transferred or frozen five days after fertilization.
We spent the weekend away at the beach with some friends in celebration of graduation, a much needed distraction while we waited for the updates. While there we lost one, bringing us down to eight. Knowing their fragility, I am trying not to get attached, but it’s hard. I just don’t want to be blindsided this time, the way I was before.
Today we will get the call, the one that says how many we have to be frozen. It could be different this time, or it could be the same. I’m trying to prepare myself to lose them all, but there is no way to do that. The only thing I know for sure is that we will keep fighting no matter the outcome.
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland