Revisiting the day of Retrieval

I did not say much about our actual experience at the IVF clinic because in my initial post, I was too busy celebrating my “nice eggs” and rejoicing the fact that despite my “advanced maternal age” (which they have been harping about all this time), I do NOT have old lady eggs. (This is in no way meant to make anyone with egg issues feel bad, it is just that my young eggs are my one golden ray of sunshine right now.)

There were several IF-y moments to share about my egg retrieval and a few that were somewhat funny (at least in retrospect). So I wanted write it all down for myself and share the experience in case anyone is interested. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, my own doctor did not actually do my retrieval which I was pretty OK with and in the end it may have worked in our favor that Dr. Substitute was in charge since Dr. P. was so dead set against doing ICSI. Well, clearly we now see that we absolutely needed ICSI. Needed it badly! Though to be fair I am sure Dr. P. would have made the same choice given the embryologist’s assessment on the actual day of ER.

So . . . C. and I headed off to the hospital on a rainy Wednesday morning. The drive takes about 25 minutes but we left ourselves 45 minutes just in case. We sat in the waiting room which was very quiet. Only one spouse and corresponding mother of the IVF patient ahead of me shared the room. The DH was sleeping and the nervous mom was watching TV. I found it odd that the two did not interact at all, not even when Dr. Substitute came out to let them know that their wife/daughter was done. Surely there is a story there but I am not privy to it. There was no idle chit-chat. The morning news was on with a story about the Domino Transplant babies which was sad and a tad ironic but I didn’t have the nerve to ask to change the channel. So, I practiced deep breathing and quasi-meditation while C. chugged his Mountain Dew (I read a somewhere that a burst of caffeine immediately before specimen obtaining boosted sperm counts and C. does not drink coffee). (Disclaimer: in general caffeine is bad for the men too.) They called for us right on time and C. was shown to the special room with the specimen trap door adjoining the IVF lab. I was led to the procedure room down the hall. I was allowed to keep my bra and socks on and don the usual ugly “open back” gown. (I was pretty excited to keep the lucky socks on, though.) Then I was asked to get on the table with the deluxe cushioned knee-style stirrups.

When I saw who the nurse was, my deep breathing turned into hyperventilation (well, not really, I exaggerate.) There is only one nurse I don’t like in the entire practice. She is new. So new in fact, that she was in training that day. On my day. The nerve! This already set off my unlucky omen radar. The trainer nurse is one I like well enough but she was in a foul mood because apparently she does not like the trainee nurse either. Trainer nurse kept rolling her eyes at Dr. Substitute every time trainee nurse did or said anything at all. Now most people might not have even noticed these exchanges but I am a former OR nurse. I know this scenario all too well and I know it does not lead to 100% ideal care for the patient. So I was quietly, silently, starting to freak out.

Trainee nurse is close to sixty years old and wears a pair of “mean librarian” black rimmed half-glasses. She earned another eye roll by telling Dr. Substitute that she needs the lights on pretty bright because she can’t see in dim lighting. (Never mind the fact that Dr. Substitute needs the lights dimmed to see the ultrasound. Minor detail. Oh, that’s not important!) This almost had me fleeing the procedure suite. I mean at this point I was operating with the belief that I had four meager but precious good eggs at the most and here my “egg catcher” nurse is blind and in training! God, what did I do to deserve this??

Meanwhile the anesthesia guy, Bob, is trying to entertain and distract me with small talk. He tells me to relax. I tell him I can’t relax on a normal day and I certainly can’t relax now, that’s his department! I name a few too many medical gadgets by their proper names and he’s tipped off I’m that I’m a nurse. (I try not to advertise this as it seems to bug medical people.) Anyway Bob was my new best friend because he was the only one who could spare me the mental agony I was enduring. He told me to hang on, they needed to get everything in place before he could give me the “good stuff” because “we don’t want the eggs to get sleepy too.” I assume he was joking about that part. Does the anesthesia really go to the eggs? I seriously doubt it. I think they just want the patient to wake up quick and make space for the next victim, errr . . . patient. (Medical lingo: treat ’em and street ’em!) So therefore they minimize the amount of anesthesia they dope you up with. Too bad really. More of a scheduling thing than an egg alertness thing I suspect, but who knows. I plan to Dr. Google that later. But I didn’t want to drug my eggs, so I played along. Well, finally Bob gives me the good stuff and I drifted off only to wake up and have it all be over. I was in a bit of a daze at first, but I do remember someone saying they got 16 eggs which I figured had to be a mistake. Well, they really did get 16, but 10 were actually mature which I was thrilled with. (Especially after expecting FOUR!)

The next interesting bit was that the embryologist came in to see if we were willing to do ICSI. I almost yelled YES! I wanted ICSI all along. She explained everything as if we should be upset about ICSI, but I kind of interrupted and told her that we (well, I mainly) wanted ICSI to begin with but Dr. P. didn’t expect to need it. I told her we had already signed the consent just in case. It turned out to be a good thing. A very good thing! We may have had zero embryos if we had not had ICSI to help us along.

I also want to say that I am not at all smug about “it was him all along and not me”. I don’t not blame C., nor his body. And yes, I do understand that in general a 37 year old woman is less fertile than a 27 year old woman of similar health. If any smugness comes through here, this what it’s about: I resent the fact that the medical establishment is so focused on the female factor’s of infertility that they are prone to overlooking the obvious. All along they have down-played the 5% morphology and even when we found that C. had 79% antisperm antibodies which were IgG, the bad kind, they still acted like MF was minor and continued to remind me that I was over 35. Hmmm . . . C. produces antibodies that kill his own nice sperm and we should ignore that? Well I have a normal FSH and every other test they’ve ever done rules out problems on my side and now it turns out that I have nice, young eggs too! So I am smug at proving the doctors wrong, not proving it’s C.’s “fault”. I knew we needed ICSI. I knew the antibodies mattered. Now they know too. And that means we have a chance to make a baby after all because we are finally treating this from the right angle. Those of you with MF know, there are LOTS of books on infertility in general, all of which have about one chapter devoted to male factor and there is maybe ONE actual book devoted to male factor alone. Given that the statistics prove it’s the male as often as it’s the female . . . that strikes me as an unfair representation of a equal opportunity problem.

So let me step down from my soapbox now. . . .

As far as our egg retrieval, it was no big deal. But that is said in hindsight. When it looms ahead it is a HUGE deal! The stress is so awful but the consolation is that the procedure itself is rather easy . . . we were there less than two hours. As a parting gift, trainee nurse gave me my second shot in the ass of PIO. She then gave me a cup of water to drink and we headed home where I napped and lazed around all day. The anesthesia sleep was very short, but the rest of the day I was pretty wiped out. I totally recommend the anesthesia! It is too nerve wracking to be awake for an ER in my opinion.

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One Response to “Revisiting the day of Retrieval”

  1. mm Says:

    Best of luck with your transfer. Sounds like you have some beauties to work with!

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