Ok, so I haven’t been entirely honest on this blog. We’ve actually been more in contact with one of the American fertility centres than I’ve let on. After telling what seemed like the world about our last DEIVF cycle we decided we wanted to be a little bit more discreet, at least initially, with this one. Admittedly I’ve blabbed more than I had intended as it’s just so hard to keep quiet when you’re so excited about something, and my thin disguise has probably been extraordinarily see-through, but at least I’ve tried.
So, feeling frustrated at our lack of progress, the day after we get our failed cycle result we start investigating American fertility clinics. I’ve heard good things about San Diego Fertility Center (including a friend who is pregnant with their help) so we start there, but also check out Shady Grove in Washington DC too. Less than 24 hours later we’ve registered with San Diego’s donor database (as well as with Egg Donor America), which you can do without actually contacting them for treatment. It’s a bizarre thing. I feel like a complete stalker scrolling through the donor databases, it’s like online shopping but for people rather than things. It’s just a surreal, almost sci-fi experience, and we eventually find ourselves getting so hung up or comparing the smallest and craziest things that we have to take a step back and remind ourselves that these are real people we’re debating, not what colour underwear or socks to buy.
After a small discussion (basically me pushing my case) we decide on a donor. Just like that. It seems nuts that it can be done so easily that but this girl just feels right. She looks a little like me, she’s smart, down-to-earth, caring, and the things she writes in her profile sound like things I would write myself. I’m sold.
Two days after our failed donor cycle we email our doctor here in NZ to try and speed up the scheduling of our WTF appointment and seek his advice on next steps, including his thoughts on treatment in the States – our clinic works closely with San Diego Fertility Center so we’re hoping he has some valuable insight. It takes 4 days to get a response, which is pretty impressive given he’s on leave, and we have an appointment locked in for his first week back (three weeks from our failed result).
Hedging our bets we express our interest with San Diego a couple of days after we email our NZ doctor, via their online queries form. They’re super quick, less than 12 hours later we have a reply from them, with more information than we could ever have dreamed possible and our preliminary paperwork (new patient form and medical history) all ready to complete and return. The donor coordinator there is absolutely lovely (not to mention she’s been through DEIVF successfully herself so understands what this is like) and we fire questions and answers back and forth easily. We mention that my husband potentially has a work trip to the States planned in December and that if at all possible we’d like to be able to work with that to save on airfares. She’s unfazed, says that that timeline is totally achievable, and matches us with our donor! Matched, meaning she’s ours and no one else can nab her (but we can also pull out if we decide we don’t want her as our donor or decide not to proceed with treatment). Wow, mind-blowing. And it continues…less than a week later (although it could’ve been even sooner if we’d got our act together) we’ve got a phone appointment with the coordinator and the ball is well and truly rolling.
Over the phone we chat about what’s involved and what our options are, an easier conversation than most as we’ve just completed a donor cycle so know what to expect, and she’s booked us in for a phone appointment not only with one of their nurses but also one of their doctors too, AND the calls are only a week away! The speed at which they move is astounding! I thought I would be freaked out about how fast things are progressing but I’m excited. We don’t feel pressured by them at all and it just feels right.
Then comes the bad news, our donor has just started a new job and doesn’t want to take leave so early in her employment. Although we ask about potential timelines of when she would be able to complete a cycle, she’s unable to give any indication, so it looks like we’re back to the drawing board donor-wise. We have a few donors on our favourites list and there are more donors popping back into the pool everyday so hopefully it won’t be too difficult finding a replacement. We push on.
The call with the nurse and the following day the doctor, go smoothly and quickly. As with the donor coordinator, our recent donor cycle makes things so much easier. The nurse fires us through more information as well as an indication of the drugs I’ll be on, and a list of the pre-work required before we can start a cycle. This includes blood tests for both of us for everything under the sun (Blood Type/Rh, TSH, Varicella, Rubella, Prolactin, HTLV I and II, HIV, Hep C, RPR, Hep B Surface Antigen, Cystic Fibrosis Carrier Status), another semen analysis for my hubby, a request for an updated hysteroscopy for me, and another psychological consult for us both to make sure we’re all over the implications of not only a donor cycle but also one that could potentially be anonymous – something that’s not really approved of here in NZ.
Did I say the ball was rolling? Well now it’s a growing snowball! We sign consents to get our notes sent from our clinic over to San Diego, and it’s all on, we’re really doing this! Time to call the bank for that loan (which they thankfully grant us)! Nothing like the feeling of adding $50k to your mortgage for a chance at what most people can get for free. That’s the one bitter pill to swallow through all of this excitement. I hate owing money and to have to increase our mortgage so significantly really irks me. Still, it will hopefully all be worth it in the end.
So what next? Well, due to the tight timelines of when a hysteroscopy can be performed and where I currently sit in my cycle, I change our scheduled WTF appointment to a theatre booking for my hysteroscopy instead. There’s no going back now, especially as we pay our fee to the NZ clinic for their part in this process. Sheesh, less than two weeks since we approach San Diego and the decision is not only made but in full swing. It’s amazing, exciting, and overwhelming all at the same time.
We go back to the donor drawing board and with a bit of consultation decide on another donor but again there’s a hitch. While her profile indicates she’s available from November, due to the late arrival of her period from her last (and first) donation, she won’t be able to donate until early in the New Year. We’re just not having much luck with this! We go back to the database but after a bit of discussion decide that we just don’t want to compromise that much on a donor. The universe is trying to tell us something and we should listen. December is just not right for this process. We opt to wait for the New Year and stick with our second donor choice. We’re matched. She’s ours and we’re hers, for this cycle at least. According to our donor coordinator this donor is absolutely adorable and one of her favourites in the system, she’s “gorgeous, bubbly, enthusiastic, and just so grateful to be given the opportunity to change lives” which makes me feel really good about this choice. Let’s just hope nothing else goes wrong!
So onto the serious stuff. My hysteroscopy. As previously mentioned there is a tight timeframe on this as it needs to be completed between days 7 & 12 of your cycle. The date of our WTF appointment (that I switch to my hysteroscopy appointment) is day 12 for me so there’s no time to lose. Unfortunately it’s also the first day of our annual work conference which I’ve been helping organise for the larger part of this year. Timing couldn’t be worse but thankfully the conference team is made up of some pretty amazing women who completely ‘get it’ and don’t hesitate in telling me to continue with the appointment. So after an insanely early 5:30am breakfast (no eating for 6 hours pre-op just in case) and some last minute conference stuff in the morning, I head off to my operation. For the first time in our whole fertility process I’m off to a big appointment alone. My husband has a major part to play (presenting to 300 people) at the conference so, despite desperately wanting to be there for me, can’t make it along. I’m just hoping like hell I can make it back to the conference in time for his presentation! They say the hysteroscopy should take 30 minutes so I should be ok, but if it gets too painful and they have to sedate me, I’ll be stuck there longer and might miss him present.
Well painful? It was the most excruciating thing ever and I felt like I was about to vomit through a fair chunk of it. On instruction I’d taken three paracetamol tablets an hour before and they’d hoped this would be enough to control the pain. It’s not. My legs go up in the stirrups, ever so dignified, plastic is guided under my back to “catch the fluid”, mmmm delicious. First they insert a speculum much like a regular smear, followed by an internal rinse of the area and the insertion of a little camera. It’s a little uncomfortable, with some mild period-like cramping, but overall not too painful. That is until they get to my cervix. My cervix won’t sit still and keeps running away so they’re forced to clamp it to hold it in place. There’s a little pinch and a shoot of pain but at least it now stays put. And then the excruciating agony begins. I get the cold sweats and honestly feel like I’m about to throw up. I can’t believe people are able to do this without pain relief, and my pain threshold is (or at least used to be) pretty high. I want to cry and actually come close to blacking out – or at least being so much in pain that I don’t really remember what was happening in the room, and the voice of the nurse telling me to take deep breaths seem fuzzy and miles away. Halfway through they dose me up with painkillers, just a small dose so it doesn’t take the pain away but it does help. Apparently I have a tight cervix, great. What else can my body do to make this a nightmare for me.
And then it’s done. I feel weak but relieved it’s over, and so so grateful for the amazing nurse (both of them were really lovely and supportive but there’s one in particular, who’s our favourite at the clinic) who was simply fantastic, held my hand and talked me through the ordeal. I couldn’t have done it without her. They keep me there for observation for another 30 minutes or so, feeding me toast and tea, before I’m allowed to leave. I’m not permitted to drive after the drugs they’ve given me but my amazing friend C (one of the fabulous conference girls) has offered to pick me up and race me back to conference. She drives like the wind and we make it back just in time for my hubby’s (magnificent) presentation. I’m stoked we made it and insanely grateful to have such wonderful friends. I kick into two days of conference and socialising, desperately trying to hide my cramps and other side-effects of the treatment. The physical stuff I can handle and hide ok but it’s the emotional stuff that takes its toll. It’s hard to be happy and social (especially around so many cheery fertiles – “I’ve also got a successful breeding program at home”, yes, that came up in more than one speech to the attendees) when you just want to curl up and cry at the unfairness of the world. I miss one of the functions (more to extreme tiredness than anything else) but manage to make it through pretending it’s all ok.
And here we are another week on, blood tests were ticked of the list this morning, counselling appointment is booked for two weeks time, and evaluation cycle will start with my next period. Hold onto your hats kids it’s full steam ahead, I can only hope that we’ll get the result we dream of at the end of the ride.