A more positive post this time – and a very long one, apologies. I hadn’t expected so much progress during my first consultation. Next posts will be shorter, promise.
After submitting my form to the fertility clinic mid-week back in early June and (politely, but with passively-aggressively gritted teeth) checking with them two days later that they had actually received it, I get a call the following Monday afternoon offering me an initial consultation – for seven weeks later.
Wowser. I’m sure it’s the same for everyone: you take years to come to this decision, are elated when you take the first step, and then – waiting, waiting. The Universe giving me another poke in the ribs to remind me to be patient – this is a long road.
The upside, of course, is that you have plenty of time to mull over your decision and make sure it’s the right one. In retrospect, it might have been a little overwhelming to have been thrown immediately into the world of legs in stirrups and strangers poking around in your bits.
Mind over matter
Also, anticipating a delay, though not of seven weeks admittedly, I had asked my lovely doctor for forms to get Day 3 and Day 21 bloods done in the public hospital before my appointment, both to speed things up and keep costs down – the clinic charges for tests that the public hospital does for free. So another upside was having some time to get these done. Trying to see the positives here, people.
Enter the sub-conscious mind and its power over our bodies. Day 3 is simple enough to calculate: Day 1 is the first day of your period (skip to the next paragraph if this is TMI, though if you’re reading my blog, you’re probably not embarrassed about this stuff). My period was due about two weeks before my consultation, so plenty of time to get Day 3 bloods done. You would think. Expected Day 1 passed with no sign, as did Day 2, Day 3 – finally, 11 days late, I get it. (The Universe overegging the pudding slightly in the “Patience, Little Lady” stakes, methinks.) I’ve been tracking my cycle with a smartphone app for the last 16 months and apparently I range from 27 days to 33, on average a 31-day cycle – who knew – making 38 days a record. So, although I’m trying to be relaxed about this stuff, I’m clearly wound up in the background about getting things started. This brings to mind the whole cliché about women trying desperately to get pregnant, resigning themselves after many years to never having a baby and then suddenly getting pregnant after giving up.
If Patience is the first rule of this process, Don’t Stress has got to be the second.
Easier said than done, of course. For example, Day 1 having arrived, I ring the public hospital at lunchtime to get an appointment for Day 3 bloods. “No slots left – you’ll have to ring your doctor to get them to arrange an emergency appointment.” I ring my doctor – they’re on a half-day and closed. I mull it over, toss around the idea of just leaving it altogether and then decide to ring the hospital back in the hope of hearing a different voice at the end of the phone. It’s a different man and I explain my predicament again, asking if they might have any cancellations to give me. “No problem, I have a fasting appointment at 12.50pm, is that okay?”. And relax…
The fertility clinic
Day 3 bloods taken at the public hospital, I head off for my first appointment at the fertility clinic a few days later. I’m expecting to go by myself, but my wonderful mother asks if she can come with me. My parents know what I am doing and are very supportive, more of that later. So we both head off and I’ll admit it’s nice to have someone there with me. I’m used to doing things alone and having company puts a completely different complexion on the visit.
The first thing that greets you on entering the swanky clinic is a wall of baby photos to the right of reception – a mosaic of the clinic’s successes. We smirk at the relatively high proportion of twins – three sets on the first line of photos alone. A lot of the women who come here probably have fertility problems (by which I mean other than the fairly massive problem of not having someone to impregnate you), and I wonder if the baby photos are inspiring or bittersweet for them. At the moment, I’m operating on the assumption that I’m fertile, though this remains to be tested, so the photos don’t upset me.
There’s a man/woman couple in our reception room and out in the corridor what we guess is a lesbian couple, filling in a form. I wonder if it’s donor characteristics they’re poring over and how far ahead of me they are. Another heterosexual couple comes in and there are lots of people coming in and out of the building. Surprisingly little privacy in this place – it’s glass everywhere. The place is abuzz and a seven-week wait makes more sense now.
We’re kept waiting 15 minutes or so and to amuse us I suggest to my mother that we pretend we’re a lesbian couple and that my mother wants to carry the baby this time. She’s 67. Or maybe it would be more believable if we say she’d like to donate her eggs.
The initial consultation
Doctor O calls us and we decide to play it straight, though we do make him laugh with an Octomom joke he’s probably heard a million times. It’s a pretty uncomplicated chat and I get the impression he just wants to confirm that I know what I’m doing. Apparently Day 3 and Day 21 bloods aren’t necessary, though I give him the results of Day 21 bloods I had done in January out of curiosity and tell him I’ve just had Day 3 done. It’s all about the AMH test (for egg reserve) now, he explains. Two more things I didn’t know: their donors are anonymous, so you have to pay extra for a known donor. And their IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) procedures, which I’m hoping to have done, are always drug-assisted. The latter I’m not so keen on – not all clinics use fertility drugs in IUI and injecting myself to regulate ovulation is not an attractive prospect. I don’t take any drugs if I can help it. However, it’s what they do here and this is my local clinic, a 10-minute drive from my house, so it’s about the path of least resistance and minimising stress.
We’re in with the doctor for 10 or 12 minutes and then referred to a co-ordinating nurse, B.
And the rest…
This is where the fun begins. B fires information and forms for signing at me and I’m struggling to scribble down the things I need to do and answers to my questions. I’ll need to book sessions with both their counsellor (obligatory) to talk through what I’m doing and their embryologist to pick a donor. Three donations cost about €550 but it’s 30% extra for a known donor and 60% extra (Of the €550? Of €715? Who knows, didn’t get to ask) for a so-called ‘extended profile’ with more information that just the basics like eye colour, height, hair colour etc.
To my surprise, B does bloods right away. One is so-called EU Bloods (for HIV, hepatitis etc). These have to be done in one of three specific private clinics, so despite the fact that I had them done in the public hospital in January, I have to pay €150 to do them again. Ho-hum. The other is for AMH, Anti-Müllerian Hormone, which for me is the scary test, the one you read about in the women’s magazines. AMH looks at the number of your eggs and it’ll take 2-3 weeks to get the results. Who was this Müller who has inspired so much fear in single women of child-bearing years, I wonder.
I also need to tell them my blood group, which isn’t a problem, as I’m a blood donor, and confirm that my iron levels, white cell count etc are okay. I hadn’t thought of that, so will have to go back to my doctor to get Full Bloods sorted out in the public hospital.
And I need to get an SIS (Saline Infusion Sonography) done at the clinic. Have never heard of this one. It’s a pelvic ultrasound in which they squirt saline into your fallopian tubes to check for blockages, look at how your follicles are developing and have a gander around your cervix, womb etc for any polyps, fibroids or other problems. If the SIS results are good and egg reserve is okay, IUI will be an option for me.
SIS has to be done on Days 4-9 – and guess what, I’m on Day 9. And guess what, they’ve just booked the last SIS slot. Eight women are having it done that day. Another month’s wait, I think. B pulls it out of the bag, however, and arranges for another room to be opened for me. No time for a pain-killer, which is usually recommended an hour before. But also no time to think about it, which is good.
It’s pretty easy actually. A little cringy of course and more of what I was expecting in the ‘Leave Your Dignity At The Door’ sense of having a stranger rummaging about with their head between your thighs. You’ve got your legs in stirrups, bottom half naked, top half clothed. It’s a female doctor and she’s lovely. “Nudge your bottom towards me, a bit further, a bit further…” She has a good look around, with her assistant taking pictures at intervals, and then they insert the water. I can see first one tube and then the other filling up on the screen.
Everything is fine, tubes working perfectly, no polyps or fibroids, a cyst on the cervix but that’s perfectly normal, apparently. I had no reason to believe otherwise, but this is good news. “Go tubes,” I say, and we’re all smiling.
Bring it on, Universe
So the day is way more productive than I had expected: a consultation, two blood tests and the SIS. I leave the clinic lighter of heart (and of wallet – €950 for that lot, good grief, and we haven’t started yet). Session is already booked with the counsellor for two weeks’ time and when I get home I email the embryologist as requested to make an appointment. I also book an appointment with my doctor to see about getting Full Bloods done at the public hospital.
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself but maybe I’ll even have chosen a donor by the time the AMH results come back. I feel a little glimmer of excitement and am already calculating if I get pregnant in September, a June baby…
I know, Patience, Little Lady, Patience…