This is kind of a long story but I wanted to share because I think it could be useful to someone, somewhere, someday…
Rewind just one week and I was in the kitchen administering my first IVF stimulation injection with nothing but quivering hands and total optimism for some good ol’ text book follicle growth. I was predicted to respond well to the drugs and whilst I knew that turbulence lay ahead in any IVF cycle, I hadn’t expected that it would happen in the first 4 days!
The first scan at day 4 is sort of a courtesy. Typically, people won’t have had much action at that point – some clinics won’t even scan that early – and I went in fully prepared to hear “nothing has happened yet but it’s very early, this is very common, panic not”. I was not prepared for the two sumo-size follicles that presented themselves on the scan image. I had hoped to feel something other than horror when seeing an image of my half of a potential embryo for the first time but the sight of two sodding golf balls really threw off my sentimentality.
My mind raced ahead with questions – so much so that I very nearly followed the nurse out the door wearing nothing but a paper towel from the waist down. But even with my knickers back on, I knew this wasn’t good news. The “Sumo Follicles” were measuring at 17mm each – a size that they really don’t expect to see until around day 10 and, on top of that, my blood results showed that whatever was inside them wasn’t even ready to be used. Essentially, those two follicles had grown too quickly and the eggs inside hadn’t had enough time to mature. There were another 16 follicles responding to the drugs but just nowhere near quick enough – Sumo’s were stealing it all.
👆 What I’ve missed out in this write up is the fact that I didn’t get the blood results until 6 hours after my appointment and the experience I had in that time might be likened to a scene from some kind of slightly-more-pleasant Bird Box spin off. I raced home as fast as South West Rail could take me (on a carriage with THREE twin mama’s i.e. SIX babies – a dose of ostentatious irony I simply wasn’t in the mood for) and rushed in the door, ready to administer my first Cetrotide injection and stop my body from ovulating – which it would do if I left it too late. My poor Mum arrived at my house amidst a blur of Cetrotide confusion and high stress and she, unfortunately, received the full force of an IVF patient pumped full of hormones and uncertainty. At one point I think I sent her to sit in the car. Sorry mum…….
For anyone wondering why I found the Cetrotide so stressful, I’ve posted a video of the process at the bottom of this piece to show the sort of laboratory skills it requires.
Anyway, after both Sumo Scan and Bird Box were behind us, the clinic called and gave us 2 options:
1. We could abandon the cycle, call it a day and try again in a couple of months.
2. We could continue the stims injections for another 2 days and come back after that to see if anything has improved.
It took us all of 1 minute to decide that we weren’t going to pull the plug on this without giving option 2 a chance to work some magic – because clutching onto hope (however small) was so intrinsically entwined in our psyche by this point that walking away simply wasn’t up for debate.
7 injections, 7 bruises and 2 days later, we were back in the clinic waiting to see if any of the small follicles had grown. Turns out they had but, again, not enough and those Sumo’s were now measuring at a whopping 23mm each. For whatever reason, my body had reacted to the drugs by recruiting just 2 super-sizers – and the clinic wanted to pay attention to that response. At ABC, they offer a low dosage protocol designed to stimulate fewer follicles with a “quality over quantity” approach. We all expected closer to 10 follicles but we couldn’t ignore the 2 enormous recruits that my body had chosen to step up to the challenge. The Sumo’s were our best bet and we crossed our fingers that the blood test came back with a more promising result.
This time, instead of spending an arduous 6 hours waiting for the blood results at home, we decided to stay up in town and we semi absent-mindedly wandered into London Zoo (which FYI now has an admission fee that made my husband’s eyes water). It honestly seemed like a good idea at the time until it dawned on us that we’d just paid £60 to spend the morning surrounded by other peoples’ children whilst the fate of our own hung in the balance. News of a cancelled cycle was never going to be easy to swallow but we started thinking that perhaps we might not want to receive that information whilst staring at the back end of a gorilla… So, after having a few choice words with a species called “The Good Luck Stork” (who I think we can all agree has a lot to answer for), we decided to head home. We sat out the rest of the day in the garden. In painful silence.
With the ferociousness of the adrenaline running through me, I’m surprised I still had the dexterity to operate a phone when the call came through but relief shot through me when I heard that my blood work had come back indicating something much more positive. We had the green light to go ahead with an egg collection and were told to take the trigger injection at 11pm that night – and that’s a whole other story for another time. I ended the call by declaring my love to the fertility nurse on the end of the phone and bursting into tears – not one to miss a dramatic opportunity, me. We still have a chance at this…there’s still some hope for us.
Egg collection is tomorrow and even though we expected to be working with a few more eggy candidates – we are THRILLED to still be in the game.