IVF: the start of the process

In January, after three failed attempts at IUI, we had a consultation with our doctor where we told her we wanted to step things up and move on to IVF. We discussed how the processes differed and agreed I would start the meds in my next cycle. For the next few weeks I injected myself, took pills and injected myself a bit more. All in preparation for the big egg harvest.

The day before the harvest – more as a matter of course, than thinking anything could possibly go wrong ­­– I emailed the cryobank to ensure our chosen donor’s swimmers were ready. But, I received a response saying there were no more of his samples left. Crap. Now what? I called my wife and explained the situation, Whatsapped her a picture of the donor list with the 2 remaining shortlist candidates. They were virtually indistinguishable – both had blonde hair, both around the same height and weight, both had similar academic backgrounds – the only difference was their eye colour. One had blue eyes, one had green. That decided it. I have blue eyes, so does my wife. Let’s go with that. And so we made the quickest decision we’d made throughout the process. It would turn out to be one of the most important decisions we’d ever made.

On 10 February, I went into the clinic to have my eggs harvested (sounds very “farm life” doesn’t it). After the procedure our doctor came to tell me they’d harvested 11 egg sacks, but some of the sacks had been empty, which meant it was possible some eggs had already released into my system. She said they had an extra sample of swimmers and explained that, given the possibility some eggs were left inside me, she suggested we try one last (unscheduled) IUI attempt. Without much consideration, we surged ahead.

Because I was in the theatre ward and not in the normal procedure rooms, she didn’t have her usual equipment. So she borrowed a head lamp from one of the orthodontists who share the ward, gathered a tray of instruments and closed the curtain around my bed in the recovery ward. Looking more like a coal miner than a gynaecologist, she tucked herself down between my spread knees and began the procedure. As she’d done so many times before, she handed me the vial, instructing me to keep it warm until she was ready. I nervously clutched the vial in both hands, knowing the discomfort that was coming next.

When she was ready, I handed her the vial, which she took in one hand turned to face and said, “Now boys, you’re going into the arena – time to perform!” I suppressed a giggle and tried to keep myself relaxed as she finished up.

Fifteen minutes later, we were on our way home with (what we hoped would be) as close to an accidental pregnancy as we were ever going to get. We still had the obligatory two week wait before we could do the test, but we were happy in the knowledge that we had a back-up plan if this didn’t work – well, we had a primary plan we could go back to if this didn’t work.

Anonymous, but not entirely

After we’d selected our donor of choice, we moved forward with the process of artificial insemination. The process itself has the future oven mommy (in this case me), taking a variety of hormone supplements to ensure the production of a good healthy egg or two. Once the doctor is satisfied that you’ve got enough eggs in the slow cooker, you have an injection into your tummy, which triggers the release of said eggs down the tubes an into the uterus. The next day, and the one following that, they implant the swimmers and you hope for the best.

And then, you wait. The most agonizing two-week wait of your life. Then you have a blood test, the results of which either makes you jump and shout for joy or make you close your eyes and whisper, “maybe next time.”

During that first two-week waiting period we were chatting to friends, who casually mentioned they’d been chatting to other mutual acquaintances (one of whom I happened to date in a past life), who had mentioned they were also trying for a baby. The conversation had progressed to the point where they had shared the code assigned to their “anonymous” donor by the cryobank. Heart stopping shock – we’d used the same donor! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are hundreds of couples out there right now considering using the donor we were eventually successful with, the difference is we don’t know them and we definitely didn’t date them.

Although sad the attempt was unsuccessful, I was – at least in part – relieved. Both couples agreed to choose a new donor and move on from there. We’ve had a good laugh about it subsequently, but at the time, the thought of our child and the child of one of my exes sharing biology was one to make us shudder.