After my first trip to the clinic, I keep the treatment plan in plain sight on my desk.
The idea is that, to prepare for the extraction, I inject hormones to stimulate my ovaries to produce a much higher number of follicles with egg cells than they normally would. All those follicles can then be punctured, drained and the egg cells extracted and frozen.
The treatment is supposed to start on the third day of my menstrual cycle, so every day, I do mental arithmetic to figure out when I’d have to start the injections and when I’d have my first check-up if I got my period today. I feel somewhat apprehensive.
As it turns out, I am four days early. I am torn between “at least we can get this over with quickly” and “I don’t want to start the injections.”
Luckily, my injections start on a bank holiday, so on Day 1, I have enough time to figure everything out and get my hands to stop shaking. I didn’t sleep well the night before and I am very aware that the medication is incredibly expensive and I only have the exact amount I need and not a drop more – if I spill anything or fuck up in some other way, I have to start over. The pen for the morning injections is surprisingly easy to handle, even though it takes me a while to get the needle to stay on. It’s thinner than I thought and it barely hurts. I assume it is similar to what diabetics would carry with them, though I have no way of knowing. The evening injections are a bit more painful and the needle is thicker. I keep track of every shot meticulously in a notebook. I am very worried I will make a mistake at some point.
The first three days of injections go by fairly unspectacularly. By Day 4, I notice a clear effect on my mood. The hormones are messing up my system and on top of that, since I decided to avoid alcohol from the first appointment onward to be safe, I can’t even have a glass of wine to take the edge off. On that day, I arrange to meet a friend to have a look at options for a Christmas getaway. We decide to go to a wine bar. I order Earl Grey and stare sadly at my mug, all the while picturing nine months plus breastfeeding time of this sober misery. My friend is the sunniest, most cheerful person you can imagine, so I feel decidedly better by the end, but it doesn’t last.
On Day 5, I go right back to my terrible mood. It probably doesn’t help that my week is as packed as ever. That evening, I have an introductory meet-up at an organization I want to volunteer for. I spend the 1,5 hours questioning whether I really want to do this and what the point of life is and pondering how annoying teenagers truly are.
Day 6 is the first day I cry. I go see a doctor during lunch for unrelated reasons, and he tells me to eat less sugar. His exact words are: “I know your type. Young, single, stressed, university graduates… you eat salad in front of people and then sneak chocolate when no-one sees.” He says this quite teasingly, but what my hormonal brain hears is: “You are a fat failure and your diet is awful and it’s no wonder you are single”. I walk back to work with tears streaming down my face.
I stay home that evening and day 7 is my first check-up. The procedure isn’t legal in Austria when there is no medical necessity for it, so I have to travel to the Czech Republic for each visit. I get up at 5 a.m. and only very narrowly catch my train.
I manage to find a cab. The driver is a balding man in his sixties who does not appear to speak English. I enunciate the name of the clinic as clearly as I can, and his face lights up. He looks at me questioningly and mimes a baby bump on his belly with his hands. I smile and nod. At least the place has a reputation around here, I think to myself.
First up is another ultrasound. The doctor says my ovaries are responding very nicely, the follicles are right where they should be, and the hormone dosage is working very well. The follicles are growing quickly and things could not be better. I mentally thank my body, remember how incredibly healthy it is, apologize for hating it so much and make a half-hearted pledge to treat it better.
After the ultrasound, I am taken to the head nurse, who explains the likely timing of the actual cannulation, which, if everything goes well, should be on Day 13 or 14.
“The day of the procedure, please have someone accompany you.”, she says. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible”, I answer, forcing myself to sound composed. The hormones are still wreaking havoc on my feelings and I feel like yelling and crying at the same time. Lady, if I had someone in my life that I could ask to pick me up from a city 130 kilometres away from home on a work day after general anaesthesia, I WOULDN’T FUCKING BE HERE.
Instead, I smile wryly. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.” The nurse looks at me doubtfully. “Well, if there is any way you can arrange it…”, she trails off, then adds “You can’t drive home, though.” At this point, surely she must be doing it on purpose?!
For the next two days, I am supposed to take four injections a day: three in the morning and one in the evening. Two hormone preparations, one injection to prevent the larger, more developed follicles from bursting prematurely and one injection to prevent thrombosis. Two of the injections consist of a powder and a saline solution that I need to mix together myself. The nurse demonstrates all of this, then administers the three shots. I want to get out my notebook and write down the exact steps to reassure myself, but I decide against looking like the huge nerd that I am.
Suddenly, in this small room with its white walls plastered in pictures of babies, even with the two nurses giving me their best encouraging smile, I feel incredibly overwhelmed and out-of-place. I can feel the little girl inside of me becoming wide-eyed and worried. Eight injections that I have to prepare and administer all by myself, and noone to help if anything goes wrong, or even just to cuddle.
To be continued