So after my run in with OHSS I took a further 3 months to recover, the hospital faffed about more than I thought humanly possible & we met with the head consultant about a complaint that we had to raise because of their sheer incompetence. I should have known at that point that the next few years under the clinic weren’t going to go well. Anyway, we finally got to the point of being able to have our frozen embryos transferred. Well, if only it was that simple!
For those reading who don’t know much about IVF, there is a whole dictionary that comes with it. So, Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) is the process by which they thaw the embryos and if they survive the thaw then they are transferred back into my uterus in the hope that one implants and makes a baby. This FET thing sounded easy in comparison to the huge drama that we had just been through with the fresh IVF cycle.
At this point we had 6 good grade day 3 embryos, so they had survived day 1 & 2 of development and had been good enough to freeze on day 3. Some clinics like to take the embryos to day 5. Our clinic at the time didn’t do day 5, just day 3.
Our first FET we were filled with hope and why wouldn’t we be. I had to inject drugs for a number of weeks and these drugs effectively shut my system down so as a result I had symptoms of the menopause, deep joy. They also didn’t tell me that I would have the period from hell before I could then start the drugs which would build my system up to be able to have the transfer. This whole process is known as a medicated FET. It means that the clinic is in control and can time the transfer to fit in with them rather than what would be your natural cycle, that’s not how its explained but I came to assume that’s why some clinics use medicated rather than natural FET’s, its suits them.
A few weeks of injections and then when the clinic said we were ready the oestrogen tablets were added in. I then had to attend the clinic for a trans vaginal scans, yes that is exactly what it sounds like, a scan of my insides from the inside. One of my Twitter buddies refers to it as ‘Wanda’, its also commonly known as the dildo cam, I think you get the picture. A huge wand type implement being stuck inside you surprisingly doesn’t hurt but it’s a bit uncomfortable. When the lining is good, right thickness and triple lined (yep that’s a thing apparently) a date is set for the embryo transfer. Then the progesterone suppositories are added in to support the womb lining. Now, here’s the thing, I don’t ever remember anyone saying to me before we started the fresh IVF cycle that I would have to shove a waxy progesterone suppository, shaped like a bullet, where the sun doesn’t shine and that it would leak everywhere & cause immense irritation. Just another delight of IVF but of course we went with it, what else could we do.
We agreed that we would have 2 embryos transferred, if we got twins that would be ok, we’d have our family in one go. It was explained that not all embryos survive the thaw so they thaw 2 and then if one or both perish they then start to thaw more. We were hopeful we would get to have a transfer because we had 6 little embryos frozen waiting to become our family.
So after being a raging hormonal human being for a few weeks (felt like months) it was time. Waiting for the phone call on the day of transfer is probably one of the most nerve-wracking parts of FET.
The clinic phoned to say they had thawed 2 embryos and they were looking strong so we were all set. A wave of relief fell over me, all of the trauma I had been through in the IVF cycle would be worth it and in 9 months we would have our family. This was really happening.
Driving 35 miles with a full bladder was not a great idea, I had to stop and pee and then start to drink again. I thought I was actually going to burst. So we arrived at the clinic on time, bladder full and there were 5 other couples waiting. All of us full of anticipation, full of fluid in our bladders and excited about the prospect of this IVF malarkey actually working. No-one spoke, just silence. I remember thinking that statistically it will probably only work for one maybe two of us sat in the room, it was a stark reality check of the reality of IVF. I looked by far the youngest so I smugly thought of course it will be us. How wrong was I.
I think I was 3rd on the list. By the point of having the replacement I thought I was actually going to wet myself. I was in agony but I wanted my embryos back so I would do whatever it took. I was called. C & I walked into the sterile, cold room. I had to sign numerous bits of paper agreeing to the transfer, repeat my surname and date of birth time and time again to make sure the right embryos were being put back. The consultant explained that with the embryos we had she thought we had around a 40% chance of it working. That was mega, ok 60% chance it wouldn’t work but 40% it would was far more than the 20% we had read about. OMG this was going to work.
I lay on the bed with my legs in stirrups and me being on show for all to see. Well I was covered as best I could be but I was still on show. One thing I have learned is that any appointments require my lady garden to be well maintained! You may cringe or laugh but actually it’s a very serious conversation topic on the on-line IVF support forums, who knew! So, I was scanned to make sure I had a full bladder, were they actually kidding, stop pressing on my bladder…please, its full! Then the embryos were brought out in a catheter, which is a long, thin clear tube. The catheter was inserted and guided using the ultrasound. A little ‘ouchy’ as the consultant moved it around to find the right position. All I remember thinking was ‘I’m in agony, I need to pee, I’m going to pee, please just get this done’. Then the consultant told us to watch the screen, she said when we saw a white flash, that was our embryos being released. It wasn’t a huge flash, just a subtle little flash of white light…they were where they belonged. We had done it, we had got some embryos inside me, this was going to work and have a family. C had tears in his eyes…I still just needed to pee. It was strange going to pee after having embryos replaced, although it’s humanly impossible for them to fall out I had a real sense that I needed to protect them and not do anything to jeopardise our chances. At the time I was very active on some on-line support forums, I was among people who got it and who had been through it, there was a wealth of information. One thing I kept reading was that an embryo was like a grain of sand in a jar of jam…they weren’t going to fall out!
We left the clinic, both grinning from ear to ear, our embryos had survived the thaw and now they just had to keep growing and implant and we would have our baby or babies…eeek imagine that, twins. Oh shit, what had we done…
I then entered the period of time in an IVF cycle that is called the Two Week Wait (2ww), this should also be called the 2 weeks of torture. In 2 weeks we would know if it had worked. Some clinics do blood tests, ours didn’t, I had to pee on a stick and phone them with the result in 17 days, yes 17 days. That wasn’t 2 weeks in my book but all clinics are slightly different and ours insisted on 17 days and of course, under no circumstances was I to take a pregnancy test early, that could give false negatives or false positives. I had been told!
I will leave it there for now…the two week wait & result deserves a post of its own. I look back and wonder if we were naïve to be so excited and happy to have had our embryos transferred, but this was our chance. This was what we had to do to have a family, of course we were excited & of course it was going to work. We grabbed hold of that 40% statistic and we held it tightly hoping and praying that it would work, it just had to.
During this first FET I didn’t know anyone that had gone through this process. I turned to a very supportive on-line forum where I spent hours trawling posts and connecting with people going through the same thing. My real life connections couldn’t really support me in the same way, as much as they probably wanted to, they didn’t know how. It was all going to be ok anyway because this FET would work and we would be able to move on with our lives as a family of 3 or more. It was a lonely path to be on. If you are reading this about to embark on treatment then please know that you are not alone, there is lots of great support out there. I found what I thought worked for me at the time and you will too.