Five days after they sucked my eggs out of me, our embryos, now technically called blastocysts, were ready for implantation.
I decided to do acupuncture before and after the embryo transfer. Sandy’s a skeptic of Chinese medicine to say the least, but the efficacy of acupuncture to increase implantation rates in IVF has actual scientific backing via some German study. And, it turns out, there just happens to be an acupuncture clinic specializing in pre- and post-transfer German protocol acupuncture right next to the fertility clinic. Hello, excellent business model.
Our appointment was at 10, and the nurse said to be sure to have a full bladder, which makes the ultrasound scanning and the procedure easier. I had my acupuncture, drank a bottle of water, and met Sandy in the clinic waiting room.
Where we sat. And sat. And sat with crossed legs trying not to think about how bad I had to pee. I finally went to the desk to ask what was taking so long. “Oh, your appointment isn’t really until 11. They just tell you to get here an hour early so we can make sure you’re here on time and that your bladder’s full!” Great.
Eventually, they brought us into the procedure room. The same doctor who had done the egg retrieval came in and told us that our blastocysts looked great, rattling off some rating levels we didn’t totally understand but which sounded good. He suggested, and we agreed, that with no known physical problems on my end, and great embryos to choose from, we should try to just transfer one and freeze the rest for later attempts. Fertility clinics are dying to bring down their increasingly embarrassing multiple rates, and we were only too glad to help out. We actually had to sign a special “Yes, I really only want to do one, I swear, even though almost everyone does two or three, I’m just doing one, for real” form.
An ultrasound tech I’d seen once before came in. She was an odd duck. I wish I’d recorded her speaking, because it’s nearly impossible to describe. It was like she’d written out speeches about various elements of IVF procedure, memorized them, and then rehearsed saying them in a special voice she thought sounded reassuring. At first, it had the opposite effect, sounding so artificial that it was frightening, but after a little while, it was hypnotizing. She hooked up the ultrasound and announced to my great delight that my bladder was too full and that I could go to the bathroom and pee the extremely specific amount of two styrofoam cups full of urine. There were cups in the bathroom for this very purpose. It was the best pee ever.
A nurse came in to get everything set up. First she got my legs into the crazy full-leg stirrups I had noticed when I’d been in the room the previous week, and then, without speaking, she carefully and methodically covered my legs and my hoo-ha with what appeared to be large napkins. Then she wandered out.
Finally, after much longer than I expected to spend covered in napkins and dying to pee, a whole crew of people came in: doctor, med student, nurse, ultrasound tech. The ultrasound tech whispered in her special voice, “IVF catheters are the softest of all the catheters,” as the doctor started to thread one in. Well, remember that really painful IUI I’d had a few months back? The one with all the poking at my cervix with a catheter followed by the unbearable seizure-like cramp? This turned out like that. After a few minutes of trying with the gentle whisper-soft catheter, the doctor switched it up for something a little tougher. All the while, we were watching the action on the ultrasound machine. You could kind of see the catheter poking around in there, but he couldn’t find the way in. I squeezed Sandy’s hand and practiced my Lamaze breathing, and then, in a burst of horrible pain, the doctor found the entry point.
As soon as he’d set up the catheter, he yelled back through the door to the lab, through which a lab tech immediately came out, holding a syringe. With our baby in it. When the doctor shot the blastocyst in through the catheter, we could actually see a flash on the ultrasound screen: the bubble of air and fluid surrounding the still-microscopic embryo. It was a kind of magic.
They told me to wait five minutes and then I could pee again and head out. The end was kind of anticlimactic. Nobody really even noticed when I left. No special instructions. Nothing left but the waiting.
[Next: Part IX]