We’re 2 days past our IVF due date and the wee bairn isn’t ready the world. I can’t say I blame him/her. I’m fast approaching 40 and I’m still not ready for the real world. People would always ask if I would like the baby would come early. I always said I would rather it didn’t, I was too busy kicking the arse out of my last days of freedom. I was only joking of course, we’re quite blessed to be where we are today.
It was February 5th when we went in for for egg collection. Sal had been injecting herself daily for a few weeks to suppress her menstrual cycle, before injecting again for (I think) 10 days to hyper-stimulate her follicles. There was regular ultrasound scans at this point to track how the follicles were responding / developing. They do these scans both externally and internally. The internal probe looks like a rampant rabbit on steroids. I wished Sal luck and averted my gaze.
In the end, all was good with the follicle growth so in we went. I had to nip off and do the pressure wank, in the world’s least inspirational room. I say pressure wank as, whilst Sal is away having her eggs collected, I have to do this otherwise we cannot proceed. It’s a lot pressure in the moment. They need my semen. Now I’m not saying I’ve the harder of the two jobs here. To collect the eggs, Sal is sedated and has a needle passed through her vagina, under ultrasound, into each ovary to Harvest the follicles (eggs). By comparison, masturbating is the easy job.
So in I popped, a blank room with a solitary casting couch. The sounds of Nurses and Porters chatting outside was amplified by my paranoia. I checked the door (several times) to make sure it was locked. I then peaked into the filing cabinet, which was bizarrely nailed to the wall. Its contents, some well fingered and dated porn magazines. I mean, if you like the hairy older ladies and you can get past the suspiciously sticky pages, then these magazines were banging. I’ve never felt so uninspired.
This part of the process messes with your mental health a bit. The pressure gets to you and you then struggle to get an erection. That plays havoc with you mentally. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. You feel like an utter failure, afraid and scared you aren’t going to be able to do this for your wife. She’s there having a operation with probes in her ovaries and all you have do is wank into a pot. You question your self worth. This then leads to a feeling of pure rage, aimed at yourself for being so pathetic. These emotions and feelings repeat and interchange so fast you’d get whiplash trying to keep up with them. Desperation then creeps in and you start wondering if there is anywhere you can nip off to and grab some viagra. After that comes the moment of manic amusement at the whole situation and you find yourself sitting on the couch, flaccid unproductive knob out, just laughing. People have been sectioned for less.
I returned to magazines, but found myself wondering if a fabric shy cowgirl outfit is really appropriate attire for a barn in winter. There was bloody snow outside in the photos, she must have been freezing her tits off. I put down the magazine and close my eyes, knowing full well I need to just switch off and quiet my overactive mind. Now I’ve always been a big fan of yoga, it kept me relatively injury free during my rugby playing days. So I started doing some simple breathing exercises. I believe these are called pranayama but don’t quote me on that. It does sounds a bit hippy but it worked beautifully and set me up for a lovely moment of mindfulness.
Prior to all this I’d read some work by Andy Puddingcombe, purely out of curiosity. His book called Headspace, A Guide to Mindfulness and Meditation is the one I’m referring to. I had been working on 10 minute meditations and just learning to how silence the mind. I used a visual cue he teaches where you mentally place yourself at the side of a road and imagine thoughts as cars, passing by. When a though takes you away and you become aware of it, you return yourself to the side of the road and allow the thought to drive off. In essence returning yourself to the present moment. In time, less cars (thoughts) and you learn to quiet your mind. It’s mediation and you get better with practice. The longer you do it, the quieter the road becomes.
With my brain reset, I then purposely starting thinking about my wife, thinking back to (for want of better words) naughtier times. This worked a treat and within minutes (don’t judge me) I had a sample. Just stopping, becoming mindful and present was all it took. That would be my advice for anyone going through the same ordeal. There is still the issue of the small topped container, the angles you have to contorting yourself into to face your erection down over and fill the pot. But it’s easily overcome once you work out the logistics. Just make sure you get every drop. They want every drop and this message is repeated several times as you’re led to The Room.
1st round 1st egg. Bang, pregnant. Very lucky and very fortunate. We’ve friends who tried multiple times and sadly failed. We didn’t qualify for IVF on the NHS initially so talked many times about going private. I remember sitting in a consultation room at a private clinic when I overheard a woman in the reception explain how she remortgaged her house for this. It’s crazy the lengths some people are forced to go too to try for a family. We didn’t qualify initially on the NHS because Sal’s FSH was high. The FSH is the follicle stimulating hormone. It was explained to us like this. Imagine your brain sends a text message to your ovaries telling them to release an egg but the message isn’t received. So the brain sends another, then another and so on. The messages represent the FHS level. The ovaries aren’t responding. They don’t release an egg so the FHS levels build. That is a problem for IVF as its difficult to hyper stimulate the ovaries in order to do the egg collection / harvest. If the ovaries don’t respond to stimuli, they can’t harvest them for IVF.
We suspect it was the contraceptive pill that caused this. Sal was on the Yasmin pill for 15 plus years. I would have thought it would mess with a natural cycle but we’ve been assured that this isn’t the case. Either way, the FHS levels slowly started to correct but not until Sal had been off the pill for nearly two years She had monthly blood tests for over a year and once they dropped below a level needed to qualify for IVF on the NHS, the process was pretty quick.
Now, this is where I have a confession. I refer to it as IVF as that’s what most people have heard off. IVF stands for In-Vitro Fertilisation. They take the Egg and put it together with the sperm and basically keep tabs on them to see when one has fertilised the egg. We went down the route of Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), which they pronounce it Ick-see. This is where they select one of the stronger looking sperm and inject it directly into the egg. I have a varicocele in my left bollock. It’s basically a knackered vein in the nut-sack which pools blood and increases the temperature of the bollocks. This has, over the years, cooked my sperm, and as a result I now have low motility. Lazy bastards in other words, on a permanent siesta. I had started on Condensyl which is a multivitamin aimed at improving sperm quality by protecting their DNA during development. Not only does this tablet have a host of multi-vit goodness but it also contains N-acetycysteine (NAC). Those of you who have had suicidal tendencies and/or who are in the medial profession, may have come across this under the name of Parvolex. It’s what they give to people who have taken Paracetamol overdoses to prevent damage to the liver. Turns out it also wonders for your bollock contents too. My sperm motility and morphology improved dramatically during the months I was taking them.
It’s not really a talked about thing, male infertility. We’re better at it now, even compared to over a 20 years ago, when i first discovered I had a varicocele. I rushed to the GP convinced I had bollock cancer (testicular cancer to you regular people). When I saw a urologist, bearing in mind I was 17, he explained that it could cause fertility issues in the future if left unchecked. However to fix it, I’d need an operation on my sack which I was told might not work. At 17, you don’t think that much about having a wife and kids, thus I elected to run the fertility gauntlet. Bad choice in hindsight. I never had that suitable peer or adult presence in my life to give me their years of life experienced wisdom. What’s worse is that a varicocele can also dramatically effect your testosterone production, which can effected your physical development. My levels were and are ok, luckily.
Anyhow, even though my sperm quality had dramatically improved as a result of taking these wee Condensyl tablets, the boffins at the fertility unit wanted to use the ICSI route to give us the best chances of conceiving. As a result we’ve five fertilised eggs, two of which developed rapidly, the other three were showed good growth. So one of the two stronger fertilised embryos was selected and it was transferred, once again under ultrasound, into Sal’s vagina via a massively long catheter. The rest of the embryos went in the freezer. We can go back and use any of them, should we wish to in time.
There are two things I find weird about this though. We’ve four partially developed babies (embryos) in a freezer. If we were to use any of them, they are technically the same age as the 1st born, they just had a freezer pit stop. They were conceived on the same day from the same egg batch and same bucket of Jizz. They’ll technically be non-identical twins, with an age gap. Science is both a mad and beautiful human concept.
I just minced upstairs to explain this to Sal, she was less enthused about the concept. She’s currently in the bath trying to cook the baby out I think. We tried the curry and sex yesterday, people lied. Sal even went to a reflexologist today, but they couldn’t find the eject button in her feet. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
I do feel the need to write that I think my wife is an amazing woman. Women have a much tougher time of this than men, in terms of both the emotional and physical demands on the body. She has carried this child to term like an absolute trooper. Even prior to this, when she would be told month after month her FSH was too high, she never gave up and always remained positive. She is an absolute star and I can’t wait for us to have this child and for her to become a mother.