The night before my retrieval I watched a youtube video of a woman undergoing the egg retrieval. The video showed the woman being sedated in an office like setting and images of the doctor removing her follicles. After it was all said and done, the woman woke up happily, talked to the doctor about the number of eggs harvested, and was shown walking out of the office on her own power. That is not the way it happened for me. First of all IVF is minor surgery, and I was treated like a hospital patient complete with a butt showing hospital gown and a blue hair net. The outpatient staff were friendly but serious, and they wasted no time getting me hooked up with an IV (which of course took two tries because of my nonexistent veins) and talking to the anesthesiologist about sedation. With all of the information and realization that I was being treated like a surgery patient, I felt overwhelmed. I really had no idea, other than what I saw on youtube, what it was going to be like to undergo the egg retrieval, and I had assumed that the process was going to be more low key. It wasn’t. It was treated like a full-fledged surgical procedure, albeit an outpatient one, complete with the hustle and bustle of a busy pre-operating room. Looking back, I wish I had been more prepared on what to expect on the retrieval day. It would have helped with my jitters. However, the staff were nice and oddly energetic at 6 o’clock in the morning. Everyone had on their happy face, and despite my initial apprehension, it helped ease some nerves.
Right before I was wheeled into the procedure room I got some “vein champagne” from the anesthesiologist and then it was lights out for me. I don’t have any memory of the egg retrieval procedure itself, but my first thought coming out of sedation was how much I had to pee. I vaguely remember walking to the bathroom with the aid of two nurses, almost falling on my face, and then haphazardly stumbling onto the toilet with the door wide open. After that things got fuzzy, and then I remember waking up in the hospital bed with terrible, terrible stomach pain. I kept repeating over and over how much my stomach hurt until the nurse came back with some painkillers and brought my husband out from the waiting room. More than anything else, I wanted everyone to go away so that I could sleep. I valiantly tried to ignore the nurse, but she wouldn’t leave me alone. As the pills started to kick in I had to get dressed, eat some sugar loaded pudding, and then try walking under my own power. I successfully made it to the bathroom and back without falling on my face, but I knew there was no way I was walking any further without puking everywhere. The painkillers were working but any sudden movement on my part induced the worst nausea. I eventually had to be wheelchaired down to our car wearing a horrible, sour expression on my face as I tried not to vomit.
And then, an hour and half later, we got home. I still felt exhausted and achy, so I took another nap and miraculously woke up three hours later without pain. It was a Christmas miracle. I was convinced I was going to have to take maximum dosages of Tylenol or whatever other painkillers I could get my hands on to deal with the pain. Luckily I was wrong. The only thing that was bothersome was how bloated I felt. Because I had generated a large number of eggs (the final egg count was 24), I ended up with a mild case of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS). Luckily my symptoms were mild, but it was uncomfortable dealing with a swollen stomach and manhandled ovaries. I couldn’t work out without my left ovary screaming at me, and I definitely couldn’t go to the bathroom without discomfort. I’ve read that a lot of women recommend stool softeners, and I should have taken some. My poop went back to normal after a few days, but it was a rough few days. I would say it took a good two weeks before I felt normal again. And once I got my period I really felt better.
And through it all I got early morning phone calls from the embryologist. We elected to do pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) to increase our odds of having a successful embryo implantation, and also because I am deathly afraid of having twins. With PGS we can implant just one embryo and reduce our chances of twins, miscarriage, and babies with chromosomal defects. Which also means that we received health updates for a week and a half on our embryos. By day two 14 embryos were dividing, then 7 were determined to have good quality, and finally 4 were determined to be without chromosomal defects after the biopsies. IVF has given us four chances. Four chances to make us a family of four. Four chances to provide us with something we have paid so dearly for. Four chances of potential happiness . . . or straight up heartache.