Guys, as in men, you may want to skip this post. It involves girly things and if you are the type that hates the word ‘period’ as much as women hate the word ‘moist’, I think you should stop reading now….
Still reading? Ok, well here is your second warning. This post is about babies…kinda. If you are the type of guy that thinks women in their 30’s are just wanting to have babies with you (which is actually quite frustrating and totally untrue, sometimes we just want to have fun with you too, seriously…) you should probably stop reading now.
This post is about egg freezing. I’ve been on a dating hiatus for a while now, partly due to starting a new job which has been keeping me insanely busy, but also because of my impending egg freezing treatment. I thought it would be best to refrain from dating someone new whilst I’m a hormonal nightmare.
This whole process started early last year. I was approaching my 34th birthday, I had a number of friends who had recently had a baby and I was certainly nowhere close to being in a situation of having one myself, nor did I really want to be. I was dating and I had in my head that I would have kids at some point, but I still felt it was a long way off.
But after hearing many a story of friends my age (or younger) struggling to conceive naturally, I understood that I perhaps didn’t have a ‘long way off’ to play with. Also, I was approaching my ‘scary age’ of 35. You know, the age at which you think it’s make or break for baby making. Many years before this I had thought 35 would be the age at which I would ‘buy a baby’ if I hadn’t met someone, which to me meant going down the sperm donor path and going it alone.
But at almost 34 I still felt very young. My friends that had had children, who were also about 34, also seemed far too young to have children. Not in the irresponsible parent kind of way, more that we were still laughing at ridiculously childish things ourselves. So I got a referral to an IVF doctor and thought about looking into egg freezing. I thought about it for about 4 months. I was busy finishing my MBA, then taking a holiday, then I was enjoying being between jobs, dating etc and finally mid last year I made an appointment at the IVF clinic.
I intended to go and just get the blood test done that assesses your egg reserves and let that make the decision for me. If it was low for my age, I would definitely look at egg freezing. If it wasn’t I would probably give it some more time. I didn’t realise though that I would have to go off the pill for an accurate read on the test and having been on the pill since about 16, it took a few months to even get my period back to normal to be able to do the test. By then it was about October last year and as well as the blood test I had to have one of those delightful internal ultrasounds that commences with a woman rolling a condom on a giant wand and lubing it up, plus a round of standard STI tests to check everything was in order for the egg freezing to go well.
After enduring all that, I returned to the IVF clinic to get my results. Everything was good and my egg levels were ‘normal’ for a 34 year old woman. The bad news about that was that there was no chance of being deemed fertility challenged and getting medicare to foot some of the bill for egg freezing. The doc ran through the costs with me. $11.5K. Yikes!!! I knew it would be about that, but hearing it still hurt. And it might be more. Many people do it 2, even 3 times to make sure they have enough eggs in the freezer to counter the failure rate. On average I might get 9-12 eggs out of a cycle, but when I choose to use them half may die when they are defrosted, some more will swipe left on the chosen sperm (who I may or may not know the name of…) and some more just won’t implant. On average 1 in 6 could lead to a pregnancy down the track. So all this for a one or two chance, hmmm I don’t like those odds!
All of the things that I would rather spend $11.5K on were running through my mind. A Vegas trip? Part way to a second car (I really want a spare convertible ;p) Hell, I could even get a boob job for that!
But the doc had told me that up to 35 is pretty much the last of the ‘optimum’ time to freeze your eggs. They will of course do it after that, but because fertility declines so significantly from 35 the chances of it being all that beneficial declines significantly too.
I knew I was at least 2 years off realistically being in a position of wanting a child (at best). I was single and even if I met my unicorn the next day, I’m not a quick commitment person and it would be very unlike me to decide I wanted to have a baby with someone too fast, plus I still felt like my lifestyle did not really have space for caring for a baby at this point.
So I decided to go ahead with freezing my eggs with the idea that it was insurance that would possibly safeguard against the decision to have a baby or not being taken out of my hands. I also thought at the time that it would bump out my scary age from 35 to 39. If I still hadn’t met a potential future baby daddy by then, I would go it alone with a sperm donor. Done. Locked in. Let’s do this…
I was about to accept a new job at the time so expecting that I will soon be getting a salary again, I started proceedings aiming to complete a cycle before Day 1 of my new job. I headed back to the clinic for a lesson on how to inject myself with the hormones each night and practised on a little pin cushion thing which was supposed to replicate my flesh. I felt awkward and weird and the pen type syringe was simple, but the proper syringe freaked me out a little. I wrapped up the session quickly and thought I’d work it out by reading the instructions, or surely there would be a youtube vid I could watch later. I’m so Gen-Y….almost.
But then I changed my mind about that job and decided to hold out for something I wanted more. Early this year that opportunity came along and I booked an appointment with the IVF doc to get started again as my original referral had run out. I waited a month or so for the appointment, then again I had to do some more tests, then finally I was ready to go early May.
Just before I was about to start I was up early one Saturday morning to pick up my ultrasound scans. I was stopped at traffic lights, feeling hungover as I’d drunk a bottle of red in the bath the night before after a particularly big week at work and I was watching some parents on the sidelines of a soccer game in drizzly rain. The kids looked really little and clearly had NFI what they were doing on the field, the parents looked tired, bored and like they were hating their lives and I couldn’t help but think, fuck I really don’t want to be doing that! Not now, not in 4 years time at 39. Perhaps my new scary age is actually 42….
Then my period came earlier than expected that day and because I hadn’t sent back all my forms just yet, I had to delay for another month. Hmmm two false starts already…is this a sign?!?
But I decided to just go for it after all the effort I had already expended on the issue and this is how it played out..
Day 1 On day 3 of my period I head into the IVF clinic to do my first blood test and pick up my drugs. When I arrive at reception there is another patient, a man, who is carrying something and looking very uncomfortable. He is told to go downstairs to the day hospital so I assume he is dropping off a sample… There is another girl by herself who looks about my age and seems quite relaxed, as well as a couple who look quite anxious.
I’m called in quickly, a simple blood test is done and I’m given a cooler bag with my drugs, some of which I need to get home and into the fridge promptly. I’m in and out of the clinic within 10 minutes. When I get home and unpack the cooler bag, I’m quite surprised by how many vials of drugs I have!
I was heading out to a dinner that night, which was to involve wine (it’s ok, alcohol is only really an issue when you intend to make the baby as part of the process), so I made sure that I read the instructions before I went with a clear mind so I could take the drugs as soon as I got home. You must inject within about an hour of the same time every night, so I had to be home at a reasonable hour, or be up late for the next two weeks.
When I get home I prep the syringe pen, the needle inserts easily into the skin near my belly button and I think I’ve done a good job until I see the reading on the side of the pen shows only 12.5 units went in, instead of the required 200. I didn’t realise the pen would kind of click each 12.5 units and I had to keep going until it zero’d out. So I had to inject myself again to finish off the job. Not ideal, but Day 1 was done without any drama.
Day 2-3 goes fine, no real side effects that were noticeable at all apart from possibly being a little more tired than usual.
Day 4 Things start to get more real. I’ve got cramps, I’m a bit bloated and I’m feeling a little spacey late in the afternoon at work. I also have a bit of an upset stomach, but all in all the side effects are quite manageable.
Day 5 I’m up early to pop into the IVF clinic for a blood test on my way to work to check how my hormone levels are responding. I’m in and out within 10 minutes again and they call about lunchtime with good news. My hormone levels are rising quickly, so my eggs are apparently growing well and I’m good to start taking the next medication that night. This means two injections each night and it’s now time to use the proper syringe. That needle seems sightly thicker and is definitely harder to insert. It also makes the skin around the injection site a bit red and itchy, but that subsides quickly. I’m starting to feel quite tired in the evenings now but again it’s manageable.
The nurse told me that day that I’ll possibly be good for egg collection by Day 10 based on how quickly my levels have come up. Yippee! Maybe this will be short and sweet…
Day 6 The bloat is getting worse and I’m now looking for the loosest work clothes I own when I’m getting ready in the morning. I had a shit day at work that day and got stuck back at work late finishing something urgent, possibly because my mind was again rather spacey and productivity was low! I was also really cranky and close to punching a number of people in the face….but to be fair, I think they deserved it anyway, it wasn’t the drugs talking ;p
Day 7 I’m up early again today for another blood test followed by an ultrasound to check how the eggs are growing and I get to watch on the screen as my follicles are measured. Not that I can really decipher much, but it looks like there are a lot of potential eggs there. Again the clinic is really efficient and although it’s not the most pleasant thing to experience an internal ultrasound first thing in the morning, I’m glad that it’s over and done with and I’m on my way to work in no time.
When the nurse calls early that afternoon I’m told the eggs are growing well, but not as fast as the previous blood test indicated. So I’m to keep doing what I’m doing and to come back on Day 10 for another blood test and ultrasound. Maybe they’ll be ready to hatch by Day 12 instead.
To be continued….
Read Part 2 now.