‘So, next time, I think we will do ICSI,’ the consultant said.
‘What?’ I replied. I was very confused. Our first round of IVF had resulted in 19 eggs collected and absolutely none of them fertilising. The embryologist had as good as said that it was unlikely that IVF would work for us at all.
I asked if he thought it was worthwhile to try again. ‘Oh, yes,’ he replied with absolute confidence. So that’s what we did. Rather than traditional IVF, ICSI involves them taking a single sperm cell and injecting it directly into the egg. We started all the scans and blood tests and injections all over again. This time they changed some of the medication I was on to temporarily shut down my own cycle so that they could artificially control it. Clever and scary.
When it came time for egg collection again, I was waiting in the room for the nurse to put the cannula in. She was a lovely woman and very competent (which was lucky because I had a bad experience when I was pregnant with Finley where I fainted after a student nurse had tried to take blood but had put the needle through the vein). I was trying to keep calm when she was called away and another nurse came to replace her. It was the same nurse that had done the trial cannulation in the first round of IVF and struggled with it meaning it was very painful for me. As soon as she came in, I started sweating. I told myself I was being irrational but, lo and behold, she began jiggling the needle around in the back of my hand trying to force it down the vein (very sorry to anyone reading this who doesn't like this sort of thing!) I started telling the people in the room that I felt dizzy and the next thing I knew everyone was shouting my name and I was drenched in sweat. I’d fainted again. Anyone else that is familiar with this happening will know that you feel horrendously ill afterwards. I was leaning forward and breathing so fast that the doctor was telling me off. They put an oxygen mask on me but the smell of the plastic was making me feel sick. The doctor and nurses were trying to get me to sit back but I was sure I was going to be sick. At this point I was so worried that all these injections and tests would be wasted if I couldn’t lie down so that they could perform the egg collection.
Whereas in the first round of IVF I walked down to the theatre, this time I had to be taken there in a wheelchair, rather embarrassingly, however I was feeling well enough to lie on the operating table miraculously so I was very grateful. The next hour was a battle between myself and nausea and I’m pleased to say I won. They managed to collect 19 eggs again and we were praying for at least one of them to be viable.
This time they called me the same day. It was a very similar conversation to the first round. Almost all of the eggs had holes in them or appeared empty inside. She did say, however, that one of them looked more normal than the others so she injected it but, ‘the needle went straight in with no resistance,’ she said, ‘so I’m not very hopeful.’ We weren’t very hopeful either.
The next day, a man named Paul rang me and told me that the egg had fertilised!
‘What?’ I asked again.
‘Yes, we were very surprised too,’ he explained, ‘But the cells have divided and are turning over just as we would expect. It’s looking lovely.’
He said they would call back tomorrow to let me know about embryo transfer. All the heaviness I’d been carrying seemed to evaporate and I just felt so light. But we also felt worried about getting our hopes up so, instead, we congratulated ourselves on getting this far. It gave us hope that we may have another chance again if it came to that.
The next day, I was walking home after dropping Finley off at school and Paul rang. He said the embryo was still looking great and developing well so could we get there in an hour for transfer. You can probably guess what I said! (‘What?’) I quickly rang Mark who was in the middle of interviews. He hastily told the person they’d got the job and left another member of staff to go through everything with them!
This time we actually made it to transfer. The next step was to take a pregnancy test which they gave to us and told us which date to take it on (8th December) and to ring them with the result. With Finley, I knew I was pregnant. My body just felt different. It did this time too but I knew that could be an effect of the medication I was still on as part of the process. I remember being in Tesco and seeing a pack of potatoes with a Christmas label on and crying because I was thinking about how Christmas is such a special time. Very unlike me.
So the 8th December finally arrived as did the faintest of pink lines on the test. We were pregnant! 12 weeks later we got to do something I had been dreaming about for years: tell Finley he was going to be a big brother. This and the day he visited her after she had been born are two of the best moments of my life.