The IVF Journey Part 4 - Egg Retrieval

I was awake early on egg recovery day; a combination of excitement and anxiety about the unknown ahead.  Plus, our appointment was booked for 10.30am, and I wasn’t allowed to drink anything beyond 8.30am so I was up in good time to fit in my essential morning cup of tea!  That was all I was allowed though, well that and water, but nil food by mouth from midnight so no breakfast for me.

We were also told not to wear perfume, aftershave, hairspray and/or strong deodorant when attending for egg recovery. Apparently embryos held within the adjacent laboratory are very sensitive to the chemicals contained in the products so it’s important to avoid using them. I’m all up for the natural approach in any event, but it does make you consider how much these products may affect sensitive hormonal balance and your health generally.

I spent the journey from Surbiton to the clinic (Wessex) in Southampton channelling Reiki onto my tummy, hoping to infuse the growing eggs with as much loving, healing and energising Reiki energy as possible. I was just really hoping that the eggs were going to be good enough to grow into healthy embryos.  It was exciting certainly, but I was still silently praying that it would all go well - it really is a test of one’s ability to stay positive and have faith.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect that morning, I’d read the notes in the booklet provided by the clinic, but I was still nervous about what the procedure actually entailed. Fortunately, we only had to wait a few minutes in the waiting area of the clinic before we were led downstairs and into a small consultation room. Here I was asked to change out of my clothes and into a gown provided by the clinic before covering myself with my own dressing gown, which I had been asked to bring.

A small cannula was then inserted into my arm. This was probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure as the nurse had to make a few attempts. Finally, the cannula was in place and before I knew it, I was kissing E goodbye and being led by the nurse across the corridor to the small theatre for the procedure.  It was probably a good thing it happened so quickly as it didn’t give me too much time to dwell on what lay ahead.

I was welcomed into the theatre by the consultant and her assisting nurse, both of whom I knew from our previous appointments.  I appreciated the continuity of care, although I’m not sure you get that so much these days with IVF now so popular. At that time however, it made a huge difference in putting me at ease and we were able to chatter and joke with some familiarity. The theatre itself wasn’t threatening either, as far as I can remember it just contained a bed with a stool beside it and a large scanning system at the foot of it.

There was a sense of purpose in the room and after our friendly exchange I was asked to remove my pants and sit at the base of the treatment bed. It was then that all dignity went well and truly out of the window as I lay back and my legs were padded and strapped up into stirrups. I wasn’t expecting this and it’s certainly not an experience I’m in any hurry to repeat.  Still it wasn’t long after this that I was administered a sedative, which sent me straight to sleep.

I was oblivious to the procedure itself, I’m told that the it’s not particularly lengthy, perhaps 10-20 minutes, it depends really on how many eggs are being retrieved. The recovery of the eggs from the follicles is generally done using a vaginal ultrasound probe, which guides a needle to aspirate each follicle. It’s incredible when you think about it and amazing that science facilitates this.

Once the egg is retrieved it’s studied under a microscope and given a grading, with each clinic having its own grading system. The emphasis is on quality rather than quantity, especially as not all the eggs retrieved will be fertilised so the number doesn’t necessarily give an indication of how many embryos may result. However, to a greater extent, the more eggs the clinic have to work with, the greater the chance of them fertilising so it’s all relevant.

Once the eggs are retrieved, they are put together with the sperm in the laboratory (in-vitro) about 4 hours after egg retrieval, or, as in our case, the sperm are injected individually into the eggs (ICSI). The eggs are then checked the next morning for evidence of fertilisation. At Wessex, statistics indicate that there’s a 5% chance that none of the eggs will achieve fertilisation. This does mean however that 95% should be ok!

I remember waking up in the recovery room and being surprised to find that it was all over, it felt like it had been seconds since I had laid down on the bed in the theatre. I was also amazed by the number of other ladies in the room with me as I had been unaware of them upon arrival at the clinic.  There was a lady in the bed next to me and I could hear a couple of other ladies chatting beyond the thin curtain that separated us – the nurse confirmed that it was indeed a busy morning. 

I was very excited about this as there was full moon due later that evening. Not only do I literally worship the Goddess of the Moon but she is also the Goddess of fertility and the full moon is a time when women are (in theory) most fertile. I found it fascinating that despite us all taking fertility drugs, our “cycles” were somehow still connected to the moon. Furthermore, I was jubilant at the auspicious nature of the timing with my eggs being fertilised within the energy of a fertile full moon!

I was keen to share my excitement about the full moon IVF gathering with whomever would listen. The poor lady in the bed beside me couldn’t avoid my ramblings and I was delighted to educate her about the connection between the full moon and fertility, and the auspicious timing of us both having our eggs retrieved on this day. She told me that this was her third attempt at IVF, the first two cycles failing. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like and I hoped that the moon was working some magic for her. Unfortunately, I shall never know whether she conceived but I like to think so.

The nurses were less interested in my moon tales, I don’t think they really understood the significance, it was just another day for them. There was a time when I too didn’t really know much about the moon, and I certainly didn’t understand or recognise the correlation between the moon cycle and my own cycle. Nor did I appreciate the power of the menstrual cycle as it moves us from girl to woman, through to wise woman and on to Crone, it was just something that happened every month.

Further, I had no idea of the way in which we can use our menstrual cycle to connect with our innate feminine wisdom – the wisdom of our grandmothers and great grandmothers and all the wise women that have lived before us – and the fact that this is available to us all the time.  It’s something that every woman should be taught when they first begin menstruating, because it offers us so much insight into how we’re living our lives and can be deeply empowering – imperative for any lady with menstrual issues.

Since I discovered the wonders of the Goddess of Moon, I have been honouring her, praying to her and dancing with her whenever I can.  Quite literally too. There is nothing quite as uplifting and indeed wiring as dancing naked in the light of a full moon.  I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to deepen their connection to her, and feel her energy, especially anyone with fertility issues. If that’s not your bag, then just stand under her light with your arms held high and be moon touched instead.

But be prepared, she likes to shake things up a little in her quest to bring out the light in you (so that you may shine as brightly as she does when full). She’ll ask you to dance with her and shake yourself loose, surrendering to the moment and all that holds for you. She’s a blessing and brings blessings with her too. I was excited about her appearing on egg retrieval day – it was answered prayers and this strengthened my faith in the magic of the Universe.

After an hour sitting in one of the armchairs in the recovery room, drinking tea and literally recovering from the procedure, I was allowed to leave. It really was that simple, although the clinic insist that someone collects you as you’re still recovering from the sedative. I changed back into my clothes and E came down to collect me. It was then that our kind nurse met us and told us that they’d retrieved 11 eggs during the procedure and these were now with the embryologists for grading.

She told us to return in 3 day’s time for embryo transfer and that was that. It was exciting but I was very aware that the eggs may not fertilise or indeed be of a fertilised quality that would allow for embryo transfer.  IVF really is a waiting game, from one procedure to the next.  It can get so exhausting just waiting to hear the results of the various tests and procedures, and never being quite certain if you’ll be able to move on to the next stage or not.  

Still I was feeling positive – the moon was full and I was quite sure her energy would work some magic and help to fertilise the eggs.  Plus, I was rather hyper off the combination of the sedative and the relief of surviving egg retrieval. This meant I talked non-stop to E all the way back to Surbiton, it was like being giddy off a glass of champagne – I’d like to bottle that feeling!  Poor E was also relieved that the procedure was over and was looking forward to a few days lying on the sofa and resting his back, which was still very painful.

The clinic advice you to do very little, certainly no driving, no alcohol and no signing of legal documentation in the 24 hours following egg retrieval. They mention that you may experience some discomfort following the procedure with a swollen and sore abdomen and some cramping that may require strong pain killers.  They also advise you to abstain from sexual intercourse until you have received the result of the pregnancy test as the ovaries may remain enlarged and intercourse can potentially damage them.  Furthermore, some eggs may remain uncollected and these could potentially give rise to significant multiple pregnancy.

For me, between now and embryo transfer, it was absolutely all about healing from egg retrieval and preparing my uterus to receive the fertilised embryo(s). I saw it as a bit of a mission and set to work as soon as I got in the car, taking some high dosage arnica and channelling Reiki into my tummy. Back at the house in Surbiton, I continued with the Reiki while nestled up in bed with a hot water bottle on my abdomen. I like a good mission and I like healing work so I was looking forward to seeing how I could heal myself within this short time period.