Our Forever Hopeful Club columnist Kat McKenzie is back with a new update on the hopes, fears and medical practicalities of trying to be a mother. Over three instalments, Kat will share her IVF journey.
A note from The Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes:
For years I used to read anything I could about parenting. I was so desperate to have a child. I was in all of the groups, I knew the lingo – TTC, 2WW, BFN, BFP. But I never quite felt like there was a home for the Forever Hopeful Club. The parents who want to be parents but aren’t yet through the wretched unfairness of fertility.
I want Parents-in-Waiting to feel like they have a home at The Spinoff too. And so does the beautiful Kat McKenzie. She has taken the brave step of sharing her journey and representing the Trying To Conceive community here. Her writing is stunning – gentle, considered, passionate. Thank you Kat for giving voice to this particular sadness, for sharing your hopes and dreams for a family with all of us.
We began in January. A long-awaited appointment with the specialist confirmed what we already knew: We needed help. We needed drugs and time and super smart doctors and a whole lot of luck.
We were ready.
A few more tests (five vials of blood for me, just one for him – always) and we could begin straight away if we wanted to. Suddenly it was all happening – when my period arrived, we could start. Finally, after so much waiting, we could move forward with IVF.
Just like that.
“Time is on your side,” they said, “you’re still young. We feel you have a good prognosis.”
After years of resenting my period, I couldn’t wait for it to start. Three agonising weeks later, I could finally make that first phone call and the following day I returned to the clinic to collect my medications. I’d had a dummy injection run in the clinic in front of the nurse (nothing like someone asking you to stick yourself with a tiny needle suddenly on the spot) and I felt anxious but ready to stab myself every night, then eventually add in a morning jab as well.
A kind, experienced friend had given me the advice to take myself away from everyone to a quiet place and to take my time to get it done. My husband sat with me the first few goes, but then left me to it otherwise. I became such a pro. When the second injection was added, he would stumble down with me at 7am to the kitchen and watch me get it from the fridge, mix it together, sit to pinch some stomach fat and slide it in. I was warned that the second injection may sting a little, but I had no issues.
We were kicking IVF’s ass.
I was good at this – the scheduled, orderly side of it all suited my hyper-organised brain.
My body went into overdrive and soon my ovaries looked “busy” on the scans. During the ultrasounds I’d watch the screen and see all of the large black blobs. So many to count and all growing in size as they should. Everyone praised how well I was responding and how reassuring it was that I felt so well through all of it. I was tired and had bloating and discomfort, but otherwise just felt keen to get moving forward.
I had never been so grateful to be unemployed and spending my days in stretchy clothes. My emotions built up but the overwhelming feelings were of hope and excitement.
More from Kat McKenzie:
As we got closer to egg retrieval my main symptom was fullness. I could barely eat because I felt so heavy all the time and uncomfortable like I’d just had Christmas lunch every day. There was no space in there for my usual appetite: the eggs were taking up all of the room.
Twelve days of injections later and we were ready to “trigger”. Another injection mixed, another jab in the belly, another prayer said. And 36 hours later, our egg collection finally came. Thursday.
“If we get more than 20, we won’t be transferring any embryos this cycle.”
Imagine! Imagine collecting more than 20 eggs from one IVF egg collection! And yet, my body went all guns blazing and produced 23 eggs.
We were delighted.
In my sedated, narcotic-induced haze, we knew we’d have a wait ahead of us.
But 23! What luck. What promise.
I barely remember the collection. The drugs kicked in, I felt drunk, and then there was a pop feeling of pain where the needle moved, and suddenly I was being helped out of the bed. I sat with my husband in recovery where I stroked his beard and told him how pretty he was (he really is very pretty).
And then we were waiting yet again.
Friday: “21 were able to be injected. 16 have fertilised.”
Sixteen! Maybe we’ll have so many embryos we can actually have more than one kid?
Wednesday: “We have good news for you.”
“We have frozen three good quality embryos.”
It was hard not to be disappointed. Of course we wanted the best chance possible and three just didn’t match up to our earlier numbers.
We deflated for a while, then came back up. Three could be enough. Hell, one could be enough.
To avoid further complications they asked us to wait another cycle, which felt like a lifetime. My body delayed and delayed and suddenly seven weeks had passed.
Then suddenly my period arrived again and it was May.
“Let’s get you pregnant this month, shall we?”
For a frozen embryo transfer (or thawed embryo transfer) you start hormone medications again and carry them on until you are either declared not pregnant, or reach 11 weeks. Luckily, these aren’t injections.
The first lot are pills – one pill, three times a day.
It felt like a breeze. Twelve days of estrogen and I was ready for another scan. The fatigue was getting me, but my optimism was high. And my lining was perfect. Ten millimetres and ready for baby. I started the progesterone and we planned for our transfer.
Five more days passed and it was finally time. In the clinic waiting rooms, they handed us an envelope with a picture and time-lapse video of our embryo developing. I stared at it and it felt like the most amazing thing in the world.
I was looking at a clump of cells that might become our baby.
It was the best photo I’d ever seen.
Read other columns from Kat McKenzie on her fertility journey here, here and here, and check back here next week for part two of this series that aims to help people understand the IVF process – the hopes, excitement, the pain, the devastation. The highs and lows are extreme and Kat is very brave to share her journey in the hopes it may help others.
Kat McKenzie will be writing for The Spinoff Parents about trying to have a family the unconventional way. You can find her on Twitter at @koruandthistle, and on her blog at koruandthistle.com. When she’s not writing, Kat is a singer/songwriter, Netflix-binger, and talks to every baby and dog she sees.
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