After months of waiting, the IVF process has officially begun. Yesterday Mrs Astronomer started her period (yuck) and so the clock is running, because this cycle is when we start the drugs routine, switching off her ovaries prior to turbo charging them, so that in about a month’s time the fertility lab can harvest them. We are now on a schedule – but we nearly weren’t.
We nearly weren’t, because once her period starts it’s our job to let the clinic know so they can order the drugs. This was massively complicated by my wife leaving her phone at home on the day in question, so she was unable to contact the lab so they could order the drugs prior to the place closing for the weekend… And I don’t have my phone on me during work hours, meaning she had no way of getting in touch. All the details she needed (patient identity number, clinic email, phone numbers, etc…) were on her phone, to which I was blissfully unaware. A minor bloody crisis. We’re already a month behind schedule because of an unfortunate Christmas/period clash, and even in the first few hours it was going awry. I get to my phone at lunchtime to discover half a dozen missed calls, emails, whatsaps, carrier pigeons etc from her and various members of her family, all ordering me to email her with all the details she needed pretty damn quickly. Fortunately, foreseeing this possibility, I have the details stored on my phone, so the crisis was averted.
What was then slightly confusing was that the clinic asked her for all of her details – including whether she was on the short or long drug protocol. This poses a slight problem, as nobody has actually told us specifically which protocol we’re doing – we’re assuming the long one, but suddenly we’re not certain. Considering how long we spent filling out paperwork and going through it with them, you’re think they would be able to tell us what was happening, rather than the other way around! Perhaps the 40% success rate has more to do with admin cockups than actual biology… . It’s little issues like this – the unseen, unforetold ones – that could be the greatest problems as we go through IVF.
Otherwise, things go relatively as planned. Stress levels have lowered somewhat in the Astronomer household since I completed my most recent assignment for the open university – calculating the properties of distant exoplanets, based on the properties of the light given out by the star it orbits – it’s fascinating stuff, and a rapidly expanding frontier of scientific exploration. For the uninitiated, an exoplanet is a planet orbiting a star other than the sun; they can be as big as Jupiter or – most excitingly – small rocky worlds of a similar size to Earth. My core textbook provided by the university was printed in 2010, which means it’s comically out of date. At that point there was about 120 – 150 exoplanets discovered; big ones, small ones, fat ones, thin ones. At time of my writing this plog, there is now just under 3000 confirmed exoplanets, with about a similar sort of number waiting for confirmation, and that number is growing fast! The really incredible part is that there isn’t a telescope powerful enough in existence to actually see these planets; they’re too small, too far away and too close to their stars to spot them directly. These unseen planets are tough to detect; they’re generally discovered by measuring the changes in the light given out by the star itself, as the planet tugs and pulls at it throughout its orbit, or the dimming of the star as the planet passes between us and the star. Even without being able to see the planet, we know it’s there. And new telescopes are being built which would be able to see these planets directly; a staggering future for astronomy!
Finally, following finishing that piece of work, I finally got an urgently needed chance to relax – I read Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle cover to cover in one go; it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to read a book in a single sitting. I’d only ever read one of his books before – The Zap Gun – so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It’s not his traditional science fiction fare; it’s alternative history, set in the late 60’s/early 70’s in which the allies lost the Second World War and the world is divided between two competing superpowers; Germany and Japan. A banned book is circulating, in which – shock, horror – the author sets a story in which the allies won the war, America is an undivided superpower, Germany and Japan humiliated. It has one of the best endings I’ve read in quite a long time, which I shall not spoil, but I’ll be interested to see how they adapt it for TV… Still, reading it has been an extremely cathartic experience, as it’s been a long time since I sat down to lose myself in a book. If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it. Based on how stressed I suspect I’m going to get over the next month or so, I suspect I’ll have to do it more often!