So, today’s the day.
Out of 10 eggs harvested, six were mature enough.
Of these six, five fertilised successfully.
Of these five, two were mature enough by transfer day for insertion. One was frozen, the other selected for insertion, and they’re keeping the final three overnight to see if they mature any further for freezing as well. This is a massive win, because it means that if we have to go through the whole rigmarole again we won’t have to do another round of hormones or harvesting; just insertion. On a more practical note, we’re only funded for one round of IVF on the NHS, so any further attempts at IVF will have to come out of our own pockets. This safety net will lower the cost considerably!
For the procedure, Mrs Astronomer needed a full bladder; this allows them to use the bladder to bounce the ultrasound waves off. Now, here’s a fact about my dear wife which is not well known: she has a bladder the size of an acorn. She pees. A lot. Any long drive is accompanied by frequent requests to stop at the services. It takes us an age to get anywhere. It’s a 45 minute drive from our house to the clinic (Oh, the complaining! Oh, the squirming!). She was NOT a happy bunny in the waiting room.
So, here’s another blindingly obvious statement: watching someone inseminate your wife is weird. Deeply, deeply weird. We were a bit early for the appointment, but it’s a Saturday morning so we were whisked straight in. A very genial Chinese doctor put everyone at ease, Mrs Astronomer puts her legs in the stirrups, the nurse commenting in an offhand manner how much she liked Mrs Astro’s socks as her lady bits were being put on display for all to see… The bed was raised, and in a businesslike manner which reminded me of a mechanic conducting a simple oil change the doctor busied himself with the catheters. The nurse stuck the ultrasound on Mrs Astro’s tummy, Mrs Astro kept squirming (“No, seriously. REALLY need to pee”) and another nurse stuck her head out from behind the door just to confirm names and date of birth – because, well, this is the point where you really don’t want to mix things up. Mrs Astro gripped my hand as the catheter went in, wincing a little. Now, there are many sensible, sensitive things you can say at this point. “If it stings a little going in, try not to think of how much it’ll hurt in nine months time coming out” is not recommended.
I am not a smart man.
Anyway, by this point, the doc was busying himself down the business end, a pair of waggling eyebrows visible over the privacy sheet stretched between her knees. Knowing how many cups of tea she’d drunk this morning makes him a very brave man, as Mrs Astro was discreetly hissing “Really… really… really… need… to… peeee…” at me through gritted teeth. One mistake and he’d be getting something Donald Trump allegedly pays large amounts of money for in the face. On the ultrasound, you could see the catheter wiggling into position, the nurse handing over the small syringe to the doctor, a tiny puff of fluid…
And we’re done.
The nurse removes the catheter, pops next door before sticking her head back in – rounds complete, the syringe is definitely empty. Blastocyst on target.
She’s pregnant, for the time being at least.
The doctor completes his job, everything is cleaned up, and I’m handed a pregnancy test along with another list of things my wife is not allowed to do (No baths, no swimming, horse riding, energetic exercise, etc). Meanwhile, my wife is hurriedly pulling her knickers back on, and fooom she’s gone – dashing for the ladies with the speed of a thousand gazelles. If she’d left a Mrs Astronomer sized hole in the wall rather than using the door I wouldn’t have been surprised. Meanwhile, I get chatting to the doc. How many of these procedures does he do a week?
“Oh, not many. Just under a hundred maybe, for the whole clinic?”
“What, a week!?”
So, in one small corner of England, that’s about 5000 women undergoing the procedure per year (assuming we can knock about 200 off for bank holidays, etc). Taking a 40% success rate means about 2000 babies per year born for one small area of Southern England using IVF. Rough figures based on one short conversation and a few good estimates, but still. It’s staggering.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll know if we’re likely to be the lucky parents to one of them.