The initial preparations for our first donor egg cycle began back in July when I had to notify the Prague clinic about the onset of my period and submit the completed donor request form. This form asked us to specify basic details about ourselves- height, weight, eye, hair and skin colour. There was a box at the bottom of the form for any other requests so we included a request for a proven donor (one who has had children already), a blood group match ( we are both O+) and level of education although I put these in as preferences rather than must haves. I also had an endometrial scratch performed at my local clinic.
During August my husband attended the local clinic on 3 occasions to provide samples. These were subsequently frozen and shipped to Prague. This meant that all going well, no fresh sample would be needed and we could travel to Prague for 2 nights instead of 7. A test thaw was carried out on the samples and 10 straws in total were shipped.
I was instructed to take a single Decapetryl injection on 7th August and also to start 5mg folic acid. This was to down regulate me. As this was an intramuscular injection I went to the local clinic to have it done. I was asked to advise the Prague clinic of my August period which arrived on the 16th. I was then told to start estrogen tablets from the 20th, 3 tablets or 6mg daily. As an addition I also started 25mg daily of prednisolone with my local clinic to keep my immune system quiet. This also had the happy side effect of calming my annual August asthma. My first scan was scheduled for August 29th.
I attended for the scan and a nurse I had not seen before completed it. She measured the lining at 6.06mm which was too thin as yet. The Prague clinic wanted a minimum of 7mm. I was advised to increase my tablet dose to 8mg daily, taking an extra evening tablet. Another scan was scheduled for 1st September. At this second scan the usual nurse was back and she measured the lining at 5.7mm with a triple line pattern starting to form. The ovaries were quiet with no cysts. Some time later the Prague clinic rang to advise me to add estrogen patches along to my 8mg tablets daily. As I couldn’t collect the patches until the following day I took a risk and took two extra estrogen tablets that night. The following morning I collected the patches and applied the first one. These are to be changed every second day. Another scan was scheduled for 4th September.
Also on 4th September I had booked an intralipid appointment. In a previous clinic I had found that my NK cells are very slightly raised and they offered the treatment at that time. I’ve had it subsequently but have to arrange it privately as my local clinic or the Prague clinic don’t offer it as routine treatment. Ideally the first intralipid appointment is meant to take place a week before transfer. However, I remembered the intralipid nurse saying the last time that the intralipid lasts several weeks to a month so I figured I should be covered.
I found the slow lining issue stressful and it made me worry about the cycle. I didn’t even enquire as to what was happening with the donor as part of me was afraid to know and I have no control over any of it. I did think about her though and what she was doing for me and hoped that she wasn’t having any problems or feeling too unwell. I got myself some pomegranate juice as I read that it helps with lining. I also tried to increase protein intake, avocados etc and kept a full regimen of vitamins and omega 3 on the go. I also got a class plan from my fertility yoga teacher and started doing some of those poses at home as they are also meant to help with blood flow. I did the poses to the accompaniment of a canine relaxation CD given to me by a now pregnant IVF friend who used it both on herself and her anxious dog! It was full of gentle piano classical music. I also listened to a Circle and Bloom relaxation CD for donor recipients and attempted to do this in the yoga ‘legs up the wall’ pose. Just as well you couldn’t see in my window!!
I reattended for a further scan on the 4th September and there was no change. The triple line pattern was there but there was no further thickening. This concerned me greatly. The nurse seemed unsure as to whether the Prague clinic would increase medications again or postpone the cycle or simply keep me on the medications a bit longer. I left the clinic and went to the nearby shopping centre where I was due to have the intralipids. I rang to cancel them.
At a loss at what to do and tearful I wandered around the shopping centre until my husband came to collect me. He had been off sick from work all week with bad migraines but was feeling relatively ok on this day. We wandered around the shops together and bought one or two things. I had a call from the Prague clinic to say that my transfer would proceed on the 15th September and to stay on the same medications. They seemed to think the 11 days further on medications would be enough. No further scans were requested although my understanding was that I would be scanned when I got to the clinic in Prague. I rang to reschedule the intralipid appointment.
I was a little naughty and added in the occasional extra estrogen tablet here and there but I didn’t stray too far from the plan. Once the Clexane and Cyclogest were added in I stuck firmly to the plan. Before starting the Clexane and Cyclogest I had to take an Ovitrelle injection, not entirely sure why. The clinic said it was to do with the balance of leutinising hormone. I had two further Ovitrelle shots to take, one the day before transfer and one a few days after. I usually associate this shot as being a trigger shot in an own egg cycle.
I booked acupuncture appointments and had 3 in the week before transfer. I had no opportunity to have any in Prague but I had ear acupuncture points in place that I could use. It was suggested that I schedule one 3 days after transfer as well. I have had pre/post transfer acupuncture in the cycles I have not travelled for but my acupuncturist said not to worry if I cannot arrange this abroad as most of the work of acupuncture is done in the run up to the transfer. The effects don’t suddenly ‘vanish.’
Meanwhile I discovered that our donor had her retrieval on Wednesday 10th September. The clinic called me the next day with the fertilisation report. 15 donor eggs were retrieved and 14 fertilised using my husband’s frozen and shipped sperm. We paid extra to have IMSI, PICSI, embryoscope and embryo glue. The clinic preferred to do a 5 day transfer so it was again confirmed for Monday 15th.
I opted to get a GP note and be signed off for 2 weeks from transfer day. This was my 6th attempt in just over 2 years and I have kept working through all of them with about a week’s leave on average each time. My body and mind was tired and I really needed to step back.
We made our arrangements to travel for 2 nights to Prague. Luckily we were able to fly out on a Sunday which helped the annual leave situation. It was a rainy evening in Prague on our arrival but we went for a nice meal in a favourite restaurant and took it easy at the hotel. On Monday we got a taxi to the clinic for the transfer. In the end it happened an hour late- not good for the bladder! Before the transfer we met the doctor who advised that there were two hatching blastocysts ready for transfer that day and 4 others being assessed for freezing. We were given a picture of the embryos from the embryoscope report and some basic details about the donor. She is 23, a whopping 19 years my junior! The doctor said to just continue normal activities after transfer as ‘it is not a disease!’ I was brought to the transfer room then, set up and ready, a few security questions asked.
The same doctor arrived to do the transfer. He scanned my lining which was now 8mm. On the screen I could see the embryos being taken into the catheter. The transfer was super quick and painless- in fact I nearly missed it as some of my transfers in the past have been quite uncomfortable. The doctor alerted me to the white flashes of light on the opposite screen to show our embryos being placed in the uterus. Once transfer was completed I was advised to rest where I was for 30 minutes which I did, and then had a much needed bathroom break. I got a letter of instructions for post-transfer, date of testing, what to do if positive/negative etc. We got a taxi back to the hotel and took it easy for the afternoon, reading and watching TV with a few snacks. Later that evening we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. The following day we flew back home around lunchtime after I gave myself another decapetryl shot supplied by the clinic. Before we left for the airport and after we checked out from the hotel, we sat on a bench and people watched for an hour. I couldn’t help wondering when any petite dark haired Czech girl passed by, if she was my donor. I felt immensely grateful for the generosity of this unknown young woman who has given myself and my husband such an amazing gift, a much better chance of possibly achieving a much wanted pregnancy.
Travel home was uneventful and it was nice to be back and surrounded by my own things. Now was the commencement of the infamous 2ww. Always stressful, this one proved no different but at least I did not have work on top of it. I opted to get plenty of rest for the first few days but after that continued a low level of normal activities- met friends for lunch, went to the supermarket (no lifting bags) etc. I took out my picture of the embryos and tried to focus on them. I listened to relaxation recordings and music. Monday 29th September was my designated test date. Some time in the second week of the 2ww I noticed some red blood when I inserted a progesterone pessary. I contacted the clinic who got me to take an extra ovitrelle shot and add an extra Cyclogest pessary to my regime. By Sunday 28th I had had enough and tested and was shocked to see a positive result. I brought the two tests down to my husband in the kitchen and asked him to confirm what I saw. I think we were both shaking. I repeated the test on Monday to find the same result. Could this be real? Could this be happening? We notified the local clinic and Prague clinic and a scan was booked at the local clinic for the 15th of October to confirm if a viable pregnancy was present- more waiting and worrying….
As it turned out we found out this information before the 15th as in the early hours of the morning on October 10th, which happened to be the 8th anniversary of my mother’s death, I went to the bathroom and saw a small amount of red bleeding. I didn’t sleep any more and by morning decided I would go to the EPU of the maternity hospital I was planning to attend. My husband drove us and we arrived before 8am. I went to Outpatients and filled out a form and then went to a waiting area with a lot of other pregnant women. However, I was seated in a special part and a nurse explained that I would be seen quickly and not to worry about anyone else there as they were attending for routine check ups and tests. Another nurse took me into a room and took some details and my blood pressure. I also had to give a urine sample. Within the hour I was brought into a consultation room and a nurse did an abdominal scan. As at this point I was only 6 weeks 2 days pregnant, there was little to be seen but the presence of two intrauterine gestational sacs was noted. The nurse was very kind and noted that this information was of little use to me. She rang the Fetal Medicine Department upstairs and arranged for me to go up to them as they had more elaborate scanning equipment and would be able to do a transvaginal scan. We were warned that we might have a bit of a wait.
We made our way up and were shown to a waiting room. As it turned out we were not waiting that long. We were brought to a scanning room and a nurse conducted a transvaginal scan. She had obviously been alerted to the fact that there were two sacs as once she got a view she announced casually ‘there’s the two heartbeats.’ Our mouths practically dropped to the floor. The only response I could come up with was ‘are there?’ The nurse took time to show us each sac and the position of the flickering heartbeats. She also printed off scan pictures and a report to take away and suggested another scan appointment for 3 weeks time. I asked about the bleeding and she had a close look but could see no source for it.
With the timing of this momentous news coinciding with my late Mum’s anniversary, I wonder if she engineered it somehow that we would see a scan picture on this day. I’d like to think so.
Still somewhat shellshocked my husband and I parted company to go to work. I was at my desk by 10.30am but not sure it was the most productive day I ever put in. We had seen our first ever heartbeats and some special unknown young woman had helped us to achieve this. I remained very cautious and scared but it was a memorable day for multiple reasons.
All I can hope now is that we can get these little babies over the line. It’s going to be a long nerve-wracking journey of a different kind. I hope we all make it. Wish us luck!