So….where have we got to……in volume 1 I told you about the long and winding journey I went on to decide that I wanted to have a baby on my own and in volume 2 I shared all the decisions I had to make in the lead up to my first cycle of IUI.
That was all the prep. By mid-April, I still hadn’t even got close to any sperm yet!
With a bit of jumping up and down, I just about managed to get my 3 precious vials of Donor 1193 man-juice in to the hands of my clinic by the first day of my cycle. Houston we are now good to go. Big sigh of relief.
And then, after all that build up, virtually nothing happens for the first week.
Cycle 1 underway
Because I had opted to give my aged ovaries a little boost, I started taking Clomid on the second day of my cycle (FYI – day 1 is the first day of your period). Someone in my solo mum Fertility Buddies group had warned me that by day 5 of Clomid she was transformed into a quivering wreck curled up in the corner but I was feeling strong so braced myself for whatever might come. On this occasion, nothing, not a peep of a side effect (note that I say ‘on this occasion’, more on that perhaps in a future post).
Even though nothing was really happening, it felt good to have officially started.
The first time it felt real was when I went for my day 8 scan appointment. And this included one of my very favourite moments of the whole process so far……..finding myself sat in the waiting room of a fertility clinic playing on Bumble. I certainly had a little chuckle to myself at that one.
The appointment was all very straightforward. Hop up on the reclined chair next to the scanner screen and the condom-covered dildo. Yes, you read that right. Those of you who’ve undergone any fertility or gynae treatment will be intimately familiar with this ridiculous looking piece of kit. For those who haven’t been there, I kid you not, the scanning implement looks exactly like a dildo and for hygiene reasons, it wears a condom.
My lovely doc talks me through the scan, pointing out all the relevant bits of my insides, ending with the all-important follicles of which I was delighted to see there was one big 14mm bad boy on the left side and one medium sized possible candidate on the right. My lazy right ovary looked like she was having a good think about joining the party after all.
So far so good and I was told to come back in for the next scan on day 10 (Friday) with possible insemination over the weekend or early the following week.
Wow. I’m really doing this.
Back to the clinic on Friday. Another day, another dildo scan. And I couldn’t believe it but the lazy lady on the right had only gone and come up with the goods – a lovely juicy 14mm follicle proudly staring back at me.
Left side had already hit the target of 17mm so she was good to go but my doc felt optimistic that, with a few extra days, my right side was going to get there too. I was told to do my trigger injection on Saturday at 10pm (yes, it’s that precise) and insemination would be at 11.30am on Monday.
Then came the question that I’d never expected to hear:
“I assume you’d be ok with twins?”
SAY WHAAAATTTTTT!!!! I found myself very casually saying “Oh yeah, sure, that would be fine”.
Really now Hana? Would it?
(I later found out that producing two eggs actually only gives you a 10% chance of twins and doesn’t actually double your chances of one baby – no idea how that maths works.)
And although I said yes without really thinking about it, the truth was that I knew I’d find a way of handling it if twins were what mother nature decided to give me. And the bonus was that with a BOGOF situation that would then be job done – the instant family that I desperately wanted, no more treatment and no more pregnancies required. Perhaps naively, I thought “in for a penny in for a pound”!
Bigger than that though, what I also knew was that my body had done a way better job than I’d expected and I was dead chuffed about that.
Hold up! Mindset shift.
I metaphorically skipped home (I was on my bike, it’s not actually possible to skip on a bike) and then realised “OMG, this may actually happen”. In the course of that appointment, my mindset had shifted from ‘it will never work first time’ to ‘it really might and I might have twins’.
It turned out that that second unexpected follicle was a total gamechanger for the way that I felt about the process – and that shift felt as scary as it did exciting. I now had so much further to fall.
I ended up, by popular demand, doing my trigger injection at the dinner table in a restaurant. This journey is just one strange thing after another.
Then the big day came. The day when I would have the sperm of a complete stranger put inside me and I would be attempting to get pregnant for the very first time.
I was ushered upstairs to a part of the clinic I hadn’t been allowed in before – the area reserved for doing the important deeds. I was asked to put on a hospital gown, hairnet and some very fetching yellow socks – the whole look was incredibly sexy as I’m sure you can imagine (well you can see from the pictures below.
(And before you get the wrong end of the stick, the socks have no direct impact on baby-making they just mean you don’t have to walk into theatre barefoot – however, they amused me and I became rather fond of them.)
The experience in theatre was somewhat surreal – involving stirrups, people passing through a special door to the dimly lit lab and being presented with your vial of sperm, as if it’s a fine wine, for you to review its credentials.
I asked to have a scan, mainly so I could see if both follicles were still there and hadn’t changed their minds. They were and my lovely doc referred to my womb lining as beautiful – I felt incredibly proud.
I obviously took my phone in and was, apparently, the first person who’d ever asked to take a picture of the sperm. (I didn’t think it was that weird, that vial is potentially the only physical representation of my future child’s father – quite important to have a record I thought.)
The process is essentially a glorified smear test – not something you’d want to be doing every day but totally manageable and pain-free. Once it was done, my doc came to the side of the bed and said “We couldn’t have hoped for anything more, the conditions are excellent, now it’s up to Mother Nature.”. These were probably the most valuably helpful words that I’ve heard throughout the whole process. In that moment, I couldn’t have loved Dr Kaur more.
Afterwards I was told to sit quietly in a chair with my legs raised, to contemplate the fact that a small part of Donor 1193 was now swimming around my insides. As well as taking more photos (obvs), I found myself actually placing my hands over my lower belly and thinking lots of positive thoughts. What a dick. But it felt nice.
I found myself tentatively cycling home as if I was carrying precious cargo. Then later in the day, pointing to my belly and announcing my to my dog friends “There’s a strangers sperm in there”.
The other delight of this process that I’ve not mentioned yet is the need to take progesterone pessaries to help with implantation. Twice a day, bedtime and morning. Up the bum. Yet again, if you are someone who has been able to make a baby the fun way then please take a moment right now to remember that moment with fondness and gratitude.
The dreaded 2WW
So I’ve made loads of big decisions, given up booze, handed over insane amounts of money, popped pills, had many dildo scans, injected myself, been inseminated and now, and only now, I actually get to the difficult bit…..the dreaded two-week wait, or the 2WW as it’s known those in the game.
I’ve never been known for my patience but, on this occasion, I realised that I had a lot of waiting ahead of me and this two-week stretch was the shortest of them all. If I was lucky enough to be pregnant then I’d have a two-month wait until the 12-week scan that makes things feel a bit more real and then a 6-month wait until the baby appeared and then 18 years until I regained any form of independence or life back. I decide this 2WW was good practice.
Everyone was asking me whether I’d test early (there are early response tests you can buy which claim to be able to detect pregnancy 5 days before you’re officially meant to test). I put my ‘good girl’ hat on and said “No. I’m happy to wait”.
My iron will was reinforced when I realised that a new solo mum friend had been inseminated on the same day. She’s a pro. This was probably her 5th attempt at IUI, having had a son from cycle 3 and was now trying for a sibling. Relative to me, she knows so much, all the insider secrets that the docs don’t seem to want or think to tell you – brazil nut anyone?
So I asked her about early testing….she said “There’s absolutely no point. It’s possible to get a false result that early, so it’s much better to wait.”. Great. I felt totally convinced that waiting for my official blood test at the clinic was absolutely what I wanted to do.
And then the symptoms started.
Or were they side effects?
As I’ve mentioned many times, there are lots of odd things about this process. But the one that beats them all, and that has most definitely been designed just to mess with a women’s head, is the fact that the side effects of progesterone are very similar to…..yes you’ve guessed it…..the early symptoms of pregnancy.
Several days post insemination I started to notice slight cramping pains in the lower belly area. Then came the fluttering – I kid you not. Shooting pains in my stomach. I even started walking like a pregnant person. Totally ridiculous.
About 10 days into the 2WW I reconnected with my insemination buddy to ask how she was doing. What followed was a tirade of swear words about how frustrated she was and how she was also experiencing all these symptoms and then she said it…….”I’m going to do an early test.”.
You can’t do this to me. You are my guru. You said that we wait. That we don’t give in. I want to do what you do but I also want to stick to my plan.
I ummed and ahhed for several hours. I realised that I really didn’t like the idea of feeling like a fool – for being partly convinced I was pregnant and at the same time knowing that the odds were still set against me and that the official test was still most likely to be negative.
I came to the conclusion that, because of the overly optimistic mindset I’d adopted since knowing there was a second egg, that I’d rather do an early test and be brought down a peg or two than carry on listening to the symptoms, a large part of me believing I was pregnant, and then being devasted when the official result came in.
So, three days before my OTD (official test day) I found myself pegging it down the local chemists to buy a two pack of early response tests (they don’t come in singles, obviously because they know you’ll want to test again!).
I peed on the stick, turned it upside down, set the timer then sat down on the floor with Rocky the dog to wait for the moment to turn it over (I even videoed it).
The result was, what’s known in the biz as, a BFN – a big fat negative. I found myself exhaling with a big sigh and saying out loud “Oh well”.
I was both deflated and relieved. Deflated as if someone had just burst my bubble. And relieved because that bursting had now happened and I could no longer be a foolish optimist.
Several people tried to convince me that the test was too early. That the hormone might not yet be high enough to register with the sticks. I did another test two days later and it was still negative. At this point I was 90% convinced.
So I very casually wandered into the clinic the following day for my blood test (as opposed to my usual bouncing) and when the nurse called that afternoon I surprised her by being very neutral in my response when she confirmed what I already knew.
I went to a work event that evening and thoroughly enjoyed having a large glass of wine. I shared the news with friends and online.
I desperately didn’t want sympathy – the majority of people respected that and several blew me away with their responses, one of my favourites being “That was just the practice run.”. There were a handful of people who couldn’t accept the fact that I didn’t want condolences and gave it to me anyway, but I know that was about their stuff and not mine.
As it sunk in that the first cycle hadn’t worked, two big insights became clear to me……..my body had done all that was asked of it (and way more than I’d expected) and how fortunate I was that I’d found the process relatively easy (that isn’t the case for many others).
This was what I said to those that asked how I was doing – most were impressed with the mindset I’d been able to choose. But I could tell, again, that a minority of people didn’t believe me. They couldn’t get their head around the fact that I could be ok and be positive about not having got what I wanted. That will remain their problem and not mine.
I felt strong. I felt proud. And I also felt excited about the fact that I could go straight into a second cycle.
The end of a chapter
So there you have it. I’ve told you the story right from the beginning of the idea all the way through the end of my first attempt at making a baby.
Yes, it was a big decision. Yes, there was preparation and a load more decisions. Yes, you could get obsessed about the treatment. Yes, the 2WW was a bit frustrating.
But was it super hard? No, not really. Not in comparison to many other things that people around the world experience and endure every day.
At all points in the process, I felt like I had a choice. A choice about what to do. A choice about where to go. A choice about who to choose. A choice about the mindset I wanted to have. Even some kind of choice about how I wanted to feel.
Now I know how it all works. Now I know my body can at least do the first bit. Now I know what to expect.
Now for cycle 2.
I’m Hana. I’m a recovering overthinker and depression survivor. I work as a Life & Mindset Coach to help women improve their experience of life. I love talking to other perfectly imperfect humans (just like me) about their thinking so that they can learn how to live fully, freely and with contentment for their life just as it is right now.
I like talking about this stuff so much that I’d love to spend 30 mins telling you a bit more about what I do, getting to know a bit more about you and discovering how coaching might be just what you need right now. Click here to get in touch and let’s do coffee.