Eight weeks, eight disasters for eight eggs

Two months ago, my investment property almost burnt down. Whilst the fire department saved it structurally, the electrical wiring was damaged and the smoke damage to the roof meant it was no longer inhabitable. I had to break the lease and lost my renters. This was so incredibly stressful and totally out of my control. I haven’t experienced such immense financial pressure before.

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The sewerage system at my rented property failed and the fecal matter from 12 apartments floated down the main street with strangers buzzing my door out of concern and disgust.

The shower door broke off the hinge and had to sit in my hallway for 3 weeks awaiting parts and the fancy (2 weeks on order) bathroom light broke as well, trying to put on make-up in the semi light.

My dog was at the vet for a sore on her face and ear infection.

My Dad was in hospital having tests done on his heart.

My cousin was taken out of the country due to sad custody arrangements.

I had decided to freeze my eggs before I got any older!

However, I think that I’ve had so many things going wrong this year so that my follicle stimulating hormone injections and egg freezing could go right.

I arrived to a reception desk for my last virginal scan surrounded by hopeful couples. One had just been to see the nurse and when she returned to her partner, he gave her a long reassuring hug and she whispered to him intimately ‘kiss me.’ He then stood rubbing her back whilst she paid the bill.

I rocked up alone and without needing comfort. Single girls have to be strong, we don’t have a choice. It gets swallowed up inside us. But I realised that I am going through this process excited by the future. The hopeful couples are most likely arriving downtrodden and disappointed, possibly questioning what’s wrong with them, with a history of failure to conceive weighing them down.

By day 7, I felt the small eggs like little rocks when I walked. The scan showed that the largest was 1.9 cm so they really were like little pebbles. I felt very tired early on, like a big seal that just wants to lie on the sand. My stomach felt very full and I really struggled cutting down on coffee! However I was booked in for the egg retrieval during day 14 so it’s really a short process compared to carrying a baby for 9 months.

Arcto the resident seal, Mornington Peninsula

Day 11 revealed that I had seven eggs that could be retrieved for freezing. This was the first time I had felt disappointed as we were aiming for ten. I started to doubt whether this process had been worth the money and questioned whether this would give me the fertility reassurance later on in life that I was hoping for. I tried to remain positive- seven was better than none!

photo of a woman hugging a blue pillow

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

The big day arrived and I fell fast asleep under the anaesthesia before I could think about the six people in the room that would be looking into my nook and cranny. I recovered well with none of the horrible side affects that I was warned about (vomiting and bleeding). The letter Dr Knight left for me confirmed that they had taken eight eggs! My favourite number. I spent the rest of the day in bed and watching movies with a heat pack. I felt uncomfortable for the next week with stomach pain but with Panadol, codeine, Neurophen and beer, I still hit the road and made it to Oktoberfest for a roaring day out only 3 days after the procedure.

My fate was sealed… or frozen! Eight little eggs.

The importance of strength and resilience

I started hormone injections for fertility treatment this week.

As a type 1 diabetic, I already have 4 injections a day (More with yummy snacks). On Monday, I ended up having 7 injections! It started with the Bemfola hormone and my regular insulin at breakfast, followed with an injection for a yummy chocolate snack, lunch injection, afternoon snack injection, dinner injection and night time insulin injection….yikes.

I’m okay with needles because I have to be. If I don’t have them, I’ll die. So I wasn’t nervous about injecting the hormones. It’s certainly a longer needle though- 12mm. I don’t think that 7 injections a day is healthy though, emotionally or physically, so after that Monday surviving a challenging day at work I told myself I’d cut out the in-between snacks.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up with some pain in my upper stomach and I thought ‘well, it’s really happening now. This must be my ovaries.’ In the shower I then noticed some bruising, ‘shit!’ Luckily before I started to panic, a vague memory came back to me of leaning over the front fence last night. It all came back to me! I had jumped up to lean my body over the fence to get a look at the front of a real estate sign that was put up when I was at work, blocking my view. My ovaries weren’t in pain or bruised. My stupidity was bruising.

On Thursday, I started a further injection (Orgalutran) to halt the ovulation process and continue to develop the eggs. Now 6 injections a day, without snacks.

I’ve got another week to go. But it’s just a week. Throughout my 8 years as a diabetic, I would have loved some time off from injections. We often find strength that we didn’t even know we have. We have to.

To celebrate getting through all of my injections as a diabetic that I have no choice over, I’ve got two tattoos that were in my control.

The first tattoo I got is of a little starfish. A starfish symbolises resilience, surviving tough and timultuous times, like the sea, and of regeneration. If a starfish looses a leg, it grows another one! As a diabetic, we have to be resilient and although our bodies heal slower than normal, after injecting into our stomaches and finger pricking to test our blood, we do heal. I keep injecting and I keep healing. Like a little starfish, I will keep rejuvenating.

My second tattoo is of a wolf for strength. This one was after a period of bad test results and I was struggling to stay motivated to work hard and keep my blood sugar at the right level. Diabetics don’t actually heal the same when blood sugar levels are over 10mmol so I told myself that if I could get it under this and more in control, I could get another tattoo. It ended up cooinciding with my 7 year anniversary and I celebrated having administered approx 10,000 injections! This tattoo is on my leg, and whilst I cried for a full day with regret afterwards, it’s there to remind me that I can be strong.

Counting seashells

“AUSTRALIAS birthrate has fallen so dramatically that experts have called for the introduction of fertility education in high schools” (Daily Telegraph) Many women don’t realise that fertility declines after 31.

Educating high school students on fertility is not the answer! Equal employment opportunities, positive relationships, affordable housing, and mental health support would be a good start. Instead divorce rates are high, mortgages are scary or unattainable, and guys don’t seem to want serious relationships.

In many parts of the world, girls don’t get a choice what happens to their body. I’ve now signed two consent forms that allow me to undergo an optional procedure to my body. It’s called social egg freezing as I have chosen not to wait for a man and I understand that my fertility is declining.

The pelvic ultrasound I had was successful (and as discreet as possible), showing that my ovaries are producing approx 10 eggs and my womb looks healthy if I was to go on to fertilise an egg. Dr Knight explained that with some strong hormone drugs I can increase my chances developing a few more than 10.

I met with a nurse for an hour to understand the full process from day 1 of my cycle, to day 14. The most overwhelming part was wrapping my head around the appointments required!

I also met with a representative from finance….The costs are adding up. If I lived in the sea, I’d be desperately grappling at things to trade or have to start counting my seashells as currency. To commence this process, I need to pay $5,540 on day 1 and between $1,500-$3,000 for the medication day 1-3. The total costs will be almost $11,000.

 

With ‘normal’ life challenging enough, I have moments I feel like dropping the whole thing and backing out.

What am I doing to my body?

Do I really want to spend that much money?

What if all of this is for nothing?

However I have to remember to ground myself and my thoughts from spiralling out of control. I don’t want to look back when I’m 40+ and have regrets that I didn’t give myself every opportunity to have a healthy baby.

So far, no one has made me feel uncomfortable or awkward about not having a partner. Yes there’s couples in the waiting rooms, and sections for partners to complete in the forms, but the nurses and specialists have not asked me any questions about past, present or future partners that made me feel inadequate. It’s actually very empowering! I hope that if any of you are interested in going through this, you can feel the same taking control of your body.

 

The need for a partner is changing

For some species, the involvement of males in the reproductive process is entirely optional. While the males may exist, they are not essential to reproduction. Lots of animals can reproduce without male involvement, from the smallest insects to the biggest reptiles. Asexual reproduction comes in many forms too, from basic cell reproduction to complex cloning cycles.

The life cycle of this little starfish is looking bright. I don’t have a partner but I would still like the option of having a baby one day. I met with Dr Rachael Knight about my fertility options. After waiting in the reception area at Melbourne IVF, I ascended the steep stairs and she met me at the top of the stairs with a welcoming smile and a positive approach to an exciting step in my life. She was a breath of fresh air.

I’ve previously heard:

“Have you tried internet dating?” (Duh!)

“37 years and 6 months… don’t get your hopes up”

“Are you dating anyone at the moment? (No) Well, you don’t have long.”

“Awww (to another friend), this is the last baby our group of friends will have”

The blood test results that I had done were in from my doctor and Dr Knight politely and professionally explained that they were good, as she expected. I have the average amount of eggs for someone my age, not too low and not high. It would be less than someone younger but she explained that between 33 and 39 years old is a good time to look at egg freezing.

There’s quite a few steps involved to start this process. It’s important to get an AHM test from your GP. Dr Knight then referred me for another blood test that looks for any serious genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis. You can choose which ones you test for (which is incredible) but seeing as I may end up considering whether to raise my baby alone, and already have a complex disease with Type 1 diabetes, I said “test them all!” This is approx $400.

Following this blood test, I’ll have an ultrasound. Not just any ultrasound though, the brochure says a virginal ultrasound (gulp) “to measure the endometrial thickness, size and number of follicles in both ovaries” (Pathway of care, Melbourne IVF). Then meeting with a nurse, we will establish counselling and the costs involved with the intent to commence hormone injections in a months time!

Before leaving the appointment, Dr Knight advised me that starting to fall pregnant naturally at this time would be the preference. Egg freezing has only a 50 % success rate. We will aim for 10-20 eggs as they individually only have a 5% chance of fertilisation. They have sperm donors if I was interested in that process. She suggested I might also like to consider getting pregnant at 39 and keeping the eggs frozen for a second baby when I’m then over 40.

I hope that one day I do find an amazing partner. For those of you unsure how it’s going to work out for you, just keep swimming! There’s plenty of fish in the sea and many options available today. Work out what is going to make you happy, and go for it.