The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. First I was traveling abroad for work, then I was sick at home with a souvenir cold, then we had some last-minute German visitors who have been driving around Europe with their 6-month old in a VW bus (I feel cool just knowing them), and then my husband had the stomach flu. With everything going on, we had hardly any time to prepare for the arrival of our egg donor, Marie, and her two kids (ages 3 and 5), who flew in last Saturday from the US.
Two days after they arrived, we all piled into a borrowed car and drove 2+ hours to Belgium for our first appointment. There, Marie had what we in the infertility community refer to as “a date with Wanda” — i.e., a vaginal ultrasound with an ultrasound wand. The point of this first ultrasound is to check that her ovaries are quiet (no activity) before she starts the heavy-duty hormones. Her two girls were particularly curious about the procedure, with the 5-year old asking loudly at one point “IS THAT THING GOING IN YOUR BUTT?!”
Once Marie’s ovaries had been given the all-clear, we had an appointment with the egg donation nurse to go over the tentative egg donation IVF timeline. Then the kids had a quick break in a conveniently located hospital playground while I picked up our €1000+ of medication, delivered in a freezer bag for the long ride home. This was fortunate, as the normally ~2-2.5 hour drive ended up taking 3.5 hours with traffic. The kids were champs and were rewarded with a ride in the bakfiets (wheelbarrow bike) to get happy meals at McDonalds. They happily declared “This has been a GREAT day!”, which, after 6 hours in the car and 2 hours of doctor’s appointments, shows just how terrible kids’ memories are.
Bring on the meds
Marie and I have both been on birth control for the last month to sync up our periods, but we took our last pills this past weekend. I started my period on Tuesday, which means I’ve now started taking the estrogen pills to build back up my uterine lining for the actual donation cycle. This is the same medication I did the test cycle for last month, so luckily we already know I respond to it well.
On Thursday, Marie started her first medication: daily decapeptyl injections to delay her ovulation until the right moment. Marie had me give her the injection, which she found painful and I — even after giving myself 3 IVF rounds worth of injections — found terrifying. It’s one thing to inflict pain on yourself, but it’s another thing entirely to inflict pain on someone else who is just trying to help.
What happens next?
Tonight, Marie will begin the second type of daily injections: “stims” (Menopur) to stimulate the growth of follicles in her ovaries. This means things are really starting to happen! It also means I have to give her two injections a night instead of one…oh joy. This will continue until her follicles have grown large enough in size to have the egg retrieval surgery, which should be around 12-14 days from now.
So what happens in the meantime? Well Marie will have another ultrasound and a blood test this coming Friday to check how her follicles are developing. Depending on how this looks, we will probably have to go back again a few days later. Once the follicles reach a certain size, we will drive back to Belgium for what should be the final ultrasound. Then she will take an injection to trigger ovulation, and exactly 36 hours later, we will cross our fingers that all this Dutch cheese we’ve been feeding her will result in the retrieval of multiple high-quality eggs.