As well as waiting for results, the other thing you have to get your head around is the long wait for hospital appointments. It can feel unbelievably slow. I’m sure it’s not as bad as it seems but to two anxious and impatient people desperate to get things moving as quickly as possible, the system seems archaic. Everything is done by letter, second class post (I’m all for cost saving for the NHS but it takes an absolute age). Factor in a letter going from the surgery to the hospital, our case being reviewed, an appointment being booked, and then a confirmation letter coming out to us. That whole time you go into limbo again. Precious weeks tick by. God help you, if you can’t make the time or the date when the letter finally hits your letterbox!
Then there’s the long walk through the hospital to get to the Ocean Suite. The clinic is tucked out of the way which is nice, but at the furthest end, at the back. The route takes you directly past the antenatal clinic and you have to brace yourself to walk past those doors and keep going down the corridor.
Once you arrive there is a big noticeboard on the wall as you walk in full of baby photos which is lovely and it does give you a burst of hope. Quite a lot of twins feature on it. As well as some triplets…! When we saw it for the first time I think we both privately vowed to ourselves that one day our baby would be up there too.
We liked the nurse we saw. She knew her stuff and was patient and made us feel comfortable. Being us, we asked lots of questions, trying to get our heads around the new terms so we could understand our options properly. We got some leaflets to read on all the various treatments. She wrote down key words for us and even drew the odd diagram to help visualise what she was explaining. I’m not sure you ever feel like you get all the answers you want though. There’s a lot of facts and statistics but of course nobody can give you the certainty you crave.
We learned that the results of my blood test showed I was ‘Satisfactory’ when tested for AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) levels. This basically looks at your ovarian reserve and whether it is decreasing (you produce less eggs). This goes hand in hand with getting older. Fertilisation rates in women with low AMH are significantly inferior to those with high AMH levels. My levels weren’t brilliant, but again weren’t terrible either. Bottom line, we had to get a wriggle on. What else was new?
We found out about the next steps and what the NHS offers. Fertility treatment rules vary from region to region in the UK which seems massively unfair, a real postcode lottery. I was worried as I was over 30 I might not be considered for free treatments but thankfully, in Devon, I was okay, which was a huge relief. After all the checks, and depending on the results, we would get four rounds of IUI (IUI stands for intrauterine insemination, think turkey baster) and one shot at IVF (the more well-known in vitro fertilisation) on the house. If, at any point, it looked like it just wasn’t working with IUI, they would skip straight to IVF. After that, it’s time to get your wallet out and we’re talking thousands a pop here.
They also double-checked that T was taking all the supplements he should be but as his results were okay (a bit on the low side for morphology but nothing to be overly concerned about) this was the end of the road for him in terms of testing.
Not so pour moi.
The next step for me was to book in for an HSG. This stands for the most unpronounceable treatment to date, Hysterosalpingogram. It’s an X-ray where they inject iodine into your uterus to see if your fallopian tubes are blocked or if you have any abnormalities lurking in your uterine cavity. The examination is carried out a few days after your period to ensure you aren’t pregnant so you’re not allowed to have sex during this time either.
And that’s how it goes. Before you know it, another couple of months have slipped by. Dead time, treading water, waiting. It feels such a waste although you know you’ve got to do it. At the same time, perhaps there is also a small part of both of you that feels a touch of relief that the pressure from trying has been lifted that month? Out of our hands. Granted a momentary reprieve from our self-imposed heavy duty sex schedule!
I found the HSG bearable. Not a barrel of laughs; they are sticking a catheter up your vagina after all, but I took some painkillers beforehand, which is advised, and I was lucky enough only to experience a bit of discomfort. They recommend you go with your partner so that they can drive you home if you feel a bit shaky, but T was away so I flew solo and it was still okay. Dealable. You just have to focus on the greater good, why you are doing it. It is totally surreal going back to work though, after something like that. Snapping straight back to your professional self after lying with your legs akimbo having dye injected into the most personal parts of your body. You are prescribed antibiotics afterwards to prevent infection. A pessary (oh I got to become quite familiar with these delightful little fizzing bullets) followed by tablets – easy.
And wait for results. Again.