Within the last year of my story I’ve gone from having zero sperm to having a very small amount, roughly 20,000 at my first positive result. To put this into some kind of perspective, the average man ejaculates in the region of 39 to 200 million.
So we had a chance, not a very big chance, but a chance nonetheless. If I’ve learnt anything during my 30 something years alive on this floating rock in space is that life will grow in the most unlikely circumstances, and that alone gave me hope.
I visited the male specimen room at the hospital on a number of occasions in the run up to starting out first cycle. This was to freeze some sperm samples In case there was nothing being produced on the day of the egg collection. I remember on one occasion bumping into a friend who was coming out of the room after providing a sample for his post-vasectomy test; we didn’t shake hands!!
We were to undergo ICSI, similar to IVF, except they directly inject the sperm into the egg instead of mixing them together in a test tube. It was at this point that we found out not only did I have problems, but my wife has a very low ovarian reserve, with one side being almost zero. I could feel that chance slipping.
I accompanied my wife to her info session. The look of the nurse I had met nearly 2 years ago was both astonishment that I had managed to inject myself for such a long time and relief that she didn’t have me as her next appointment… It didn’t matter though as my wife took to the injections so easily that I just looked on in awe. Well, who knows, she may one day have to give birth so what’s a few needles. At least she would only be injecting herself for around a month.
The typical cycle consists of injecting hormones to basically induce early menopause which prevents any eggs from being released. The second phase is to inject hormones to stimulate as many eggs to grow as possible. A final “trigger shot” releases the eggs in preparation for the operation to harvest them from the lady in question (or in this case, my wife).
The day of my wife’s operation to collect her eggs arrived. She had a horrible cold and we were both so worried about what they would say as the operation required her to have a general anesthetic. We were shown to the recovery suite and my wife was prepared for her procedure. The nurses were also concerned and said we would have to wait for the anesthetist to make a decision. We were visited by the consultant who explained what was going to happen, then the embryologist who explained how they would inspect any eggs they collected, hopefully inject them with a sperm from me, then watch and wait for nature to take it’s course. I was then invited to the male specimen room to go and provide my sample for them to use in the ICSI procedure. I came back and still no sign of the mysterious anesthetist, who should surely be here by now as my wife was overdue in theatre.
Finally she arrived. “Sorry, sorry, I’ve been stuck in traffic!” She looked at my wife “oh my darling look at you, you’re full of cold aren’t you!! Well we can’t exactly ask those eggs to wait inside you and come back another day, so we’ll have to take the risk. But just to set your mind at rest, you should know that I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t safe”. Oh so that makes it all better then!!!
I kissed my wife and watched as they took her to theatre with a tear in my eye wondering whether they would be able to collect any eggs at all or even considering what the anesthetist had just said, whether I would even see her alive again.
After what felt like an eternity sitting on my own, I heard people in the distance calling my wife’s name and asking her to stay still. The trolley trundled round the corner and into view. She wasn’t properly awake from the anesthetic and was unconsciously making a bid for freedom over the railings of the hospital bed. The nurse took her obs and between us we both coaxed her round from the anesthetic and kept her safely in the bed. She started muttering something incomprehensible. We leant in closer to hear what she was saying and she said quite clearly “get me a pen”!! Of all the things to say, not I love you or how did it go… Typical teacher…
She slowly recovered and was fully awake by the time the consultant came in to announce he had collected a total of 6 eggs from my wife and they had been passed to the embryologists to start the ICSI.
The next day we waited for the phonecall from the hospital that told us they had been able to inject 5 of the 6 eggs but only 2 were viable for the transfer that would happen the next day.
Transfer day came. We arrived at the same recovery suite in the morning and were visited by the embryologist. This brought sad news that unfortunately one of our little embryos had started to fragment and would not be suitable for transfer as it would not progress into a viable pregnancy. The second embryo had also multiplied a little too quickly and was 6 cells only 2 days after the collection and fertilisation had taken place. Since it was a good enough quality they decided to proceed as they have had other 6 cell embryos that went onto be perfectly fine.
I was allowed to be with my wife in the operating theatre as she didn’t require any anesthetic and the consultant performed the simple enough procedure of transferring our little 6-celled embryo into her. We left with their best wishes and hopes that we would have a positive test 2 weeks later, but deep down we were both incredibly disheartened that after all we had been through to get this chance, mother nature had perhaps let us down when we needed her most.