Sunday, September 25, 2005

Egg Retrieval Originally Described As Merely Uncomfortable. Hilarity Ensues.

Going into Egg Retrieval, I was calm, I was chilled out, I was relaxed.

I knew what was going to happen and I was prepared. “Pushing” was something I would experience, I knew. Also “discomfort”. There would be some “short stinging” first as the butterfly needle was slid into the back of my hand and later as the local anaesthetic was injected into the wall of the vagina. Then there would be “strange sensations” as the footlongneedle was introduced to my ovaries. Follicles would be drained and eggs removed. Later there would be some “cramping” and continued “tenderness” in the area.

Ha bloody ha.

As C and I approached The Room, a nurse was standing at the doorway, smiling. Inside was a scientist, also standing by, also smiling.

It was almost as if we were British royalty and about to examine a new country retreat, except of course the queen wouldn’t do this with her undies rolled into a ball and shoved in her dressing gown pocket.

Dr Clown helped me into the Big Chair and I popped my woolly socked feet into the stirrups. C sat beside me. So far so good.

As Dr Clown leaned in towards my lala, speculum in hand, I felt a stab of sympathy. Poor Dr Clown, I thought. Spends all his days with his head between womens’ knees hoovering up their eggs. Can’t be very nice.

This was to be the last warm and pleasant feeling I would have towards him.

Perhaps it was because I was so bloated and pumped full of follicles but every fucking thing he did hurt. The speculum? Yowsa. The swabbing of the vaginal wall? Ouchy ouchy ouch. He leaned in and pumped some of the anaesthetic into my hand and for an all too brief moment I floated around joyously on jungle juice but came back with a jolt as he shoved in the dildocam.

Dildocam and I have had our moments, our tiffs, our strong words, our little silent treatment games. But during retrieval he was an absolute cunt. Owwwww I winced and Dr Clown withdrew the dildocam.

Your bladder needs emptying he announced.

Oh, I said, I thought I did that before I came in here but nevermind I can go…

That’s fine he said cheerfully. I’m going to use a catheter.

I nearly jumped out of my chair. My hands came up in the international symbol for “stop right fucking now”.

Catheter?! Sweet mother of god.

For the past two months I have been hearing all about catheters via my grumpy grandad. Ever since his recent fall, our phone calls always begin with Catheter News where I get to hear about whether it’s “playing up” or “affecting me old feller” or on a couple of sad occasions “sprung a bloody leak”. The last call I made to Grandis began with him saying… "HOLD THE PHONE LOVE, I’VE JUST GOTTA PULL UP ME PANTS. I’M ON THE TOILET.”

Now here was Dr Clown brandishing said catheter and telling me to move my hands out of the way.

But can’t I just use a toilet? I begged. I really don’t like the catheter.

It’s alright he said, pumping a little more jungle juice into my willing veins, just imagine I’m standing in a river, doing some fly fishing and I’m about to catch some lovely trout…

And before I could say…what the fuck are you talking about? it was in and draining away like Niagra Falls into his little green tray.

Right then, he said, let’s get on with it.

Exit catheter and enter dildocam. Cue more howling and shrieking from me. Also sobbing. Also crying. There was some more pumping of the jungle juice which seemed to do NAFF ALL.

Egg on one! The scientist did her best, encouraging us to behold the sight of my ova before it was sucked up into the needle. The nurse hovered helpfully at C's shoulder.
Would you like to see the egg on monitor one?
C glanced up quickly but turned back at my pathetic sobbing. Perhaps in nine months.

There were some appeals from Dr Clown to look at the screen and see my lovely follicles. Beside me, poor C was stroking my hair and whispering sweet comforting but ultimately useless words into my ear.

At one point I did open my eyes, but through my tears I could see that fucking footlongneedle shining away and I lay back and howled.

Do you want me to stop? Dr Clown paused a second. Because you can always ask me to stop…

No, I gulped, keep goooooiiiinggggg….

Alright, he said. But you need to calm down a bit. Stop breathing like that. Stop curling your legs up like that. Look at C. Look at the monitor. Just RELAX.

Even in my agony I was aware that it was pointless kicking him in the face. The best I could do was dislodge his glasses with my woolly socks. Next time…steel capped boots.

It wasn’t the needle part that hurt. Sure there was a slight stinging and the unpleasant pushing but frankly I would have had a ten foot needle rather than that scumsucking dildocam because THAT was what was doing the damage.

It is so totally OVER between me and dildocam. I'm not responding to his semi literate text messages or passing on his chain letter emails. We are THROUGH. I felt as if my pelvis was being crushed. Oddly, it was only on the right side, when Dr Clown switched ovaries the pressure miraculously disappeared.

Now I simply cried in relief and punctuated my sobs with I’m so sorry I’m such a wuss…

You’re not a wuss, Dr Clown called out brightly, I wouldn’t go through this for quids….

And very soon, I was wheeled into recovery where finally the jungle juice kicked in and I could truly relax. Dr Clown came in to see me a few times and ended up having long kindly conversations with C about the magic of IVF, ICSI and trout fishing.

And to be fair, a surprising number of egg retrieval gals actually walked out of their room.

So that’s just me then with the pain threshold of a blubbering wussypants gnat.

Later, when I discussed the day’s proceedings with my sister AJ she pointed out that she always needs the full monty of anaesthetic and morever she always had to ask for a bit of extra time so it can take effect. And then I remembered that when we arrived at the surgery Dr Clown was running late…

While I was sleeping off my trip to hell C was summoned to the Little Room Of Pleasure to provide his half of the bargain.

Obviously, having seen me arched up in front of him howling like a banshee the last thing he felt like doing was wanking into a little jar but duty calls.

Sadly, so did the alarm on his mobile phone warning him that the parking meter was about to run out. Quickly he zipped, whipped off his little blue surgical overshoes and ran out to exchange parking ticket, had to run to three other meters because all of them seemed to be jammed, and finally returned, reshoed, to his room.

There was apparantly some problems with the towel dispenser, necessitating firm manly tugging before a satisfactory hand wash and dry could be finished. This obviously only added to stress levels. Bypassing the free scotch, C flicked perfunctorily through a couple of magazines and fastfowarded the video.

He tells me that he thought of me and I’m sure he did because as he finished the job he fell against the offending towel dispenser and the whole fucking thing broke and collapsed off the wall with a resounding crash.

Despite this, the boys/girls were good and a little while after this we were given the lucky number 7 and we went home.

As Dr Clown was finishing up, mopping away the blood from my lala, he said “reckon you’d like to do this all again tomorrow?” This was a little joke and no one in the room responded, treating it with the contempt it deserved, but in my mind I wondered, would I do it again?

And I knew, even then, the answer was yes. Not tomorrow maybe. But next week. Definitely.

But maybe I won’t have to. That’s what I’m hoping.

Today, Moonbeam from the House Of Groovy IVF Love called to tell me that of the seven eggs, five had fertilised.

Five embryos.

C and I clutched at each other, in awe at the possibility of having an entire family in one petri dish.

And the thing is, I confessed to him, I want them all.

C looked at me. So do I, he said.

That’s just greeeeedy, I said in a stupid voice.

Transfer is on Thursday and I know there are a myriad of things that could go wrong between now and then. And after.

But just for now. Just for this moment.

We were happy and hopeful.

And laughing.

eggy picture from here

Friday, September 23, 2005

Me In Mid Air

It was 1979 and the chickens lived in a small house, built by my father, between the banana and the custard apple tree. There were five of them, small, black and cheeping incessantly. My sisters and I had never seen anything as cute and we included our newly born sister K in our wideranging experience.

Baby K lost points early with me after an unfortunate incident in our loungeroom. With two friends from highschool standing by I had confidentally jiggled her on my lap, demonstrating my easy and intuitive mothering technique. The friends were impressed at my handling skills but even more impressed when I lifted K high above my head and called her name and she vomited straight into my open mouth.

The baby chickens encouraged our nurturing instincts and gave us unusual fluffy dolls to dress in miniature clothes. We fed them and watered them and hosed out their stinky skanky coop. They grew quickly and soon lost their fluffy down coinciding with our own loss of interest in their well being.

We hoped for eggs, planned for eggs, considered ourselves deserving of eggs but it became obvious very early on that they were all roosters. At times we would spot them running hastily around the coconut trees and one of us would be moved to throw a handful of feed their way.

Yesterday I spent four hours trying not to clock watch as I waited for my call from the IVF clinic. I was expecting them to haul me in again this morning for another bloodtest and ultrasound. I knew I had some follicles at 19mm - my self inserted dildocam adventure had revealed as much.

Finally I rang the Fertility Sisters' House Of Groovy Love at 10 past 4. I was not feeling particularly groovy nor loving. I was worried about losing my Chinese Fertility Goddess on Tuesday, I was worried that I had been handed over to a new doctor for my egg retrieval, I was worried that I couldn't seem to think or work on anything past my ovaries.

Hello! said a cheery voice on the other end of the line. It was Rainbow. Or Harmony. Or Patchouli Oil.

So, OvaGirl are you all ready to trigger tonight?, I said, aware that my voice was starting to wobble suspiciously. I don't know anything about the trigger shot, no one's told me that's happening tonight...

Okay...well tonight at 8.15 you need to have your trigger shot. You've got the pack? And you know how to administer it?

Nooooo.... I seemed to be having trouble stopping my bottom lip from jutting out. I could feel that distantly familiar kindergarton "I want to go home" emotion welling up inside.

Apparantly this was all told to us at our first meeting at the House Of Groovy Love. This would probably be the meeting where I zoned out, hypnotised by a combination of no food, sheer terror at the word "injection," and the Fertility Sister's jingly jangly earrings.

Never mind, we can go through it now and it will be fine. Patchouli Oil was obviously adept at dealing with on-the-edge-about-to-trigger IVF patients. After I had taken a page of notes on how to break the little vials, draw up the solution, mix it with the powder and inject the lot into my stomach (or butt or leg) she mentioned that I wouldn't be having Dr Who at the retrieval. Did I know that?

Yes, this was something I did know. I shall be having Dr 70's Rock Star, I said confidently.
There was a pause. will be having somebody else. (The doctor she named conjured up a name horribly close to Sideshow Bob. I cannot have someone called Sideshow Bob administering the foot long needle to my nether regions. He shall be simply Dr Clown.)

And at this point, my inner kindergarten student fought her way to the front of my consciousness, pig tails flapping, shoelace untied, dirty grazed knee..... and I began to cry.

Oh dear, said Patchouli Oil. Are you alright OvaGirl?

No... (sob) First I had Dr Who and then I was told I had to have (sob)Dr 70's Rock Star and now I'm having Dr Clown... I just'm...being....SHUNTED AROUND.(snuffle, snort, weep)

I didn't add that I had lost my Chinese Fertility Goddess too but that was in there.

Patchouli Oil was reassuring and very nice. She said Dr Who doesn't do retrievals on the weekend, Dr Clown always does them so I would never have had Dr Who on a Saturday anyway. And, I would not have had Dr 70's Rock Star because he's actually an obstetrician. Who told me I was going to be having him?

I had learned my lesson about naming names from the dreaded Time Share Apartments experience.

Someone... I said vaguely.

I also rang the CFG quickly to let her know where I was up to and to ask about referrals for the transfer date. She was doubtful about this but I am seeing her on Monday for final accupuncture and to discuss more.

It seemed fitting that my final injection of this phase should be administered by my sister in law N. All that nursing experience paid off well as she flicked and whirled the little vials and popped off the glass tops like an old pro.

It was a quick needle which was good as the stuff inside was thick and viscous and rather like shooting up a syringeful of snot.

In 1979 my parents were 33 years old. They were enjoying their second stint of living in Penang and making the most of the tropical lifestyle. This meant free yearly holidays to places like Singapore and Thailand, having authentic curries in dubious eating establishments and a lot of parties.

The party vibe started early at our house with our father unfurling roll after roll of aluminium foil and taping it up on the wall behind his reel to reel tape recorder. When the heavy metallic lever was slotted into place, the pulsing disco rhythms of Boney M’s Brown Girl in The Ring would cause his home made disco light set to flash in time to the music.

In an opposite corner, the glowing yellow lava lamp was set to Groovy, in another, the fibre optic fantasia lamp cast its ever changing multicoloured spell.

Throughout the day, local vendors would speed up to the house, in their battered cars or on their scooters, balancing trays of curry puffs or bags of chipped ice.

Mary the Egg Lady was a regular visitor in her cheerful blue van and we were always pleased to see her. This day, along with bringing a carton of eggs she also took away our five chickens. Our mother had offered us money and we pocketed our thirty pieces of silver with glee. No more guilty feeding! No more stinky skanky chook house! In those days our pocket money was a pathetic dollar a week and we leapt at the chance for more.

That night, my sisters and I sat on the stairway in our pyjamas, peering through the banisters, mesmerized by the lights, the music and the eye popping range of batik fabrics. Pointy collared shirts, boob tubes, wrap around skirts or flared trousers, it seemed there wasn’t a garment yet invented that could not be improved by dripping it with wax and dipping it in garishly coloured dyes.

We were not just there for the dancing, our hope of course was that some kindly adult would take pity on our wan, gaunt faces and hand us a few curry puffs.

And so it was that Aunty Janet, seeing us staring forlornly through the bars of the stairway handed us each a miniature chicken drumstick. As we put them to our lips, Aunty Janet remarked on how generous we were to donate our chickens for the party . There was a horrified silence as we stared at the tiny skinny legs and wings. Only a few hours earlier the entire tray had been happily scurrying and flapping around the coconut palms. My sister AJ dissolved into loud hysterical tears.

This would never have happened, she sobbed, if they could lay eggs.

My own eggs are yet to appear.

Lining was 13, estrogen was 11677 (phwoar!) and follicles...well... despite feeling like a broody hen for the last few days, it seems there were only four around the 19 and 18 mm mark with a couple of 16s bringing up the rear. Contrary to popular belief there were no 20cm whoppers rattling round inside which was surprising really because God knows that's what it felt like.

So roll on Saturday. And roll out eggs.

Could it really all be over soon?

I'm balancing on a seesaw of emotions here.

And juggling hope with my fear of disappointment.

Send in the clowns.

Friday, September 16, 2005

here be dragons

This night, eleven years ago, C and I first stood on the edge of a century old wading pool cut into the rocks at Newcastle Beach.

The moon shimmered in the water around us and somewhere at our feet, buried under the sand, was rumoured to be a mosaic map of the world.

If someone had tapped me on the shoulder and said: in eleven years time the man sticking his tongue in your mouth now will also be sticking a needle in the fatty tissue round your bellybutton, I would have laughed and laughed because it seemed so perfect a moment I scarcely dared hope it could last beyond that one night. And then of course I would have screamed like a girl.

There may be nothing more.

No small version of ourselves, no combination of blue eyes and dark hair, anglo and asian, blind optimism and fearful reluctance, hot lust and cold wet tears. A family of two.

But what we hold between us, if not our dream children, are countless shining moments.
Like tiny fish slipping through the tide, bright as the full moon on water or the thrill of a first kiss or the thin flash of steel as it enters my skin.

In the map of our lives there is the unknown and the unknowable. Here be fear and heartache and all the grey islands of grief.

But here? And here? And all of this here?

Here be love.

map pic