The west London pavement is strewn with dirty leaves, and Jo and I huddle under our hastily bought umbrella and hop-skip our way over flooded gutters and large puddles.
By the time we make it to the Lister clinic it’s with sodden shoes. It isn’t exactly the most graceful way to arrive but we hurry inside, and shake out our umbrella before wrapping it in a plastic bag so we won’t drip all over the waiting room.
The first thing I notice is that this looks like an actual hospital. It’s much larger than I had imagined, with a proper reception desk, and several floors to the building. It’s closer to what I would associate with a clinic in Belgium. We settle in to wait, but then… someone comes to inform us that actually the open evening is cancelled, and that we should have been informed (we weren’t.)
Oh, great. We ran through the rain for this!
To make up for it, they offer us a meeting with a nurse who can go through the information packet with us. We agree to it – considering we already came all this way, we’ll take any information we can get.
We are guided to a large waiting room. Unlike when we visited the brand new Bourn Hall clinic, this waiting room has clearly seen some people during the day. The floor is dirty, folders are everywhere, and a TV in the corner is playing the BBC news.
Jo and I sit on our plastic chairs, and confirm with each other that this feels very different. It’s much more what I’d expect a standard hospital to feel like, even though right now it’s empty. It’s hardly the best impression to start out with that they forgot to even inform us that the open evening was cancelled though. But we’re here now, so we roll with it.
The nurse does come back carrying the promised information booklet. She’s clearly sorry about what happened with our appointment and apologises several times, so we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
She goes through all the procedures and rules with us, many of which we already know from looking online and our previous clinic visits. Some are different though. The costs, for one thing. From what she says, we would have paid a lot less at the Lister for our initial appointments and tests than we did at Bourn Hall. Dammit! Hearing that confirmed is terrible. I still very much regret allowing ourselves to be pressured into paying that much.
What has happened can’t be changed, but we’re here because we want an alternative. We are willing to root for the Lister instead! Most of all we want something that feels more up-front, more honest and clear.
This nurse, unlike the one at Bourn Hall, tries very hard to impress upon us how wonderful it would be if I could donate my eggs. She says that the waiting list is extensive. She asks after my natural hair colour, and then confidently states she could get me matched in a day, they want my eggs so badly.
It’s somewhat flattering, but also odd to hear someone say that. I’m not sure what to think of it.
They also seem a lot more lax on which tests I will need to undergo, and which medication is needed. It feels as if they’re a lot more easy-going with all of it. She estimates a drastically shorter timeframe as well, at the Lister everything could be done and dusted between now and two months!
But then we get to the main reason why the Lister was our second choice over Bourn Hall: the donors. There is a much stricter donor policy at the Lister than there is at Bourn Hall. Not for any medical reason, just because they have agreements with a few sperm banks and only use those, and on top of that they have stopped importing from the US, which limits the choices even more.
To end with, we receive a tour of the whole ward. I find it interesting to see each procedure room and the lab. Jo isn’t as impressed as the clear hospital vibes give her the creeps, but I am remarkably calmer this time around. I feel much less pressured, as there isn’t anything to decide or sign, it’s simply information and we can make up our minds later.
We walk out with the promise that she’ll call us the next day.
In all, I liked the Lister. Especially the financial side made me wish we had gone to them first, if we did we could have saved ourselves a lot of money! I’m not fully sure what to think of their more lax approach to medicine, I can appreciate it, but then this isn’t something I want to be brushed aside either.
In the end, it’s the sperm donors that are the biggest problem for us though. As much as we would love to switch clinics and go with them, we are not going to settle for a donor without a picture or information – that is the main reason why we aren’t doing this in Belgium.
We decide to tell the nurse exactly that when she calls to follow up.
Jo tells her that we cannot find a sperm donor we like among the (very few, there are literally TWO donors to choose from with a picture) options she had given us, and that that would be the only reason why we would decide not to have treatment with them.
The nurse says that sadly that she cannot be flexible on that.
And then she tries to convince us to come in anyway, and go through IVF and egg donation first, because ‘a donor is only for later!’
What? No thanks.
In the end, it feels clear that they would have welcomed my eggs there above everything else, which I still find somewhat creepy. But other than that they were kind enough, and obviously their treatments run like a well-oiled machine if they can get you in and out that quickly. If it weren’t for their donor policy we might really have switched and gone with them, but that’s our one non-negotiable.
I don’t regret taking the time to hear them out though. At least we tried!