We have to cross London in rush hour and I am still feeling terrible, so we leave well on time.
In the tube station each train car is packed, so much so that we can’t even squeeze in the first three trains that stop. I feel unsteady on my legs, but try not to worry. We HAVE to get there. Egg collection isn’t optional!
In the fourth train that stops we press on, into the mass of people. I hold on to a rail on the ceiling. Jo juggles a backpack with constantly checking on me, making sure I don’t either faint or throw up. A few stops down a seat opens up, and I sink into it gratefully.
I don’t feel like I’m on my way to a surgery. It feels important sure, I’m nervous, I’m nauseous, I can feel the swelling of my stomach uncomfortably pull my muscles – it’s like doing sit-ups in reverse this growing eggs business. But I don’t feel ready to be sedated and have someone take these out of me.
Jo and I take bets on how many eggs will be collected today. I say eleven, which is optimistic. Jo bets on a more sensible eight and suggests that the winner gets to nickname our first frozen embryo. We come up with silly names for a bunch of them, laughing a little.
We make it to the Raynes Park Create clinic.
It looks dated, this one. Like it was modern once back in the nineties.
We have no choice now though. We sit down in the full waiting room and wait our turn. There’s a show playing on the TV about renovating houses. I can’t help but eye the water cooler and wish I could have a sip of water at least (I can’t). People are called in one by one. On the TV, they’re solving the problem of water damage to wooden floors.
Eventually, someone comes to collect us, and we are taken a level down to the surgery part of the clinic.
Jo and I are ushered into a small space, all sectioned off with blue curtains. There’s a big reclinable chair for me, and a smaller one for Jo.
This will be our home for the next few hours.
A nurse hands me a gown, one of those backless ones, and instructs me to strip.
Well then! No time like the present… I awkwardly start, then realise that said nurse is still right there, watching me. I tell her thanks and that I can handle it, but she refuses to leave and hovers beside me. I feel a bit contrary already, seriously lady, let me be naked in private!
But I guess this is the kind of surgery where privacy isn’t exactly a thing anymore, because she just eyes me and then forcibly ties me into the gown – oi, come on!
We were told by ABC to bring a warm dressing gown, and I am so grateful that we actually went out and bought one! I wear it and feel at least a little more covered up.
Next the nurse slaps a bracelet with my name on it on my arm and takes my blood pressure.
I’m allowed to shuffle off (with those plastic wrap things over my feet) for one last pee and moment to myself, but then it’s back in-between the curtains.
We get a visit from our anaesthesiologist, who – thankfully – seems lovely. She’s German, and she asks me where I am from, then talks us through some details about the sedation.
Next is the doctor who will be performing the surgery, an older woman, who seems very knowledgeable and makes me feel at ease. Then we meet the embryologist, also a woman, who takes her time to review with us again what is about to happen.
I feel so relieved they actually all seem nice, especially when creepy!nurse comes back every few minutes to touch my body in yet another annoying way.
I’m not fully aware that we’re actually moments away from surgery throughout all of this, mostly because we’re kept so busy with meeting everyone and various checks and bits, but that’s it.
They come to fetch me. It’s egg collecting time!
I ask Jo for a kiss for good luck and walk away to the operating room…
Then I’m sent right back again because I was still wearing my dressing gown, ha!
Another kiss for luck, and off I go, for real this time.
I’m led into a small room with a lot of equipment and an operating bench. They open my gown and tell me to lie down. I need to put my legs into stirrups, and then they will be tied down there with straps. The sight of it freaks me out a bit (why hello nightmare scenario…) but the anaesthesiologist, the doctor, and the embryologist are all there and are lovely in talking to me and making sure I’m distracted.
While creepy!nurse is strapping me in and putting a frankly disturbing amount of absorbing padding under me, the doctor compliments me on my tattoos and we all discuss them briefly, how long did it take, did it hurt, will I get more…
The German anaesthesiologist asks more about Belgium as she sticks the IV into my hand, and we figure out where my braid needs to lie so it doesn’t tangle with any wires.
A few seconds later I say, “Oh, I can feel that…”
“Pain?” she asks, as she straps the oxygen mask to my face.
I answer, “No, it’s getting woozy in my head…”
The last I remember is my chest feeling weighted down, my arms tingling, and then closing my eyes.
Several hands are lifting me up and putting me down on something. I have the idea that I had a dream just now.
I’m being rolled away. The pain is suddenly slamming through me in heavy cramps, and I’m nauseous, I might throw up. I tell someone – Jo? – “I feel sick.”
There’s a cardboard thing placed under my chin.
I know Jo is there, and I ask her, “Do you know how many?” How many eggs did we get?
She tells me she doesn’t know yet.
I’m so cold.
So sore, with every breath the pain grows and grows.
I’m heaving, on the edge of throwing up. My hands shake, all of me is rattling on the bed. Jo wraps the gown over me, a blanket as well.
They give me fluids in my IV. More medication for the nausea. I get a plastic cup to drink from but my hand shakes so hard I can’t hold it on my own. They bring me mint tea.
Jo talks to me a bit, she checks every few minutes how I am doing.
The nurse comes in to sit me up. I really don’t want to, the cramps hurt so badly that all I want is to close my eyes a bit more and to lie as still as possible. “Come on, sit up.” I protest but she doesn’t give me a choice, I am sat upright, shaking like mad, my eyes drifting shut again.
She also takes away my thing to throw up in, “You’re not nauseous.”
I am! Jo takes it back for me and I hold it under my chin, swallowing, gagging. I keep my eyes closed and try to breathe. In, out. My teeth chatter.
The nurse takes my temperature, then pulls away my blanket, “You’re not cold.”
I’m so angry that I reach out and grab her arm, hard. “Feel how cold I am!” I am ice cold, my fingers, my feet, I can’t stop shaking.
The nurse leaves, and Jo readjusts my blankets. She commiserates with me that that woman is horrible. All I want to do is warm up, dammit! And something for the pain, it’s overwhelming, pulling, stabbing inside of me.
The embryologist is lurking outside the curtain, I can hear her ask someone, “Is she well enough to talk to?”
“Yes!” I shout out, then eye Jo for support. “…if I don’t remember later Jo will tell me.”
They agree with me and she comes in.
“So as expected this was a large egg collection, you had over fifty follicles but we only collected from the largest ones, we got seventeen eggs and…”
The embryologist rattles on, showing us pictures of eggs in various levels of development, but all I can think is ‘seventeen?’ Did I even hear that right??
Luckily Jo feels the same because she asks her to confirm it again, “Did you say… seventeen?”
I just blink and thank her.
Holy hell! That’s insane! ABC’s policy is to aim for 6 to 8 eggs. I just casually doubled that. It’s no surprise I’m in this much pain, I was just stabbed (at least) seventeen times.
The anaesthesiologist also agrees that I can get more pain medication, which I absolutely take.
…the nurse of evil comes back. This time she is insisting I go pee – to check whether my bladder works.
I feel desperate for a nap, or at least another half an hour or so of sitting until I feel a bit steadier, but she wants me to do it, so…
I take away my blankets and realise that I am sitting in blood. It’s streaked over my thighs and soaked my gown in the back. I stand up, with Jo supporting me. She places the warm dressing gown over my shoulders so people won’t see the blood, and like that I shuffle to the toilet.
I use wet toilet paper to clean my legs. I do pee, but that is bloody as well.
We shuffle back and tell the nurse, but she’s not concerned. “You should get dressed!”
Jo helps me into my clothes.
While she does, we can hear someone a curtain over who has just come out of surgery after me. She hilariously demands coffee as soon as she wakes up, “Coffee! Give me coffee!” Hee.
And then a few minutes later we can hear her tell the nurse, “…blanket? I’m so cold…”
“You’re not cold. No one is cold after this surgery.”
What? I genuinely feel like murdering that nurse – if it wasn’t for the fact that I can’t put on my own socks right now I might have shouted at her for it. But I leave it be, and we, very carefully, walk out.
There’s a brief visit with another nurse who provides us with an aftercare sheet, antibiotics, and (surprise!) eight more shots I need to give myself over the next five days. Normally that’s not necessary but because I had a hard surgery I need more hormone shots to help my ovaries, and blood thinners.
Jo arranges a taxi, and we start the drive through what feels like the entirety of greater London to get back to the hotel. An hour and a half of being shaken about in the car, and then I get into bed.