After another sleepless night, I woke at 6am on Saturday morning with the world’s worst headache.
My dog Arnold, for some unknown reason, had decided to climb up onto my bed in the early hours of the morning and was fast asleep with his little head directly across my abdomen. He seemed so peaceful and content, keeping my defective ovaries company.
At that point I honestly, truly, genuinely wanted nothing more than to switch off my alarm and go back to sleep. I wanted to sleep for about 100 years. But instead, I hauled myself up out of bed (displacing poor Arnie in the process) jumped in the shower and raced around the house getting ready.
It wasn’t until I was leaving home and about to jump into the car that I realised I was quite possibly wearing the world’s most ridiculous outfit. Flared jeans, a black tunic and a baggy black cardigan. I looked like I was drowning in my own clothes. To make matters worse, after days of sleep deprivation my eyes were blood shot, my skin was blotchy and my hair was all frazzled. At best I looked like a hot mess, at worst a crack addict. But I had to be up at the hospital by 7am for my appointment and there was no time to return to the house and fix myself up.
Ironically, I arrived at the doctor’s rooms at 6.50am, it seems I’d had plenty of time to change. Especially given the fact that as I approached the clinic, I noticed a woman sitting out the front looking quite lost and confused. She was an older woman, maybe early forties, and she had that IVF look about her (signs only a fellow IVF gal would notice – bloated tummy, glazed eyes, skin break out, general nervousness).
“Are you ok?” I asked her.
“The doctor’s room is closed.” she said, frowning. “My appointment was at 6.30. I don’t know what to do.”
Sure enough she was correct. The doctor’s rooms were closed but the lights were switched on inside. The phones went to voicemail, and no amount of banging on the door elicited a response from anyone. Sighing, I sat down on the bench next to her and joined her in waiting. I didn’t think there was anything else we could do. I rationalised that eventually someone would come along.
And I was right, eventually people did come along. But they weren’t clinic staff, they were more women waiting for appointments. Forty-five minutes later there were five of us squashed onto two small benches. All slightly confused, slightly worried and none of us knowing what to do.
I stole glances at the other women while we waited. I was surprised just how different I really was to all of them. I was certainly the youngest by a good ten years. Most of the women on the benches looked over forty, a few maybe late thirties. I felt out of place, even though we were all at the doctor’s office for the same reaon.
Just after 8am, we heard the door unlatch from the inside, and Doctor B finally appeared in the doorway of the clinic.
“Hello ladies!” she gushed. “I’m so sorry to keep you waiting for this long! My ultrasound machine has broken and there was a tech inside trying to fix it! Come in, come in and sit inside.”
A reasonable explanation, I supposed, but it would have been nice for Doctor B to let us known the situation oh I don’t know, say, an hour ago.
I wanted to tell her I was unhappy. I wanted to tell her she was wrong for making us all sit in a hospital corridor, none of us knowing what was going on, all of us worrying we’d messed up our appointment times and days. But I was too nervous and depressed, given I knew my cycle was going to be canceled very shortly, so I kepy my mouth shut.
Quietly and without complaint, we all filed into the clinic’s waiting room where it was more comfortable for us to sit, and Doctor B took the first lady (the one who’d been sitting outside on that bench for almost two hours!) into her office. While I waited I wondered how her scan was going, and if her cycle was being canceled as well. I hoped for her sake it wasn’t.
Ten minutes later, she was finished (her face gave no indication of a result) and Doctor B appeared again in the waiting room. I jumped up, as I knew I was the next cab off the rank.
“Ah it’s my Little Miss next, is it?” she asked with a smile. “In you come then!”
Now I’ll admit I’m not exactly geriatric, but I’m not a baby anymore either. I may have been 24 years old when we started this process of trying to conceive, but I’m 27 now. I’d been thinking lately, given my age, it probably isn’t even fair to call myself “young yet infertile” anymore, instead I should just be “infertile” now.
But given the age of all the other ladies in the waiting room, and the realisation that my doctor always calls me Little Missy or Miss Sadie, maybe I’m wrong about that? Maybe 27 is still young?
It then occurred to me that I may still be one of Doctor B’s youngest patients and I took a weird comfort in that. I tried to cement in my mind the idea that I was still young, and there was still time, and this failed cycle didn’t mean the end. There was still a chance for me to become a mother.
“Sorry about all this,” she said, leading me into the room where I would have my scan. “The tech couldn’t fix my fancy ultrasound machine so I’m using my old one. It still works fine but the image isn’t as clear.”
Sure enough, a giant ancient looking yellow machine had taken the place of the slick, silver one that I had become accustomed to.
“How have you been feeling?” she asked through the door as I undressed.
“Nothing to report.” I said flatly. “No cramps, not much cervical mucus. I don’t have any hope.”
I hopped up onto the table as she came back into the room, and she quickly inserted the ultrasound wand into my cervix.
“No hope?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at me. “There’s always hope. Let’s have a look and find out what your ovaries are doing ok?”
There were a few moments of silence then, as she adjusted the settings on the machine, and moved the wand both left and right. I gasped in pain as she pushed it hard against my right side.
“Sorry,” she said apologetically. “I’m trying to be gentle. I told you it’s difficult to get a nice clear image on this old thing.”
Then came more silence as Doctor B analysed the screen in front of her. Usually, there’s a duplicate image on the television screen next to the bed so I can see what’s happening during scans. I can see my ovaries, and I can tell before she speaks what the results are (I’ve become a bit of an expert at reading ultrasounds). But this older, clunkier machine only had the one screen, which was swivelled around so only the doctor could see it. I was completely in the dark, and the unknown was driving me mad.
“Sorry Miss Sadie,” she said eventually. “Looks like there’s nothing going on here.”
I let out a breath of hot air and gave her a tight lipped smile. I felt deflated, but not destroyed. It was, after all, the result I had been expecting. I braced myself, waiting for the uncomfortable sensation of the wand being removed from my cervix.
“Wait!” Doctor B said suddenly, still staring at the screen. “Drop your legs.”
I was perplexed, but did as instructed and let my feet fall off the stirrups so they were dangling over the edge of the table.
“Relax your pelvic floor,” she said gently but urgently.
I’m not sure whether I’ve discussed on this blog before that after a few years of invasive treatment I’ve developed vaginismus? It’s something that Doctor B and I have been working on together, and I also go and see a doctor that specialises in female sexual dysfunction. I have relaxation and breathing exercises that help me during ultrasounds, and Doug has been extremely supportive in working through this with me at home in the bedroom.
Using some of the breathing techniques I’ve been taught, I closed my eyes and concentrated on consciously unclenching my pelvic floor. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, unclench.
“Good girl,” Doctor B said, “Keep relaxing….”
I felt the probe pushing into my left side, digging in painfully as I tried my hardest to stop my muscles contracting. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, unclench.
“There!” she suddenly said. “We’ve got one!”
My eyes flew open and I sat up a little on the bed. Doctor B was grinning at me.
“There’s a dominant follicle on your left ovary. It’s measuring at 13.7mm at the moment.” she said, this time fully removing the probe.
“So what does this mean?” I asked, as I cleaned myself up and got dressed.
I was in a bit of shock, and my body was suddenly alive and coursing with adrenaline. My mind was filled with emotions – I was elated, nervous, confused, hopeful, hopeless, and desperate for clarity.
“It means this isn’t over yet.” Doctor B said. “Come back on Monday morning and we’ll scan you again. Then we can make a decision on this cycle. Maybe we do ovulation induction. We’ll see.”
My initial reaction as I left the clinic was pure joy. This isn’t over yet! It isn’t over yet! I have a follicle! I have a follicle! I HAVE A FOLLICLE!
But by the time I got home, I had somewhat calmed down and started to rationalize with myself. Just because I have one follicle doesn’t mean I have one egg. Even if I triumph over the PCOS and ovulate, even if we time it perfectly and egg meets sperm, there’s still the endometriosis and adenomyosis to stand in the way of a pregnancy. Two different specialists have told me my chances of conceiving naturally are zero percent. Sure, ovulation induction isn’t quite natural conception, but it’s pretty damn close.
In some ways, I think I’d have been better off not knowing. If Doctor B had never found the follicle and simply canceled the cycle, I could have moved on with my life in total ignorance and just waited for my next IVF round to start. Now I have this (almost completely) false hope again. I can’t shake this notion from my mind that this is all meant to be. It’s a dangerous way to think when you’re infertile.
Doug arrived home from the airport a few hours later. It had been six days since I’d seen him last, and I was absolutely exhausted. We curled up on the bed together at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I finally felt safe and happy again, wrapped in his arms.
I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t awaken for five hours.