In the twelve weeks of Michaelmas COVID gave to me, 5 rotten tests, 4 isolations, 3 nights in hospital, 2 cancelled trips and a Christmas without extended family. (Except for auntie Sophie who is in our support bubble.)
If the NHS did loyalty cards we, my girls, would be platinum members.
Christmas wasn’t quite what we were expecting this year and I doubt (fingers crossed) we’ll have another like it. After months of being assured there would be a break in the restrictions and we would be allowed to mix with other households the plug was pulled at the last minute. Cue mad dashes to the supermarket for those who were planning on a Christmas dinner cooked for them and days of endless turkey for those hosting. Cases of Covid were rising so rapidly restrictions were once again tightened and in the South East it meant that Christmas stayed within households, at least physically anyway. We’ve become quite accustomed now to virtual get togethers and I can’t even imagine what it would be like if we’d had to do all this just ten years ago, before FaceTime, let alone phone contracts and WiFi.
To be honest after the term we’d had I actually quite enjoyed it. No pressure to pack up and drive to the other end of the country or having to cook for anyone other than us. It had been a difficult twelve weeks that ended with another stint in hospital just before the Christmas break. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing but after the initial ambulance trip and oxygen provision the numbers moving up and down on the monitors were becoming more familiar and not quite as scary. It felt like such an achievement to finally get to the break unscathed especially after the number of Covid tests we’d had between us. You took the top spot Grace with five since last January and hated them all, Evelyn on the other hand had escaped with just two and become quite accustomed to the obligatory (drive through) McD’s after the trip down to Gatwick testing site.
Egg collection day came round quickly. The pressure your dad had been feeling about preforming on cue and the quality of his contribution to the big day had recently subsided as he’d been along for a test run and provided a sample of his DNA for analyses. As we’d hoped, he’d not needed to have worried, it was a fine specimen. I was also feeling in relatively good spirits. I knew from the scans earlier that week that there were plenty of follicles ripe for the picking and so hopefully there would a decent amount of eggs collected. All we had to do is cross our fingers that when those little swimmers were let loose, the magic would happen right there in the Petri dish.
The operation was over quickly and I came round in a private room in the fertility wing at the Nuffield. Quite different to the recovery rooms I’d been used to so far, it reminded me more of a hotel room. I felt a little bruised but your dad was there waiting to take my mind of things and the manager came and chatted to us for a long time. It really felt like people were routing for us.
Before we left we found out 16 eggs had been collected. I was so relieved, according to the stats, one in three transfers were successful so hopefully we’d create enough embroys for two or possibly even three children. I’d been worried we might have to do another round and I would have to put off the next surgery to have my ovaries removed but now it looked like that could go ahead once I’d recovered.
Unfortunately the relief was short lived. I’d been given some tablets to stop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). It occurs in women who are very sensitive to the medication taken to increase egg production. Too many eggs develop in the ovaries, which can then become very large and painful. Its a rare complication of IVF, but, this is me and your dad were talking about. The tablets made me really sick and the next day we went back to the Nuffield for a check up. The scan showed a fluid build up but nothing too much to worry about at this point so they took my bloods and said I should go home and try to rest.
Three days later we were sitting in A&E, I’d felt worse and worse and couldn’t keep anything down. It was Friday night and I couldn’t believe this was happening. I should have known the whole IVF process so far had been too good to be true. More bloods were taken and my tummy measured so they could monitor the bloating. When the results came back I was just about hydrated enough to avoid hooking me up to a drip but I had to drink copious amounts of water that tasted worse and worse the more I drank. I was told it would be best to keep me in over night just to keep an eye on me and let me rest but it was the worst night sleep ever. Alarms kept going off every half hour and everytime I finally began to drift off someone else came in to do observations, eventually I fell asleep just as there was a knock on the door for breakfast. If there was one place I wasn’t going to feel better it was stuck in this room.
After a short doze the nurse arrived to measure my tummy but as there was no markings from the night before she had no idea whether it was up or down. She asked me to stand on the scales, I was slightly heavier than yesterday, I told her that perhaps something had to do with all the pizza I’d gorged on, after sending your dad out the night before for emergency supplies. She didn’t take any notice. It was the weekend, no one senior would be in to take a look at me till Monday and no one junior would make the call to let me go. By this point I was feeling much better and just wanted to be back at home. Evening came and another set of bloods came back fine, the head nurse mentioned that ‘self check out’ was a thing and we were almost ready to pack up and go until a junior doctor gave us a lecture on blood clots and suddenly I didn’t really want to make that call either.
After another unsettled night a new nurse arrived at my bedside to take more bloods. There is definitely a real skill to doing this without causing maximum pain and this particular lady was either unable or unwilling to practice such a skill this morning and instead I nearly bled out over the hospital bed. (Probably a little over exaggerated but you get my drift) My TV credit ran out and it was pre Netflix days so I was left alone staring at the four walls feeling very sorry for myself. By the time the consultant arrived the following morning if he hadn’t checked me out I definitely would have done it myself. Fortunately he agreed I was good to go and by mid morning we were able to leave.
Before we could go home we made our way over to the Nuffield as I had another appointment there for a check up and for an update on the embroys. It was good news, nine had made it to the freezer. To increase the chance of success they had been frozen at different stages of development, five at day three and four at day five or blastocyst stage. The odds were in our favor, we could be fairly confident now that as long as we could find someone to help, our dream of a one day having a family was one step closer. And so we travelled home, leaving our little snow babies behind, waiting patiently, frozen in time for their chance at life.
This week instead of going back to school we entered a third national lockdown. Infection rates have continued to spiral and hospitals are once again filling up. The novelty has well and truely worn off. It’s cold, it’s wet and we haven’t seen friends and families for such a long time now. Zoom calls are not happening as often, no ones got a lot to say anymore. Expectations at work are higher, we’ve done it before, we can do it again. We’ve decided to wait a few weeks and see what happens before you go back in, we’d rather take the stress of WFH with you here than the risks with your health Grace. It many ways it feels a hell of a lot harder this time but there is one light shining there in the darkness that wasn’t there ten months ago and that’s the vaccine. The roll out has started well and the take up is good. Those brilliant scientific minds and superhuman medics look like they’ll save us once again.
Pass me the loyalty card, I’ve never been so ready to collect the next stamp.
Forever and Always,