Yesterday I went to the hospital for my first blood test. As a summary phrase I would say "overwhelmingly underwhelming". It was a bit of an anti-climax. I don't know what I was expecting but it was a bit of a non-event.
I arrived at the hospital at 8am after leaving the house at 7:30am. My commute to work is normally 7 minutes long and so this 'commute' through rush hour was not my idea of fun. In fact, I found it frustrating and I am glad that I do not have to commute far to work every day. I got quite irate at being cut up at a roundabout and about someone entering a yellow hatching area when their exit wasn't clear. This person was behind me and it didn't actually block my exit or anything but it annoyed me anyway! I had a good talking to myself - I figured the extra stress hormones circulating because of my road rage were of no benefit.
Once at the hospital I made my way up to a deserted corridor at the Department of Reproductive Medicine. I hadn't been told where to go exactly so I wandered up the corridor and then assumed a seat in the waiting area because I figured that's what I should probably do. There was another lady and her partner in the waiting area. They looked nervous, like me, and I guessed that it was their first time there as well.
The waiting area is a place brimming with positivity. All around it are photos of all the IVF babies they've produced here and the doctors with big smiley faces. There are also fertility magazines, leaftlets and posters all geared up to the infertile. Quite refreshing and positive. However, there were also children's toys and books and a little play station. Clearly having IVF is not just for those who don't have any children already. This was something that, whilst I knew, surprised me a little. But, maybe one day I'll be going back with Stanley and having to take him with me whilst we try for Lucy and he can play with those toys and read those books.
The nurse came and called for the first lady and she went in with her partner. He said "Do I have to come in?" and she said "Yes, you know I hate needles". So off they went. My first thought was "Oh dear, they're going to have to get used to it really!". Then a few other ladies came in, some with partners. One lady asked if she was waiting in the right place (she'd done the whole wandering up and down the corridor then resorting to sitting in the waiting area thing too!). I told her that I'd done what she had and that I presumed we were in the right place because the nurse came to get the first lady from here.
Looking around the room I was taken right back to that first information session on March 10th. Back then I thought we'd be starting in September and it was only two months ago. Around the room I was surprised at how 'normal' everyone looked. Infertility isn't a badge that you wear but sometimes I feel like I am walking through town and everyone knows. That they're saying "Oh, bless her, she can't have children". I know that is a gross misconception but I felt the same when I'd lost my mum "Oh, there goes that girl whose mum died". It is a label that you give yourself. When I lost my mum I almost felt the need to qualify my answers to people's questions with "I just lost my mum". She was the same - sometimes she felt like she had to tell people she was talking to that she had cancer. I feel the same about infertility but it's harder to talk about, harder than death or cancer I think. People accept death, cancer etc. without too many questions. People talk about it all the time. When was the last time you had a chat with someone in the staff room at work about infertility? I bet it is close to never. So, being an infertile, you feel that you have to hide it. But at the same time you feel like your life revolves around it so it must be obvious; you must walk around with a great, flashing neon sign with a big down-pointing arrow saying "This is what infertile looks like". But, as I figured in the waiting room, like I'd figured out in the information session, this is not what infertile looks like. Infertile doesn't have a type; a stereotype; a label or a sign. I am just me. And the people in the waiting room were all like me. Normal-looking, young, healthy.
I was taken out of my reverie with the nurse asking for the next lady. I jumped up and trotted after her along the corridor (nurses walk fast don't they?). Once in there she asked my name but couldn't find any labels for my blood vials, or any details for me (I'm hoping this is just one of those things and not a major thing!). She took my details and asked if it was ok to do the HIV/Hep B/Hep C screening. Of course I said yes - we won't be able to continue with IVF if I said no. She took the vials of blood and apologised for the wait. I'd only been there 15 minutes but she explained that it's not usually that long but the previous lady had a fear of needles so it took longer. "She's going to have to overcome that somehow," I said.
And that was it. The nurse explained that she isn't attached to the Department of Reproductive Medicine and so I should come back at 9am if I wanted any more information on what was next but that I should phone between 3-4pm for the results of the FSH test. If my levels are ok then we proceed with treatment. Then, I went to collect my prescriptions. I made my way to the pharmacy through the maze of the hospital corridors along one of their colour-coded routes to make it easy(!). When I arrived it was closed until 9am and so I had to navigate my way to the main pharmacy, which I didn't even realise they had. It was a complicated journey and I ended up at the back of the hospital, going through dark corridors past the kitchens, the laundry and other areas with electric vehicle-like trollies. Had I not been down this route before when we'd had to drop Mr Waiting's sample off at pathology, then I would have been sure that this was a staff-only place. Eventually I found the pharmacy and waited for at least five minutes to be seen by the staff there, despite them having noticed me they had continued their conversations.
When I got my drugs I was surprised at how little there were. The pill packet was the same as the last time I'd been on the pill over five years ago. The lovely Microgynon. The Buserelin for the Down Regulation injections was really small - two small vials! I have since found out that I only have to inject a tiny amount of this and one vial will last me at least 11 days! Wow! The bottles really are small. I was not given any syringes which surprised me but apparently the IVF nurses will give me those when I have my injection training in a couple of weeks. Yikes.
I returned to the main "mall" area of the hospital to see about a parking permit as it is going to cost me at least £2.30 every time I visit the hospital, which could be several times a week or ever several times a day. But the counter did not open until 10am and I couldn't afford to stay that late due to having to be back at work. If all had run smoothly I could've been back at work by 9am, which would be good as I would not need much cover for my teaching hours. I briefly returned to the Department before leaving to see what happens next but the girl just told me the same thing - to ring between three and four.
So, 3:45pm arrives and I remember I have to phone the hospital - I don't know how I managed to forget until then! I tried ringing 26 times but it was always engaged so at the last attempt I left a message. At 4:15pm I decided to try one last time before driving home from school and they answered and let me know that there was a problem with the machine and so they couldn't give me my results. I have to ring back on Monday between the same times and so I can hopefully start the pill that day. I think I am lucky in that I have now worked out that I won't have to start taking the injections until after I get back from the school French trip. At one point I thought I was going to have to take them whilst there which would have been difficult! My next dilemma is deciding what time to take the injections. It should be on a night as the next lot of injections must be done in the evening and so I could do them both together but I have to take the Buserelin at the same time each day. I was thinking of doing the injections at 9:30-10:00pm as usually I got to bed after that but then I thought about things I'm doing in those weeks and it might be hard to do them at that time. I am going to see Take That just after I start taking the injections and so I can't be injecting in the middle of a concert! This is something that I'm going to have to talk to the nurses about.
So, the ball is well and truly rolling now. I never ever imagined getting to this stage and it's quite scary. Fingers crossed for a smooth journey!