Oocyte retrieval day

Today was the day when I got sedated, had eggs sucked out of my developing follicles, and got told how many eggs my body had produced during the stimulation period. It was kind of a weird day in that all these experiences were new, and it was on the one hand a little exciting, and on the other hand, completely and utterly terrifying.

After signing some forms and undressing, I was given a pink gown to wear. I had to confirm my identity a few times, was given a bracelet with ID/procedure name, and led into a waiting room to wait for the doctor to greet me briefly before the procedure. The doctor, whose official title is reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and who would perform the procedure, came out. He’s actually new to this practice as the third RE onsite. Meeting him was pretty boring and useless. He cited a few stats that did not help me or make me feel better (it’s not really the doctor’s job to make you feel better, but it IS the doctor’s job to have some damn empathy), gave me some generic pieces of advice that I could have Googled (and DID Google prior to the day). My own RE, who I have met fewer times than I can count on one hand despite coming to this clinic dozens and dozens of times, “does not work on the weekends,” the nurse let me know a few days before. Well, how glorious for him. Gotta love the empathy here. As you can tell, we have a tight connection.

Then, I got led by a nurse into the operating room, which has one tiny window that appeared to look into a laboratory. I was set up on a chair to lie down, and the nurse strapped my legs and feet on. Everyone was masked (duh), and through the tiny window peering into the lab, I could see multiple people in lab coats, one of whom was looking right at me. The man introduced himself to me as my embryologist, who would be working with me. He asked me to confirm my name, date of birth, my partner’s name and date of birth, and to confirm verbally what procedure I was there for today. Then, the anesthesiologist stuck an IV into a vein in my arm, and when the RE came in, closed the door, and confirmed that we were ready to begin, the anesthesiologist let me know he would activate the IV, and I’d immediately feel a metallic taste in my mouth and within 10 seconds, fall asleep.

“You should taste it now,” the anesthesiologist said.

Yep, I did. “Whoa, I can definitely taste it,” were the last words out of my mouth before I passed out. They worked on me for about 30 minutes. During the time when I was asleep, this is basically what happened:

The RE, guided by an ultrasound, sticks a long needle through my vaginal wall into one ovary and then the other. As he views each follicle on the ultrasound screen (from what I could see before I passed out, there were three large screens they were all viewing), he sticks the needle, which has an aspirator at its tip, into each follicle, sucking out the liquid inside, which hopefully will have an egg in it. He removes the needle after sucking out liquid for each follicle, and then each follicle gets one tiny vial. The RE hands this over to the nurse, who then walks the vial over to that tiny window where the embryologist is sitting and waiting. The embryologist takes the test tube, and using a high powered microscope, examines the contents of the vial to confirm whether there’s an oocyte. He says “confirm” if there is an oocyte/egg. If nothing, he says “none,” or something similar, and they continue the process until the RE extracts liquid from every visible follicle. This is why and how, before you leave for the day, the RE will tell you how many eggs were retrieved. Whether they were mature or not will not be shared until the next day, when you get your fertilization update. As you can probably guess, the more follicles you have, the longer this procedure will take. Once this is done, the IV is removed, and within seconds, I regain consciousness, and two nurses tap me lightly to wake me up, unstrap me and help me out of the chair, and guide me into the recovery room, where I continue to sleep and rest until I’m deemed okay for going home. That takes anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour.

And during this time, when I’m in my deep sleep, my partner is in a tiny, sterile room, masturbating to provide his “sample” into a small, sterile cup that we hope will then be used to fertilize my oocytes. What a truly memorable day it was.

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