Embryo Transfer #2 and The Two Week Wait

The transfer went ahead today with no hiccups.

Well, the only thing that did go wrong was pretty major and totally my fault – I’d forgotten to tell John he needed to sign a consent form ahead of embryo thawing. But they called him this morning and it was sorted out. I can’t believe I forgot to tell him that.

Anyhow, major ethical hurdles aside, it all went very smoothly. The embryo defrosted well, is still high grade Aa, and although it looks a bit messier than the last one, we were reassured it was “perfect”:

When embryos are frozen, water leaves the cells and they “collapse down” into their frozen, dehydrated form. After thawing, the embryologist needs to see the embryo’s cells expanding and filling with fluid again to indicate good viability. In this photo the cells have begun expanding, but haven’t yet reached the “shell” surrounding the embryo (did you know embryos have protein “shells”¬†and they need to hatch out of them to implant? True fact).

Compare with this photo showing our previous embryo, where the cells have had time to fully expand out to the shell. Apparently it is ok – the cells don’t have to have fully expanded prior to transfer – they just need to show they have begun the process.


John was with me this time, rather than in America, which was nice. I think the embryologist enjoyed our bickering, and the nurse performing the transfer enjoyed his disregard for panpipe music. And I know the people in the next cubicle enjoyed our spirited debate about the meaning of language and cultural values.

It was good having him there.

I was handed a pregnancy kit in a brown paper bag (which always makes it feel a bit seedy somehow), and had a nice cuppa tea, then collected Toby from nursery. “Life as normal” resumed, and from now on I’m fully terrified.

I’m not sure people realise that IVF doesn’t equal definite baby. There is a common misconception (excuse the pun) that if all else fails, IVF is the last and definitive route to babymaking success. It is not. A woman below the age of 35 has on average a 30-40% chance of a live birth with IVF over *three* cycles. That number reduces to around 20% success if the woman is over 40 years old. It is by no means a given.

These two weeks are said to be the hardest part of the IVF journey. I’ve found I need a balance between keeping busy, and having as much normality as possible. The first time around I just filled the time as much as I could, and it was exhausting. And the intensity of it only acted to draw attention to the situation rather than distract from it. The second time – last time – I sailed through it quite easily by comparison. I kept things more normal, and with John away for part of the time, I had my hands full anyway.

But I have concluded how one copes with this waiting period fully depends on its context. For us, the first time was awful because it was the first time and because we’d just had a terrible egg collection (only 1 egg), and it was all rather fraught. The second time was our first time having frozen embryo transfer (FET), and was much calmer because it was separated from the emotional roller coaster of “egg harvesting week” by a couple of months, and the whole process had gone much better (18 eggs and 4 embryos “in the bank”). This time around, we are going in off the back of a successful positive pregnancy followed swiftly by miscarriage, coupled with now only 2 embryos in the bank, and the knowledge of what potential horrors lie ahead. I feel like we overcame lots of essential hurdles last time to get to that positive pregnancy test result. And although the embryo didn’t stick, we got that far. But it’s not a cumulative process. It should be. The rule of fairness should mean that we should at least get as far again this time, then be given a chance to see if we can better our personal best. But the rule of fairness is bollocks, and so this time we can fall down at any one of those hurdles we overcame previously. And with each new round of IVF, I am becoming increasingly aware of how many things can go wrong.

So to say I am anxious is possibly an understatement.

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