IVF: The Raw Truth– Episode III, “Egg Retrieval”

Most of the women I have spoken to said their egg retrieval was basically nothing – a minor inconvenience. They skip a couple meals, go to the clinic, fall asleep for 20 minutes, wake up feeling good and loopy, and go home. Believe me when I tell you I wish that was my story. None of those things really happened for me. I contribute part of it to my “cautious” attitude, but the rest is just my shitty luck. 
First of all, my ultrasound and labs resulted in adding three extra days of stim meds before retrieval, meaning our retrieval was set back two days. It also meant more jabs to the stomach. I went in for retrieval looking like this…

(This was while some bruises were healing and others hadn’t quite set in yet.)

When we finally did get to retrieval day, all the nurses kept telling me to smile and asking me what was wrong when we arrived. I just kept saying, “Oh, I’m just a little nervous and hungry.” To be honest, I was VERY nervous. Everyone kept telling me how “easy” retrieval is, like it’s absolutely nothing, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be worried. I’m just used to things going wrong. 
Here is how the day went… 

PREP–

We ate a big breakfast around 8am. I couldn’t eat after 9am and couldn’t drink after Noon. T skipped lunch, too, because he felt bad eating in front of me, but he continued to drink. When we arrived (30 minutes early), I figured we would wait FOREVER but we didn’t. They took us straight back. 
T did his business (gave a sperm sample) while they had me fill out paperwork. They let me pee and gave me Tylenol to “take the edge off”. I got to drink a little water with the Tylenol. It was the best sip of lukewarm water I’ve ever had in my life! I was SO THIRSTY! Then they had me strip from the waist down and put a gown on over my shirt. T came in and said all went well with his part. The nurse came back to collect my paperwork and said it would only be a short wait. While we waited they brought a woman from the procedure room in a wheelchair and wheeled her to the bay next to us. She was crying and moaning. She was really carrying on. I couldn’t see her or understand anything she was saying. She was just moaning loudly. Honestly, it scared the holy bejesus out of me! I don’t begrudge her because she must have been in pain, but I made a mental note to try not to do that so I wouldn’t scare any of the women coming behind me. 
I had spoken on the phone with the anesthesiologist, Brian, the night before. I told him all about my previous episodes with vomiting and panic attacks when waking from anesthesia. He said they would treat me with “kid gloves”. He was really nice. He came in and introduced himself to T and reviewed everything that would happen. He said we were looking at retrieving at least 15 eggs. I kissed T and off we went. T hung out in our recovery “bay”. I followed Brian, walking behind him in my gown with a blanket wrapped around my waist. The procedure room was just about 20 feet away. 
PROCEDURE–

In the procedure room the nurses were listening to 80’s and 90’s tunes. I saw familiar faces. I had been in there before for an ultrasound when the other rooms were full. The table had a bunch of plastic all over it this time, and a pillow. They had me lie down on the table and “scoot down” (like you do for every ultrasound). They propped me up in the back with a pillow and put my legs in these U-shaped stirrups that hold your legs above the knees under the thighs. Then they started an IV. It didn’t hurt until they started pushing the propofol. My whole hand and wrist hurt pretty badly and then I fell asleep.
POST-OP —

I woke up to Dana, Brian’s assistant, telling me to sit up and hug her. I hugged her and the next thing I knew I was being wheeled out. I was wrapped in a bunch of blankets. I could feel some kind of pad under me but I had zero pain. Dana told me I could stand up slowly and get dressed. She asked if I needed a pad and I told her I brought one (which they didn’t tell me to do – I just guessed). She left the room. 
I sat there a minute in my wheelchair and realized I felt very wet downstairs. I thought maybe it was lube from the procedure. I looked down there and saw quite a bit of blood. I told T and he went out to tell the nurse. The nurse said it’s normal to have some bleeding and offered him some wipes and paper towels. He came back and I stood up. Blood started pouring down both legs. I looked at the wheelchair and there was a chuck (disposable bed pad) with a red, plate-sized blood stain. I grabbed the paper towels to catch the blood running down my leg. Some had dropped to the floor. Between the wipes, paper towels, and the blanket I was able to get everything cleaned up and I changed. I sat down on the bed because I was freaking out a little and had started cramping some. When I sat down the cramping really started. It hurt like a miscarriage, but I reminded myself to keep my complaining as quiet as possible. My nurse (clinical coordinator) came in to check on me. I told her I was freaked out by the blood and she said they pulled 21 eggs so some bleeding is expected*. She gave me more Tylenol and post-op instructions and said she would call me the next day. 
*NOTE: For those who don’t know, they get the eggs by aspiration of the follicles in the ovaries. Basically, they stab the swollen follicles with a needle and suck the eggs out. Stabbing the follicles always causes some bleeding but for some lucky folks the blood never escapes the abdominal cavity. That was not the case for me!
I would have done a few things differently had I known what to expect. (Read to the end for my tips.) The assistant, Dana, walked me to the car. She said it was like I was running. I was most certainly not running. I was in pain, but I did want to get home (2 hours away), and I was starving!!! T helped me get settled. We laid the seat back a little. I put sunglasses on. T covered me with a blanket and positioned my horseshoe pillow just the way I like it. T hates driving in the city but he did great. I dosed off and on for about an hour until we got to a place where we felt comfortable stopping. The pain kept increasing and I wanted to stop before it got really bad. 
We stopped for a quick bite to eat. I used the restroom and had to change my pad. (I got extras from the clinic because I only brought one.) I had ice cream and French fries. Nothing sounded good but I was hungry. I had read on the clinic’s Facebook page that some women would get carry-out from Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc. I don’t know how on Earth they could eat anything substantial right away! I was loopy and hurting like Hell! T was famished so he ate a huge meal and then we went home. I slept the whole rest of the way. 
AT HOME–

My abdomen hurt pretty badly the first 36 hours, like on a scale of 1-10 I would say I was at a 7/8. Brian had warned me that they used less anesthesia for me because of my sensitivity, which could causes more post-op discomfort. I rotated Tylenol and Ibuprofen every three hours and used ice packs 15 minutes on, 15 off the whole first night home and most of the next day, when I was awake. I woke up the next morning with BAD heartburn. I know pregnant women can have TUMS, so I sent T to the store for those. I read blogs and Facebook support group posts and a lot of the women complained of fluid buildup in their abdomen, heartburn, and cramping. I read that drinking lots of Gatorade and eating salty foods helped some women to draw the fluid away from the abdomen to help with bloating/cramping. I ate chicken soup, Saltines, and ramen noodles and drank about 80 ounces of Gatorade. I didn’t really bloat but still had a lot of tenderness in my abdomen. Many women complain of constipation. I have a slow bowel anyway so I don’t know that I was necessarily constipated. I ate applesauce and drank grape juice to help with that. (I should note I normally never eat Ramen noodles or drink lots of Gatorade. I drink mostly water and we eat pretty healthy.) 
I also had HUGE blood clots. I did NOT expect clots, especially not big ones (the size of a quarter, or larger). My nurse called on the day after retrieval to check in and give me updates and she said clots are normal. I just wish someone would have warned me! She also said the heartburn was from the anesthesia and TUMS were just fine for that. I told her I was still really tender and she said it would be much better two days after surgery, and that I should be done bleeding by then as well. 
POST-OP MEDS —

I didn’t realize I would have to do meds/injections after getting home on retrieval night. I had to do an HCG injection in my stomach, a progesterone injection in my hip muscle, and insert a progesterone suppository into my vagina. Since I was still bleeding I used gloves (which I just happened to have at home) to do the suppository.  I’ll be doing injections of some sort at least every other day until a week or two after transfer, maybe longer. 
BACK TO WORK–

Our retrieval was Saturday. I was supposed to go back to work two days after retrieval (Monday/today). I didn’t have a problem with going back to work. I actually wanted to get back because every sick day I take now is one day of maternity leave I won’t have if this works. As of last night when I spoke to my nurse, I was still really tender. I was having trouble with pain when getting up and down out of my glider chair or the couch. I told her I thought I could do desk work but didn’t really feel comfortable working on the road (I am in social work). I was scheduled to drive about 4 hours today and thought it might be pretty uncomfortable. She said desk work would be fine. I texted my boss to ask if I could reschedule my home visits to another day and stay in the office today. He said he wanted me to stay home and requested a medical release back to work. Sigh… I should have just gone to work and rearranged my schedule – act now and suffer the consequences later. Oh well. I get another day off I guess, and time to compose this entry. It will just make work a bit more stressful when I go back tomorrow. 
OVERALL I know mine is NOT the worst retrieval experience ever. I’m mostly just irritated I couldn’t go back to work today like I wanted, and I do wish I had known better what to expect. Here’s the thing, though… We got 21 eggs, 16 of them completely healthy, and 10 of them fertilized normally. That was the goal – to get several healthy embryos – and we accomplished it. I love our doctor and our clinic. I think they’re the absolute BEST, and they have worked SO HARD to make this affordable for us. We are VERY lucky to be their patients. However, I think there are a just a few things that get overlooked – probably at ALL fertility clinics. I worked in the medical field for well over a decade. When you live in that culture every single day you sometimes forget that patients DON’T see you every day and you assume they know things they don’t. It just happens, but maybe this will help some of my fellow infertility sufferers..
TIPS:

*Take 2-3 GOOD pads – not the thin, plastic ones. Take thick, cottony ones, and a change of clothes (especially underwear). If you wear a bra, make it a really comfortable one with no metal clasps. 

*Take a cooler with cold bottled water or Gatorade. You’ll be really thirsty when you wake up. 

*Take an ice pack!! You can put it in your cooler with your bottled water/Gatorade. I WISH I had an ice pack for the drive home!

*Put a pillow and/or blanket in the car if you have a long drive home. You’ll be groggy – and wear sunglasses or something to keep the sun out of your eyes. 

*Take some Tylenol with you. They didn’t offer more Tylenol after the surgery but when I asked my nurse if I could take more after, she said I could. 

*Take snacks. I really did NOT want to go eat somewhere, and we lived too far away to just do carryout. I guess we could have ordered it from somewhere close to home, but we were starving and two hours from home. Having snacks handy would have helped. If for nothing else, your partner might be hungry. T wouldn’t eat after breakfast since I couldn’t and my surgery was in the evening. I felt terrible. He could have snacked for the 20 minutes I was in surgery. 

*Maybe ask your nurse what they suggest you should bring with you. They didn’t give me a list or anything. (I am a huge fan of lists.) I just got pre-op and post-op instructions (No food after 9am, no liquids after 12pm, you may experience some spotting/cramping, etc.) 
I truly hope this is helpful for someone out there. I didn’t find anything like this when I was looking for info on what to expect. (Maybe I didn’t look hard enough!) I just hope someone out there can benefit from reading my ramblings, and if you, too, are somewhere in this journey I wish you all the best! Until next time…

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