This morning, Heather asked me when her period was due. Her stomach hurt, she said. “Nope. Nope. Not till next weekend.” There is no wiggle room for her to deviate from schedule; she needs to take some Tums and suck it up.
I took a gander at my notes from our IVF class in Nashville. Some of it was familiar—that an embryo will develop into a creature resembling a gummi bear—and some of it I’d been lucky enough to forget. Cool: that, when we do the $4,250 chromosome test, they’ll also be able to tell us the gender of each embryo. Not so cool: instructions on how to give these shots. They gave us bags of syringes and vials so we could experiment with shots, but Heather is a hands-on kind of girl, so I didn’t get much of a chance to try. It’s with this pattern in mind that I suspect she’ll take over the Lupron shots that can be administered in the belly. If she can reach it, she’s going to intervene. I’m okay with this because the Lupron shots require vials and all variety of very specific modifications. The progesterone shot looks like a clicking-style pen, and you get a cartridge, sit it inside, and firmly pierce your beloved’s backside.
The reason we’re using Follistim is that we were given the choice between that and Gonal, another pen-style progesterone application; that folks using frozen sperm are required to use ICSI. ICSI is a means of fertilizing an egg by inserting a single sperm directly into a healthy egg. Normally, they’d put the egg into a petri dish, surround it with a sample of sperm, and let nature (such as it is, when you’ve got stimulated eggs in a petri dish) take its course. I guess things are iffier with frozen sperm, so they fertilize the egg manually.* Per the nurse, the embryologist prefers ICSI patients to get either Follistim or Gonal. I’m not sure why, but it was definitely good news: the pens are more expensive, but they’re much simpler and more portable than the vial/syringe options. I say that without having placed the pharmacy order or seen the bill, so I might be less impressed in two weeks. Still, the nurse explained that, to administer the shots with these pens, we should wield them like murder weapons.
*The other cool/freaky procedure the clinic offers is “assisted hatching.” Before inserting the healthy embryos into Heather’s uterus (the back third, we learned, is “the sweet spot” where the lining is thickest, fluffiest—seriously, they said fluffy—and most hospitable), they nick them very lightly with a syringe. Each embryo has a tiny shell, and nicking that shell gives the embryo a better chance at attaching to the uterine wall.
The trick, of course, is that nicking the embryo can destroy it. Seriously. The tiny, tiny thing that has been created with thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of science can be totally ruined by that final step. That scares the shit out of us, and it’s optional. However, it’s supposed to be pretty helpful to your chances of conception. So we’re doing it.