Note: This is the fourth in a series of five blog postings in which I document going through the process of "oocyte cryopreservation" last summer. Click for part one, part two or part three. I share my personal experience in an effort to spread awareness of this fertility option to other women my age. Please do not consider it a substitute for advice from a medical professional.
The bad news is I feel like crap. My ovaries ache when I walk (I kid you not -- it is a bizarre sensation). My rock-hard stomach juts out so much that I can't fit into my pants. The discomfort in my belly region has kept me up every night this week.
But let's start with the good news. Eleven days after starting the hormone injections, I woke up at 6:15 am to drive down to the Stanford Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Center for my egg retrieval.
I wasn't nervous, just excited. In the office, the nurse set me up on a hospital bed, but she waited until 8:15 to start the IV. At 8:30 on the dot, she wheeled me into the procedure room, where my anesthesiologist informed me that I'd be getting sleepy very soon.
I woke up about an hour later, feeling a bit groggy, ready for fruit juice (I hadn't been allowed to eat or drink anything since midnight), but generally in good spirits. My friend Eden was waiting to drive me home. I thought I might have cramps or need to nap, but I worked from home for the rest of the day. Piece of cake.
The next morning, I got a phone call from the nurse, who informed me that they had successfully retrieved 18 eggs. Fabulous news, as they'd been hoping for 15 to 20. Only 50 percent survive the freezing process, so you want the extras.
Relief, elation, and gratitude washed over me. Thank you, Universe. Thank you for this gift of 18 mini-me's waiting to be united with sperm and implanted in my belly some day, if need be. As my dear friend Chip Conley, author of Emotional Equations, put it: "Healing + Options = Joy".
I started telling everyone how easy this all was. Even the injections -- not so bad. Just a pinprick. Retrieval, no problem.
But then it started. The night after the procedure, my belly began to expand. And all the next day, it didn't stop. Six days later, it is still rotund, stretched tight like a drum, and incredibly uncomfortable. I feel as though someone has put a balloon in my stomach and keeps relentlessly pumping it full of air.
Dr. Westphal had warned me about this. She said that after the eggs had been sucked out of the follicles, the remnant sacks of tissue would continue to blow up for a couple of days longer, making me "bloated." She recommended three to four doses of whey protein per day (I can't bear the stuff -- any recommendations on how to make it palatable?) and lots of Gatorade or coconut water to stay hydrated. She also said no exercise or sex until my next period, not too many fruits and veggies, and no spicy foods. In other words, no fun.
But I didn't realize that "bloating" would feel like this. I feel gross and aware of a pressure in my tummy all the time.
Don't get me wrong: It's worth it. So, so worth it. I have 18 buns in the icebook, ready for defrosting when I need them. Already I feel the pressure off of having children right away. Already I feel that I've taken control of my fertility, making the best of a challenging situation. I've got time. I've got possibilities. I've got hope. Lucky, lucky me.
PS: I'm now living with the Love of My Life, Kiran, and we are trying to get pregnant naturally. I hope not to have to use my frozen eggs, but I am happy to have them as an insurance policy.