IVF1 – August 2006

So, full of optimism and hope in the expertise of the fertility clinic and with very little done in the way of research, discussion forums and so on, we flew 1300 miles from London, UK to Kiev, Ukraine in August 2006.

We’d never been to anywhere in the former USSR before and didn’t know what to expect. The airport was neither modern, nor antiquated, and we found the ‘tour company’ intermediaries waiting for us beyond departures.  It was not like a typical package holiday and as we boarded the transfer coach we met for the first time other couples that were to undergo some from of IVF treatment.  We were glad to find that some people were friendly; others preferred to keep themselves to themselves.  Although we had departed from the UK there were a number of people from other countries on the visit.

We were driven through the suburbs of the City and were dropped in one of two hotels. The majority of people stayed in the one we did – the Rus.  The other hotel, The Premier Palace, was considerably more expensive per night basis.  Given that the women would be unable to use the gym or swimming pool for the duration of their stay, we decided that it was costing us enough for the privilege of the treatment.

There were a few administrators from the London clinic staying with us in our hotel, and so it was good to see some familiar faces.  I think that it was suggested on the first night that – although the hotel had a restaurant – it would be interesting to make the short 10-15 minute walk into the ‘town centre’.   About a dozen people met up to do this. we went to a Pizza Hut franchise, familiar food for Westerners.  No-one wanted to end up with a dodgy tummy when there was important work to be done over the next couple of days.  A funny moment was when the drinks order was taken – the men all had beers; the women were all on soft drinks!  Over the course of that evening we spoke to many couples, and learned many things:

1. That IVF treatment does not always work – people were back for multiple visits

2. That some people come back a LOT – over 5 times for some people.

3. That there were some success stories; some had come back for a brother/sister to their first success story.

4. That the attitudes of friends/families back in the UK was such that many did not choose to share the fact that they were going on such a ‘trip’ with others.  This was consistent with the way we felt.

Because it’s been so long ago I can’t remember precisely what happened on each of the days, however it was necessary for me to go to the hospital for my sperm donation on one visit – during which I went into a very clean room to enjoy the facility of porn on a big telly whilst I dropped off my ‘part’ of the process into a specimen jar (which I then tactfully was advised to leave near a serving hatch and depart the room).

Then a day or two passed and we were advised of the specific time of our ET (embryo transfer).  We then went to the hospital (which involved the ‘tour agents’ ferrying us across in a taxi minivan battling the crazy traffic conditions across the city); us sitting in the waiting area of what was a very plush privately-funded dedicated maternity hospital; and then being called in – couple by couple – to find out how well the embryo cell growth had been on the eggs we’d been donated.  Then with the consultant we were given the choices for how many eggs to transfer.  For us, we had three eggs of very high quality – and we decided to go for transferring two of them.  This would be on the basis that it was likely that at least one would ‘take’.

So with Mrs Rooster up in stirrups, an assistant came over with a very long syringe contraption; we were asked to confirm who we were; and then the transfer took place. All relatively pain-free; and a little ultrasound photo given to us to confirm – well, to confirm not very much really.

In total we were in sunny Kiev for about four days.  We returned home, full of hope, for the two week wait…


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Pre IVF1

I suppose its best to start at the beginning, before we embarked on IVF.  I met the lovely and cuddly Mrs Rooster nearly ten years ago. We fell in love when we were in our twenties. We had lots of happy times, went on nice holidays together. We got married in 2004.

We first started trying for a family properly in 2006 but knew that our ‘starting a family’ journey wouldn’t be easy.  DW had battled with leukaemia when she was a teenager. The total body irradiation they used to save her life sadly made her little eggs all blank.

So in the Spring of 2006 we approached our local National Health Service (NHS) hospital with the hope that they might be able to help us. They said that our local area didn’t have the necessary budget to do assisted conception but they offered to refer us to a bigger hospital in London. I can’t remember whether we contacted them or whether they did it on our behalf but we got a short response back saying that the waiting list for them was approx 2 years – we’d be joining at about position seventy on a queue. This was rubbish news. We went back to our local hospital who then referred us to a private-sector assisted fertility clinic in London. We went to see them. They told us that to overcome the egg shortage in the UK, we could join their international egg donation programme. Shortage of donors (which was caused not least to the changes to anonymity laws in Europe but attitudes towards buying/selling ‘eggs’, and the illegality of paying donors) meant that they performed the fertilisation and frozen embryo transfer (FET) in  Ukraine – seemingly a world away but only a three hour flight.

We returned to our local healthcare people with this promising news.  Then they dropped the bombshell; they’d be happy to refer us but we’d have to pay the costs ourselves.  We weren’t prepared for this; we’d paid £150 ($250) for the initial consultation and our hospital refused even to refund us this… when it was their freakin’ idea to send us there in the first place!!  We took some time to reflect on how two newly-weds  might rustle up somewhere in the region of £10,000 ($16,000).  We were able to use some inheritance money and quite a big chunk of our accumulated life savings to make up the funds. We understood that the treatment did not guarantee success but that because of our ages (early thirties) and general health and fitness that we stood quite  a good chance.

We were welcomed into the secretive and taboo-ridden world of assisted conception.  We sat in the waiting rooms of a private clinic, wondering about all the other people there – what they were ‘in’ for; how wealthy they were; whether they’d been successful in the past; what the whole experience would be like travelling to some distant land for an unusual medical procedure; but most of all, whether it would work for us. We didn’t want to tell anyone else about it. We thought about whether we could exclude our own parents from the process but we felt that they would want us to be happy and safe, so kept them in the loop.

In my next post I will tell you about our first trip to Kiev in August 2006.

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Introducing the Rooster

It is time for the rooster to speak out about issues of a fertility nature.

The rooster reads the internet and sees many heart-breaking and heart-warming stories about prospective parents going through extraordinary lengths to start or expand their family.  The majority of these stories are from the female perspective. I’d like to help address the imbalance by writing from the male perspective.

I haven’t quite worked out how this is going to work, but we have to start on the journey and share experiences and thoughts. I will speak openly about my own experiences but also preserve an aura of anonymity about me.  People contacting me can be assured that I will not share any details about their experiences that they aren’t comfortable sharing publicly.

So to start…

Me and Mrs Rooster are thirty-something people

We live in England, United Kingdom

We have been now four years on our ‘fertility journey’

Our blend of IVF involves the use of donor eggs

We have had two successful embryo transfers…

… but also suffered two late miscarriages.

We have not given up hope

But the experience of loss is heartbreaking.

I hope that this is the start of something useful for everyone.  I’d encourage anyone you know that has an interest in any of these topics to get in touch, or follow my twitter account (@TheIVFRooster) and let’s see what happens!

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