I met with our reproductive endocrinologist again, and we discussed what may have contributed to the cycle not working this time. The working theory now was that my windy cervix (which was making the transfers difficult) was probably compromising the quality of the embryos. They needed to be placed in the tubing, transferred from the incubator, and injected into my uterus quickly. 30-40 minute transfers with embryos being exposed to the environment countless times was a huge problem.
My reproductive endocrinologist had the bright idea that we should try dilating my cervix in order to get a straighter path into the uterus. This would require a procedure done under general anesthesia in the operating room. I was willing to try it. It made sense to me that this was one of the only factors that was complicating the process now. We had good quality embryos. I didn’t have any fertility issues. What else could it be?
The date was set, and I was scheduled for surgery. It was now February. I arrived to the operating room with Dave at my side. He was allowed to be present during the procedure just because he was a resident. He wasn’t allowed to touch anything, but he could stand by my side. He knew many of the people in the room. It felt strange to have such bright lights shining on my naked “waist down”. The mask when to my face and the meds went into my IV. I was gone. The next thing that I remembered was waking up behind a recovery curtain.
This was the step-down recovery unit. It wasn’t quite as private because there were only hanging curtains separating the beds. I woke up to severe cramps. A catheter had been placed in my cervix and left there. The idea was to keep it in for 14 days to stretch things out and make the path less difficult to navigate. 14 days of bliss!
I could hear voices down the hall. An older man was complaining in very loud tones. The person responding sounded familiar. I identified her as one of my husband’s coresidents. My nurse appeared and asked how I was feeling. I was dying. The cramps felt like labor (not that I really had labor as a comparison…clearly). I needed more pain medication. The nurse said that she had given me all that she could and that she had never had anyone with this procedure before to know what else to do. I was too groggy to argue. I felt the weight of the pain meds, but they weren’t touching my pain. Narcotics are worthless for cramps. I needed anti-inflammatory meds.
After a while I was transferred to a real room. Only after the fact did I find out that Dave never pulled my curtain fully across in the step-down unit. I was in view of everyone coming down the hallway, including a medical student that both of us knew. Why hadn’t he protected my privacy! He was supposed to be my shield and my protection. He had failed me. How could he have been so thoughtless in my state of extreme vulnerability? Such an innocent mistake, but husbands…pull the curtain!
My discomfort continued. The nurse called my physician to see if there was anything more that they could do. She encouraged me to empty my bladder because a full bladder could be making me cramp more. I think that it took me 10 minutes to walk to the bathroom and then another 10 just to empty my bladder. I was more than a little full, but the cramping was not much better. Another phone call to my physician with another recommendation for increased pain medications. The nurse was a little nervous to give me the full dose that she had recommended. I was still to groggy from anesthesia to really argue. I went home, crampy and groggy, but happy that this might be the key to our success.
Day one after surgery, when I was much more alert, I was also much more aware of the uncomfortable sensation of plastic sticking into my vulva. Every time that I moved or sat down I could feel the catheter poking into me. My infertility specialist called to see how I was doing. “I would be much better if I didn’t have a plastic dagger killing my vagina,” I informed her. Thankfully she quickly suggested that we cut the length down so that I wouldn’t feel it. I readily agreed. Once again, my legs found their way into the stirrups and a light was shown where no light should shine. After the shortening of the catheter I was much more comfortable. Now I only had to get through 2 weeks before the catheter was removed, and then we could start the IVF process again.
Unfortunately, Valentines Day fell during those two weeks. So much for romance and intimacy! Both of those sort of drop to the bottom of your check list when you have a plastic tube shoved through your cervix and hanging into your vagina. One of the infertility doctors actually asked how my Valentines Day had been. Really???
On the day that I went in to have the catheter removed, I was relieved but a little nervous at how painful it would be coming out. They had told me that I wouldn’t need any numbing or anesthesia; just a good old fashion tug was the way to get it out. With a sheepish look on my face, I asked the doctor if it was going to be very painful. His response made my day. “For some women this would be unbearable, but, Emma, for you this will be a piece of cake.” “Really?” I retorted not really in disbelief, but more as a way to confirm my strength. He proceeded to tell me that I was pretty darn tough. With everything that I had already been through, I really hadn’t complained much. Some women he informed me had a really hard time with even the least invasive portions. I’m not sure if it was my personality that drove me to hide my discomfort, or my pride, or my determination to stay strong. Either way, it felt good to have someone acknowledge that I was tough. I had been through a lot, and I was still pushing ahead. I prepared myself for the catheter removal, now resolved not to show any signs of pain. One quick tug and it was over. Not too bad after all. I mean, I wouldn’t want to repeat it if I didn’t have too, but in general…not too bad.