For the Science!

And again, we lay tensely in bed at eight o’clock in the morning, on Day 5 of our embryos’ existences, waiting for Riverside Clinic to call and let us know how many we still had, and if they could be tested after all. Again, after a long, hot, muggy, sleepless night (we’re having a heat wave here in Blighty. No, stop laughing, I’m serious. 35 C and no air conditioning. Part of the M25 motorway melted earlier this week).

So, we had had six, three in good nick and three looking a little shabbier, that on Day 3 they thought worth doing assisted hatching on and culturing to Day 5.

And now we had, well, one that looked ‘good’, and had hatched; one average, that was hatching, and could be tested, one that was a bit slow but possibly thinking about hatching; and two that were holding up little signs saying ‘I aten’t dead’, but were otherwise massively unbothered by this growth and development nonsense.

The embryologist politely got off the phone for 15 minutes so we could discuss our options.

  1. Put the best-looking one back in this afternoon regardless, because there was no guarantee we could get enough cells to test from the others. This would mean getting absolutely no answers as to the genetic viability of any of them, but we would at least get a transfer out of it. And, if I were to miscarry, another completely unexplained loss. Which seemed, after the clutch-at-the-heartness of it all, a bit fucking pointless.
  2. Test the good one and possibly the mediocre one, culture the rest until tomorrow, and freeze any viable-looking ones. Transfer tomorrow. We could always test the others tomorrow, before freezing, but we’d be charged a whole ‘nother set of lab fees to do so.
  3. Take a wee leap of faith, wait another couple of hours to give the rest a chance to get their act together, test the good one and anything else that had hatched, in the understanding the others were not going to get their acts together for the mere asking, and we could still end up with the one embryo. And might miss the transfer window for this cycle.

It didn’t take us long to decide on option three. Option one, like I said, was just daft after we particularly decided to do IVF with Riverside because they offered rapid CGH array testing. It still stung a little to say goodbye to a guaranteed transfer. Option two was ‘safest’ in terms of not missing the transfer window, but it also limited the amount of knowledge gained, and then there’s the second lab fee… I know, I know, we would do anything for our children, but frankly that includes feeding them should they ever get here. So we asked them to wait, and test what they could test in one go. And they said they’d call us back mid-afternoon, when it was all over, and the samples had been couriered to the UltraLab 60 miles away.

[Recap. By Day 5 an embryo (now blastocyst) has gone from an undifferentiated mass of cells to a bobble that should become a foetus one day, and a ring of cells preparing to become placenta, cord, gestational sac, play-pen, crib and miniature internal ocean. When hatching, a clump of cells breaks through the egg ‘shell’ and, on contact with endometrium, will dig in and make placental noises. You can cut this extrusion off (carefully, with a laser) without hurting the embryo, as it’ll just grew some more. And this little clump of cells can be tested. Assisted hatching on Day 3 (basically, they gently poke a hole in the shell) speeds this up a little and increases the chance of an extrusion by Day 5.]

Oh, Christ, the angst. It was the right decision (‘For the Science!’). It might pay off. It might bite us on the bum in spectacular fashion. The courier might get stuck in molten Tarmac and our samples melt. *Chews nails*

I came away from the conversation with the distinct impression we were pretty much down to one embryo, as the embryologist was unsure she’d be able to biopsy the second one, it being a bit underachievey, and the third hadn’t actually caught up (and the slackers were, eh, slack, and really possibly only being kept in culture as a courtesy). It has all felt like sending a nice little platoon of chin-fluffed soldiers on a long, slow walk across No-Man’s-Land, in bright daylight, straight into enemy machine-gun fire, dressed in hot pink tunics and carrying a bayonet and a feathered hat each.


And then the embryologist called back.

It would seem my embryos take after their Ma, who thrives on lie-ins and a surprise dead-line extension (see my entire academic career from ages 18 to 33). Good embryo was good. Middling embryo was fine, and gave good biopsy. Underachieving embryo had caught up and also gave good biopsy (‘That one was much easier than I thought it would be!’ said the embryologist). And one of the wee slackers had also taken a Great Leap Forward and popped out a wee cell of its own to be taken away and tested. Four! Four biopsied! Admittedly, Wee Fourth’s sample was one cell big, so we’re not that likely to get a result off it, but four! OK, three and a hiccough!

UltraLab will call Riverside at midday. And then Riverside call us. If any of them are normal, we rush to Riverside for transfer ASAP. (It’s all gone a bit Secret Squirrel. The hen has been seen crossing the river! Emergency rendezvous at thirteen hundred!)

We’re going to the cinema his evening, because air conditioning, and distraction. For surely are we not both driven distracted already?


67 responses to “For the Science!

  • Bachelor's Button

    Oh my, oh my! I am on tenterhooks for you! Albeit in a groggy way having just been egg collected. I so hope that they have a goodie to put in. If they are all normal, does it mean that, like me it is an overly robust immune system at play with the miscarriages? Really hoping that this gives you some good knowledge and even more, perhaps a child!! Hxx

    • Hat

      Drat i type too slow.

    • May

      Good luck!

      Yes, if the embryos are normal then the theory is it is me and my homicidal immune system. Hence steroids, Clexane, intralipids, etc.. Belt and braces.

      • Bachelor's Button

        Oh goodness but that sounds great though. I only recently heard about the testing and my clinic in Sussex doesn’t offer it but I’ve always wondered re my killer cells and the need for the buckets of post transfer medication. Rather feels like they just throw the lot at me – though I am now 40 and I don’t produce many eggs so they prob just think – bung em all in as early as possible and give her every fertility drug known to mankind! But I do wonder with hindsight about the necessity.. You are so right to get the info now and use that for future treatment should you need it (still holding out for a baby for you this time!). Science waits for no woman it seems.. In ten years maybe infertility will be a thing of the past… I have w who is an icsi baby with no knowledge re why he of my 8 pregnancies made it, other than a sachet of soya-possibly Xx

  • Hat

    2nd time this week i am seeing the post before any comments. so taking opportunity to be first to post! yay. excited bit of drama. We just saw The Heat with sandra bullock (my dopplegagner) and it was pretty good. a good distraction if you need one 🙂 and you do. boo on not having AC. thats rediculous its 2013 not 1913

    • Mina

      Where May lives, just like where I do, it gets this kind of hot 1.5 times every two years. It would be ridiculous to bother getting AC under such circumstances. So we stoically endure the heat wave, by whinging until ears fall around us. Then we stop. Mainly because we have to put the heating on.

      • May

        That is exactly so. Last summer it rained and we went about in wellies and cardies for three months. Last time we had this much sun all in one go it was 1976 or something.

    • May

      The Heat! A movie that passes the Bechdel test!

  • starrhillgirl

    You have 4 embryos! Hooray!
    Enjoy the movies.
    Here’s the normal and a transfer tomorrow.

  • nonsequiturchican

    Yay for four embryos tested!! Fingers crossed you get good results!

  • QoB

    I hear Pacific Rim is a film to leave your brain at home for, so that could be a contender. Crossing fingers for genetically normal embryos news tomorrow.

    • May

      I fully intend to watch Pacific Rim this week. Tonight, we chose Despicable Me 2, and H is wandering about the house saying ‘bottom’ at random intervals whereupon we both giggle like loons. We’re very mature.

  • J o s e y

    YAY! This post was so fun to read – I’m so glad that 2, 3, and 4 decided to join the party!

  • bionicbrooklynite

    Four! Magnificent! Long may they wave, or do whatever it is embryos do. I am so glad you have enough to get some amount of a real response from all this cgh rigmarole. And boy, I sure do hope you also get a baby. Or no real answers but yes real baby. That would be acceptable, too, universe.

    • May

      Yeah. One live real baby, no answers, is a deal I can totally live with. Totally. I can take a bit of mystery. We can use ‘Austin Powers’ for middle names.

  • Betttina

    Four! And testing! Keep up the good work. I shall cross all my fingers and toes for you.

    I second the recommendation for The Heat (oh, hahaha) as I adore Sandra Bullock..

    • May

      I feel I’m not really doing anything at all. It’s weird, being so powerless. *goes off to shoot up in the bathroom, also pessary, wondering ‘does this count?’*

  • Dora

    Wow! Been reading along, sorry for the lack of commenting. Recovering from my own surgery. What a roller coaster! This is awesome news. Anxious for your next update!

    • May

      Hope all went well.

      Isn’t it roller coastery? Never liked roller coasters. And there’s a whole ‘nother week of it after transfer.

  • Hairy Farmer Family

    Ah, a good old deadline panic never hurt!
    There is a weird-shaped rash on the back of my fingers, which I am 90% sure has been caused by my nibbling them distractedly during protracted crossing of mental fingers. The edge of my seat and I are… intimate. Very intimate.
    *settles down with telescope to watch for The Hen*

  • Amy P

    What everyone else has said 🙂

  • minichessemouse

    Woohoo good job little embryos. Continuing to hope like Hell for you

    So tomorrow they put the healthiest/prettiest back.

    And any spares get frozen for future use?

    I have absolutely everything crossed!

  • Mina

    Hope the distraction works. Things are looking quite nice, them cells of yours are partying like crazy! Can hardly wait for the update!

  • Dr Spouse

    Tap tap tap. That’s the sound of me tapping my toes.

  • Sara

    Science FTW! What a lovely ending to a nail-biting middle section of entry.

  • Jo

    On pins and needles across the ocean. Cannot wait to hear about tomorrow’s transfer! I am betting at least one of those beauties is normal! Cheers for science!

  • twangy

    Four! I loved the bit when those laggers caught up. Molten days indeed and not a dry eye in the house!

    Fingers crossed for the duration, obvs.

    • May

      Well, my DNA has a bit of a thing about narrative arc and suspense, I think. Though I can think of better ways of channelling it.

      (It’s too hot. I’m a snowflake. This is not good).

  • Sheila

    Nearly there, nearly there….

    BTW, my two slowest growing embryos are now 3 month old twin girls, who love to sleep in of a morning, so I reckon your theory has legs to it! Especially as their early rising older brother was a fastest growing embryo…..

    Can’t remember if you’ve said this before or not, but if you have two to transfer, will you transfer both or just one?

    • May

      The original plan was to transfer one. Clinics in Blighty very cautious about multiple transfers. Yay for sleeping babies!

      • Sheila

        I think we might have used the same riverside clinic – they would only let me transfer one the first time too…. After that though, it was two every time. It only takes one though, so hopefully this is the one for you!

        • May

          Oh, yes, of course! You DO know Riverside and HFEA guidelines. They ended up offering us the option of transferring two… Wait. I will blog.

  • Chickenpig

    WOO HOO!!! Four is awesome! Now I need a distraction too because I’ll be thinking of your impending transfer all day 🙂 Keep growing little ones!!!

  • MFA Mama

    Four! Whoo! GAH! Secrecy! Will you be updating the Twitter or something when you know what is going on? Chewing my knuckles in solidarity.

  • Korechronicles

    *Untangling crossed limbs while whimpering about strained ligaments*
    Good-oh than, things are moving along with only a little bit of cliffhanging going on. All sounds most promising but I plan to resume twisted yoga everything crossed position after I finish up at this slightly long educational research seminar today. Will be checking for updates. Furiously. Between yawns.

  • Korechronicles

    …then, not than. Hate iPad predictive text.

  • L.

    Oy vey, the drama! I too am on the edge of my seat. Can’t believe how quickly this has gone (although, when you are waiting for those 8 am calls, I doubt it feels that way). Will also be checking in you anxiously tomorrow!

  • a

    Four! I hope the testing tells you nothing at all, because they are all perfect little embryos looking for a nice home. And I hope all those other interventions whip the despoiler out of Cute Ute. Can’t wait for the next update!

    Also, I love Despicable Me (1 and 2) – how can you not love the minions?

  • Emily Erin

    So happy to hear you have 4! Will be waiting to see what tomorrow holds and thinking good thoughts!

  • Betty M

    Three cheers for Science! Brilliant that the more laid back ones heaved themselves off the sofa to join in.

  • Womb For Improvement

    shit shit shit shit. (that is the excited sort of nail biting “shit”). Come on embryos….

  • Sheila

    It’s almost midday – thinking of you both and crossing fingers and toes for the call!

  • Blanche

    Been thinking of you since yesterday….

  • Melissa

    Good news!! Come on little ones, good results all around!

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