We made it to egg retrieval! We were not cancelled this time! Eight days of stimming and four monitoring appointments at which I was so nervous I couldn’t look at the screen for fear of finding a big ghostly nothing (I think my RE thought I was going to start crying when I put my hand over my eyes) finally led to a retrieval this past Wednesday, on Halloween.

Coulda gone better. Coulda gone much, much worse.

It was a moving target, too: first it was supposed to be 11/2, then 10/30, then 10/31. By the time we got a confirmation for 10/31, I had just about run out of working nerves. This was compounded by a last-minute scare in which my RE told me my estrogen levels had started to fall which meant I might already be releasing eggs. Actually, I don’t think he was scared, I think he was just thorough in explaining the situation, but when you’ve got about $4,500 of hormone drugs in your bloodstream the two are indistinguishable.

The nurse brought me back to earth, bless her. I told R. that this nurse and doctor pair are fabulous. He gives calm, impartial, intelligent information. She explains what it all means and thoughtfully tacks on adjectives like “good” and “bad.” In fact, it’s a bit like this Key & Peele sketch.

She basically said, “We’ll give you an injection to stop that,” and by that point I just took the needle from her and jabbed myself because my higher-level brain functions were out of commission and I would have injected myself with paint thinner if they told me it would help.

The retrieval itself: indulge my narcissism, will you?

We showed up at the clinic at 5:15 a.m. on Wednesday, too tired to be nervous. I filled out paperwork and changed (blue gown, non-skid socks). Poor R.: he’s come with me to monitoring appointments, but this was his first time to see me – or anyone he knows, probably – in full-on patient garb. As much as a shapeless hospital gown made me feel like a total supermodel, I can appreciate that there are a few angles on the whole “in sickness and in health” part of marriage that are harder on the caregiver, because you’re over there feeling powerless and embarrassed but nobody else actually gives a flip about you because you’re not the one about to have your vag explored most thoroughly by a team of goodness-knows-how-many.

Which isn’t to say we ladies don’t have the complete crap-end of the stick with this IVF deal. I told the nurse who was prepping me, “You know, if you guys told me right now, ‘Change of plans! Instead, we want you to go into a room for twenty minutes and have an orgasm, and that’s it,’ I would be totally down with that.”

“I’d do it twice on Sunday,” she agreed.

Then a parade began in and out of my room. Four? Five? people came to explain things and/or get my signature. I liked the junior embryologist best: she was a perky youngish gal with a colorful surgical cap who stayed for 15 seconds, got my signature, and said, “I’ll see you in the OR! But you won’t remember,” then scooted out. Truth in advertising.

Then it was showtime. A new nurse came to get me. As she was helping me put the hairnet thing on, I told her, “On Grey’s Anatomy, people always wake up with really good hair. Do you think you guys can work with me on that?”

She just said, “We don’t have a hairdresser.”

That right there is the sound of a joke falling flat.

She wheeled me to the OR in a most humorless fashion. It’s remarkable how little I remember, even being sans anesthesia to that point. Nerves, probably. I do recall that there were only two people besides me there: Nurse Frownyface and the anesthesiologist.

Nurse Frownyface untied my gown and had me lie down on the table, arms out to the sides. The anesthesiologist hooked up a new tube to my IV. “You should start to feel sleepy in a few seconds.”

The ceiling was still for a moment, and then it most definitely was not stationary. Nurse Frownyface piled some lovely warm blankets on me, and I think I remember saying, “That feels very nice,” but in actuality it probably came out as, “Yeah right.”

See, I have all these memories of saying articulate things to people, but R. informs me that basically the only thing I said for at least 30 minutes after coming to was, “Yeah right.”

The very next thing I can recall is my bed bumping against the wall as they parked me back in my room and somebody – no clue who – saying something about it being over. And I’m aware of how completely routine an egg retrieval is from the standpoint of a fertility center, but can I observe for just a moment the sheer weirdness of falling asleep and then waking up with the information that some number of people have just been messing with your lady parts for the past 20 minutes?

Time did a lovely accordion thing wherein I kept closing my eyes and opening them to discover things happening or myself in the middle of what I thought was an actual conversation (“Yeah right”). Can’t have been too bad. R. did snap a picture (hell no am I posting it here) in which I’m grinning like a sloth pooping on a tree trunk.

The numbers: R. revealed to me that while I was still in some other part of the building, the RE came and told him we only got four eggs, but they were still counting. The RE said he’d expected nine, based on my scans. Thankfully I took this in from within the haze of drugs; I really thought I’d taken advantage of the alliterative powers of the word “four” and the f-bomb, although apparently all that came out was – you guessed it – “Yeah right.”

After some time, the embryologist came in and said he’d found six. Hard to be upset about six when at first you were moping over only four.

(I asked later why not nine; I was told that sometimes the follicles just “don’t give up the eggs.” So apparently my eggs are not only scarce – they are also clingy little whiners who don’t want to face the real world of the fallopian tube. Come on, ladies. I raised you better than that.)

Multiple people assured me that this is not so bad as all that. All six eggs turned out to be mature. I’m holding back on posting more numbers at this point for a reason I don’t entirely understand but I think it has to do with a desire on my part to dump my memory of this experience somewhere and then intentionally walk away from it so I can do something other than go off the deep end from worry and sadness and obsession.

Yeah right.

At any rate: Thanks for reading the novella. I’ve slowed down my commenting but I am still following a good many of you. My blogroll has shortened as more and more people have gotten pregnant and are gleefully posting belly pictures – but the other day I realized, perhaps that’s a good sign – that so many people have reached the end of this particular road and started down a new one.

Good luck with your own cycles, everybody. May we all see the far side of this in the way we envision, soon.