So as you will be aware by now, as a couple we are missing one vital part to make a baby. And when you don’t have the tackle, you have to go out and source those little swimmers.
When we first started out on our journey in 2012, we decided to go to the ‘Inseminar’ which is a free seminar held at London Women’s Clinic, we fondly refer to this as ‘Fanny’s Big Day’. We found out so much during that hour, things that we hadn’t even considered, and had a lot of questions answered. If you are starting out on this journey I would highly recommend that or something similar just to get you going. Also I look so young in the photo below, well compared to my haggard-self with super eyebags now – and as much as I loved that skirt and bag, that is def not me anymore – also where are my eyebrows?
As a same sex couple, for us and others, there are a couple of options. We could ask for help from those we know and use a known donor. We could source an ‘unknown’ donor ourselves or we could use a clinic.
For us the clinic was the only option. We knew that this would be the most expensive choice, but there were so many factors that were right for us. For example, through a clinic Zoe would be the legal guardian of our baby at birth and would not have to adopt them. This was something I wanted. I can’t imagine having to adopt your own child – that was not going to happen for us.
There were really only a couple of contenders and after Zoe did her research (researching shiz is definitely her forte) we decided on London Women’s Clinic. To us, and I’m sure others who use a clinic especially for the first time, this is a super daunting experience. Not only are you embarking on something which is going to change your life forever, but there is so much of the unknown involved.
After making that decision and having our initial consultation, I was promoted at work and we knew that I couldn’t embark on both of those things at this point. The new role was more stressful and far less flexible in terms of schedule so we held off for a bit. We live and work in Kent and the travel to London, although not ridiculously far, when you factor in travel to and from stations, the train times etc. It was just not the right time. And that was definitely the right decision for us.
During that time though we did all we could to get my body (and our bank balances) in the best place to grow a baby. Neither of us smoked, I don’t drink and Zoe only occasionally. But we did eat out a lot! I gave up caffeine, tried to eat less sugar etc. But you know we still had to live so it wasn’t super strict, just doing little bits here and there. Incidentally, my skin vastly improved when I stopped drinking caffeine and there is always decaf!
Skip forward to 2014 where we decided that we were ready and headed back to the clinic. We had further consultations and based on the fact that I had no known fertility issues (just no sperm available in our relationship) we started with IUI – here comes the science bit…Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a simple procedure that involves transferring specially washed semen directly into the uterus via a thin catheter. You may have heard of it more commonly as artificial insemination.
We started by tracking my cycle which was something that I had never done before, but that mucus you get down there maybe a couple of weeks before your period, that’s ovulation – I know, who knew right – well we didn’t. And it goes through different stages to bring you to your optimum fertile window. You can track this by peeing on a stick, tracking your temperature when you wake up as well as the physical changes in your vaginal discharge. I know, I know, discharge was not one of my favourite words, along with the words panties and moist, but I quickly got over it – for the record panties and moist are still a no-go for me!
When you think you are ovulating, through intense scrutiny of your vaginal secretions, you call the clinic. Making this call at the right time is completely down to you – no pressure! The IUI procedure is basically like having a smear test. Funny story though, during one of the procedures, I snapped a speculum. Yep that’s right, snapped it in half…inside of me, with my vadge of steel. Even funnier story is this wasn’t the first time it had happened, it also occurred once in an actual smear test. Both plastic, not metal I might add, I’m not superwoman!
So after the 5 minute procedure, that’s it. At first we, by we I mean I, asked all of the questions: Do I need to lay down with my legs up now? No, oh ok. Can I put my tights back on, will they be too tight? Yes you can. Great. What happens now? Well, you just go about your regular day and then you wait 14 days to do your pregnancy test.
Flashback to before you book in your IUI. Picking the sperm. That process is basically the same as picking a piece of furniture online. It is pretty much an online catalogue of sperm donors. You don’t get to see who they are but you get some characteristics such as eye colour, hair colour, skin colour, nationality, height, weight and then some other bits such as religion, allergies and profession etc. You filter to what you are looking for. You can compare donors like you do on any other shopping site and then you put your chosen donor in the basket, honestly, it’s just like picking a new sofa. The clinic will then send you over a form to sign, then it’s all ordered and waiting for the call that you are ready to go in. We purchased our swimmers from the London Sperm Bank at the bargain price of £850 a time (which had been increased to £950 last time we saw, and could be even more now).
We tried IUI a few times and then we tried home insemination again with an unknown donor, but this time with a sperm bank in Denmark. You again choose your donor based on characteristics. The difference being that some donors submit pictures of themselves as babies. You also pay more or less for the sperm depending on the quality and number of swimmers per ml. The better the grade, the more you pay however it was still cheaper than here (all donor sperm at the LSB cost the same). It arrives via DHL in the bright yellow chest we called the dalek, frozen in liquid nitrogen with stickers on the side stating ‘Human Tissue’ (I wish I could find the pictures!) I wonder what the delivery people thought was going on. Probably that we were some kind of Frankenstein couple, attempting to create life – some of that is true I guess. When ordering you choose when you want it delivered, this needs to be the same day or the day before you are ovulating. If you have a regular cycle then that’s relatively simple. If like me you don’t, this is quite tricky. If it comes too soon, the liquid nitrogen won’t keep those swimmers frozen and if it arrives too late you could miss your window of ovulation.
Once you are ready, you open up the dalek and you thaw the contents for 10 minutes. You are supplied with a needleless syringe and you pop it in yourself. You obviously can’t get as close as the clinic can but you can get as far as a man and woman trying for a baby can. Oh another funny story, although this was absolutely not funny at the time. We were getting ready to free the swimmers and thawing them out. I attached the vial to the syringe and filled it up. Then I actually do not know what happened, but I somehow pushed the plunger and sent it flying everywhere. It sounds funny now, but at the time, it was literally heart-breaking. Luckily we had another vial, but we had ordered two to better our chances and instead we literally spunked it up the wall (maybe that’s too vulgar – welcome to our blog!)
After several attempts, we decided the odds of conceiving through these processes were not great. It may work for some but it wasn’t meant to be for us and so we started on our IVF journey…The one about our IVFjourney – coming soon