Maybe baby – part 3 (Taming of the patient)

Under the regulations of the subsidy for IVF treatment here, the maximum number of embryos implanted is two. The remaining embryos are froze and stored for the “frozen cycle”. I don’t like the “fresh cycle” of the IVF procedure. Not only did I have to go through the trauma of numerous injections, I also had to endure Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS) which resulted from production of too many eggs. The hormone jabs cause a chemical that results in the capillaries being more leaky and so fluid accumulated within the abdominal cavity and other spaces (third space). My tummy got really bloated, like I was pregnant or something. First time I experienced it, it was pretty uncomfortable, I couldn’t eat much because of the bloated sensation, and I was tired. I felt like a beached whale! Thank God the symptoms went away after about 2 weeks.

When I went to see SF Loh to consult on next step (unfortunately the fresh cycle wasn’t successful), I told him that I suffered from OHSS, he said no you did not, and I retorted yes I did, and the argument went back and forth. I was so tempted to tell him, “you never had to go through the injections!” Anyway I had been doing some research and found out from the American fertility centers that implanting blastocyst has higher chance of pregnancy compared to 2-day embryo. In fact they claimed they have improved the methods of growing blastocysts and thawing them for implant. So during the consultation to arrange for the frozen cycle, I told Loh I wanted to have blastocyst implanted since I had a couple of them frozen in storage. He said it was not true that blastocyst worked better, and that even when Japanese researchers tried to inject the blastocyst right into the uterus to make sure it was embedded, that didn’t improve the pregnancy rate. And he told me an analogy, “if you are a parent with a primary 6 kid, you try your best to make sure he scores well at PSLE. But if he didn’t what are you going to do about it?” And I was like wondering what has PSLE got to do with blastocyst?

I wasn’t really convinced by Loh, instead I bought into the marketing by the American fertility centers that they were more advanced and had better expertise. After the consultation, my husband told me I should stop fighting with Loh. But I didn’t start the fight, I only suggested to use blastocyst based on my research. My husband rebutted that I was literally telling Loh what to do when I was not even the expert. I was still pretty skeptical of Loh then. I trawled the internet to dig up criticisms of him from patients, and look for other recommended IVF experts. I told my husband that I didn’t think Loh was competent since the procedure failed, and there was negative feedback on him. I suggested that we should check out this clinic at Gleneagles Medical Center, O&G Fertility Center, set up by one of the pioneers of IVF treatment in Singapore, Prof Ng Soon-Chye. One of the other partners, Dr LC Foong, is highly recommended in some forums, and said to have excellent bedside manners. But my husband’s response was “we’ll see.”

There was no action from my husband other than to accompany me to see Loh, to make sure that I didn’t fight with him again. In fact for the next visit, he specified that he would do the talking instead of me. So he did, but I couldn’t let go of the blastocyst issue. I whispered to my husband to remind him, and Loh heard and again reiterated that blastocyst was not a sure-fire way to pregnancy. Well, what can I say except that I’m a stubborn pig. My husband will tell you even if you bring the horsey to the water, if the horsey doesn’t wanna drink, you can’t force it. He could be referring to the procedure or me, which he might add the horsey needs to be kicked in the ass.

Eventually my husband didn’t accompany me to the routine consultations after I promised I would be well behaved. I went to see Loh alone. This time I had the help of alcohol. Nope, not that I had to take a stiff one before I met him, but it so happened there was some office celebration on a late Friday afternoon. We had finger food and wine, and I actually had a few glasses of red and white, and this is someone who can’t hold her liquor well. (I used to be able to down tequila shots with beer, cocktails and whatever in my foolish younger days.) So when it was time for me to leave for my appointment, I was already half drunk. My colleague, Jenny, commented that I usually stomped around the office but that afternoon, I was gliding. I was literally smiling and nodding my head at whatever anybody was saying regardless of whether it was directed at me. My colleagues couldn’t stop laughing. They asked me if I could make it for my appointment in one sane piece. I thought since I was taking a cab to KKH, it wouldn’t be any problem.

I arrived at KKH without incidents and went straight to the private suite to register. I walked slowly to the counter and spoke to the nurse even more slowly, “I… am… here… to see……. Dr..Loh.” Amazingly the nurse didn’t even blink an eye, in fact she gave me the queue number calmly as if a half drunk patient was a dime a dozen. Part of me knew I had to try to get rid of as much alcohol as I could out of my system. My colleague was texting me and I was replying in badly misspelled English back to her. I think I managed to pee a couple of times before I saw Loh, but I was still not completely sober.

I went into the consultation room and greeted him with a smile for the first time ever. He probably wondered whether I struck the lottery, or maybe he should get a lottery ticket instead. Seeing me in such a good and docile mood, he brought up the blastocyst issue without prompting. I just kept quiet throughout. Then he asked me, “have I told you about the Indian story?” I shook my head and said no. He recounted this strange incident which left me confused what message he was trying to tell me, that I shouldn’t hound him like a debt collector, or I should persevere in my IVF treatment? I just stared at him, didn’t know what to say. Well, at least I was well behaved, I didn’t pick a fight with him, albeit with the help of liquor.

He gave me a letter to hand over to the IVF center on instruction for the next frozen cycle. When I read it later, he actually put down to transfer blastocyst! When I met Dr Funnybones during the consultation after an ultrasound scan a few weeks later, I told him about the arrangement. He has the same view as Loh that blastocyst wouldn’t make much difference. I told him Loh agreed to it, and he went, “really?” To be honest, Funnybones is not his name. It’s the nickname we gave him for his sense of humor. I told him I felt like a junkie after all the injections, and he quipped, “but without the high.” Exactly! I haven’t seen him around for quite a long time; I suppose he must have transferred to another hospital or left for private practice.

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