Blast Off!

April 1, 2010 at 2:34 am (Uncategorized)

Credit for today’s title goes to Llew and relates to yesterday’s main event: the transfer proceeded as hoped, and we now have a blast[ocyst] on board. I’m currently waiting to hear if any of its companions are fit to freeze, and if so, how many. “Back up,” my granddad always used to say, “ you must have back up.” As you can imagine, Granddad and I understood each other very well. There’s no running out of toilet paper at my house.

IVF is a crazy old numbers game, though. After having 9 dividing little petri-dish-dwellers one day, it went back up to 10 the next, so we were looking surprisingly robust. Still, I knew there would be a big dip from day 4 to 5, they warned us about that last time (it’s why they like keeping them under observation until day 5, because eggs can still look perfect on days 3-4, but just won’t cut the mustard at blast stage), and sure enough when we arrived at the clinic yesterday, we found our troops decimated: one blastocyst to transfer, with a possible 3 to freeze, but even then they said it was too soon to say. They’re going to confirm if we have any back up sometime today, so I’m just trying not to think about it. I can’t influence the result.

And now the next part of the waiting game is underway. I said to my friend T that it’s Groundhog Day, and it really is. I’ve been here before. But one thing is different, and that’s the precise, mysterious and unique nature of the blast that’s hopefully making itself comfortable. It’s different every single time. Is this one destined to be our little friend? I don’t know. I just do not know. But it’s a new chance, and I feel hopeful just for getting to take it.

In other news, Llew and I went on a date the night before the transfer, and we saw a great play at the Ensemble Theatre: Ninety, by Joanna Murray-Smith. Heady writing – whip smart, hilarious, and wrenching – with pitch perfect performances from the two cast members (I wonder if Joanna Murray-Smith is remotely conscious of how commercially compelling such a modest cast list is…? Producers must love her!), Brian Meegan as William and Kate Raison as Isabel. William, Isabel’s ex-husband, agrees to spend 90 minutes with her before he flies off to marry another woman, and Isabel uses the time to try to persuade William that he should give their love for each other another chance.

We absolutely loved it, and Llew in particular is pretty hard to impress. I’m not a harsh critic of live performance, as a general rule, because I’m always so utterly entranced by the elaborate three-dimensional game of make-believe. I have retained what I know is a juvenile awe of the stage, and am always disposed in its wild favour. You have to really abominably stink before the lunatic grin is wiped from my face. I just adore being there, in the dark, watching the players construct a temporary universe out of thin air. It gives me a little rush just sitting here thinking about it now, far from the stalls, squinting in the glaring light of reality and the everyday.

All this might make you think you can’t trust a review from me, the beaming idiot in the audience, but I know a wise, true play when I see one, and Ninety, a deceptively simple work structurally, verily crackles with the universals. First rate. So much so that I was very curious about Murray-Smith’s CV, and the niggling question of why I hadn’t seen any of her previous work. It seems at least part of the answer lies here.

Sadly it was all over in, well, ninety, and since it began at the blue-rinse happy hour of 6 pm (we were the youngest in the audience by about three decades), we were able to make a night of it by heading off for a leisurely dinner afterwards (usually the plays start at 8 and we can be found bolting food on a street corner in the half hour beforehand – Llew actually had an easier job leaving work at 5:30 than he ever has leaving work at seven!). Llew was in full ‘solicitous husband’ mode, having already booked a table for two at the just opened Manly Pavilion restaurant. I guess in a way it was like leaving the kids with the babysitters… except I don’t know what time they call lights out at the lab.

One final word, and of course it’s on books: that Dave Eggers short story collection How We Are Hungry contains some unforgettable writing I know I’ll return to, and which I highly recommend to anyone, but perhaps particularly those who struggle with their own short form writing, as I do; Kirsten Reed’s debut novel The Ice Age I think I’ll review properly next post; I’m now reading DeLillo’s latest Point Omega (and yes, I really should have gotten off my arse and asked to review it for one of the papers…because – and look, this is a slightly embarrassing, altogether foreign concept – it’s possible, even likely, that I’m the preeminent DeLillo scholar in this country, so it’s ludicrous to the point of actual shame not doing anything with that) and Hilary Mantel’s An Experiment in Love. As for my redrafting, well, I’d better get back to it. The elves are still on strike.

POSTSCRIPT: Okay, so tales of the unexpected continue unabated: of yesterday’s three possible blasts for freezing, they’ve frozen….four. Four! Wow! Apparently an extra one caught up… which is what our second blast from round one did. It’s still on ice because we decided to go for another round, and now it’s got company. Again, there’s no guarantee any of them will survive thawing or prove to be stayers, but they each represent a microscopic chance, and no one can ask for more than that. They’re our little sleeping beauties.



  1. Samantha said,

    Hi Di,

    Congrats on this outcome; it’s really wonderful news. As someone who has only managed to proceed to embryo transfer on 4 occasions over 11 cycles, it is definitely the Holy Grail, for as you rightly pointed out, you can’t even hope to become pregnant unless you get to this final stage of a cycle. And as I have only too keenly experienced, there are many pitfalls along the way.

    Of those 5 frozen blasts that are now keeping each other company, at least 3 or 4 should thaw so if the need should arise, you’ve got plenty to work with down the track. It should also mitigate the need for another stim cycle. And after this last cycle, I can quite imagine that that is one big relief.

    We are off to Mount Kosciusko for Easter to attempt to walk Australia’s highest peak. We’ve walked East Timor’s highest (Mount Ramelau) which is higher than Kosciusko. I’m in very good condition (I’ve lost 12 kg since the miscarriage and continue to up the ante on the treadmill at the gym) but the weather will be cool with expected showers (about 12oC during the day and 0oC at night). So we’ll see how we go. However, it will be lovely to be out in nature again before we head into IVF cycle #12 (or the fourth mild stim approach) in mid/late April.

    Don’t forget to keep those legs crossed for the next week or so!

    A Happy Easter to you.

    Best wishes,


    • doctordi said,

      Thanks, Sam. It’s funny, because of course the Holy Grail remains the elusive ‘Take Home Baby’ more than just the blast result, so while I am happy and relieved it went well, I wouldn’t say I’m breathing easy… although yes, I am truly DELIGHTED to know that if this transfer is unsuccessful, there’s options on ice that will hopefully save me from doing another full cycle. That’s a really big relief in itself. Really big, and I’m duly grateful for the let off.

      The walk sounds FANTASTIC – and you scored a fine weekend, I hope? Someone told me it’s rained 70 of the last 100 Easter long weekends, so perhaps we should be ludicrously superstitious and take the fair weather as an encouraging sign of our own forecast?! Let’s!

      • Samantha said,

        Hi Di,

        Yes of course the take home baby is the ultimate Holy Grail but from this vantage point, just managing to proceed to embryo transfer is such an enormous feat (granted, from your vantage point, the baby is the Holy Grail). I’ve had a mere one embryo transfer post the IVF miscarriage (it was this time last year that I entered the fifth cycle which resulted in a clinical pregnancy; so one embryo transfer in 8 months is a very poor outcome). As a result, I’ve just about given up on imagining any baby and simply dream about a grade A four cell two day old embryo! Ahh how my expectations have fallen …

        I walked Mount Kosciuszko in 7 hours. It was an 18 km walk with a gradient of 1 km. Easy peasy! The weather held out although I did manage to get stung by a wasp (a native Paper I believe although it could have been the dreaded European variety). Whatever its origin, it bloody well hurt!

        I received a response from the Federal Health Minister (actually a bureaucrat in the Health Department) to my letter regarding the steep rise in out of pocket costs for IVF due to capping of the Medicare rebates. It avoided answering the substantive issues I raised so I have written a follow up letter to the Minister.

        I have a meeting with my pro bono lawyer in two weeks (in fact, the day I am due to start cycle number 12) re a legal opinion on whether it is worth fighting the Victorian government on the police record and child custody order checks in the Supreme Court .

        So while I might not be having any luck with IVF post the IVF miscarriage, I do appear to be progressing somewhat on the activist front. And at least this aspect of enduring IVF feels good.

        Keep those legs crossed! (and thanks for the encouraging forecast).



  2. charlotteotter said,

    Holding thumbs for all your beauties.

    I laughed at your description of yourself in the theatre, as I’m much the same. The only thing that impinges on the suspended reality for me is when people burst into song. I’m completely intolerant of any form of musical theatre and most especially opera (outing myself as a philistine here).

    • doctordi said,

      Thanks, Charlotte. I’m pretty curious to see where we’re at this time next week.

      Oh yes, agreed. We are not musical lovers, although interestingly I except opera from this rule. Not that I am a mad fan, just that it’s a special case and therefore gets special allowances. But otherwise? No. Please do not break into song mid-sentence.

  3. davidrochester said,

    “The blue-rinse happy hour” has now entered my personal phrase lexicon.

    Sounds very hopeful for your little dividers — sending you all the well-wishes in the world.

    • doctordi said,

      I am honoured!

      Thanks, David – yes, it’s a day by day thing, but so far, so good. I’ll take your well-wishes and, like that impudent little Oliver, humbly ask for more.

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    Way to go for the blastocytes! I also love live theatre. There is something magical about it, different from film. It sounds like a wonderful evening and I enjoyed hearing about it.

    • doctordi said,

      Thanks, Lilian. Yes, it’s been another good run as far as the initial results are concerned, but I tell you what, the distance between the transfer and a possible baby in a basket is daunting in the extreme for someone who’s had this kind of trouble. I’m going to take a punt and say for ANYONE who’s had this kind of trouble. Because you become just so vigilant about managing your expectations and meting out your daily milestones in a way I don’t believe women who fall and remain pregnant easily ever feel.

      Oh yes, sooo different to film, I agree. It’s completely magical, I love it whenever we go.

  5. Norwichrocks said,

    I’ve been thinking of you both since Wednesday and I’m delighted to hear that the transfer went well, and that four little blast chums are now ‘on ice’, too. Excellent!

    Hope you’ve had a relaxing Easter weekend? I read three books, saw two films (one brilliant, one disappointing), went on one date and ate far too much chocolate.

    Oh, and I just live round the corner from the Ensemble 🙂

  6. doctordi said,

    Thanks, NR! Yes, Easter was really pretty fabulous, although everyone who crossed our threshold brought chocolate, and Llew’s declared himself on a health kick, so I really don’t know what to do with this stash. Might send it up to Nana, she’s a sweetie tooth like you.

    Right, well next time we are headed there I will email you in advance and perhaps we can meet up before or after.

  7. Pete said,

    Great news re the little blasts. I hope they’re in the settling mood. And with all that chocolate and good food around, why not? Stay, little ones! Holding thumbs for you. And loved your description of the play. I’m sure the actors loved having your beaming grin cheering them on.

    • doctordi said,

      Thanks, Pete. Yes, it is good news. And my very old and dear friend who was doing IVF for the first time in the UK, just a week or so ahead of me, is now… PREGNANT! So that’s fantastic news for her, and gives me renewed hope for the rest of us. It may have been her first attempt, but her egg reserve is apparently quite low and there was a question mark over quality too, so this is a wonderful surprise to her.

  8. doctordi said,

    Hi Sam
    18 kms?! That’s a fair walk. I’m really glad you weren’t doing it in the rain… Llew was recently stung by a wasp too – I couldn’t get close enough to it to use my Wasp Season ID skills, but I wonder if they were both trying to relay a message to Jenny…?!

    Yes, I was worried my comment about the Holy Grail still being the THB would be unhelpful, and I’m sorry if that sounded ungrateful or ungracious, because I do know every little milestone becomes its own Holy Grail. Every day that passes without bleeding has become one since the transfer, for instance. Every single day feels like an accomplishment. So I do know just what you mean. Again, I think one of the hardest aspects of this process is managing one’s expectations while simultaneously maintaining optimism – it’s a pretty tall order.

    Well done on the activism front, I hope the meeting goes well and that the timing with the next cycle proves happily significant.

    Clear skies ahead!

    • Samantha said,

      Thanks Di. That’s very sweet of you.

      When I see Jenny next I will discuss the wasp incident with her as she is after all the expert (I wouldn’t be so peeved if it was the native paper that stung me; it’s still itchy five days later).

      Indeed managing one’s expectations while simultaneously maintaining optimism is a very tall order.

      And congrats to your friend who despite the seemingly poor prognosis has become pregnant so quickly. May it be a stayer.



      P.S. I love your little aphorisms.

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