For those of you not schooled in Greek, that’s fear of needles – belone is ‘needle’ in Greek – who knew? Not me. I looked it up. Anyway. If you happen to suffer from belonephobia, I think you’re probably going to struggle with this egg-freezing lark. I’m very lucky, I don’t. I mean, it’s not like I love being jabbed with a sharp object, that would be lunacy. But of all the many things I’m terrified of (birds, mice, people being sick, dying alone, never falling in love again, falling in love again), needles isn’t one of them.
I’ve been a blood donor since the age of 18, probably because my Dad was and, when I was a kid and he had to look after me, I’d occasionally go with him, so I never feared them like I know some people do. Which is handy, because egg freezing involves a lot of needles.
First of all there are the blood tests. There seem to be quite a lot of them. Before I even started out, I had blood taken so they could assess everything from testosterone level to thyroid function, HIV and hepatitis, then I had another blood test for AMH and, during the cycle, they usually take blood on the day of every scan so they can check your oestrogen levels haven’t gone off the scale. (I’m not really sure what that scale is – today I was told that at 2411 – nah, don’t know what the units are either – mine was high for the number and size of the follicles I have and the upshot is they’re only increasing my dose to 200, not the 300 that they wanted to. And I’m not really sure what happens if you get loads of oestrogen – among other things, you probably cry. A lot. )
Having someone else stick a needle in you is quite different from having to do it yourself though. I had a session with a nurse before I started my first cycle and she explained how each drug was injected, where to inject it etc etc. The Gonal-f is pretty easy – it comes in a pen that you use with a new, single-use, screw-on, screw-off needle each time you use it. You turn the dial to the amount you want to inject, grab hold of a chunk of belly, stick the needle in all the way, then slowly press the plunger at the top of the pen, hold it in there for ten seconds then slowly pull the needle out. The Ovitrelle also comes in a pretty much idiot-proof pen.
But then there’s the Cetrotide. That’s harder – although if you like Breaking Bad / A-Level Chemistry, you might quite like it. You have to put a big needle on the syringe and inject the liquid into a little vial containing powder, then swirl it – but not shake it – ’til it’s all dissolved, then get all the solution back in the syringe without getting any air bubbles in it, then switch needles and finally inject yourself. Basically it feels like there is a massive amount of potential to fuck it up. I rationalised that actually there can’t be that much potential to fuck it up because thousands of people do it all the time and if it was being fucked up on a regular basis, they’d come up with another way of doing it.
Although I pretty much guarantee that you will think that you’ve fucked it up the first time – not least because you’ll probably get a hot, bumpy rash where you injected it. It goes away after an hour or two, and you can put ice on it or something. But apparently that’s normal. Normal becomes quite a relative term in this process, I’ve found.