Before

Justine: The morning of the egg retrieval, I woke up feeling cool, calm and collected- not really what I expected but no complaints! Hopped out of bed, enjoyed the shower and put on a comfy (yet cute!) outfit. I was really excited and couldn’t wait to get the day moving along!

Dan: HA! Me? Not so much. I hardly slept the night before, too much going through my head. Thoughts of what Justine would have to endure the next day (anesthesia, surgery, discomfort, pain, the list went on and on) and the fact there were no guarantees…added to my sleepless night.

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Justine: We got to the office, checked in and waited. In reality, we didn’t wait that long to be called for the procedure, but let me tell you, it felt like an eon. Making matters worse, I couldn’t keep my attention locked on any one specific thing for more than a few seconds. My eyes darted from the TV (Kathie Lee and Hoda were playing) to the pile of magazines on the table in front of me, to my phone where I had the sweetest text messages from friends and family (“I hope you get more eggs than the Easter bunny!”) and then, of course, to Dan, who was really rather quiet…

Dan: My goal was to be strong and not show how anxious I was really feeling. I even brought my briefcase in case I wanted, or was able, to do some work to take my mind off things… yea… that wasn’t happening. I didn’t want Justine to become more nervous before surgery. She was holding it together surprisingly well, much better than I was or would have been if I were in her position. She truly has been so strong and focused throughout this entire process. I don’t know how she does it.

Justine: The moment came- the door to the waiting room opened and my name was called by the always cheerful Carmen, who took me back to get prepped for the egg retrieval procedure. Dan was able to come with us, but only to a certain point - once we got to the doors of the surgical suite, he had to wait outside until I was prepped and ready. Saying goodbye to Dan, even though I knew it was only for a few minutes, was harder than I thought it would be and started to increase the nervousness I was desperately trying to ignore.

Dan: I didn’t like this part one bit. Even if it was only for a few minutes, saying good bye to Justine felt excruciating. I could tell that Justine was feeling stressed by this point and all I wanted was to be with her to try to help calm her, but no, I had to sit alone, knowing that she would be alone as well and wait while they prepped her for the procedure. At this point, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “when did I become the ‘nervous Nellie’ in this relationship?!?”

Justine: Walking down the long hallway, my anxiety bubbled to the surface – geesh, was I nervous! But the lovely ladies of the OR were so sweet and so kind that they made me feel right at home. I can’t express how good it felt to have such friendly, smiling faces surrounding me that morning. It truly made the whole process that much easier and dare I say, even enjoyable?! Without a doubt, what I can say is, I felt safe and extremely cared for, so kudos and thanks to them!

Dan: While the wait really wasn’t that long, it felt like it because I couldn’t concentrate on anything, just wanting this to be over. I was so happy when they finally came to bring me back to see Justine - that was until the reality hit all over again. They brought me back to an area I never even knew existed. Putting booties on over my shoes to enter the recovery area just outside the O.R. brought the truth home, yup, this was a real surgery…

 

Who would have ever thought that this would be the path we would have to take to have a child of our own? Not me, not ever once when I imagined becoming a father, did I picture a surgical suite, separated from my wife.

During

Justine: Once I was ready, all glammed up in the ever-stylish hospital gown, my vitals taken and recorded, and settled into the hospital bed, my wonderful attendants told me they were going to bring Dan back. I couldn’t wait to see him. In the few moments we were separated that morning, I had missed him. It reminded me how much I needed him by my side. As I waited for Dan, I took a moment to look around, to take it all in and then, it hit me – we were minutes away from the biggest fertility procedure to date…an enormous step in the quest to having OUR baby.

Dan: Stepping inside the recovery area, looking much more like a hospital than all the offices where the previous procedures and meetings had taken place, I was greeted by many familiar and friendly faces. All I really wanted was to be back with Justine to see how she was doing. They pointed me to one of the 5 or 6 recovery rooms with a curtain drawn across the opening.

Justine: The curtain opened, and seeing Dan, I immediately choked up. The first thought that came to me was, “what the heck is he feeling right now?”

Dan: Though I should have expected it, I was taken aback when I pulled aside the curtain and saw Justine in a hospital gown, with a hairnet and an IV in her arm. All the other procedures before this had been done in normal clothes, but this was clearly different. I was so happy to see her and felt a wave of emotions run through me, so glad to be side-by-side again- getting through this together.

Justine: When Dan stepped into the room, holding back the tears was no longer an option…I had to let these jumbled feelings out –feelings of joy to see him and anxiety about what the next few hours held for us.

Dan: When we both finally pulled through that initial wave of emotion that hit us, she asked me how I liked her gorgeous pink gown and blue hairnet. I told her that it was the sticker thermometer on her forehead that really pulled the entire ensemble together. We chuckled, relieved our sense of humor was intact. Justine had me take a picture to send to her parents so they could add it to their collection of funny photos of Justine from over the years: squirrel cheeks when her wisdom teeth came out, wearing an eye mask and face mask from when she had the swine flu. Yes, this was a truly great addition. I also reassured her that her UBER driver would be outside waiting to bring her home once she was out of surgery (just kidding!). This is what we both needed, comic relief to help calm our nerves, and a reminder that we were still us.

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Justine: Walking into the procedure room, I was astonished by how sterile it was (and I mean, I’m not sure I should have expected or wanted anything else), but I almost felt like I was on a movie set. Surreal really, here in this big white room with an odd-looking table in the middle and what felt like a lot of empty space. As I got situated on the table (which had a rather comfortable head rest!), I was surrounded by the anesthesiologist, Dr. Williams and two wonderful medical assistants, Tina and Bel. They prepped me for what was about to happen and then Erica, the amazingly talented embryologist, came in to verify my personal information. More quickly than I expected, the anesthesiologist was telling me they were ready to get started and that he was going to give me something to sleep. I will never forget what Dr. Williams said to me in that moment: “All you have to do is think of a happy dream and we will handle the rest.” Talk about saying exactly the right thing at the right time- he totally nailed it! Once Dr. Williams gave the anesthesiologist the ok, I started to feel woozy and remember saying, “Oh wow, I feel it already,” and then everything went black.

Dan: When they took Jus into the procedure room, I was ushered back to the waiting room. Rachel told me that the procedure would take about 15-20 minutes, with another 20 minutes for her to wake up from anesthesia before I could go back in. Going downstairs to get something for breakfast, as my nervousness had surprisingly seemed to pass, now my focus shifted to wondering how many eggs would be retrieved. Given everything we’d already been through, I was really hoping for a good result- plenty of eggs. Before I knew it, with not even 30 minutes having passed, Rachel texted me that I could come back up. Wow! That was fast! I hoped that it meant one thing- great news.

After

Justine: The next thing I knew- I was in recovery and I saw my best friend Rachel (who also happens to be a nurse at RMACT), standing over me. I immediately asked her, “did I say anything stupid?” because that was one of my (many!) fears about having anesthesia. Reassured that I hadn’t said anything embarrassing, I promptly fell back to sleep; I was exhausted.

Dan: When I got back to Justine’s room, she looked almost exactly like when I had left her half an hour before. She was awake, talking but also looked a bit sleepy. She had done great, no surprise. I was just so happy that it was finally over, and we were together again. Now we had to wait to hear what the final count was, hoping that it was high enough so that we wouldn’t have to go through this step again.

Justine: The rest of the morning was a bit of a blur, but I do remember receiving the news about the number of eggs that were retrieved. There would be no way to ever forget the feelings of gratefulness, relief and excitement that swept over me. Tears of joy flooded down my face and all I could think of was how all the hard work – the multiple injections as well as the emotional roller coaster – had paid off. We did it!

Dan: It’s hard to overstate the feeling of relief of getting the exciting news about the eggs after the stress that this procedure and all that we had done, up to this point had caused. We had a good number to move forward with AND the procedure went better than we expected. We were overjoyed, hardly able to contain our emotions. Now the wait… the next few days would be crucial.

But first, there was the one thing that Justine had asked of me, her personal chauffeur for the day - we were off to the nearest Dunkin Donuts drive thru. I think it’s safe to say she definitely earned this one.

Topics: In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), infertility support, Infertility Doctor, Love and Infertility, Infertility Awareness, Unexplained Infertility, Infertility, fertility doctor, infertility community, Male Infertility

Justine Houle-
Justine Houle loves a great pair of shoes, and her boys Dan (husband) and Ralph (a very handsome pup hailing from Tennessee which must be where he gets his southern charm). She began her career in childcare and then joined the RMA of CT team in 2011 as a Patient Coordinator. She's served several roles in the organization since then but most recently as the Marketing Operations Coordinator. She is well known for her impeccable style - and recently became an independent stylist for Stella and Dot. On the weekends, she can be found tooling around with her boys in Fairfield, CT where she grew up and currently resides.
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