Finding out more about IVF

View of University Library from my office window
View of University Library from my office window

So there I was sitting at my desk staring through my office window towards the University Library, taking a break from redesigning SAULCAT (the University Library catalogue search pages), and wondering: how can I find out more about the whole IVF process?

And then like a moment of epiphany the answer presented itself to me. I looked around me. The answer was so simple it was staring me in the face.

I should phone Gordon, a friend of mine and former pathology lecturer from the University of St Andrews Bute medical school.

But he was out.

So I did the next obvious thing, and searched the university library catalogue.

Wouldn’t you know it, they had loads of books about IVF! They’re situated in the RG133 to RG135 classmark sections of the library on Level 4, in case you were wondering.

Tonight’s light reading includes:

  • The ethics of IVF by Anthony Dyson (RG135.D8)
  • Human Reproduction and IVF by Henry Leese (RG135.L4)
  • A Question of Life, The Warnock Report by Mary Warnock (RG135.W2)
  • The IVF revolution : the definitive guide to assisted reproductive techniques by Robert Winston (RG133.5W5)

An introduction to IVF

Test tubes
Photograph from

This evening Jane and I headed over to Ninewells Hospital in sunny Dundee for an introductory lecture on Assisted Conception — specifically In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). Let it never be said that I don’t know how to show a girl a good time on a Tuesday evening!

We were invited to this presentation as our first cycle of IVF begins sometime this year; the exact date is still to be confirmed, we’re not quite there but it’s certainly getting closer and after this evening’s talk it feels more real.

During one part of the procedure it was revealed that I would be able to sit in an observation room with the embryologist and watch what is going on. Jane and I discussed this on the way home.

Jane: I’m quite envious that you’ll be in the observation room with the embryologist.

Gareth: Why … because she was quite good looking?

Jane: No!! Because it’d would be really interesting.

Gareth: Oh yeah … there is that.

Jane: But I’m not sure you’ll get to see much.

Gareth: Why, because she’ll be wearing a lab coat?

Jane: I mean the procedure!

A few serious points:

  • it does feel more real now
  • it was quite reassuring to see so many people there (maybe 30 or so couples) — which encouraged me that we’re not on our own
  • we had some good conversations with a few lovely couples, which was also encouraging
  • I now know what ‘homework’ I need to do to get reading up on EVERYTHING™
  • it certainly won’t be easy … but it will be worth it.

Prayers please, if it’s your discipline, for us, for the other couples who gathered in lecture theatre 1 at Ninewells Hospital this evening, and for the staff within the Assisted Conception Unit.

Let the miracles begin … sometime soon.

Happy Father’s Day (yesterday)

I was going to post this last night, but I got (a) too tired, and (b) too upset, so I went to bed. Which was fair enough.

Keith Saunders with Gareth Saunders, at the BGHI felt quite at odds yesterday, and it was only in the afternoon as I was thinking about it that I began to pin-point that it had something to do with it being Father’s Day. And obviously my Dad is not alive now; he died in January 1998, after nearly 15 years of illness following three brain haemorrhages on the Ides of March 1983.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it also had something to do with the disappointing news we received the week after last about our non-progress on the IVF route. It’s taken a while to sink in, a while to process. It’s big news.

After all that effort, all that worry, all that pondering, and hoping, and praying we were finally placed on a waiting list. Our name was in the system. We just had to be patient little patients. And now we’re off the list thanks to the wonderful world of bureaucrazy (sic), and on another waiting list, waiting to go onto a waiting list. Like a real-life game of snakes and ladders.

And yesterday it finally hit me: what if I never become a father? I’m already a priestly, spiritual father according to some; “Fr Gareth” I was called in Inverness and in parts of Edinburgh. But what about a biological father? It’s all well and good believing in a wonderful God who performs miracles, I’ve been musing, but it would be pretty cool if we could have children to share that amazing God with. I will keep hoping.

And back to my own Dad, Keith John Saunders. After he died I wanted only one thing from his estate. I wanted a copy of his signature:

Signature reads K.J.Saunders

I have it blutaked to my monitor here at home. “K J Saunders” it reads. It was the most personal thing that I could think of. Something that he created, that somehow reflected something of who he was.

And one day as Mum and I were going through papers to bin I came across it and kept it. I can’t remember what it was from, some financial papers perhaps? I obviously didn’t have anything that he’d sent to me because he always signed things “Dad” and not his given name.

Saunders is a difficult name to sign well. I spent hours as a child working out how best to sign Gareth. That bit was easy. I became bold in my presentation of my name. Gareth is a solid name. “Strong spear” it means seemingly. Incidentally, I also spent much of my childhood trying to convince the kids at school that that didn’t mean big prick!

I came up with something like this:


But whenever I sign “Saunders” it always looks like an unfinished, squiggly afterthought: Gareth buwulalala.

Maybe that’s what I need to do to prepare for children: I need to concentrate on working out how to sign Saunders in a more convincing and bold manner. Then I can pass that signature on to my own children.

Between lists

A computer printed list with a pen lying on top.

I know that I’ve not written any more about our IVF journey for the last few months, but there’s really not been anything to report. Until now.

We moved over from Edinburgh to Cellardyke in April, and the day after we moved in we made an appointment with the local GP to find out what would happen next. Jane’s previous conversations with people in Edinburgh and Fife had been positive, indicating that it was likely that we could stay on the IVF list in Edinburgh. The GP confirmed this and said that it was more than likely that we could stay on the Edinburgh list, as Fife Health Board didn’t do IVF and so potential parents were sent to other health boards, such as in Edinburgh and Dundee. He said that he’d write and confirm this.

On Friday Jane opened a letter from the Edinburgh Fertility & Reproductive Endocrine Centre to say that we are no longer eligible for NHS-funded treatment in Lothian and that we may be able to be referred somewhere else, and go on the list as from 5 October 2005. Only Dundee don’t allow that. It came as quite a blow. Which might actually be the understatement of this post.

So at the moment we’re between lists, in no man’s land. Or maybe that should be “no children’s land”.


An egg.

Yesterday Jane and I were kindly invited to dinner at Jane’s parents’. Our kitchen is in an odd state of semi-packedness. The crockery has been packed, but not the cutlery; the chopping boards and sharp knives have gone but not the pans; the microwave and toaster have gone, but not the kettle. I’d like to see Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook manage on a similarly stocked kitchen.

So we were sitting down to dinner when someone began a sentence with “Last Easter…”. At which point I started singing a quickly rewritten Wham! song … which Jane joined in. Thus:

Gareth: Last Easter I gave you my…
Jane: EGGS!

That just sounded SO wrong. It had me laughing for ages.

If ever the The British Fertility Society need a theme tune (or ‘hymn’) for their website (don’t laugh, the Association of International Glaucoma Societies have one! And it’s a classic.) then I think we’ve just found it for them.

Serendipity is found in the most unexpected of places.