When I was in high school, I liked English. My teacher however made it very clear to me, on more than one occasion, that English did not like me. She held my paper up, covered in red marks, in front of both classes, and announced that I made the most mistakes in both her classes. It was a defining moment. From that point on, I became pretty insecure about my ability to write throughout high school.
Imagine my surprise then, when I tested out of the basic English composition class to move onto the next level when I arrived at college! It gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could actually write. Combine that spark with years of journaling, and I decided to ignore my high school teachers decision of my ability.
I did this when I started blogging for the community coffee shop I opened in Northern Ireland called The Press. I would share about the experiences in the coffee shop and announce our upcoming events. I LOVED IT! Writing had always been an outlet and at that point I started to find my own voice.
Fast forward a few years. Bryan and I decided to give IVF one last shot, no pun intended! I figured the easiest way to keep people informed of our progress was through my personal blog. I had only one or two entries at that point. I guess I also need to rewind and insert this little fact. Through the years that we struggled with infertility I also journaled. I used my writing as a way of processing my pain, as a way of praying, as a way of dealing with the grief I carried, but didn’t always want the world to know. I also didn’t want to consistently be “Debbie Downer” by always talking about the sadness I felt. This could be partly my personality or partly the lies we believe that people can’t handle our pain and suffering, I’m not really sure.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. Years before the blog started, Bryan and I had made a special trip to London to see Phantom of the Opera with the London cast. It was one of my bucket list items. It happened around my 30th birthday along with our first failed round of IVF. As we sat having dinner in a little Italian restaurant across from the theater, we decided that someday, when our family had finally arrived, by whatever means it came, that we would share our story in a book.
That moment has arrived. The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants is our story from my personal perspective. I allow you to crack open pages of my own journals, private pictures, sketches and my honest response to the struggle of infertility. I really hold nothing back. I am not trying to shock people, but I am trying to wake people up. This issue is painful. Painful for those struggling and painful for those who are watching someone struggle. 1 out of every 8 couples will deal with infertility now, 1 out of 8!!! Next time you are around that many couples, just look around because I would bet my own money that someone you know really well is struggling. It’s that real friends.
This book took me almost two years to complete. Life happened in a not so kind way almost immediately after I had the full manuscript completed. My father was diagnosed with cancer. At times the book felt like a burden I couldn’t shake while dealing with the grief of watching my father deteriorate. Other times it felt like an escape and a lifeline. What definitely helped was writing. Writing has become a way of life for me. Thanks to authors like Shauna Niequist, Jen Hatmaker, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Brene′ Brown, I began to believe in the power of my own voice. I also had my husband and amazing family and friends cheering me on too!
So the other night, March 12th at 7 p.m. I had my very first book launch! I was overwhelmed to see so many lovely faces come. Some I hadn’t seen in years, and some I have only recently become friends with. It was a beautiful collection of people and I am so grateful for each person taking the time to come and support me in such a tangible way.
Now I have the privilege of promoting this much needed book. I get to share my story again and again with people. Validating each time that what I went through, what we went through, and maybe what you are going through will not be wasted if we let it help and guide others. Our pain truly can bring comfort to someone else’s suffering, if we will let it. It means standing with our hands open instead of with clenched fists.
“I would describe infertility as a process of purification. You go through the fire, but at the end you come out your truest self.” p. 51 The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants
What have you experienced by way of pain in your life? Are you willing to open that area up to even just one person? If so, I think you will find there is healing there. There is purpose in your pain there. There is also forward momentum that helps you leave the past in the past and move towards your future with hope and joy. Please share your story, the world needs it!
The big scan is coming up this Wednesday so we will find out for sure if it is two boys as they think it is. Very excited to see them for an extended period of time at the big scan and to see what they look like at this stage (more human than white blob:) ). This picture gives you an idea of what we are looking like at 20 weeks though. People keep saying the bump is growing everyday which I definitely feel. A wee prayer point though, please pray for the scar from the appendix that it will grow and stretch with the growth of these babies. Plus Bryan has only about 2 1/2 weeks left before he is home so I am delighted with that fact! I will also hopefully be going back to work after the 30th of May and seeing how long I can last. I have started collecting bits and pieces as well for the babies arrival and it feels nice to finally do something productive for them coming. Sitting and relaxing has been great but I have also gone into nesting mode, but don’t worry! I am not lifting/moving furniture as that will be Bryan’s job when he gets home. Now bring on Wednesday!!!!
It feels like the past few days have been pretty monumental. Bryan went in Thursday for his procedures and was a great sport through it all as you can see in the pic above. The doctors and nurses said Bryan was so much fun to have in, duh!! He ended up having 4 biopsies and they were able to get everything they needed (my husband is by far the toughest man I know and has endured more labour pains than any other man I have ever known!). Now he is 4 days into the recovery process and it is slow going. Thankfully he doesn’t have to fly till Friday. We are also so thankful that Bryan was put out for his procedure. Being under anaesthesia made it less traumatic than the first time.
Friday morning my Mom and I drove to Boise and it was my turn to go under. Anaesthesia is definitely the way to go for this kind of treatment. I didn’t feel a thing and don’t remember any of it, praise God! They were able to retrieve 20 eggs, 17 of those eggs were mature and out of the 17 eggs 15 fertilized and became embryos!!! We are over the moon with this outcome! Not all of the embryos will be good enough quality to transfer so this gives us a much better chance of having some strong embryos to use.
A little memory to share in the midst of all of this is when I got the call regarding the embryos. Friday night we had a slumber party for my Mom’s 70th birthday party. We were out at my oldest brother’s house, Brent and Trudy, when the call came Saturday morning. After I took the call I walked out and announced to many of my female family members the good news. Everyone screamed, we cried, there were hugs! Such a special memory to have and one that I am thankful for. Being with our families during this whole process has been such an incredible gift from God that we could not have planned.
So what next? Monday the clinic will call and let us know how many of the embryos look good enough to use. We will then go in for the transfer on Wednesday. My friend Kelly also arrives on Monday afternoon. Kelly is coming to be here for the transfer and to support us, so special! From Wednesday to the 10 day test mark feels like the hardest part. They transfer Wednesday, then we take a blood test 10 days later and during that time you just wait. You wait to feel any little thing, any hint that it has worked. You wait to start your period in a sign that it hasn’t worked, you wait in hope for the future all the while replaying the past. The line is hard to walk. We want to believe for the best and hope for that yet sometimes our past experience creeps in and reminds us of the previous hurt. So for this next season please pray for us. Pray the following:
Pray for at least 1 embryo that is good enough to transfer
Pray my womb is a safe and welcoming place for this potential new life to thrive and grow
Pray for Bryan’s continued recovery
Pray that we keep our eyes on Jesus and keep His perspective in all of this
Thank you for following our journey, for praying and partnering with us. We appreciate it so so so much!!!!!
Just a little extra pic so you have an idea of what the beginning of our family slumber parties look like!
Thank you everyone for your continued prayers, emails, text messages and encouraging verses that you have been passing on to us. We cannot imagine how much harder this process would be without each of you carrying us this way.
Yesterday we drove to Meridian for Bryan’s appointment with Dr Greer of IUI. After filling out what seemed like a mountain of paperwork we were taken in and met with the doctor. We went through our fertility history, he looked at Bryan’s sample records, gave him a health check and came to this conclusion: Bryan will be going in for another testicular biopsy this Thursday or Friday morning (taking as many sample tissues as they need till they arrive at the desired amount of sperm). The news was good news yet hard at the same time to hear. As we approached doing treatment again we did not want Bryan to have to endure another traumatic procedure. This news meant that once again he would have to go through something most men only have nightmares about. Yet it was good news because it meant that the doctor felt we could proceed with treatment. There is also a silver lining, Bryan will be put out this time unlike his first experience of being very awake and present. Now that we know Bryan has to have this procedure we were able to change his ticket back to Alaska. This has also brought about a positive spin within the whole journey. Bryan staying longer means that he will be here with me during egg retrieval (possibly happening this Friday or Saturday) and he will also be here for the transfer/implantation (most likely sometime next week).
I had another ultrasound and blood draw this morning. The staff have been so kind and helpful plus everything is looking good on my end. They were able to tell me that my uterine lining is at 8.5 which she said was perfect for right now. Upon examination they could see that I have potentially 13 eggs in the right ovary and 7 in the left. These eggs, once mature and ready for collection will be used to create the embryos. How many they use will be determined by the volume of sperm Dr Greer is able to collect.
Despite the fact that Bryan has to go through his procedure again we are feeling hopeful and optimistic. This time around we both will be under anesthesia for our procedures (me for both collection of the eggs and transfer). The simple fact that we will both fall asleep and wake up to things being done is a huge relief. Going through the procedures the first time fully awake was quite difficult. We are trying to keep our eyes up, focused on Jesus and the hope that He brings throughout all of this too. When we receive verses from people or songs we read/listen, soak and just thank God for His constant presence in a very unpredictable process.
As many of you know we had reached our target goal for the initial cost of our treatment. This goal was met by what has been committed, not necessarily by what we have received as we knew some people could not contribute till January after the holidays. Now however, with this additional procedure we will need additional funds. In total Bryan’s procedure is going to cost around $5000! I know, I can’t believe it either. So if you had thought about supporting us financially but hadn’t moved forward with it once we met our initial target, we would greatly appreciate you revisiting the thought. It is not fun to even write about this or be so direct but we have been blown away by everyone’s generosity and hearts for us, plus we know at the end of the day God is the one in charge of all the resources so He can help with this the way He has before.
The next few days are going to be exciting, nerve-racking and a continued roller coaster! Prayers are what we hope you continue to offer up on our behalf. Pray for the sample, pray for the egg retrieval, pray for the transfer and implantation. Each step of the way seems to only be made clear as we arrive to it that morning. There’s an old song we used to sing growing up ‘One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that’s all I’m asking from You’. It’s funny how some things from your childhood come back to bring you comfort and reassurance in your later years. That is exactly what this song has done for me. Jesus, one day at a time. Please help me be flexible, help me to actively trust you, help me to keep a good attitude today. I will pray this again tomorrow and the next day and the next.
We are back from the mountains of McCall, Idaho where we spent three nights in a beautiful home with my immediate family. This meant that for three days/nights we had fun! Our time included meals out, great coffees, games, puzzles, shaving my Dad’s beard as a family and much more. I am so thankful for the trip to McCall. It got our minds off of what lay ahead in this journey. It was relaxing and we were able to reconnect with my side of the family. One of my favourite memories of the trip though has to be sitting around the table working on a puzzle with Bryan. Our nieces and nephews gathered around the table as well and chatted flat out for at least 2 1/2 hours. One of our nephews was also renamed the ‘Man of a million voices’ by his big sister because of how much he talked that night. We laughed so hard and it felt so good! Lighthearted moments all together reminding me of the simple beauty that my family possesses. We are so thankful for each one of them!
Since the last blog post we have been into the clinic numerous times. Our first appointment included my baseline ultrasound, my uterine wash, my blood draw and Bryan’s first sample. Everything on my end looked healthy and good. Even though we have been through this before there are still things that catch you off guard. For example, my ultrasound was quite uncomfortable. I know this is true of any internal exam but the reality of how many more exams I will have before all is said and done is not a fun thought. The most difficult obstacle however has been Bryan’s samples. The first sample produced only 1 sperm that was worth freezing. Since then he has given two more samples and is now scheduled to see a eurologist as it looks like he may have to have another biopsy or possibly a more invasive procedure. Of course we knew this was always a possibility but we were strongly hoping for a different experience this time.
I have also started my injections which is the picture posted above. The first time I was quite nervous and was shaking. Bryan is a bit squeamish with the shots and he kept having to look away while capturing this in photos. I am in again tomorrow morning for an ultrasound that will show how my ovaries are responding to the treatment thus far. To be completely honest, I am not even thinking about that. I am thinking about Bryan’s evaluation on Monday with the other doctor to determine what they can do to help us continue with our treatment plan. From here on out the next few weeks will most likely be a blur of doctor’s appointments, procedures and I am sure a roller coast of emotions.
As we have processed the past few days and bad news regarding Bryan’s sample, our hearts have been heavy. I will not lie and say that we have not felt the impact of this. We have been sad, felt deflated and defeated. We have questioned God asking if not one part of this could be remotely easy? Yet our faith is not shaken; we hope in God not the treatment. The other morning I found myself once again singing Matt Redman’s song ‘Never Once’. The words ring true:
Never once have we ever walked alone,
never once did You leave us on our own.
You are faithful, God you are faithful.
Right now this where we are at. We are living life in the midst of our stormy hearts. We are enjoying the times with my family as they are rare and precious. We had our annual Carpenter gyoza making session on the 1st January and it was a blast! We ate till we felt ill and played games that made us laugh till we almost cried. We have moments of grief, frustration and emptiness mingled with moments of feeling full to overflowing. This is life. One of my favourite authors puts it this way…life is bittersweet. Yes it is.
Please keep praying for us and with us. Pray that we do not lose hope. Pray for the doctors and their ability to help us. Pray that we can move forward with our treatment. Thank you for your prayers already and long may they continue.
Christmas has come and gone, special memories were made in Alaska with the Chuds which I am sure will last a lifetime. They include incredible food, sledding down the family hills, releasing lit lanterns into the night sky, praying, singing and a lot of laughing. We cannot begin to express the deep gratitude in our hearts for every stage of this time back in the states. Each place, each family member and each friend have helped to create an album of moments that we will treasure. As Alaska came to a close we said our goodbyes and yes, there were tears. A sweet mental picture that we have is our nephew and niece sitting up in their beds as we exited to the garage to leave, both of their faces beaming with smiles, priceless!
We flew all through the night to land in Boise, Idaho this morning at 10am. We were greeted by my Papa at the airport. Thank you God that he came through his open-heart surgery so well and is on the road to recovery. He is getting stronger each day and is even sporting a very Mumford-esque beard right now! After a bit of sleep we celebrated Christmas with my parents which was very sweet and reminiscient of my growing up years. We will be heading up to McCall tomorrow afternoon for a few days in the mountains with the Carpenter clan and we are looking forward to seeing everyone again.
Tomorrow is our first in-house meeting at the clinic. Up until this point we have been doing everything by phone. I must admit, I am relieved that we will be seeing these helpful and kind people face to face. I think both of us are at the point of actually feeling excited to get the treatment underway. Much of the reason we are even able to feel excited is this: We have reached our financial target for the treatment cost!!!!!! We can’t fully express how overwhelmed, thankful and humbled we are. Bryan and I are stunned at your generosity. Although there are unforeseen costs that may occur, the stress of the financial burden has been lifted. That fact combined with the amount of prayer coming our way has prepared our hearts, minds and hopefully bodies to begin the treatment once again. So thank you!!!
We have started taking antibiotics but tomorrow begins procedures and injection instructions. Bryan gives his sample, I have an ultrasound, we sign the rest of the papers and then… let it begin. Oh man, that is a scary/exciting thought. Our appointment is at 8:30am so if you are up, have read this by then please pray for the following:
Everything to go smoothly
Once again, thank you for your extreme generosity towards us both by prayer and financial support! I wish I could hold each of your faces in my hands, look you in the eyes and say thank you in person. Although I am pretty sure it would take me years to do that and I would cry my way through most of it.
Abba, thank You for bringing us to this point. Thank You for Your provision through Your children. We are humbled, astonished and overjoyed at the many miraculous ways in which You move on behalf of Your children. We once again lay this dream at Your feet, our lives are Yours. Walk with us tomorrow and in the coming weeks. Amen.