March 2013- I’ll never forget the first time we did IVF in Dakar. Of course everything was new: the treatment, learning the medications in French, and having Shawn learn how to give me shots. Getting to know our doctor was really special. (Even if we did have to wait 2+ hours in his waiting room some times…) He was Nigerian but grew up in Senegal. He spoke English which was nice and of course very helpful in the medical realm where our language abilities were limited. He so desperately wanted us to have kids. It was so sweet. We developed a friendship with Dr. Fayemi.
I’ll never forget the fear and anxiety I felt as I walked into that little clinic at dawn, knowing I was walking in for my first-ever surgery. I had no idea what to expect. I remember filling out the paperwork with excitement, hoping maybe this would be the answer to us having kids after nine years of hoping and praying. I remember putting on the hospital gown, laying in that African clinic, noticing the paint chipping off the concrete walls, beds lined up along the walls. I had no idea how much pain I would be experiencing during the egg retrieval surgery, I didn’t know what anesthesia would feel like, or how I would react to it. Shawn wasn’t able to come back in the room with me and I felt very alone. I laid on the hospital bed with the uncomfortable crisp white sheets underneath me. I cringed as the nurse fumbled with the IV going into my hand. She had to start over more than once, and I fought with all my might not to lose it right then and there. I held back the tears because Senegalese women don’t always respond too well to tears, and I kept reminding myself that this may be the thing that would bring us a baby. After all, this was something we had never tried before. I remember praying out in desperation for comfort in that moment. “God, I’m alone and I’m scared and I have no idea what to expect. Please go with me.” And he did.
Once they wheeled me back into the OR, I laid on the table with three Senegalese men (doctors) standing around. It was an intimidating and vulnerable place for me to be culturally. We waited because the anesthesiologist was late (running on African time). I tried to breathe, reminding myself to keep my head in the game. But I was nervous. I started to wonder what I got myself into, and wishing so desperately that Shawn could be with me. But I knew God was there. I couldn’t see him or feel him, but he was there. Before I knew it, the anesthesiologist arrived and I was knocked out and waking up in the room with the beds lined up against the wall. I was so sore. But it was all done! I survived!
Soon my friend Kari was there, joking with me about some apparent selfie I sent her while I was still drugged. The fact that she came to be with me, to see how I was doing meant the world to me.
I remember Shawn treating me like a queen as he helped me to our borrowed-from-the-mission vehicle, making me lunch, giving me lots of time to rest as he managed the hectic demands of our guesthouse responsibilities.
I’ll never forget when our doctor told us with tears in his eyes that after all that we didn’t get any embryos that could be transferred. We were crushed for two solid days. Then he called with the news that one pulled through! I wondered if this would be our miracle baby. Two long weeks later, we collapsed on our bed, crying at the news that the one embryo that pulled through at the last-minute didn’t implant, resulting in negative results, and no pregnancy after all. It was hard to go on with ministry and daily life for a while after that. It was hard to see the sun shining. But with time, we did. We saw the sun shine again.
June 2013- I’ll never forget when they transferred three (3!) embryos during our second round of IVF in Dakar and wondering every minute of every day for two solid weeks if we would have triplets or not. Imagine knowing there are three embryos in your uterus, but having no idea what would happen or how many would implant and grow for nine months. WOW! You can only imagine the conversations that took place in our home during those two weeks.
After the burning shots, the egg retrieval surgery, the embryo transfers, and the emotional turmoil from IVF #1, I never could have imagined us doing that again. But with encouragement from our doctor, and our continued desire for a child, we decided to give it another try. We were not ready to give up. The doctor tweaked our care and my medication and we were ready for IVF #2. The fact that we got three embryos the second time, and not just one “last-minute survivor”, we were excited at what this cycle could mean for us. A baby, maybe? Sadly, none of the three implanted and we were back to the beginning, both of us grieving this peculiar loss of three babies. A loss that couldn’t be seen, but one that was very much felt.
February 2014- We were in America this time, and we thought that after two failed IVF cycles, it would be a good idea to consult another doctor. He knew we were in somewhat of a time crunch with plans to return to West Africa in just a few months, so Dr. Hoffman recommended we jump right into another round of IVF. I never thought after the first time I’d ever be able to do it again, and I certainly never thought that after the second time I’d ever be able to do that again. But there we were, embarking on IVF #3. We were not ready to give up yet. Maybe things will be different in the US, we thought. Maybe having a new doctor with a new approach will be helpful. Around that same time we started to share a little bit more about some of what we had been through with past treatments and losses, and we started gaining some prayer, encouragement, and financial support. Friends helped us raise the money we needed to do IVF in Cincinnati, Ohio. We were blown away by their generosity. Friends brought us meals to our door, and sent flowers when the results weren’t (once again) what we were hoping and praying for. We’ll never forget that.
We made it farther than we had in Dakar by getting blastocyst embryos. We were hopeful this time, more than ever. We had good news and good results throughout our treatment, and friends were praying for us. It felt good to be open this time. But in the end, we were devastated when the two embryos that were transferred to my uterus didn’t implant, resulting in another negative result. We were crushed. it took us a long time to find the sun that time. We were busy with our return to Senegal, so I don’t know how well we grieved either. Grieving isn’t comfortable, so it’s not always something we want to encounter, or embrace head-on.
I think there was also a lot more to grieve that time around because that was our 3rd and final attempt at IVF. Or so we thought at the time. So not only were we grieving that loss, we were subconsciously grieving the idea that we would never have children. And that was a lot to process.
I’ll never forget the anticipation and the long two week wait(s), after which we would be able to find out if IVF worked or not. Talk about a mental mind game!
I’ll never forget the thousands and thousands of dollars in medical expenses, none of it covered by insurance. I’ll also never forget the amazing ways God provided the money we needed along the way.
I’ll never forget seeing Shawn in his scrubs, proudly holding a picture of the embryos we were able to transfer.
He says he’ll never forget the pain I went through for our family.
There are lots of things we will never forget. And yes, there is pain in looking back. I definitely cried writing out some of these memories, and looking at some of these pictures again. I’ll never forget those raw emotions. But there’s also some beauty there. We saw beauty in new friendships, friendships that were strengthened, laughter in the unexpected times, and beauty in our marriage which was taken to new levels of compassion and understanding for each other. A stronger bond was formed. Looking back we see God’s provision through prepared meals, chocolate-covered strawberries, and cinnamon rolls delivered to our door. We see it through generous friends who gave of their finances to help us out.
Today’s miracle, and IVF #4 are that much sweeter knowing what IVF 1, 2, and 3 were like. Thank you, God, for standing with us at every turn, every treatment, every injection, every drive to keep going, every loss, and now, every milestone with this growing baby that we’ve waited 11 years for.