It didn’t work

And I mean it really didn’t work. Out of six eggs that were retrieved, only three of which were mature enough, none of them were fertilized. Even with the most advanced reproductive medical technique available – a procedure called ICSI, in which sperm are injected into the eggs – none of them were fertilized. We’ve achieved the ultimate fertility fail.

The retrieval was not extremely successful, either. Six eggs were extracted, several shy of the usual 10-12, which the doctor thinks may be due to my endometriosis. On top of that, my blood pressure dropped when I tried to get up after the procedure, and they had to do a blood test to make sure I didn’t need a transfusion. I didn’t; I was just dehydrated and in need of fluids. Thankfully, my friend Elizabeth and her daughter stayed with me at the clinic while all this was going on and kept me company until Colin could get off work and take me home. When we left, the doctor said she expected from those six eggs, we’d probably get 1-2 embryos.

We waited for the results the next day. I did a little work, read my Bible, listened to worship songs, and prayed pretty much every minute. Colin had to teach class and go to meetings, the last thing he wanted to do at such a tense, uncertain time. We waited until 3:30, when the doctor called me and said, “I’m afraid I have bad news. We didn’t get any embryos.”

I keep replaying this statement over and over again in my mind. Like the times when people have called to say that someone I love has died, I get stuck in that moment and feel nearly paralyzed with shock and devastation.

Our doctor was very kind, sympathetic, and apologetic. She said she wouldn’t have told us she thought we’d have 1-2 embryos if she didn’t really believe that would be the case. She said I had three “beautiful”eggs, and the sperm looked good, and the ICSI process went fine, so she didn’t know why they didn’t get fertilized. She said if we decided to try IVF again, she would use a different protocol of medicine to produce better stimulation, and she even convinced the clinic to waive the ICSI fee the next time around. She said she was sorry it didn’t work. She said, “I wish I could just give you a baby.”

I got off the phone and began sobbing. Colin held me in his arms and I wept until I felt numb. We sat on our living room couch for hours, while the sun went down and our phones kept ringing, not feeling like getting up to turn on the lights or check our messages. Poor Kaffy stared at us, whimpering, seeming to sense our anguish. Our little family stayed there, grieving in the dark, trying to process the loss of the ability to add to our family.

Neither Colin nor I had high hopes of IVF working. We recognized the reality that at most, there was a 50% chance of us getting pregnant. So we were prepared for the pregnancy test to come back negative. We were not prepared for the possibility that we wouldn’t get any embryos, that we wouldn’t make it all the way through the IVF process.

This probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to those who haven’t been through infertility, but in my mind, even having one embryo result from IVF would have been a blessing because it would’ve meant that Colin and I had at least one baby. And if we had been able to transfer the embryo, even if it didn’t implant, at least I would have been “pregnant” for a short while. Of course, going through all that and not having the embryo implant would have been a terrible blow as well because a little life would have been lost. One scenario isn’t better than the other; they are equally painful and disappointing. It’s just difficult not being able to complete a process that you have invested in so much financially, physically, and emotionally.

It’s also hard to grasp the implications of the failed fertilization. Are my eggs and Colin’s sperm genetically incompatible? Is conception, whether naturally or in a Petri dish, physiologically impossible for us? It sure looks that way.

I absolutely believe all the verses that say nothing is impossible with God. He’s the Creator of all life, for cryin’ out loud; it’d be ridiculous to think He couldn’t create a biological child out of our genes. It’s not a matter of power; it’s a matter of preference. For whatever reason, He is choosing to not give us a biological child.

And that is the hardest blow of all. I have prayed over and over and over again for a baby, and He has said no. Colin has prayed, our families have prayed, our friends and several others we don’t even know about have prayed, and He has said no. He has answered many, many of my prayers for other issues in miraculous ways, and has always been faithful to love and take care of me even when I’ve been utterly faithless. He has rescued me from my sin and given me eternal salvation; I have nothing to complain about. I am not complaining that God hasn’t given me something I deserve; I am crying because He hasn’t given me something I’ve earnestly asked Him for, something that would bring me joy and bring Him glory.

I know what some people will say to try to comfort us because I’ve heard these standby expressions before in other situations: “When God shuts a door He always opens a window” and “God didn’t answer your prayers because He has something better in store for you.” First off, these statements are not necessarily true – some people go through life one trial after another, experiencing terrible suffering that isn’t relieved until they get to heaven. Just think of all the missionaries who lived under persecution and were martyred for their faith. Secondly, these statements are not helpful or comforting. Right now, I don’t see an open window, and I don’t know what “better” thing God has planned for us. The future is uncertain; the present is painful.

I believe the Lord has a purpose in choosing to not allow me and my beloved husband to conceive, so I don’t need any placating words of wisdom or suggestions as to what His reasons are. I just need time for God to heal my broken heart – my heart which He has broken. I need time to grieve over something I never had.

Published by jennhesse

Coauthor, Waiting in Hope: 31 Reflections for Walking with God Through Infertility. Content director at Waiting in Hope Ministries. Wife and boy mom x3.

11 thoughts on “It didn’t work

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I just can't tell you how sorry I am. It's so hard to understand. Yet, as hard as it is for me to understand,(and to even process some personal guilt, which I know is irrational, but still…), why for some the answer is “yes” and for others it is “no”, I know for you sweet friend, it is crushing. Please just know that I'm praying for you and Colin and I am here if and when you need to talk. Love you.


  2. Jennifer,
    I am so sorry…I know there are NO WORDS that can ease your pain right now. Just know that you are in my prayers. This is a verse that has brought me comfort over the past year…

    New Living Translation (©2007)

    When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

    Susan Ashton


  3. Oh Jen….I almost started crying just from seeing your heading on the feed.

    I'm praying. Remember that God is the one who planted the desire in your heart to have children and He will not fail to fulfill that desire. He never fails his children.

    Love you.


  4. Our hearts hurt for you and Colin. I know that there is nothing we can do to take away or ease this pain. Please know that we are in prayer for you guys.


  5. Jennifer,
    I know you and I have not been in contact for many years, but I read all of your posts and I have been praying for you during this IVF cycle. When I read this post it brought tears to my eyes. I know I could never imagine the pain that you are feeling, but my heart still grieves for you. Before I even began typing this I prayed for you and will continue to do so. I pray God will answer your prayers for a baby with a whole-hearted YES.



  6. Jennifer, first I read your message and my heart hurts for you…But as believers we can only hope that God does indeed have a plan for us! Remember it is not over until it is over with regard to having your family. Never let this experience demotivate you or throw you off your mission. Miracles do happen, ask your own mother Marilyn when she found out she was pregnant with you! Oh happy day, happy day that was for your mother Marilyn and Bruce and all of us! We love you, Aunt Elaine


  7. Jennifer, I'm so sorry to hear about this. As I've read your blogs about infertility and IVF, I have been able to relate 100 percent to your descriptions of your anguish and despair. I know because I felt the same depth of despair for 14 years, but my issue was different: marriage (or lack of it). I knew God had led others to a specific marriage partner, but I waited on His plan for me to unfold for a very long 14 years, during which I wondered why he would grant others so easily something I absolutely longed for. I can't tell you how many nights I absolutely sobbed myself to sleep all alone in the dark, while I felt as if my prayers for a righteous desire went absolutely unheard, though He continually answered prayers pertaining to topics other than marriage. I knew, as you do, that He had the power to help me, but seemingly wouldn't. I felt the torment of the damned nearly as I watched all my friends and dozens of others get married to someone they felt God had wanted them with, yet nothing for me. But you know how my story ended: Though I had wanted to get married in my 20's, I finally got engaged at age 39 and married at age 40 – and I know for a fact that God helped my husband and me to get together in the end and that my husband was the one I was supposed to marry according to God's plan for me. The reason I bring all this up is that looking back, what tormented me during all those years was that I thought God was saying “not ever”. But in fact, he was saying “not now.” Similarly, I can't help but wonder if timing might be a factor for you and Colin becoming parents. God knows all, and we only see the remotest fraction of what lies ahead. I can't help but feeling that it might be “not now” for you also (though it probably feels like “not ever” to you right now, and that's totally understandable). My own parents struggled with infertility. After three years of trying to conceive, they pretty much gave up and adopted my brother. A month after they brought him home, my mom conceived me. I was the only baby she ever conceived, but she and I know it was of God – both my brother's adoption and my natural birth into their family. We have felt wisdom from God upon us to confirm that. Another family I know had a baby with some help from science, but the baby died soon after birth. Afterwards, they felt it was God's will that they adopt specific other children. They did so, and then surprisingly found themselves pregnant three times naturally and successfully thereafter, despite the fact that the mother did not ovulate. One more story I can think of is regarding one of my good friends, who, along with her three younger siblings, was physically and sexually abused by their parents. Then their parents died in a car accident when my friend was 12 years old, and she and all three of her siblings were adopted by a wonderful God-loving couple who had been married for many years but hadn't been able to conceive. My friend was so thankful to God every day for her adoptive parents, and knew that God had brought her and her siblings to them. I don't know how your story will unfold, but I know you and Colin will be parents, somehow, some day. But it will be according to His plan and timing for you. He does indeed move in mysterious yet perfect ways. I know that the recent news is devastating and will be for quite some time. My heart goes out to you on that, and I'm praying for you also. It might be the end of the road for IVF, but I don't think it's over until it's over; just because IVF didn't work, I think a miracle could still happen. It's not now or never, though it feels that way. God does know you and Colin personally and already has a plan for you to become parents. The waiting can be brutal, though. Sorry again that you're going through this.


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