Author: Brenna Pribyl
Constant prayers and fasting could not have prepared me for the phone call I was about to receive. On my desk at work, strategically placed where I could see it, was my cell phone–plugged in to keep a full charge with the ringer on full volume. My nerves were on edge and it was hard to focus, yet I settled into an uneasy rhythm that morning.
When the ringtone blared, I quickly reached for my phone, but I hesitated briefly before accepting the call. Do I really want to hear this news? Shoving the thought aside, I swiped to answer.
“Hello, this is Brenna.”
“Hi, Brenna. This is the fertility clinic with test results from your blood draw this morning.”
She paused, a moment that stretched out like an eternity.
“Yes…?” I asked, bracing myself.
“Your pregnancy test came back negative.”
I should have felt something at that point–crushing disappointment, or maybe cold, steely anger. Instead I felt nothing at all.
“Oh. Okay. Does this mean I can stop my progesterone shots?”
“Yes. I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you for calling. Have a good day.”
“You, too. Goodbye.”
I hung up and took a couple of deep breaths. I quickly texted my boss, finished my essential work tasks, clocked out, and got in my car. The flood gates opened and I began to sob. I drove myself the short distance home where I sat alone, absorbing the news. Not able to be alone with my emotions, I went to Walmart. I bought a new journal and a fancy new set of erasable pens, returned home, then fervently began to record my in vitro fertilization (IVF) journey of the previous six months.
I wish I could say that I was completely surprised by the news, but I wasn’t. The implantation pregnancy test three days earlier had also been negative. At that time, I had been given a priesthood blessing that hinted the frozen embryo transfer (FET) would not implant. Though I was aware of the possibility, I had not planned for the emotional impact this outcome would have upon me.
After my initial breakdown, I was blessed with three days of indescribable peace amidst the storm swirling around me. Peace that could have come only from Heavenly Father. It didn’t make the reality hurt any less, but that knowledge made the pain at least bearable.
That peace, however, did not remain with me through the following months. The aftereffects of the implantation hormones, coupled with the ultimate failure of the IVF process, messed with my mind severely and caused me to slip into a dark chasm. A chasm that had me believing that if I couldn’t be a mother, I was worthless. A chasm where I felt that I had nothing to contribute to this world. A chasm where I did not love myself and felt no one else could love me either. A chasm where I felt so lost and insignificant, that I surprisingly found myself contemplating a horrible, life-ending decision.
Looking back, there were three things that kept me here: my wonderful husband, who knew my inner feelings, yet loved and accepted the broken person I was; my knowledge of Heavenly Father’s unconditional love and that experiencing pain or difficulty is part of His plan for me; and my wonderful goldendoodle, Mozzie, who helped me focus outside myself and gave me a reason to get out of bed each morning. He relied on me to feed him and take him for a walk, no matter how I was feeling.
For a while, I stopped saying sincere prayers. I was too hurt to trust Heavenly Father with anything important. I still prayed, and I had no problem asking blessings for my family and friends, but never for myself. It was easier to believe He would help them, instead of me. The grief of losing our perfect little embryo weighed heavily on me, and for months I carried this grief coupled with deep-set feelings of darkness, anger, and shame. Eventually, this burden became too heavy to bear alone. I wanted to stop feeling worthless, ashamed and lost. I wanted to stop feeling like an empty shell of the person I used to be. I needed to lighten my load and I knew what I needed to do.
I knelt by my bed in the stillness one night, pleading with Heavenly Father. I sobbed, “I can’t do this by myself. Please help me not feel this way.” I quietly waited in the dark. Moments later, the Spirit filled the room. My burden was lifted away! I felt so much lighter, physically and emotionally. I began to cry tears of long-awaited relief. A warmth spread in my chest and I knew, then and there, I was not alone. I knew that Jesus Christ was my Savior, and the Atonement was a real, tangible power I always had access to. He had been talking to me the whole time, but until that night, I had firmly closed my heart and mind to Him.
After that powerful experience, I still found it difficult to talk with Heavenly Father.
He, however, found ways to talk to me. With my heart open to Him again, I was finally more receptive to what He had to say to me and found His voice in the strangest places. After discovering my favorite band, Keane, had produced a new album titled “Cause and Effect,” I stayed up for an hour listening to it. The song, “Chase the Night Away,” seemed like it was composed just for me.
“It won't be long till your mind stops reeling
It won't be long till regret surrenders its hold
And the scars start healing
Fallen off a cliff and still
Wondering where the ground has gone
Something in your faith
It keeps me searching on, searching on”
I felt like Heavenly Father used this song to send a gentle reminder I was not forgotten. It was okay that I had been bruised, battered, and scarred throughout the IVF process. Even though the scars would stay, I would heal and things would get better. With Him by my side, I would find my way.
My burden continued to lighten each day through the healing power of the Atonement. I threw myself into the scriptures. One day, I was studying the scriptures and this verse struck a chord in my soul. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me”(1 Nephi 21:16). I made the most humbling realization in my life. Jesus Christ knew my pain, my anger and my darkness perfectly. He carries with him a physical manifestation of me. I am graven upon the palms of his hands and he loves me when I can not love myself. He takes my pain and anger when I can no longer bear its crushing weight. He picks me up and helps me keep moving forward. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Jesus Christ’s Atonement was the only thing in the world that could help me pick up the pieces of my life after it had fallen apart. I found peace once again through the healing power of the Atonement. Peace that healed my relationship with Heavenly Father. Peace that began to heal my relationship with myself. I had accessed the healing power of Jesus Christ that Heavenly Father provides to all his children.
As I prepare to do IVF again, I know I would not be where I am today without the help of my brother, Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t be here without the love and support of my husband, family, friends, and most of all, my Heavenly Father. I would not be prepared to face another refiner’s fire had I not been graven up on the palms of His hands. With His comforting, scarred hand in mine, I know that no refiner's fire is too hot, no pain so excruciating, no grief so debilitating that I cannot keep moving forward with faith.
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