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Meet Brooke & Jim

When my husband and I moved to Calgary and started a new life together with my daughter, we knew it was time to complete our family with a baby. We were so excited to begin trying, as we had waited the first five years of our relationship to ‘wait til we were ready.’ We were first full of hope and taking pregnancy tests every month until we headed into a phase of wondering what was wrong with us and why it wasn’t happening naturally.

Time started to pass by and we wondered why friends could get pregnant so easily and why it just wasn’t happening for us. Months turned into years and we had a variety of tests that all came back just fine, so we were left confused and frustrated. Throughout the next six years, we went through a rollercoaster of emotions from hope to despair every single month when my period came. Throughout this time, we had three miscarriages- two of which were past 12 weeks and went through the heart ache of telling loved ones the exciting news and starting to pull out baby things and get excited- but then seeing the blood and facing the horror of knowing there was a problem… then heading into the familiar severe cramping, heavy bleeding, and then the pain of telling our loved ones we had lost the baby.

Many of our best friends were having babies around us. We then battled the feelings of sadness combined with new envy. We felt guilty for not being happy for our friends and it was hard on us, because we just aren’t jealous people. But we wanted so badly to have a family alongside them and build memories together.

At this point, we knew it was time to get further tested at the fertility clinic to see what the problem was. After four months of appointments and waiting on test results, we found out that the problem was James’ sperm being an irregular shape that caused lack of communication with my eggs. So, although his sperm count was average, the chance of his misshaped sperm fertilizing my egg was so low that we had a 2% chance of getting pregnant, and those sperm that were successful weren’t strong enough for a successful pregnancy, which was reason for my miscarriages. Although we finally had answers, we finally knew we had no choice but to turn to fertility help, which is an ego hit in itself.

We were told that the IUI process would be perfect for us because it used air to push the sperm more successfully to my egg and that would help with our specific issue. Now we had a new hope, but also filled with an abundance of new anxious feelings. The cost was affordable for us, at about $2000 a round- including registration fee, the $50 ovulation kits I had to buy many of, massage appointments to calm myself- some which were covered, and some which were not.

James was feeling the responsibility of the infertility being ‘his fault’ and it hurt his pride. He was also trying to remain strong for me through my emotions, while I tested with ovulation kits over and over, and then he would face the embarrassing task of heading in the clinic to collect his sperm.. which is a whole new level of demeaning and inadequacy that a man dreads facing.

We were also sad that our baby wasn’t ‘made in love’ but instead in a room where James had to watch movies to try to please himself- the most unromantic way to make a baby, which saddened and embarrassed us both, but we knew it was our only choice at this point.

Each round of IUI gives you a new feeling of hope and when that test comes back negative, it is so hard to hide your disappointment, and it is even harder to face friends, work and your regular daily life with a happy face on, when behind that smile is so much pain. Once, we left James’ Christmas party early as I just couldn’t stop my tears from ruining our evening. I just couldn’t put on a fake face that night.

After three failed rounds, which put us in over $6000 altogether, we were starting to feel the familiar despair and frustration. Throughout so many appointments in the hostile and serious office environment, we were emotionally exhausted, and started facing the consideration maybe it was time to give up and face a future without a baby. We then entered a few months of our lowest sadness. I took many days off of work and couldn’t see or talk to even my closest friends. Once, my sister-in-law came to the house one of the days- my closest best friend who I can tell anything to- but I couldn’t open the door to her because I just didn’t think she fully understood what I was feeling. Words of comfort did nothing because no one fully got it. I laid in bed and cried for days. Even James was getting frustrated and didn’t know how to help me. I think having nurses or trained professionals to reach out to that knew my story would have helped- I just had no one to talk to about it all.

We took about three months to try and recover and move on with our lives. But the void does not just go away and soon after I had a full break down and took a week off school to handle my depression. The painful day came that I cried to James and that I didn’t want to look back one day and know that we hadn’t tried everything possible. I was going to be 40 years old the following year, and thought just maybe there was still time. I would not live in regret that we didn’t do EVERY single thing to try to have a baby, and so we decided it was time for IVF. We would put our plans of buying a vacation property and our trip to Hawaii on hold and instead and saved the $30,000 required (between the major payment to the procedure which needed to be paid upfront, many days off work for James that he wasn’t covered for, vitamins, medication, etc.)

Once we had all of the funding in place, since there is not a payment plan in place, we started through the familiar emotional roller coaster of appointments, a new hope, but paired with the painful feeling of knowing it may not work even through it all. Meanwhile, holding all of our best friend’s new babies and being filled with an added desire to join them in parenthood.

Being terrified of needles, it was exceptionally hard for me to learn how to use the needles properly and was always doubting myself that I was doing it wrong. I often turned to my nursing friend Sara to help me and went to her house or she came to mine, as I did not receive this level of support at the clinic. Throughout the appointments, constant uterus checks I had so many different nurses and doctors help me- some that were kind and supportive some that weren’t- but no one that truly knew us and our story because they went through so many patients a day. You begin to feel like just a number and the level of support needed at this point is hard to find. Although I understood the need to help so many people, I definitely felt the lack of connection and personal support and often felt like I was just another patient and payment.

On top of the mental exhaustion was the physical pain. The worst agony was the egg retrieval and I remember not being able to move or walk for days afterwards and just praying to God that it was all for something worthwhile and that I wasn’t just completely breaking down my mental health and not have a baby in my arms at the end of the process.

However, our luck was finally about to change. I knew very quickly that I was pregnant, being pregnant so many times, but still anxiously waited the two weeks to officially take the test. When it was positive, my husband and I felt such a sense of relief but still clung onto the fear that the pregnancy wouldn’t be successful as we had been down this road so many times. I took my first trimester off of work to rest and lower my stress levels in hopes for a successful pregnancy. Throughout my second trimester, even after reassuring appointments, feeling my baby kick inside of me, and setting up the nursery, I still never had a feeling of confidence that my baby was healthy and okay because until I held that baby in my arms, I still felt like we weren’t out of the woods.

The most amazing day came on April 28, 2021 when our beautiful baby boy came into the world, and words just can’t express the feelings of love, relief and joy that our family felt that our little miracle son made it into our lives. We named him Link Carr, as he was the missing Link to our family and finally, our family was linked together at last.

Closing Words…

Now although we have a happy ending to our story, there are many families that aren’t so lucky. If I had not got pregnant on that first round of IVF and had to go through all 8 rounds of implanting the other 7 frozen eggs, I wouldn’t be so happy to share my story, as I would still be in the terrible pain, and quite honestly, I feel like I would be a very broken woman if I went through 7 years of that much despair, almost $40,000 all in after embryo storage- and not come out with a happy ending. I truly think that if you haven’t had your happy ending it is because your story isn’t over yet.

I hope that my story helps future women and couples to have more support and reassurance from the medical world that they just can’t get anywhere else. I truly hope that future families are able to walk this journey with less pain and heart ache because just typing this has stirred up the painful experience we went through and makes me wonder how we were strong enough to even continue with it.

Many families struggling with infertility don’t have another child at home. But I found it hard to remain strong and collected as a mother when I knew my 10 year old daughter was so aware that I was falling apart. We kept her on the loop of everything we went through, from when we would find out we were pregnant to when we lost babies because it’s hard to hide it, and I liked her being a part of the team and being fully open and honest with her. She shared in our tears every time we miscarried or a procedure didn’t work, and although I was glad I didn’t have to hide my feelings from her, it was hard to see her hurt too. The mornings when I stayed home from school, I still drove her to class, and it took every fibre of me to act strong as I drove her so she didn’t think I was going crazy. But the second she got out of the car for school I would just cry the whole way home. She didn’t want to leave me much during this time because she was worried- showing that she was trying to take care of me.. when it should be the other way around. In the end, she is the best sister and loves him even more sharing the journey with us, but it was hard on us watching her hurt too.

We are just the most thankful and appreciative family that we have the beautiful ending that we do. But we wish that the process can be an easier one for future families, because I can’t imagine walking this journey without my supportive husband, great community around us. If my husband and I weren’t on the same page, or we had underlining other marital issues or lack of financial means, this process would have been an impossible one. The support required by the medical world just NEEDS to be even stronger, because you just don’t know the actual struggle behind the scenes or how much support people actually have.

The best photos you could really show to show the reality of our situation are the bad ones. Me crying in bed. Stella holding me while I was crying. James holding me when I miscarried… but obviously, I don’t have those. They are the true snapshots of the journey and the ones that I will always hold in my heart. The reasons why I am so appreciative for the son I have been given and journey we have been blessed with that makes me hold my family just a little bit tighter.

Somehow, we were blessed beyond what I can even imagine, and when Link was nine months old, I found out I was pregnant again. We did not plan it, and we did not see it coming. But when you just let life happen, and your worries are put aside, natural miracles do happen. As I type this, I am pregnant with my third child- a daughter who will be here in just 6 weeks time. Everyone has their own destiny, and once you see that every one’s timelines are unique and that good things do happen, you will be blessed, just as my family has been.

I hope my words help lessen someone’s pain and in some way inspire and give hope. Because your story just isn’t over yet.

~ Brooke & James Carr


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