A regular at the Blossom Method with his Wife Mandy, Creative Director and new Author Justin Winget shares the final entry, “Lessons Learned,” of his forthcoming book, The Thirty Third Chapter. Documenting the couple’s journey back from harrowing 20 and 38 week pregnancy losses, the narrative began on July 12th 2013:  Justin’s 33rd birthday and exactly one year after they celebrated a positive pregnancy test for their later stillborn son Carter. Setting a pre-defined ending date just before the clock turned to his 34th birthday, Justin picked-up writing just as the couple stood on the verge of another go at their dreams of parenthood. With hopes of pregnancy after loss via IVF layered with complicated genetic testing for the same rare genetic condition which plagued their first pregnancy: PGS and PGD

Written as a form of self-therapy for coping with pregnancy losses, Justin shares the culmination of his efforts surrounding IVF and genetic testing in “Lessons Learned” – the first complete entry revealed to readers. Follow along on Facebook and the Blossom Method Blog for more excerpts, and keep on the lookout for the book release sometime in 2015!

Book graphic for "The Thirty Third Chapter" about coping with IVF and pregnancy loss in light of complicated genetic testing.

The Final Entry:

As I laid restlessly in bed watching the clock on my nightstand slowly tick towards midnight, I rewound back through all the bittersweet memories that culminated in the 33rd chapter of my life. It was not a particularly great year with more valleys than peaks, but I acknowledge it was one I needed to endure. While it tested every last ounce of my resolve, it was the only path that led to that next unrelenting chapter as a Father…

When I started writing 365 days ago, I thought this would be a completely different story. Sitting on the verge of our first round of IVF since losing our beloved Carter four months prior, I hoped timing might line-up like a Hollywood movie taking readers through every step of our complex situation and culminating with the happy ending that had alluded us for so long.  After all GETTING pregnant was not the issue, but rather sustaining a healthy pregnancy was our Achilles heel.

Instead the year threw us one curveball after another from my mother-In-law’s cancer to the chemical pregnancy and every other setback in-between. Through those trials I was once again humbly reminded that life cannot be scripted despite all efforts of forcing my will and intentions against it. All the prayer, planning and hope in the world came with no guarantees of good luck regardless of how much we were “due” for it. There were times I felt like waving the white flag and surrendering my dreams of parenthood, frustrating situations stirred up the worst in my temperament and long-lingering feelings of sadness that plagued even the happiest of occasions.

Looking back, the trying years behind me had fundamentally changed who I was as a person…in some ways for the worst, but in so many more for the better. Uncovering those blessings in disguise, it took going through them to discover the invaluable lessons found deep at their cores.

Emerging from the fog of our losses came a newfound perspective around my responsibility towards all those closest to me. I had focused so much on climbing the ladder both personally and professionally that I became incapable of living squarely in any moment. As I worked tirelessly to please the superiors and coworkers who carried the fate of my next big raise or promotion, I put up no barriers against the seemingly endless responsibilities of my job at the expense of my marriage and personal relationships. Focused on how quickly Mandy and I could upgrade to that bigger house or shinier car, we made decisions guided not by our hearts or well-being, but rather by the impact they had on our pocket books. Looking back and seeing how misguided we were in those times, I believe we just may have been more broken BEFORE our losses…from those lessons I learned to live my true priorities.

I gained a new-found respect for not only the grief shared by our new circle of bereaved friends who had comparably harrowing stories of loss, but all those who faced trials, anxieties and obstacles in their own lives. Looking at a prayer-list that seemed to grow by the day, my eyes were opened to a world marred by tragedy and strife all around me. I realized that we were never alone in our struggles and while others faced different battles of varying proportions, no one received a pass through life unscathed. We all faced stretches where fortunes seem too good to be true opposite moments where hardships proved too great to bear alone. From my own darkest days and helping carry others through theirs, I learned the power of empathy.

As a vast community ranging from lifelong friends to complete strangers rallied around us in our times of grieving, I was eternally grateful for the outpouring of support shown in so many different ways. From all those who accepted that I needed to deal with grief in my own way, on my own timeline and held their judgments in favor of unconditional friendship and support, I finally learned to practice compassion.

As the year played itself out I struggled with a lasting disappointment knowing the book would not culminate in the picture-perfect Hollywood ending, that I hoped for from the start. On several occasions I nearly put down the pen and abandoned the narrative as it became increasingly difficult to revisit our misfortune over and over in explicit detail. Fortunately something inside of me said, “Keep writing you’ve come too far to quit.” It was the same voice I heard through the blaring 5AM alarm with every early morning trek to Gurnee, from the message of hope delivered through the powerful pipes of a church organ and through the soft undertones of my Wife’s voice as she led support groups and took other women under her wing who were just starting their long journey back from despair. From that collection of voices I learned persistence.

Just like everyone, I too yearned for complete control over my destiny…a belief that my tireless efforts towards our cause came with a guarantee of success. What I instead learned the hard way was there were no guarantees beyond the moments I found myself standing in. The only thing I could count on was life’s unpredictability and that I alone held the choice whether or not to let the past define my future or to move forward armed with the invaluable lessons garnered through those most trying of circumstances.

The last year taught me to cherish all the little things I had long taken for granted…great friends who always had my back, the eternal devotion of family and a Wife who inspired the best in me everyday. Closing the 33rd chapter, I most importantly learned to live squarely within those moments in life, which made the most trying of times worth persevering through…