For the last three weeks my inbox, social media platforms and the Ever Upward Facebook page have received the brave words and the beautiful pictures of almost 300 families breaking the silence of infertility. With every notification my heart skips a beat.
With every word I read my body washes over with goosebumps.
With every smiling face I know that together we are changing the world.
I've tried hashtags before, I've run campaigns before and I have asked for help and participation before but none ever to huge success, at least in our social media's realm of viral success. So, I honestly had absolutely no expectations for this project.
Of course, I hoped we could go viral.
Have we succeeded?
Perhaps not in our internet crazed, fast paced, instant gratification and millions of shares and views definition of viral. But let's be honest, this project didn't include a puppy video or adorable babies giggling or toddlers saying hilarious things.
But did we succeed in the power of banding together to rise ever upward and seek our own freedom through and after infertility?
What I was not prepared for, well besides the amount of work and wishing I could afford that assistant, were several surprises along the way.
The pang of my own longing. Lots of pictures of families with kids, babies, bellies and successful treatments ignited my forever longing right alongside my happiness. To continue to have the support and participation of people whose infertility treatments (or adoptions) have worked out for has been amazing. Plus, I've done the work and know my rise is the muck of my longing joy.
The gratitude of all participation. People still in the trenches, adoption stories, IVF success stories, no IVF treatents, donor stories, surrogacy, childfree not by choice, etc. I got submissions from every version of the infertility journey. And again, I am reminded that no matter how different our journey is, the feelings, the lifelong costs and the joy found through it are very much the same.
The worry of rap sheets and unhealthy messages. So many numbers were shared. So many tries and years and heartbreaks. One of my strong messages is that we must be more than our numbers (hence #MoreThan1in8) and that sometimes it is the healthiest thing to accept what sucks and choose to redefine. The therapist/advocate in me winced at times reading everyone's infertility rap sheets and so many 'never give up' messages.
The power of thriving. The rap sheets were almost always followed by what I was seeking in the project: How are you thriving through and after infertility? People shared their souls, their tools, their love, their fight and so much more. They shared how they are more themselves through this brutal and amazing journey.
The fear of not belonging. The "successful" families almost always prefaced their submission with an almost apology. Since they got the kids, they felt like they weren't sure they still belonged to the project. Which if you read my work, you know I think this journey lasts a lifetime no matter what your happy ending from it.
The surprise of who did and who did not participate. For their own health and happiness some of my closest blogging friends did not participate, or even share, the project. While I am disappointed by this, I completely get and support them doing what they need to do to be okay. But this is a reminder for those of us in the infertility community, we must support one another from a place of compassion and empathy no matter how different our stories may be or how different they end up. On the other side, many people came out of the infertility closet for the first time because of this project, people I never expected. And that, well, is one of the biggest reasons I work so hard on the healthy messages of the Ever Upward advocacy to begin with.
The awe of community. I never could have had this much participation without the help of my fellow warriors. I am in complete awe of this community, of the support we are capable of providing to one another and of the power we can have when we speak our truth and support one another through it, in it and thereafter.
Finally, the sadness of what I lost to get here. In my own therapy session last week my ass got totally therapized when my therapist Shellie said, "But how do you feel? I need you to pause and feel what this work means to you, feel how you got here. You are such an advocate and a doer but you need to take a breath and pause."
Of course, my eyes filled with tears. Tears of gratitude and joy and tears of longing and sadness.
The power of the determined and passionate advocate I am will never be great enough to overpower my grief and the longing and wonder I have for my three babies.
There still are, and probably forever will be, thoughts like,
Why not me?
It's not fair.
I will forever give myself permission for the anger, bitterness and sadness that lead me to ask those questions. I will also forever take the next breath and allow a tiny shift to make room for the joy, trust and gratitude.
God chose me to be their mother. He gave me my three. I suppose you could say He also took them away. But they were never mine to begin with, just as I belong to Him, they were always His. I only hoped to borrow them for a while, to parent with them by my side instead of from afar.
But, I trust He has my story.
He also gave me the choice to find my place in it.
I choose to redefine and help people through the infertility journey and thereafter. I choose to make sure the healthier messages become our truth.
As this work is my triumph over tragedy, in this work I honor my babies.
I choose motherhood. I choose breaking the silence.
I am a mother rising ever upward.
Thank you for reading, and especially, for participating in #MoreThan1in8. Make sure to follow the blog and the Ever Upward Facebook page for the surprises I have coming out next week using your amazing stories and beautiful faces throughout the week for National Infertility Awareness Week.