The Extra of the Infertility Journey

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The friendships. A wholehearted truth. Renewed dreams. My reclaimed life.

Just a few of the extras of my infertility journey, none of the above a consolation prize of my hard story and three lost babies, rather gifts that I have fought for, created, and received.

My friendship with Kaeleigh, of Unpregnant Chicken, is one of those extras. Last week my friend, who I only met through the community of infertility and loss and this big awesome world of blogging and social media, released her first book. I am so excited to support her by being a part of this amazing blog tour and offering a giveaway! To be entered to win your own copy of Extra! simply comment on this post. I will draw a winner on February 15th, 2018. I am so proud of this project and it's offer to families who need a little extra to find their way to their version of the complete family portrait.

Make sure to follow along on this blog tour and check out Christine's post from Friday and Victoria's which is coming tomorrow!

He'll Do It Again

I’ve seen You move… You move the mountains. And I believe… I’ll see You do it again.

You made a way… where there was no way. And I believe… I’ll see You do it again.

I’ve been listening to this song over and over. I usually end up in tears as it amps up with this chorus.

We often hear how we need to ask God to move our mountains and we must also tell the mountains in our lives how big our God is.

He made a way, when there was no way for me in many ways throughout my lifetime. The biggest though was just over three years ago when I began the mighty faith wrestle into His waiting arms.

A wrestle that was only the result of the gift of my three. The old me would say it was when He took my three away. I suppose it is only a difference of semantics, and many could say both are true.

Five years later, I choose them as gift.

It was only in the darkness of grief and loss that I found the light, His and mine. He made a way for me to Him, when there was no way. Three lost babies and accepting life without children…only God can create such a mess. Five years out of our failed infertility journey I can say it has all been a beautiful mess – a true gift.

Because I am a daughter of the King, He loves me, I trust Him, and so I trust it.

Does it still hurt like hell? Yep.

This is the permission of The And, and it allows me to feel that sadness and the trust all at once, because therein lies my healing.

Friday my The Permission of The And TEDx talk officially hit the TEDx YouTube channel with over 9,000,000 subscribers.

And thus, comes another mountain.

Since the publication of Ever Upward, almost three years ago, the constant mountains in my life seem to be book sales, video view counts, and shares and likes. Now that both of my TEDx talks have posted, it seems like I have another gigantic mountain in front of me, to get enough YouTube views and likes to be featured on the TED website.

Except it finally feels different.

I want this bad, more views and likes means more people reached. More people reached means braver people living in this world and rewriting their stories of shame.

This is my purpose on earth – the mother He made.

But I no longer want it more than my own well-being and happiness. I no longer believe that the success of my work, paid or otherwise, has anything to do with my worthiness. I am putting it down at the foot of the cross once and for all.

I am enough and He’s got this.

No more hustling, no more begging. I will continue to do my part – creating life changing content, loving well, teaching those who are ready to receive, and finally having fun while doing it.

My belief is that it will grow.

How big? Only He knows that part.

And finally, I am going to let that be enough.

~~~

You are enough too. If you are ready to begin the work to believe this, I’d love for you to grab your brave and come do this work with me. Whether it is through my Therapy Thursday videos on Facebook or joining my Rising Ever Upward Video Course or attending a workshop or intensive, choose you, do this work, and rewrite your story.

The Heartbeat of 9 Million

The email was short and sweet,

It’s here!

Followed by the link.

A link to one of my dreams come true, the hardest work of my life, and a story of my sacred truth all there for an audience of over 9,000,000.

Whoa!

My hands shook and my heart pounded so hard and loud I could feel it pulsating throughout my whole body.

Fear and trust, excitement and surrender.

The And.

As I sent the link to everyone I know and refreshed the YouTube channel my pounding heart skipped a beat as I saw my other TEDx go live right before my eyes.

Two TEDx talks, both live, to over 9,000,000 in less than three hours.

Holy shit!

A squeal and a jump followed by an immediate hitting of my knees in gratitude and asking for protection, I felt washed over with a sense of knowing and unknowing all at once.

The And.

Here you go world, my two TEDx talks (The Permission of The And and The Donut Effect). Watch, share, give brave feedback, and share again. And, most of all, thank you.

 
 

The Moon of Fair and Prayer

I’ve had this post in my head and heart now for almost two weeks. I’ve sat down to work on it no less than 20 times in those weeks. Let’s call it the endless to do list of building my wholehearted empire, denial, grief, or fleeting creativity, it has not been penned until just now.

In which, I completely trust, this is when the words will be gifted to me.

It all started on a drive home two Sunday nights ago after a great dinner with some of our chosen family. Dinner conversation with three of my favorite boys about the movie Wonder, who their best friends are (I made the cut for Evan, that boy knows his audience), and then too much yelling and laughter about which girls they all like.

“Look at the moon,” I said to Chad as we were driving home much too late for a Sunday evening.

“Whoa,” he said with a catch of awe in his voice.

“Have you ever seen it like that before? The half on the bottom and not the side?”

“No. Kind of weird.”

“And, beautiful,” I reply.

We spend the rest of the drive in silence with worship music playing – grief and God wrestling in my head and heart.

My day had started with church, where as usual, I cried during worship, mostly tears from undone-ness in gratitude. Then, after weeks off due to tour and TEDx, I served in the 3rd to 5th grade room, where I ran the 3rd grade boys small group. The verse for the week was, 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:18

We began by discussing the worst things that could happen at home, school, and their sports or school activities . Most of their answers centered around peeing or pooping their pants or barfing, because… boys. Then we got to the tough part, how to still be grateful even when you’ve shit your pants at school.

Their answers of gratitude were so refreshing. Nothing from comparison or scarcity like so many of us adults do. Just true gratitude of what good could come from pooping your pants at school – like a new pair of pants and getting to talk to the really nice nurse.

Gratitude even in the shit.

It’s the holidays.

It’s no secret I struggle with the holidays.

Last year we only put up a tree. I managed to string lights on it, and still couldn’t bear ornaments because… grief.

They’d be five this Christmas.

How much fun would that be?

Chad asked if we could decorate just a little more this year and said we could go get a new tree of my choice if that could help. We settled on a small pencil tree, pre-lit and with ornaments already attached.

Because, that is where I’m at this year, and it’s progress.

And, I only cried in Menards once.

That weird half moon, with the half somewhere it didn’t really seem to fit and yet it shined brilliantly for all the world to see, felt like looking at me that night. Most days, especially during the holidays, I feel like that moon, never fitting in, a little off, and still brilliantly shining.

The moon is always a reminder of God’s grace for me, as are the sunsets, sunrises, basically anything nature.

But that night was different, maybe it was the song playing on the radio, saying something to the effect that it is all for God’s glory…even the hard, dark parts, even the shit I suppose.

When you don’t get to parent your children here on earth and grief is a part of your daily life, the holidays are hard for obvious reasons. It also really makes you wish that people would remember what Christmas is really about.

There is also another reason it is difficult though.

There are a ton of adorable pregnancy and birth announcements, and lots of them say what a miracle it is and how God answered prayers. Not much unlike the miraculous conceptions of Jesus and John, because sometimes even the Advent reading plans can be tough.

I love seeing the joy of my loved ones’ families growing. And, the enemy will never miss a chance to have that small voice torture me.

You didn’t pray hard enough.
You don’t deserve to be a mom.
You weren’t faithful enough.
You’re being punished.
It’s not fucking fair.

Here’s the thing, I know better now.

This is not about fair, or really prayer, for that matter.

Sure, God hears our every prayer. Hell, our prayers can even change His mind I think. At the end of the day, though, I don’t get to say which prayers of mine He answers. And, I for sure, don’t get to say how He answers them.

Now to the toughest part, because all you have to do is read the news to get a sense of how unfair it can feel that Chad and I don’t get to be parents in the traditional sense of the word and a bunch, like a freaking bunch, get to. Bottom line, fair or unfair, that shit is above my pay grade. I doubt I will ever get the answer as to why I don’t get any and why someone else I have deemed undeserving gets four. I know my clarity and full healing is waiting for me when I get to meet Jesus face to face one day.

In the meantime, I praise God for giving His only Son for us. I know in Him, because of Him, and through Him I am whole, loved, okay, and a message of grace for this world.

As I have wrestled with so much of the new teachings that have been brought into my life and reading more and more scripture, and wading through the glittered difficulty of the holidays, I was brought back to the moon just this past Sunday, a week after the ‘little off’ half moon.

I remembered just before bed that I had to go see the Super Moon. In my pajamas and socks, I ran out to the driveway to see the moon, something I actually do on a pretty regular basis. At first, the big, bright full super moon was behind a veil of thin clouds. Even veiled a bit, it still reflected it’s shining glory onto everything.

With a deep breath, I prayed,

Lord, Help me to lay it down for good this time, I don’t want this anymore. I know it was, and is, fair. Because you are good and I am your loved daughter. My sadness and grief can coexist with my trust in your fairness, because when I live in the permission of The And, I honor you, me, and them. It is all for Your glory, and you love me so much, it is also for mine.

And then, the clouds floated over the moon to reveal a perfect opening for all His glory to shine in and on.

My story is hard and it is beautiful. It is my message of grace and I will never stop loving it, trusting it, and speaking it.

It has nothing to do with fair.

It is the story He has written for me and for Him.

And, graciously, it has given birth to me.

~~~

Exciting adventures: My new newsletter is short, sweet, and full of great content, make sure to sign up here. I have a new prayer plan over at Reflective Prayer, use coupon code JustinePrayer for 15% off! And finally, my Rising Ever Upward for Network Marketers video course is now available!

I'm Still Here, Just Different

It has been a minute since I posted, about two months actually. Are you still here?

I am.

How are you?

I'm different...

I've spent the last two months traveling around the country offering my Rising Ever Upward workshops and intensives. Oh the stories I have...but you'll have to wait for that book to come out! I've met some incredible people, grown this tribe, visited super cool cities, and eaten my fair share of amazing food! I believe in this work more than ever and am honored to continue to offer it and live it.

I wanted to stop by with a few updates:

  1.  I booked a TEDx talk!!! Actually 2! I am speaking at TEDxDearborn October 13th and TEDxLaSierraUniversity November 10th. I will let you know if these events will be livestreamed, and of course, share once they have made the TED website!
  2. More workshops and intensives are coming soon! Make sure to check here for future dates.
  3. My next book, The Complicated Gray, is in final edits as we speak! And, I am in development for the next one too!
  4. This fall I am launching a 3 part video series based on my workshops and intensives for network marketers.

Now for the different... I have done a lot of work and growth this year, especially in changing my relationship with my pain. This has enabled me to reach more people and build what is slowly but surely becoming an empire. While my team (I have a team guys, small and mighty, yay!) and I get our barrings, especially in figuring out what this looks like starting first with a one stop, all inclusive new website, I'd love to share a series I have started on my Facebook page called #TherapyThursdaywithJustine (TT). Each week we will post a new TT video for you here. If you don't want to miss them live each Thursday, make sure to like and follow at www.facebook.com/justinebfroelker.

Thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for the continued support, love, and prayers. There are really big and exciting things coming, and I can't wait to share them with my community here.

For now, here was a bonus TT (for FREE,  accountant Chad always likes to add) I did this week about judgment...

 
 

A Workshop and Dream

Tomorrow kicks off my Rising Ever Upward Tour, and there are not enough emotional words to type to accurately describe how I am feeling. Thank God I have this work to help me navigate it all.

Tonight I am offering a FREE workshop as I wrap up my 7 week Mini-Course, I'd love for you to join me. I'll be sharing a glimpse into what this work is all about and much more. You can read more about it here.

 
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I feel a lot of writing coming from me while on tour, some for the next book of course, and some for you all here. Thank you for your patience as I enter into this new stage of my career. I cannot thank this community enough.

Another Round

Sitting on my orange couch flanked by all three of our dogs, I giggle to myself as Cassandra, my coach, continues on, "How did that turn out?" Unbeknownst to her, her face has been frozen for the last 5 minutes of our conversation; and yet her question, both powerful and one she already knows the answer to, hits me to the core.

"It didn't work out how I wanted," I reply with just the slightest annoyance in my voice.

"And, how did that turn out?" she asks.

"I created and have received this incredible and fucking beautiful life," I state back with a clarity and a knowing, though a catch of my voice and the tears in my eyes reveal my truth that this life has not come without years of loss, work, and trust.

It was just a minute before, on our call, that I had come to realize that the risk I am taking in going out on tour, offering my workshops and intensives, is not much unlike the risk we took 6 years ago in doing IVF.

Financial sacrifice?

Check.

Paralyzing fear?

Check.

Doubt, our own and that of many, many others?

Check.

Hope?

Check. Why else would we sign up for it?

So much the same, and so much, so very different.

Going through the infertility journey six years ago, I was a completely different person.

Back then, who I was with the addition of financial stress, waiting games, synthetic hormones, and no babies was the perfect storm for the deepest darkest crash of my entire life. I was, in many ways, living my life from the place of shame, scarcity, comparison, and with my weaknesses in total control.

The darkness left behind by our infertility journey that ended without kids, was the ashes from which I needed to rise.

And now, to leap into another unknown.

I needed to choose myself, to do the work, and to rise into this incredible person I am and into this incredible  life I have now.

I am preparing to leave for tour in less than two weeks, which means the talons of PTSD clutch every organ in my chest and stomach often, as if we are doing another round of IVF. This PTSD triggers overwhelming fear that could easily take over every thought and my entire body if I let it.

I find my breath stolen from me in a second, without so much as a trigger - the fear, doubt, anxiety, shame, and comparison charging up my physiological response to emotion in my pounding heart and shortness of breath.

Yet, I stop myself.

It's different now.

It has only been with this work, the work I am fighting so hard to bring to my community on tour, that I recognize the symptoms and then refuse to attach to the drama. It is in this choice that I give myself the permission to rumble with what is really going on. It is through this rumble with my shame shit that I choose to cope, to be always rewriting my story, and standing in my sacred truth.

With this work, and my team and community rallying and surrounding me, those PTSD talons are no match for this person and life I have created, fought for, and done the work to receive these last few years.

Most of all, it is no match for my level of faith. Sure, I am quite possibly the literal poster child for when things don't turn out how you hoped, dreamed, and planned. But...

I am also the flawed, full-of-grit-and-grace badass who rises from those ashes a better person, one who loves harder and shines brighter. It is within this hard that I help others and with that light that I am able to see how beautiful of a life I have been given.

I go into this unknown from a place of self-love, passion, and a burning desire to heal the world.

I eventually took a picture of Cassandra and sent it to her on Messenger. We both laughed and we ended our session in our usual way: of her palpable excitement for what is and what is to come, my complicated gray of excitement and fear, and both of our's full knowing that whatever is to come of this incredible work we are doing together, we are both certain that it far exceeds our wildest dreams.

I don't know what God's plan is for this tour. Just like I didn't know what God's plan was for our three.

 
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I know it will be filled with people who are ready to heal and courageous enough to do this work with me. I know it will change their lives, my life, and therefore, the world. I know that no matter if every registration is booked, and no matter how much money made or lost, that it will be God-willed, God-filled, and amazing.

Because unlike the 30% odds of the "successful" outcome with an infertility journey, my odds are 100% when it comes to who I have become, the work I am willing to do on a daily basis, God's grace, and my badassery rising.

Called

I am just a couple of weeks out from the kick off of my Rising Ever Upward tour. The registrations are starting to fill my inbox.

People are sending messages.

They are engaging with my Mini-Course and Facebook Lives.

In fact, 22 people took advantage of a last minute pop up class last night for FREE (a $200 value).

A couple of them even registered to come do this work with me in a city near them.

Clarity took root last night for me... I am doing this. I am supposed to be doing this.

And, I am super excited and oh so grateful.

Make sure you have subscribed to my subscriber list, as we still have 2 weeks left of exclusive content coming, along with following along at Facebook.

And, have no doubt, I have a HUGE and AMAZING close planned for this 7 week Mini-Course!

Thank you for your support!

 
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Receiving the Moments

So many moments that would never be had my story turned out how I wanted...how I hoped, dreamed, and planned.  I no longer torture myself with the, 'I'd trade it all for them...' Because it's not helpful and doesn't honor them. It doesn’t honor them because it doesn't honor where and who I am now, in reality only because of our three

He knew better, He had better. 

I must, however, do the work to keep my heart open enough to receive this better He has for me. 

And so, I'll love harder, fuller, and better because of them, honoring the mom they made me. 

And, I'll mother anyone who wants to love this way too.

This week, I am so honored to have been here to witness my oldest friend's second daughter come into this world, my namesake's little sister, Alexandra. 

And, I am so grateful. 

 
 

The Rising Ever Upward Tour

 
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If you seek a life lived more authentically... 

If shame keeps you from living and loving fully...

If you want to build shame resilience and courage practices...

If you want to learn how to live more bravely in the arenas of your life...

 If you simply want to learn how to live, love, parent and lead more wholeheartedly and with deep courage...

The Daring Way™ and Rising Strong™ work is for you.

Join me on tour this summer,

full details at www.daringinstl.com.

A Princess, a Victim, a Hero, an Author and a Rising

The bubble gum pink iridescent ribbons stick out of the overhead bin as if there is a tiny Disney princess taking a nap up there. I stare at the delicate ribbons, the prized possession of a little girl from what was probably her first visit to the happiest place on earth.

I take a deep breath, a breath filled with the complicated gray of sadness and gratitude, as a tear makes its way down my face.

5 years ago, 3 years ago, hell just seven weeks ago those ribbons would have brought me to a different kind of cry.

This day, though, they are tears of trust, freedom, and appreciation of how life is, not how I try to will it to be.

Chad and I are on our flight home from Orlando as I write this. We just spent the last three days at Disney World and Universal surrounded by damsels, princes, and heroes. A vacation we purchased at the Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Angel Ball last year. And, a trip that also happened to fall during National Infertility Week because it’s timing with my best friend’s wedding in Florida was too good not to schedule together.

The Justine I was, post failed fertility treatments would have never been able to make this trip, she was too destroyed by bitter and anger, comparison and shame to go to the happiest place on earth filled with thousands of reminders of the life she would never have. It has not been until very recently that I have realized how much work I still had to do to truly thrive after infertility.

Instead, I was present this trip and allowed myself to experience things in a way I haven’t before. I didn’t overly judge any parents out of a broken and incomplete heart ravaged by our missing three or hold on to ignorant comments made by people who aren’t touched by the devastation of infertility. Being at Disney without children, trust me, were there comments.

I noticed the shift in my reaction after a comment at the end of our very first day at Disney. We sat our tired bodies on the hard comfort of the tram bench across from a couple and their devastated four year daughter who was hysterically shouting, “But I don’t want to leave yet!”

They tried to reason with her, assuring her they had a great dinner surprise for her for her birthday, undoubtedly dinner with a princess or Mickey himself. But, she would not take this peace offering and only shouted and cried louder, “But I don’t want to leave yet!”

This is when her dad noticed my “My 1st visit” button and said, “Enjoy this magical time, you know, before you come back here with kids.”

Chad and I simply smiled and I joked back, “You guys are such jerks making her leave the park for a birthday surprise.”

No need for my advocate heart to educate him that not everyone will get to bring their children to Disney, hell, some of us don’t get to have them at all, he is already down for the count as the biggest asshole parent ever, at least in the eyes of his devastated four year old.

Instead, I took a breath and said to myself, Jesus help me.

 
 

I feel.

The uneventfulness, infertility-wise, of our trip culminated on our last day at Universal. Our morning started as we walked past a “book shop” called Embryo Books Booksellers and Publishers. I looked at Chad, “Wonder if they would have given me a publishing contract?”

I snapped this picture feeling the tiniest of tugs in my heart as I allowed it to pass choosing instead sad and joy in the exact same moment because as uncomfortable as the complicated gray is, I am finding my wholehearted home in it.

I release.

We spent the day moving quickly through just about every ride line as we people watched and I stared in awe of the creativity that is Universal often exclaiming, “I mean the attention to detail, the creativity, it is so amazing!”

Line after line the Universal employee would ask, “How many?”

“Two.”

Only two.

Nope, you can’t see my three.

Only I can feel them.

And, no less than ten times at Universal that day we were told to go to three.

“Line three.”

“Row three.”

“Three.”

Finally after the third time, Chad and I looked at one another, knowing this never was a coincidence, as if God was reminding us,

He’s got them, we will see them again and they will always be a part of you.

We are more than two.

I receive.

The bitter, the anger and the pain-filled grief almost completely gone, which I’ll admit kind of scares me. Well, the shame and scarcity part of me, the part of me that can feel so invisible a lot of the time, saying, then they never mattered.

What I know now is that this is actually the exact opposite, they matter more than ever, just in a much different way than I’ve ever allowed them to and than society may ever, especially if I stopped doing this work.

I advocate for healthier messages in the infertility journey, even though at times it feels as if I am the only one saying them and that no one will ever listen.

I advocate for women like me who end this journey without children holding their hands, because I know I am not the only one, I get messages every single day from my fellow warriors.

I advocate for myself because this life, my story, is hard and beautiful...and incredible.

This is life, a complicated gray of struggle and triumph, a really freaking beautiful triumph if we do the work.

So I will write, I will speak and I will keep helping and creating because the shining of my own complicated gray triumph can push, walk alongside and guide you into your own.

My story is not tragic.

My story is not one to be pitied, and it does not lack hope because it didn’t turn out how I, and you and society, hoped, dreamed and planned.

I am not a victim.

My story is not one to be admired either.

I am not a hero.

My story is a rising a rising out of the ashes and into the awakened and colorful life of the complicated gray.

I am the author.

A couple hours into the flight and those bubble gum pink iridescent ribbons still flutter in the stale cabin air of the plane, no one has rescued the princess and they don’t need to.

 
 

She has already rescued herself.

~~~

For the last five weeks 24 other incredible fellow warriors have shared their stories as part of my Ever Upward Blog Tour for the launch of my second book, The Mother of Second Chances, and National Infertility Awareness Week. Yesterday my friend Julie shared her incredible story.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for their bravery and their support. The relationships I have made only because of the infertility journey are relationships I will be forever thankful for. Please make sure to read and share all of their posts here.

I'm Done, Different, and Resurrected

Tomorrow I release The Mother of Second Chances, based on this very blog. She is technically my fourth book, although the last two in some ways I hardly count. Taking Flight, my coloring journal, I published for my own creative joy. And my ebook, Lessons in Ever Upward, I released out of the desperate hustle that is slowly, and with effort, leaving my life; leaving only because I am allowing it to. For the last six weeks I have been working with a new coach, and for the last six weeks I have been doing assignments that have challenged me, pushed me, made me frustrated, made my body feel weird in ways I've never experienced, and of course, there have been tears. All to only give away to a clarity and peace I have been longing for for most all of my life.

I began my work with Cassandra after seriously considering quitting all of this; no more writing, no more advocacy, no more hustling to get this noticed, no more trying to help.

It had begun to drain me. To only feed the scarcity message I already get most days in our world, especially as a woman who cannot have children.

I am not enough.

I called Cassandra because God put her Facebook post in front of my eyes after my heart was finally willing to receive it. I was realizing I had come to a stand still in my own therapy work and that my desperation in this work was turning into bitterness.

And so, six weeks ago I started looking myself in the mirror for five minutes every morning and five minutes every night saying my affirmations (I am a good student and always do my assignments). I started reading and listening to books that are a wee bit out there for me but have nuggets of truth and light that I wanted and needed to hear. I have written down my biggest fears and focused on them as things to create rather than be squashed by. I have told myself over and over that I can trust and accept the process of life and that when shit hits the fan I choose to find the good within it.

And within these last six weeks, really only the beginning of our journey so far, everything has changed.

I am less reactive.

I am going back on my own work to say, that yes, peace is actually possible.

My faith has grown.

And for real, like no joke look-you-in-the-eye-with-a-joy-that-you-can-feel-taste-and-smell, I am actually trusting, letting go and surrendering.

None of this was without much convincing. But it did not take me long to learn and to agree with Cassandra that if I did not change my relationship with my pain, to let go of it, to change how I do this work and to trust and know that I am enough no matter what, that I would never ever help the people I truly could. And, I would continue to be stuck in the dark of never enough.

I knew with all my heart, that quitting would only mean a life with regret. And, to be honest, my fear of this regret mixed with what can be a bitter pain-filled grief from a life without kids was too much for me to risk.

I have not been through what I have for a life like that.

My work with Cassandra has only proven that more.

One of the books she has had me listen to is Caroline Myss' Advanced Energy Anatomy, I've listened no less than 4 times in the last several weeks already (I speed up my Audible because, well, this is the life of an entrepreneur). Through this  book I am learning that it is my child and victim archetype at work when I torture myself with,

Why me?

Why did this happen?

This is not fair!!! How could You do this?

I've especially listened to Chapter 8 where Caroline talks about Jesus as the ultimate example of surrender and therefore co-creation with God. It is also here in this chapter she talks about Helen Keller and states,

...in accepting what happens to you, in accepting it, not as a disability but as some form of directive, some form of purpose...

Lightening strike clarity.

I am done.

Done with the how could this happen to me? Done with the victim mentality that this is unfair. Done with insisting for an answer as to how and why this could happen. Done holding onto this as a disability.

This whole time I thought I had let this go, that I had redefined my own happy ending, hell it is the subtitle of my bestselling book Ever Upward. But, what I have learned in the last six short weeks is that I needed to change my relationship and the meaning I attach to my pain.

I am done because if I don't release it fully the only thing in the stranglehold of my pain is my very own happiness, truth, joy and power.

I am not a tragic story; back surgeries, a year in a body cast, failed IVF and life without my children, none of it tragic.

And, I will no longer allow anyone else to project that travesty onto me.

None of it was tragic then and it is definitely not tragic now.

Hard? Yes.

Sad? Still and always will be.

Exactly as it was meant? Absolutely.

A brilliant and amazing gift of this incredible life? More than I ever dreamed.

Surrendering to and accepting this allows me to receive the gifts within it and to co-create all the goodness within and from it because my God's got this, and because I am worthy of it.

All this, and yes I'm wordy but you know this by now, to say,

I am done.

I am different.

Five years ago today we got the phone call that would end our infertility journey without the hoped for, dreamed of, planned for and paid for babies.

It is no coincidence that this five year anniversary falls on Easter, the day my Lord and Savior was resurrected giving those of us who receive His gift of grace a new life.

Five years later I am finally ready to receive this new life in the way He always meant for me.

Five years later I am resurrected myself.

Five years later I wonder who they would be andI am grateful for who I have become only because of them.

Five years later I am letting go, giving them back as they were always His to begin with, and receiving a new life.

This is truly rising ever upward.

And so, tomorrow I let go of The Mother of Second Chances.

She is beautiful, she is flawed, she is exactly as she is meant to be.

She is a gift.

She is me.

 
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I'm Stuck in a Life I Didn't Plan by Kristy Taxson

I absolutely LOVE today's piece by my new friend Kristy over at TTC a Taxon Baby. This is why I keep doing this work, because broken silence heals.

I'm Stuck in a Life I Didn't Plan

I love living by the ocean!  There's just something about breathing in the salty air, with your toes in the sand and looking out at the waves rolling in that will bring a sense of peace and calming over your whole body. I find myself sitting in the sand and staring out at the ocean a lot more lately, needing that calming feeling I'm so desperately trying to hold on to. During my latest TWW (two week wait), a little over a month ago, I found myself here again just thinking about everything and focusing on staying calm.  I sat there trying to read my book but found my mind wandering. Thinking about my life and how it didn't go according to my plan. I always knew I wanted to have kids one day, but I kept changing my mind on exactly how many. Never in a million years did it ever cross my mind that I wouldn't be able to have any.  You see, unfortunately, infertility treatments never worked on me.

Click here to keep reading.

Permission to Feel by Erica Stepteau

Today's post for the Ever Upward Blog Tour is from my new friend Erica Stepteau, author of Unstoppable Tenacity. Check her out, she is amazing!!!

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Today I am sharing my In Vitro Fertilization story dedicated to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker's latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward releasing on April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma.

Yesterday Heather shared her story and Monday we will hear from Kristy at TTC a Taxon Baby. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward.

PERMISSION TO FEEL

In 2013 my husband (Joshua) and I decided to give In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) a try in hopes of achieving the dream of becoming parents. For those who don’t know much about IVF; it is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus. It is a very long strenuous 6-8-week process of daily needles, vaginal ultrasounds, and raging hormones.

Five percent of couples with fertility issues seek out IVF. With top chances of IVF success have per-cycle success rates of 40% or higher. During a regular cycle, there is a 15-20% chance to conceive naturally in any month for any couple. Our Fertility specialist shared with us before proceeding with IVF and after our 2nd miscarriage that we had a 2% chance of getting pregnant on our own. Hearing such a small number as a chance to become parents was devastating for us. We honestly thought going with IVF would be the answer to solve our uncertainty, frustrations, and void in our hearts.

I remember us being so excited to get started with IVF because we had just celebrated our 10 year   Anniversary/Renewal of Vows ceremony and just knew this was our year! We had thoughts that since we originally married in a courthouse, that maybe we didn’t consecrate our marriage effectively in 2003 and God was waiting on us to do it the “right” way before blessing us with a child. When you have tried to achieve a dream for this long, you start creating all types of thoughts and philosophies to the mix to provide deeper understanding to be at peace. As humans, we tend to have to KNOW it all and know WHY something is happening to actually embrace it. Can you relate?

For the first time in our whole marriage we shared with everyone that we were trying to conceive. Before starting the process, we got our friends involved and co-workers. For 10 years, we kept it to ourselves and mourned with BFNs (Big Fat Negative Pregnancy tests) in secret. So, this time around we thought if we shared with others this will automatically manifest the babies we desperately desired. We thought it would rally up prayers, high vibes, and good goo-goo to provide a chance for others to witness a miracle unfold with their human eye.

We just knew it was going to happen this time around, we felt it in our deep core and was so assured God will not let us down since we were being so transparent and open. Everyone was so beyond excited for us and cheering for success. Every day we would have conversations with others about us having twins and how life would be so different and even MORE meaningful.

I began to pin every picture on Pinterest of women pregnant with twins. We even started to pick out nursery colors and themes because we were obsessed with the idea of becoming parents.  All of the pics are still on my iPad to this day and when I accidently come across them I feel all the joy and excitement I had at that time to obtain a dream I have been waiting on for over a decade.

As we begin the process, our IVF team assured us we were on track and everything was looking great. No one could tell us there was 100% chance of success, but after doing our baseline biomarkers: hormone levels, ovaries and sperm analysis they felt confident we would be parents as well. Our physician even stated the results we had so far was practically “text book” and this provided to the team even more assurance that this will work for us.

At this time, I was very active and working out with a cool team during lunch hour at a medical device company in Highland Heights, OH. I decided to stop all running which hubby and I did almost every evening in the Metro Parks and the intense Shaun T (Insanity) workout. Instead, I started meditative Yoga. I was really thinking that my high intense physical activity could prevent pregnancy and the success of the IVF process. I didn’t want to take a chance since this procedure was close to $25,000 plus the cost of all the injectable medications.

After using contraceptives for approximately 2 weeks to suppress ovarian production we begin the 4-week process of IVF with the crazy daily fertility injections. I remember being so freaked out by putting a needle in my belly. Joshua had to help a lot with this because I would freeze up and start shaking. Around day 5 I started to feel a bit moody and irritated, and the following week I was having all types of meltdowns about food, work, and the feeling of overwhelm. I had to take a leave of absence from work to finish off the IVF process because how crazy I was feeling.

I remember going into the doctor office starting day 5 of cycle every day for blood work and pelvic ultrasounds. They poked me so much that I began to have bruises on both forearms and I was afraid that I looked like a drug addict. I had to wear long sleeve shirts (thankfully it was still a bit chilly in Ohio) to hid the bruises.  And those internal pelvic ultrasounds were so annoying, but I know they had to constantly check how the ovaries were doing during the process. For 7 days, I almost got use to walking in the office getting poked with a needle 2-3 times then jumping on the table and spread my legs open for internal ultrasound.

As we begin to get closer to egg retrieval day the technician stated that one of my ovaries were the size of a golf ball. I already looked 5 months pregnant and was beginning to have cramping and very uncomfortable pelvic pain. I believe at this time we had 15-18 follicles (eggs) to use to proceed with process.

Egg retrieval day came. We prayed so hard the night of, we ask God to have his way. At this point of the process I was so bruised and beat up, sore, tired, aggravated, and uncertain on the next steps. As they prepped me for surgery Joshua held my hand and we locked eyes. We didn’t say much because we both were very nervous and scared. They grabbed my husband and had him exit room so that they can collect sperm to seal the deal after retrieving my eggs.

I was placed under powerful anesthesia and a needle was passed through the top of my vagina under ultrasound guidance to get to the ovary and follicles. The fluid in the follicles was aspirated through the needed and the eggs detach from the follicle wall and were sucked out of the ovary.

When they completed the 30min surgery, they were able to create 8 embryos. Those were our 8 babies in production. Now the waiting game began to see which 2 embryos do they transfer to my uterus. This waiting game can be up to 5 days. We went home and I was still in excruciating pain. I went from pain at a level of 6 on the scale of 1-10 to like a 20 in a matter of one hour. Joshua rushed me to emergency. We explained to them that I just had an egg retrieval surgery. They did an external ultrasound and found that my right ovary ruptured. So yeah, the pain at the rate of 20 made complete sense at that time. I was in so much pain all I did was sleep, they gave me some low dose meds since I was anticipating to put my “babies” in the oven within a few days. We went home the next morning and I was feeling much better.

When we returned home, we were glued to the phone awaiting information about our “babies”. The nurse called the first thing that morning and said 3 of them started to dissipate and were not valuable to place in uterus. We started to get sad, but had a very small amount of hope for the other 5.  The next day the nurse called again and said 2 more dissolved and then the next day after that she explain we had no more. Our IVF failed. We were crushed because we told everybody and their mama that we will be parents this time. We thought the vulnerability would be the key and sharing our story will solidify our dream. I questioned God on this decision and outcome.

We were very lost on how to move forward at this time. I took another week off work on FMLA because I was so depressed and humiliated. I was disappointed in myself thinking maybe I ate something wrong, didn’t relax enough, or missed a step with injections.  I also felt horrible that my hubby had to endure all the mood swings, nagging, and errands to accommodate me along the journey without providing to him a very special gift of a child. I was worried about how hubby felt.

He was so sad and there was a lot of silence for a few days in the house. He went to work and came home, I cooked, we ate and that was it. Neither one of us wanted to talk about it. Our phones were blowing up. Everyone wanted to send their condolences, we received flowers in the mail, encouraging text messages, and when I returned to work my team even had a card for me.

After a few days, I allowed myself to actually feel the pain and allowed a few to witness the pain and know that I was struggling to keep my faith and sanity.

What I learned from this particular situation is that it’s important to give yourself permission to feel. Since this incident, I have been able to share my journey towards fertility a bit more with ease and flow. We are currently still on our journey towards fertility and just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. We still have hope to be parents one day, sharing has allowed me to heal some deep wounds associated with this journey. Not that every layer is healed, but I am better off allowing myself to feel the pain instead of hoarding it and allowing it to kill me internally.

It’s something liberating about allowing yourself to feel, don't numb emotions or play like everything is ok. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Find a confidant who is willing to be present NOT just provide guidance or their input. Remember you can't specifically numb these feelings without numbing joy in your life at the same time. So, cry, yell, scream, and grieve when you have to then get back up with confidence and assurance that it will be ok.

If you are grieving or experiencing a painful moment in your life right now, give these tips below a try. It will for sure help you embrace your journey a bit more and heal from within while you still keep the faith alive on the outside!

  • Journal thoughts about a time you needed to “feel” instead of masking emotions. As you reflect back, allow yourself to scream, yell, cry, or grieve when necessary.
  • How have you lost your tolerance of vulnerability? You cannot selectively numb sections of vulnerability because by default you will numb your joy. The best ways to embrace vulnerability is to have gratitude for all your blessings and give yourself permission to feel.
  • What masks are you wearing? In what ways, will you start removing them? What is your biggest fear of exposing yourself?

6 Motherly Lessons Learned From the Losses of Infertility: Ever Upward Blog Tour 2017

It is with a heart full of awe and gratitude that I am kicking off my blog tour in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week and the launch of my latest book The Mother of Second Chances: The Struggle Bus of Rewriting My Story of Infertility and Loss, based off my blog. The Mother of Second Chances releases April 17th and is available for pre-orders now! For this blog tour I have 24 incredible voices joining me. Over the next five weeks each blogger will post on their blog or social media outlet their post on their assigned day to help us raise awareness of the lifelong journey of infertility. Read my fellow warriors stories of loss, courage, hope, healing and honor. Let us come together to educate the world on infertility and rising Ever Upward, and therefore build compassion for our continued healing.

We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward. And, please feel free to tag me.

Together we will #shatterthestigma.

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To kick us off, I start with my 6 Motherly Lessons Learned From the Losses of Infertility. Tomorrow my friend Jenna shares her story.

 
 
 

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Post links will be published once blogs are posted.

 
 

Silence in Infertility: The Race Gap

Because infertility knows no bounds of ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. Because the silence is destroying us.

Because it is important to circle back.

Because we desperately need to have these conversations.

Honestly, it is best explained here...

 
 

The Ever Upward Blog Tour starts March 27th right here!

 
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The Struggle Bus of I Quit

"Is the speaking, writing and advocacy just bringing up the grief too much?" I have been asked this by more than one close loved one lately.

All you have to do is follow me on social media and see some of my recent videos to know that I've been on the struggle bus lately.

Ah, the struggle bus. But why?

Never a therapist to turn away from learning and growing in my own insight, I know it is a runaway bus for a few reasons.

We got to spend an amazing and fun weekend with three of our favorite boys while their mom and dad, some of our closest friends, were on a business vacation. It was a weekend of sports, the new Lego movie, a preschool Valentine's Day party (the one and only I will ever attend), sharing the worst part and best parts of our day over dinner together and me yelling the words, "No touching another human being for the next ten minutes!" a thousand times.

For three days Chad and I got to experience the tiniest bit of the anxiety, worry, frustration and exhaustion of parenting three boys.

For three days we got the tiniest glimpse into what life would have been like with our three.

It was incredible, and I am so grateful.

It was also super hard and had the major undercurrent of grief for me.

The weekend after, I spoke at an infertility conference. I spent the day surrounded by men and women still in the journey, my fellow warriors, while I hocked my book and presented with my good friend and fellow warrior Lindsay. Our presentation kicked ass, we got so much positive feedback.

It was amazing, and I knew I did good work that day.

It was also hard and had a major undercurrent of my grief.

So the question posed above by several of my loved ones is not out of the question. I have noticeably been in a season of struggle... again; more tearful, arguing with God, then frustrated with myself and utterly exhausted and overwhelmed.

Fucking struggle bus.

However, I know the answer to their question immediately.

My grief is always there, it will always fucking be here, my children aren't walking this earth with me! My writing, speaking and advocating honor them and help it feel like it was all worth something.

And yet, lately it feels like it is an exhausting, pointless hustle. Like all the work, sacrifice, money and time are never going to pay off. To which Chad then does his job, well I might add, of witnessing my life with his complimentary to me husband duty and asks, "What is your definition of success when it comes to this?"

"I guess I have no idea, which is even more frustrating," is my only reply, which only pisses me off more, brings tears down my cheeks and makes me pick up my wine glass.

It is clear my story will never be the first picked for the magazine or mainstream media outlet. Hell, it is proven that I usually have to literally force my way onto the local stages. The definition of success where this goes viral and my story is able to reach millions feels impossible.

To be honest, it has crossed my mind more than once these last few weeks to quit it all. To stop writing, speaking and advocating.

And then, par the course, God not so gently nudges me with a few Facebook messages and emails:

"I can't get your story out of my head."

"Thank you for being the only one to say that sometimes this doesn't work and that we can still be okay."

"Thank you for telling your story."

"Thank you for all you do for our community."

How come it is so hard for me to count this as success?

Because it is not over 22,000 Facebook likes, a million views and it is for sure not any amount of a paycheck. We live in a world that we are told we don't matter and that we are never enough. You haven't sold enough books, made enough money, gotten enough followers...you aren't pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, happy enough...

YOU. ARE. NOT. ENOUGH.

We all have this shame and scarcity in our lives, the world we live in alone makes you feel like a prisoner to it. I don't get dibs on it as a small published author painstakingly building her platform with a sad story on a topic no one wants to talk about.

But as my life would have it, this very normal feeling of never enough majorly triggers my grief trauma.

I live in a world full of children. Everything is child-centered and child-obsessed, even the Hallmark holidays I learned this past Valentine's Day when grief reared it's ugly head and bit me in the ass.

 
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Almost everywhere I go, I am the only woman my age without children. I will never fit in. The grief and the shame trauma that lives inside of me turns this into another way for me to tell myself that I am not enough.

This is the story I must bravely work to rewrite every day. This is the story all of us must rewrite.

I rewrite it through practicing self-care, loving hard, mothering everything and everyone that comes into contact with me and through writing and speaking the story the world isn't ready to hear.

I know, I can't quit. This is in my bones and I am not done changing the world yet, especially the infertility and loss community. I do however have to shift my energy before this hustle kills my spirit.

So, I will write when I am moved. I will publish the next two books because, hell, they are already written and they are needed. And, I will let this go, laying it down, let's be honest, laying it back down at His feet where it always belonged anyway. He's got it. My success, my identity, are not in book sales, followers or a paycheck. My identity doesn't even lie in my motherhood.

It is my job to get off the damn struggle bus, even if it is to squeeze into a struggle Fiat for now. So, with the help of my community, a new coach, my self-care and His mercy and grace the struggle is now in a tiny car that will zoom in and out of the traffic of living this wholehearted life with lifelong grief.

And, I will pull over once in a while and remember, I am a daughter of the King. He made me a mother. And, through Him, in Him and because of Him, I am enough.

Do You Think She's Brave?

I am not sure I have ever been so scared for a piece to be published... Here we go! I am practicing my badass bravery even though I feel like I may vomit. Thank you also to my amazing friend over at Bent Not Broken for her editing help on this one! ~~~

Is She Brave?

We hear it growing up and even more as adults: never give up, good things come to those who wait and work hard for your dreams.

Then one day you walk out of a florescent lit doctor’s office as a shell of your former self after receiving life changing news because now you must pick up the pieces of what you thought your life would be.

She received the diagnosis several years ago.

Click here to continue reading over at HuffPost.