FREE 7 Week Rising Ever Upward Mini-Course

Last week I kicked off my FREE 7 week Rising Ever Upward Mini-Course on Facebook and at my Ever Upward subscriber list. I will be sharing unique and exclusive material at both platforms as I lead up to leaving on tour in July. Make sure to follow at both platforms so you don't miss anything, and of course, a share goes further than you think. Thank you in advance!

The Rising Strong™ work has changed everything for me and I am so excited to be able to offer my workshops and intensives in a city near you this summer! I'd love to see you on tour!

For now and this one time only, I thought I would share Week 1 from the email list here for you to get an idea of this incredible work for yourself. Make sure to also follow along on Facebook for a weekly challenge, live video and graphic!

 
 

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.

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.

A Bare Tree and an Aching Heart

"You ready?" my parents asked me. "I have to get a picture of the glasswing butterfly first," I replied. "Chad saw it a few minutes ago."

The butterfly aviary is one we are familiar with as we visit it every single year we go to Branson. In fact it was a year ago that I met Julie who then sent me information on the glasswing butterfly after reading my blog.

The glasswing ,well and the monarch, are my mascots. Spirit animals? Whatever, their existence helps me to survive my own.

The air is cooler than normal in the aviary and not as humid as it usually is, which also means the butterflies are not as active that day. We had already had a huge surprise when we first got there when I spotted my coloring journal Taking Flight. I had completely forgotten they sold it there in the gift shop.

I love butterfly houses but I also knew I needed pictures to use for this very blog, so it was both work and pleasure, the always delicate balance of my life. I had all but forgotten about the glasswing until Chad finally spotted it a few minutes prior.

Every single time I would get close enough for a shot her transparent wings and tiny body would become a blurred flit in the air challenging our eyes to keep track of her. Her frantic movement reminded me of my life these last several weeks. I have been busy, busier than I have ever been. Yet, I have also tried to stop referring to it as busy because that can become such an excuse for so many of us. I am too busy, has become like nails on a chalkboard for me

It is a fact, we are all busy. Life will never get unbusy.

We must, I think, choose our busy.

Much like the crazed glasswing butterfly, most days I feel like a crazed flit in the air that no one can catch.

There was a difference though, this butterfly lived in a home decked in Christmas joy of music and decorations. I, on the other hand, have yet to put up a single snowman or glitter garland. Christmas is less than 20 days away and I don't have one bit of Christmas jolly in my house. My excuse has been my crazed business and being out of town so much.

Or so I thought.

Then yesterday on a gray and chilly St. Louis morning God stopped me in my tracks. As my gigantic-never-gets-all-the-way-done to-do list ran through my head I caught a glimpse of movement in the backyard. At first it was only the whites of their tails that caught my eye against our tree line that has gone mostly brown already.

Three deer standing in a row.

Three.

My three.

They all stop to look at me in their statue-like grace as I step onto a chair to get a better view of them through our back windows. I find myself taking a deep breath; a paused, deep breath in spite of my looming to-do list and every passing minute that nothing is getting crossed off of it.

My chosen busy lately has been a ton of amazing travel, continuing to see a full-time case load of clients (including doing more Rising Strong intensives, which I love), working on the second book proposal and building my Plexus team.

It is all stuff I absolutely love and wholeheartedly believe in.

It is on top of that chair seeing God's not so gentle reminder of my three, that I realize I have also been busy because I am passing through another damn holiday and looming due date without my three.

We are "supposed" to have four year olds this Christmas. Four year olds in their matching Christmas jammies giggling with magical excitement as they leave a note, cookies and milk for Santa and sprinkle glitter on our front yard for the reindeer.

 
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Instead, I tortured our three little dogs with their own Christmas jammies for this year's holiday card.

I got the shot of the glasswing butterfly, because I am one determined woman running three businesses with the frenzied grace like a glasswing butterfly.

I still haven't crossed everything off that damn to-do list, and probably never will. I will keep on in this wholehearted hustle knowing I am always enough (or at least telling myself that).

With God's gentle, for now reminder, I will stop and feel the forever longing joy. I know better than to think I can busy myself enough to forget about the grief of my life.

They would have been four. I miss them and wonder always. I am thankful and I am sad.

The holidays only make all of the above more palpable, no matter how long that to-do list is.

Be still my child, He must constantly remind me of.

As I finish up this piece, I sit with my three little jammie-less dogs flanked on both sides of me, our noses filled with the slightest scent of pine.

You see, God, also gave me Chad. Last night after my dinner out with friends I walked into the house to see an oddly shaped, delicious smelling and plain as day Christmas tree. "You said you wanted a real one," Chad said with love in his eyes.

My eyes filled with tears, "I did."

He looks back at me with confusion, as to him it is only a tree and a nice gesture for his wife.

 
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To me it is a tree that reminds me that my house is missing a few four year olds to help me decorate it, and so it is also one more thing on that never ending to do list.

I am finding you never quite know how grief will hit you year to year, especially with the holidays or special dates. What I do know is that we cannot busy ourselves enough to forget about it.

It is a huge part of us, and always will be. I am honored and grateful to be their mother, all within my forever longing for them.

So I guess the question really is: How long will the tree stay bare?

Not as long as my heart will ache.

11 Easy Ways to Calm the F Down

I’m tired all the time.I am not sleeping well.

I worry so much.

I just want to be happier.

I feel like my life is passing me by.

All comments I hear from almost every single client who has ever had the courage to walk into my therapy office. These are also comments I hear from just about all of my friends and family on a regular basis.

As a true educator and mental health therapist I have a usual first recommendation for just about every single client and my loved ones: self-care.

So much of our lives will be improved by working on self-care, however most of us are not choosing to make the time to practice it daily. Self-care that includes a morning and nighttime routine, exercise, proper nutrition, supplementation, water intake, meditation and true talk therapy, especially talking about shame and fear must be practiced daily.

We cannot give from an empty well.

Practicing self-care fills up our well.

The biggest eye rolls and groans I ever get?

That, of course, would be whenever I mention the word meditation.

Despite the growing research and popularity of meditation it, unfortunately, is still far from a household name, let alone a daily practice.

The biggest complaints about meditation being:

I don’t have time to meditate!

I can’t get my brain to shut off!

I don’t know how!

My responses to these complaints, right after, “I know, it can feel so hard!” are:

Meditating will actually help you to feel like you have more time and energy!

It is really more about focusing and freeing your mind than shutting it off!

There are so many ways to try!

I practice what I teach and have meditated more days than not the last four years despite being wired as someone who will never be naturally meditative and calm.

As my new acupuncturist asked me a few weeks ago, “Do you consider yourself pretty Type A?”

To which my response was a scoffing and owning, “Um, yes!”

“You’re pretty intense aren’t you?” he asked.

“I am. I like it. I’ve learned to manage it and I don’t want you to take it away,” I proudly stated back.

Type A, intense or passionate, no matter how you describe it, it is one of my best qualities.

It can also be the quality that kills me if I am not careful.

Our strengths can become our weaknesses, and so I’ve learned to manage my intensity with my self-care practices, and especially with my mediation practices. The most helpful way I have stuck with my meditations is to have a toolbox of different ways and resources to meditate.

Because I have chosen to find some way to meditate most days, my sleep, mood, presence, immunity and happiness are all much improved!

Here are some of my favorite resources to get you started as well, give me five to ten minutes every day for the next 21 days using one of these techniques:

  1. Color in an adult coloring book. I love Johanna Basford.
  2. Use an app like: HeadSpace (my personal favorite), OMG I Can Meditate, Calm, Mindvalley Academy 6 Phase Meditation (my new favorite) or Oprah and Deepak’s app.
  3. Watch a candle flame.
  4. Use an scented essential oil, rub it on your hands and wrists and sit quietly, when you get distracted smell your wrists and refocus your mind.
  5. Listen to the same instrumental song every single day. Breathe by Stanton Lanier is my favorite.
  6. Search a guided meditation on YouTube.
  7. Use a mantra. For example: I am calm or I am loved or Love (in breath), Peace (out breath). Repeat it over and over.
  8. Chanting like from Gabby Bernstein’s YouTube channel.
  9. Try acupuncture.
  10. Count your breaths, inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3, exhale 4 and so on. Only count to 10 then start back at 1. Repeat for ten minutes
  11. A real time feedback tool, my favorite is Muse. Muse provides you with nature sounds for feedback, such as birds chirping when you are in the calm state.
 
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So sit your @ss down and try one of these meditations for ten minutes every single day.

Challenge accepted?

I bet you feel a difference for the better, and if you don’t let me know.

But, I’ll probably tell you to try again with a different tool.

It is all about being open to new things and finding what works for you.

Go out my intense, passionate, Type A warriors and find the glory of calm.

~~~

The only affiliate link above is Muse. By purchasing Muse through this link you get 15% off the purchase price and I make a small commission. All the other links are simply because I love their work and have found them helpful in my journey.

***Contains Amazon Affliliate links.

Four

The three of you would have turned four this year. Four.

The year of becoming little people. The terrible language barriers and potty training of the 2's out of the way and the dramatics of the 3's in our past.

Four.

The years I have spent wondering of you every day, feeling you always and wandering this earth with pieces of my soul tethered to heaven.

I've been told to write a letter to you a few times and for quite some time. But, it wasn't until I asked one of my warrior mamas to write her babies a letter in hopes of her finding some clarity and healing, even within the uncertain darkness of infertility, that I realized you deserved and I need my words.

I could write of how much I miss you and yet feel like I never had you. The weeks of synthetic hormones to retrieve you, the five days to only hear about your growth in a phone call from the infertility clinic and the gut wrenching two weeks of praying and hoping you would stick in her warm uterus. All to end in a one minute phone call with the words, "She's not pregnant." Years of trying, tens of thousands of dollars spent and lifelong dreams crushed in a phone call telling me our relationship was over before I even got to meet you.

I was not a mother.

And, I believed that for a long while.

It was dark, there were tears, a lot of anger and a sense of self that disappeared behind never being seen.

I could write of all my wonderings. Would you have had my freckles or your dad's blonde curls? Would you have been spunky like me or stoic like him? Would I have handled the poop and he the puke? What books would have been your favorite in your nighttime routine? What kind of grandparents would they have been? I could fill the biggest library on earth with my wonderings of the last four years, let alone of the lifetime of wonderings ahead of me.

I am a mother.

I worry, I wonder, I question, I doubt, I love.

Even if only from afar.

I could write how forgotten you and my motherhood are most days. No one speaks of you, some even say you don't count. Many aren't sure what to ask me or how to relate to me; a childless mother, I am often the only one everywhere I go.

The invisible mother.

The one without the happy ending.

Yet, only through you have I fought for, found and created my own happy ending of thriving.

What I hope you know is how loved and wanted you are and were.

I hope I make you proud.

I hope every day you are honored in my work, my words, and especially, my love.

I have learned God gifted you to me, even if only for a whisper of time, as you were always His to begin with. I am blessed He chose me as your mother, it is the best gift I have ever received.

 
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In the lifelong absence and the daily presence of you, I have found me.

It is because of you I notice every sunset and sunrise, see beauty in pain, feel with my whole being, believe in the unseen, give more than I ever have, seek the unknown, laugh with childlike wonder, walk with curiosity and have more gratitude for it all than ever before.

It is because of you I love harder and better.

Four.

I love you always.

Four.

Thank you, my loves.

mom

A Review and Resource: The Two Week Wait Challenge

I met with fellow blogger and author Lindsay Fischer last week for lunch. Two hours later I walked away with a new friend, the knowing of a fellow warrior and a comrade in the trenches of being an author and blogger. In other words, I think I may have just met my best friend...even if she doesn't realize it yet.

We exchanged our books, including Lindsay's soon to be released The Two Week Wait Challenge: A Sassy Girl's Guide to Surviving the TWW. I was excited to read this little guide for the arduous TWW that I see so many clients through, and survived myself a couple of times.

I loved it and have added it to the Ever Upward Resource page. Please see my review below that I will also be posting to Amazon once the book officially comes out.

~~~

 
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As a survivor of a couple TWWs myself and a therapist helping countless clients through the process of TTC, infertility and loss I found Lindsay’s survival guide to be a truth salve to my soul. This guide is refreshing, engaging and full of helpful ideas and resources. Lindsay is sharing what I have been teaching my clients for years and so much of what I am finding helpful in guiding women through the TTC, infertility and loss journey. The tools she shares are part of how we will all thrive and not only survive this  journey. Lindsay’s humor makes you feel like you have a nonjudgmental best friend by your side through the arduous wait of the days leading up to testing. Her daily challenges and assignments provide a easy and tangible framework for the reader to wrap both their heads, hearts and hands around in order to prevent being completely consumed by worry, anxiety, anger and anything else that pops up in the clomid crazy train of infertility treatments.  I highly recommend this book to anyone going through the TTC journey, no matter where they are in it. This guide combined with speaking your story and seeking help will help you to define your own happy ending, no matter what you get from the journey. Lindsay and her work are great examples of the Ever Upward life.

Momscast Podcast

I knew a few months ago when I was interviewed by Mel of Momscast I knew it was my best interview to date. To get words like great vulnerability, humor and wisdom to describe my messages from some of my fellow bloggers and friends is the sparkle on top.  I'm so proud of this interview and excited to share some of my new messages. Please share far and wide. Thanks so much! 

Click here to listen

The Permission of And

  I stand on my brick patio looking up at the churning sky. My lush butterfly gardens, all four of them, surround me with all the shades of green you can imagine and the sweetest scents to ever fill my nose.

I force the deep breath in through my nose in an attempt to not allow the sobs to escape and tears to roll.

I look up, GodI need something. Take this away if it isn't for Your good or Your plan. Give me something, show me what I need to keep going, that I am on the right track. Please give me the strength either way.

Three pleads. Three requests.

Three.

And, there they are again.

I release the deep breath from my mouth which only seems to give permission for the tears to come.

I breath in again, breathing in how much my soul longs for my three, Have you forgotten me?

I make myself pause with my exhale; stopping to listen.

The birds are chirping and the wind is blowing through my milkweed plants and all the trees.

In the breath of the wind and churning of the sky I hear, I am here child. I've got it. I am good. Trust me.

I feel a new and slight sense of peace and my lingering frustration. Once again, I am reminded of the complicated gray I feel everyday without my children here on earth.

The complicated gray of the longing joy and the childless mother.

With eyes and heart wide open to receive and the courage to ask, the next two weeks He fills my life with example after example of the complicated gray. As if He is saying, Make the time, this is your path, write it, share it, shine it.

The client who is about to deliver her sons after years of trying; feeling happy and scared.

My team who battles the fear of what others think and their belief and bravery to help others and share something they believe in.

The client who loves and must let go of people she really cares about.

The reader who is finally pregnant after years of trying only to realize her fear is stealing her joy.

The muck between knowing we are worthy, lovable, enough and the old stories our head tells us that we aren't.

The acquaintance who desperately wants and needs to make a change in her life and feels comfortable even if it is in her known misery.

The client who is very early in a pregnancy after a miscarriage and a stillbirth, feeling the pull to protect the memory of her sons while also loving and hoping for this new baby.

My pride in a growing business and the frustration in it not happening fast enough.

All of it the complicated gray and what I am learning is my gift for this world.

 
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Because the complicated gray is the permission to change the but to an and.

Giving ourselves permission to feel it all, all at the same time; the anger and acceptance, the  joy and the longing, the fear and the hope.

The permission to walk into the muck of the gray between the certainties of life; allowing ourselves to hold both truths, as difficult and uncomfortable as that is, we will awaken to life in color.

The anxious hope. The doubting worth. The frustrated belief. The boundaried love. The yearning acceptance.

The longing joy as the childless mother.

So, I will continue to fight for this next book because it is needed, I see the power in it every day in my life and He seems to be reminding me of it more and more.

Thank you for your patience as I continue my advocacy work, my jobs that actually pay the bills and working on the follow up to Ever Upward. And, I'll take whatever prayers, positive sparkles, love and shares/tweets/likes you've got.

Receiving the Revealed Dream

Every message I get, every review posted, every thank you received has been tucked away into the depths of my soul. They are the reminders of how I mother, of how I honor my babies and they are the reminders I desperately need along this journey of breaking the silence of infertility and getting people to hear the healthy messages of Ever Upward.

This past Saturday, the closing day of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), in the exhaustion of working three jobs without an assistant, I was gifted magic.

Despite my weary heart from the hard work of my #MoreThan1in8 project, God knew my NIAW wasn’t finished when He presented me with my first big speaking engagement. With only a few days notice I was asked to tell my story at the Gateway to Parenthood conference put on by the Missouri Center for Reproductive Medicine.

After two years of the constant marketing of Ever Upward with what at times feels like no return, there was no way I could say no.

What I did not realize is that I was saying yes to me.

Waking up before the crack of dawn on a Saturday after the busiest week of my career was only saved by my curled hair, cute navy dress, heels, and of course, my Plexus and coffee.

Sitting at the table with Chad and my mom as people began to mill around I was taken aback when a tall woman with dark hair approached my table right away.

“Justine?” she said.

I stood up and reached out my hand, “Yes, I’m Justine Froelker.”

“Hi, I’m Jen Myers from Y98 (aka our keynote speaker for the day). I follow you on Twitter and had to meet you.”

My heart skips a beat as I force myself to take a deep breath but there is no calming down the excitement that she had to meet me?

“Oh, hi! It is so nice to meet you,” I reply. “Thank you so much for using your huge platform to continue to speak about your infertility journey and losses. We need voices like yours.”

She shakes her head, “Thank you, for the work you are doing.”

We go on to bitch as fellow warriors about how brutal this journey is and how difficult her PCOS diagnosis has been.

When she walks away, I sit down and look at Chad and my mom with eyes wide in star struck gratitude, “Well, that was amazing!”

The first few hours we man my table as most people walk right by us without stopping. Which I can’t blame them for, I didn’t have any sign ups, free candy or massages to give away, just bookmarks with my wise words and my beautiful breakaway monarch from the book cover and my smile. Most of the attendees of the conference hadn’t even realized they each had a copy of my book in their gift bag.

Until, they started reading.

“My husband has been reading your book all morning as I’ve been wondering around the tables, he can’t put it down. He just told me how good it is.”

Eventually, they began to trickle in for me to sign their copies.

I was supposed to speak at 11. As I was calming myself with deep breaths and rehearsing in my head, one of my now friends and volunteers asked me, “Would you try it again?”

“No, we wouldn’t,” I replied not sure of what she was really trying to get at.

“Really?”

“Well when the money is gone, it’s gone. And, when you’ve reached a place of acceptance, albeit with forever longing and sadness, it is still acceptance.”

“What if you won the free round giveaway today? Would you try again then?”

I was very much taken aback by this question but I knew my answer right away, “No, we are done.”

Just as we are not signing up for the costs and struggles of the adoption journey, we are finished with the costs and the struggles of the infertility journey.

We did not get what we wanted, hoped for, dream of and paid for but we are done, we know our enoughs and everythings. And, I am okay with that, complicated gray of longing joy and all.

At 11:30 it was finally my turn to speak.

I hadn’t prepared a ton. Frankly, I was too exhausted to prepare my talk after the grueling week of NIAW. For the first time, maybe in this whole journey I trusted.

God put this in my life, He would take care of it.

I took the microphone and I spoke. I taught. I loved.

I was myself.

I delivered one of the best talks of my life, because it was my story and my messages. And, I know both are needed and help myself and others.

And. It. Felt. Great.

He has finally revealed my dream to me in a way I can understand, an answered prayers for sure.

It wasn’t until people came to thank me, that I realized just how much people in our community need these messages.

A husband through tears, “Thank you. You made me feel for the first time in three years. This has been so hard.”

A woman with her friend, “Thank you for being the only person to get up there and say that sometimes this doesn’t work and you can still be okay. Thank you for having the courage to speak anyway, we need to hear those stories too.”

One of the infertility clinic’s patient coordinators, “I’d like to buy your book. I’ve had several patients tell me how great your talk was and that I have to read your book.”

A couple, “Thank you so much for all the resources, we’ve already downloaded some of the things you talked about. We’re going to do the gratitude journals too!”

Another couple, “Thank you for getting it and for still speaking.”

Another woman, “Thank you for honoring and speaking about the struggle.”

As the emails trickle in as these hundreds of people finish my book, I am allowing myself to receive this amazing gift while also keeping the grief, shame and scarcity at bay.

Because, I am oh so grateful.

Grateful I was chosen to be their mother. Grateful for this life He has written for me.

Grateful I am defining my ever upward within it.

~~~

A few snippets from the talk:

 
 

Making Good on My Promise

I promised a post to close out National Infertility Awareness Week today, especially since I ended up speaking at the 1st Gateway to Parenthood here in St. Louis. But, I'm exhausted. This week was more than I could have ever imagined.

More work and more magic.

I am still in complete awe of the shattered silence we came together to speak to the world this week.

And so, I hope you'll count this as my post for the day. I promise to write all about the conference today throughout this coming week. There were some incredible moments, rest assured I have plenty of words to share with you about it.

For tonight, I'm off to church and bed very early to only sleep in tomorrow...because I can and I deserve it. :)

Please know I felt your love and prayers wrap around me today as I spoke my truth, honored my babies and shared my ever upward with our fellow warriors.

In ever upward light and love, Justine

 
 

The Surprises of Our Rally

 
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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.

Hopes?

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?

Hell yes!

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?

and

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.

What Infertility Did to Me

When these words were shared as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project I knew I needed more from Meaghan over at My Beautiful Crazy.

The motherhood dream hasn’t happened (and may not), but it isn’t the only one I’ve got; isn’t the one that makes me more valuable, more useful or more ME.

Today I am happy to share with you one of her a posts I think embodies rising Ever Upward.

~~~

It…

hurt me.

scared me.

threatened me.

scarred me.

broke my heart.

tore at my spirit.

uncovered my limits.

forced me to dig deep.

helped me understand.

guided me to find strength.

restored my compassion.

showed my courage.

inspired grace.

encouraged joy.

It made me…more ME.

I’m coming to believe the healed scars from our struggles become the most beautiful, interesting parts of our spirit. Some of the things we brave, endure and survive are awful and they make us feel awful (understandably so), but we can twist it…if we want to. We can allow them to make us better, more useful and freer than we have ever been.

 
Meaghan
Meaghan
 

~~~

I will be accepting submissions for the #MoreThan1in8 project through this weekend. Please share your story, show your face and end the silence of infertility.

When we speak, we thrive.

The Magic Answer

I don't think there is any better way to honor ourselves, our story and our babies than to speak our truth and tell the world. And so, I am honored to share Jana's story with you today as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project.. I met Jana through my publisher for Ever Upward, Morgan James Publishing. It did not take long into our conversation for us to learn that we are fellow warriors in this battle of infertility. Our stories very different and yet so much the same, especially in the lifelong consequences of infertility and loss. Through my advocacy work the last few years a special place has grown in my heart for those  struggling with secondary infertility. Jana's brave voice  and story are very important in our community. Make sure you check out her blog, Jana Says.

~~~

The Magic Answer

When I was a kid, I knew three things for sure: I was going to be either a writer or a lawyer, I was going to live in Washington DC, and I was going to have 2 kids.

None of those happened.

And while I can reconcile the first two, the last, well, I struggle with that.

A lot.

It’s a hard thing to accept when you make a concrete plan for your life and it doesn’t turn out that way. Especially not something as emotional as having kids. Because no one who wants kids grows up, or enters childbearing years, thinking they won’t be able to have them.

It’s a huge kick in the face when it turns out that way, though.

At least it was for me.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do have one child. She’s 9. Every day, I feel blessed and honored that I get to be her mom (even on the days I wish she still took 3 hour naps). And when I was pregnant with her, I never thought she’d be an only child. I figured that since it was so easy to get pregnant the first time, it’d be just as easy to do it again when we felt ready.

Except it wasn’t.

It took 7 years to get pregnant again. And then I miscarried roughly 2 weeks after I found out (in fact, today, April 15 was the one year anniversary of my miscarriage).  And then there were the unsuccessful IUI treatments that followed that summer. And we won’t even talk about adoption because for my family, it’s not an option and also, it’s not necessarily the solution.

I spent a good part of last year wondering why I was being punished and not allowed to have another baby. And all the questions started. What did I do wrong? Am I not a good enough mother to the one I have? Did I do something awful I don’t know about and this is karma coming to get me? Is my body a failure? Am I a failure?

Dammit if I didn’t want answers. I don’t know how many hours of sleep I lost or how many productive days flew out the window searching for answers that, deep down, I knew would never come.

Until one day, they did. And I might not like the answer but it’s all I’ve got and it’s what I’ve learned to live with.

What is the magical answer?

“That’s just how it is.”

That’s just how it is. Vague yet specific. Helpful yet not helpful at all. It does nothing but does everything. It lets me hurt yet lets me heal. Because I’ll never truly know why I miscarried or why the IUI treatments didn’t work or why my body won’t let me be pregnant again. My husband can’t tell me why. Doctors can’t tell me why. God can’t tell me why.

There is no why.

There’s only acceptance.

“That’s just how it is.”

And while I don’t like having to accept my infertility, I know it’s something I have to do. Because without accepting it, I’ll never be able to move on.

Moving on doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. It doesn’t mean I don’t mourn what I’ve lost. But it gives me permission to own my feelings, whatever they may be. It gives me permission to always feel that my family is incomplete. It gives me permission to stop blaming myself every day. It gives me permission to forgive myself losing the pregnancy and not being able to have another one.

 
Jana
Jana
 

It gives me permission to be content with what I’ve been given.

While I’ll always feel the void left by my miscarriage and unsuccessful IUI treatments, I’m grateful for what those babies did for me. They’ve made me a stronger person, they’ve made me a better mother to the child I have with me, and they’ve given me new perspective on life. I appreciate the small and mundane more than I did before. I appreciate what I do have in a way I didn’t think possible.

That’s their legacy.

By sharing my story, that’s their legacy, too.

And for those who don’t understand, well.

That’s just how it is.

The Goosebumps of Knowing Awe

The email comes through with the subject line of #MoreThan1in8 and my heart skips a beat. The social media notification comes through with the brave words and beautiful faces of someone breaking the silence and I'm overcome with goosebumps in knowing awe.

The knowing awe of the power of telling our stories.

The knowing awe of the freedom of owning stories.

The knowing awe of the world changing.

In one week I have had 29 people share their stories of thriving through and thereafter infertility along with their bright shining faces. In the next two weeks I hope and pray that number jumps to no less than 100.

Because I want more from us and for us. It is my #startasking I suppose.

Even if you are not comfortable, now or ever, to share your infertility story publicly on social media, I would be appreciative if you would at least share the project. More than that I would be honored if you would share your story and show your face with me privately via email. I am not publicly posting the stories. I am however going to use our faces, the images of thriving through and after infertility, for a project during National Infertility Awareness Week. But your photo may not necessarily be identifiable, as it will be very, very small. Too public for you even still? Then please share your story with me and a photo of the hobby, the pets, the books that are helping you thrive through and after your infertility journey. Or if you think I'm crazy and this will never work, I'll just take those thoughts, prayers and lots of magic that this project can provide some of us the outlet to tell our stories.

But still, I beg you, break your silence in a way that honors your truth and changes your life and the world.

We cannot want more from our loved ones and our society unless we tell our stories. We must ask for what we want and need, and we must educate if we are going to get the understanding and compassion we all so desperately need through and after this journey. No need for the public blog or social media posts or publishing the book, but please, speak  your story to someone who loves you, to someone you trust.

I think, speaking our truth and owning our stories, is one of the only ways we will get out of this alive and well.

 
 

To participate in #MoreThan1in8 please send however much of your story and a photo that you are comfortable with, and thank you in advance!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/everupwardblog

Instagram: www.instagram.com/jlbf4

Twitter: @JustineFroelker

Email: everupwardbook@gmail.com

We Are More Than 1 in 8

I've been attacked for my infertility journey. I've been misunderstood.

I've been judged.

I've been pitied.

I've been ignored.

I've also been loved, listened to and supported through it and still thereafter. 

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 24th-30th and I want to make sure we all feel seen and heard this year.

No matter where you are in the infertility journey. No matter what your ending was from it. No matter how your family has been defined. Kids. No kids. Adoption. Surrogacy. Donor. Successful treatments. Unsuccessful treatments. Any level of treatments. Any diagnosis. Any length of time. Longing grandparents or aunts and uncles. Parents of loss. Longing parents.

Whatever your story is, was and may be through the infertility journey; our voices are stronger together, we are fellow warriors.

What people say or think about infertility, or their lack of understanding or acknowledgement, does not define us or our happiness.

We define it.

Our journey to wholeness is our ever upward.

 
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There are still millions of people hiding their infertility battle in shamed silence.  Change starts with us.  Let's show the world what more than 1 in 8 really looks like.

Together we can open the doors to a much needed, and much bigger and healthier conversation that brings us healing, growth, love and happiness - in forms that are uniquely you.

Let's see your ever upward, even if it's still in progress, and stand together.

For ourselves. For our families. And for those who are fighting alone.

Over the next few weeks I would love to hear from  you, and especially see you!

 
We are #MoreThan1in8. I am thriving after infertility by shining my light through the darkness of the journey for others. I am thriving through self-care and love because my work, my life, honors my babies.

We are #MoreThan1in8. I am thriving after infertility by shining my light through the darkness of the journey for others. I am thriving through self-care and love because my work, my life, honors my babies.

 

Let's make the world hear our shattered silence and see our faces; the voices and the faces of the battle of infertility and it's survivors.

Send me a picture of you (and your spouse or family) via email or by posting on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Make sure to tag me and/or Ever Upward and use #MoreThan1in8. I'd love to hear how you are surviving and thriving through and after infertility. What makes you more than 1 in 8?

Throughout the week of April 24-30th I will have a surprise that tells all of our stories using our pictures.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/everupwardblog

Instagram: www.instagram.com/jlbf4

Twitter: @JustineFroelker

Email: everupwardbook@gmail.com

Life Without Baby: Q & A With Lisa Manterfield

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I am honored to share a Q & A with my friend, author and fellow warrior Lisa Manterfield! Lisa has a new book, Life Without Baby, that I can't wait to read and add to my resource page!

Why Life Without Baby after I’m Taking My Eggs?

I wrote I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home because I didn’t know what else to do. There were no resources at that time and the only way I knew how to work through my grief was to write about it.

Life Without Baby is the other bookend of my story. I’m at a place of contentment in my life (somewhere I never imagined I could be) and I’m now able to look back and give some perspective to my experience. I can see the things that helped me to heal and the places where I could have done things a better way. I wanted to share myself experience so that others don’t have to stumble through the mess alone.

What is the biggest piece of your story you felt like you needed to share at this stage?

That there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even when you’re mired in grief and can’t see how you’ll ever make peace with not being a mother, there is a way forward. I never imagined I could ever be okay with not having children, but here I am. Your experience will always be a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define you.

What phrase or section in the book are you most proud of?

I would like for everyone to read the section about grief, because it’s the thing I struggled the most to understand.

When I first acknowledged that I wasn’t going to be a mother, I honestly didn’t understand the extent of that loss and how many aspects of my life and my identity were tied into those plans. And because I’d never met anyone else who’d been through this, I didn’t know how to talk about it. It wasn’t until I started to emerge that I understood the enormity of the loss and that all the wild emotions and crazy thoughts I’d had came from grief. Just like any other loss, this isn’t something you “get over”. Infertility forever changes you, but you learn to move forward and live with it. It’s the living that’s the important part.

How did you start and finish writing the book?

It’s funny how much the process of writing the book mirrored my process of healing. I knew I needed to write this book as the final piece of the puzzle in my own story, but I put it off for years because the task seemed overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. There is nothing linear about the healing process and when I looked at where to begin the book, the answer was “everywhere.” I needed to offer a glimpse of a possible future and also needed to write about drawing a line in the sand and deciding to take the first small steps. At the same time, I knew I needed to cover some practical aspects of getting through the day, such as how to answer “do you have kids” or what to do when a baby shower invitation arrives.

Finally, I decided to break the book into four distinct sections and write each as a short e-book, which also allowed me to break the project down into manageable bites with firm deadlines. I think this idea of taking small steps is a good way to approach any difficult task and “Go easy on yourself” is certainly a mantra I repeat throughout the book.

What are your favorite writing tools?

The one tool I can’t live without is nature. A lot of this book was written in my head on some long walks (and a few runs). I find I need to get away from the desk and the words in order to be able to see the intention and make sure what I’m writing isn’t just hypothetical nonsense, but is actually practical and applicable. A good editor is gold, as is a supportive spouse, and I was lucky enough to have both. Other than that, a laptop, some coffee, and a pen with lots of red ink are all you really need.

How do you wish readers to use this book in their life?

Anyway they choose, as long as it works for them. As I said earlier, this isn’t a linear process and there will be days of making progress and days of struggling even to get out of bed. Some days you’ll need a practical plan and others you’ll just need to read that someone else understands what you’re going through. Most people will likely have to jump around to get different kinds of help as they need it, however working through the book in order will make sure that the most difficult but important steps, such as dealing with grief, don’t get skipped over.

What do you hope readers get out of Life Without Baby?

My first hope is that they will find compassion, understanding, and the realization that they are not alone. Ultimately, I hope they will find a way to make peace with a life without children and go on to truly thrive. I also hope that by sharing my story and experience I can hold a beacon for the future and show that there is a way through.

What other authors do you enjoy reading, look up to or learn the most from?

I’m really encouraged by the growing number of resources on this topic. Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos’s Silent Sorority was the first book I read about a woman who decided to get off the infertility crazy train and make peace with a life without children. Since then several of our “sisters” have taken great leaps. Jody Day just re-released her book, now titled Living the Life Unexpected and is getting a lot of attention for our community in the UK. Here in the U.S., Tracey Cleantis has used her experience with infertility to reach a broader audience on the topic of giving up on a dream in her book, The Next Happy. It’s inspiring to see so many women stepping up and speaking openly about a topic that has been taboo for so long.

What is next for you?

Despite having written two books now, I never set out to write non-fiction. My first love is fiction and I’m anxious for that part of my work to find its way out into the world. I’m hoping my first novel will make its debut in the coming year. That said, Life Without Baby has been an important part of my life for six years now and it’s helped me in ways I never envisioned when I first launched the site. Even though I feel this second book is the final piece in my story, I can’t imagine life without this wonderfully supportive community.

~~~

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Lisa Manterfield is the creator of LifeWithoutBaby.com, the online community that provides resources, community, compassion, and support to women facing a life without children. She is the author of Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen and the award-winning memoir I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. She lives in Southern California, with her wonderful husband (“Mr. Fab”) and overindulged cat, where she is working on her latest novel.

Choosing to Make the Time

Today I am part of the Rewired Life Blog Tour, where we are all exploring and digging deeper in the concepts of Loving yourself, Healing your body and mind, and Celebrating life. Click here to read all of the other amazing bloggers!!! ~~~

Four years ago my life fell apart and together all at once.

And every day since, I've fought, white knuckled, practiced and chosen my life in recovery.

There is not much like a failed infertility journey, three lost babies and the darkness of grief, anger and general life-isn't-fair-and-I'm-the-victim to get you deep in the darkness.

And still, I believe, we must realize that it is always a choice.

A choice to be a victim to life, a victim to what has happened, what has been done, the losses. traumas and tragedies or a choice to overcome through choosing how to respond to it and redefining ourselves and our lives.

Just a week ago one of my clients said,

I know you are so, so busy. How do you do it? How do you still do all the self-care?

With ownership of my own work I responded,

I make the time. No one has time for anything extra in their lives. We are all busy, too busy. We must choose to make the time for what we want and need in our lives. My happiness and sanity ride on me choosing daily self-care.

She responded with a bit of exasperation in her voice,

But when do you do it? How do you find the time?

Four years into my practice of fighting for my redefined happy life it is easy to instruct someone on this work,

I think good and doable self-care is 3-5 things every morning and 3-5 things every night before you go to sleep that you make the time for. Some days it is a complete struggle and I must force myself. I force myself because those choices are aligned with who I want to be. Other days those choices are natural and easy, but this is also years into my journey.

She replies,

And, you still do it all? Every day?

With authentic honesty I reply,

Pretty much very damn day.

There must come a point for us all that we have had enough. Enough of feeling miserable. Enough of being busy with things we don't care about or that don't make us happy.

Enough.

The hardest part of reaching that state of enough is that it means finding the time and space to add more to your life. One more thing, that we already feel like we cannot possibly fit in. Except that one more thing is finally choosing to make the time to change our lives through taking care of ourselves.

 
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My daily choices to choose the life I want through my self-care has not only saved me from the darkness that follows when life doesn't turn out how you hoped and dreamed, but it has opened me up to receive the life filled with dreams I never even imagined.

So I challenge you, what can you add to the start of your day and the end of your day, every single day, that will fill you up?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Color! Adult coloring are not only a fad, the relaxing and creativity building effects of them are being more and more supported in the research.

Meditate! Some of my favorite resources are the Headspace app, The Tapping Solution or using a song or a scent.

Intentional reading! A devotional of some kind, does not have to be religious necessarily. My favorites are anything by Sarah Young (Christian) and Panache Desai'sFinding Your Soul Signature.

Journal! Write about your day, the peaks and valleys and most especially finish it with a gratitude. I prefer 1-3 things that I am grateful for (they have to be different every day). Then I write 3-5 sentences about why I am grateful for one of those things.

Write! Set a timer and write for five minutes based on a random writing prompt you find online.

Walk! Specifically, walk outside in nature and practice presence. How many shades of green do you see? What do you smell? Do you feel the wind?

Read! Especially at night before you go to sleep, read a real book!

Hobby! Do, practice or create something that gets you excited and makes you curious. For me, it is gardening, raising monarch butterflies and volunteering.

Gratitude! It is the single most important and life changing skill for getting out of this thriving and not only surviving.

~~~

Yesterday we heard from Yogi Tish over at her blog Ocho Brazos Yoga.

Coming Monday we get to hear from Dan Mason over at Creative Soul Coaching.

Finally, don't miss a free sample chapter of Rewired Life by my friend Audrey Michel here.

Infertility's Identity Theft

She sits in the chair across from me showing more of her pregnancy. Her face is filling out, her breathing becoming more and more labored and her belly growing each week as her baby gets closer to breathing this earth's fresh air. "How is your anxiety?" I ask her with both love and accountability. "Getting any better since you passed the week of Sarah's loss?" referring to her pregnancy loss and making sure to name her baby girl.

"Maybe a little," she replies as she tries to push the tears down and away from springing to her eyes.

"There is enough room for both. Give yourself permission to feel happy and scared and anxious and sad and joyful all at the same time. Fighting any of it, or denying it, will only make the anxiety worse."

She looks at me with a look of both disbelief and peace.

Click here to read more of my latest over at HuffPost Parents.

15 Promises to the Couple Dreaming of Babies

Five years ago this week Chad and I placed an ad on a surrogacy website beginning the journey to make our family. Besides the obvious differences of less hair (sorry Chad) and more wrinkles between our two pictures, there is a lifetime of things you cannot necessarily see. To start...

 
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  • a healthy, stronger and better marriage.
  • three babies who live only in our forever scarred hearts.
  • a woman found.
  • happiness.
  • trust and faith in God.
  • new curiosities, purpose and passions.

And so, with these five years of hell and back, through the darkness of a failed infertility journey, this is what I would say to that couple five years ago who was dreaming, planning, hoping and paying for babies:

  1. It will be okay. Even if you do not get the 2.5 kids out of this, I promise, it can be okay.
  2. You must turn towards one another; remember why you looked at one another and chose each other to do life with. I promise, it was not only to procreate.
  3. Find you and your identity in many things. And, it is not only as your roles to one another as husband and wife or your roles as parents.
  4. You can be pissed at God. It is okay to ask why and think you deserve more and better; and still feel His love and trust Him always. Don't forget to breathe and look up.
  5. Give yourself permission to feel it all, all at the same time; afraid and brave, sad and joyful, angry and accepting, longing and content. Your clarity, your answers and your truth lie in the complicated gray of it all.
  6. Decide your limits, how much and how long, together. Know they are not set in stone. Be honest with yourself and with one another. Ask for what you want and need. Together you can get through this stronger.
  7. Remain open. You will have many choices. What you think is not survivable, is. What you think is the only happy ending, is not the only version.
  8. You can always make more money but you must be realistic with the long term effects of spending what you don't technically have.
  9. Even though you will feel invisible and ignored for the rest of your life at times, trust you are seen, known and loved by those who really matter.
  10. Find the things to be grateful for, it will be the single most helpful and significant thing for coming out of this alive.
  11. Speak your story even more. It will be the only way you get the support you will desperately need through this.
  12. Forgive others often and over and over. They don't get it, but they do try and mean well most of the time.
  13. Don't be so harsh and judgmental towards yourself. Unfortunately, you will get plenty of this from some of your loved ones and society, be nice to yourself and to one another.
  14. It is only through this struggle that your dreams will come true. And even though they may not look like how you had hoped they are even more than you can imagine.
  15. You will be parents. And, every day you will honor and love your three in how much love and light you put into this world.
 
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