Birthing a Rare Kind of Parenthood

My latest for HuffPost Parents. It is some of my most important writing and is part of something I had hoped to use in my TEDx talk. But sharing it here felt right and I simply could not sit on it any longer. ~~~

I Will Never Birth a Child, But I'm Still a Parent

It is not uncommon that an interview with Kim Cattrall be shared on multiple media outlets. However, it is uncommon when you consider one of the topics she discussed: how she parents even though she does not have her own children.

Across social media her quotes ignited comments of both major support and criticism. As an advocate for breaking the silence of infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery I was excited and as a writer, I have my own words.

~~~

I always knew my journey to parenthood would not be traditional, and yet I never could have imagined the unexpected extraordinary life that has been born of my journey.

I met Michelle on a surrogacy website. My husband and I were beginning the journey to make our family through gestational surrogacy. Michelle was a mother of two children and a first time surrogate. We did In vitro fertilization (IVF), putting both of our bodies through synthetic hormonal hell, transferred a total of three embryos, lost our three babies and our dreams to make our family ended.

Who are we if we are not parents? What is our legacy if no one carries on our family name, our gorgeous red hair, vivacious laugh and vibrant, passionate personalities?

Click here to read the whole piece.

I Want More: Can We Define a New Tribe?

The invisibility of infertility is part of my normal. As I have written, I never expected to feel invisible during my own community’s awareness week though. Couple that with this piece by Lisa over at Life Without Baby and reading Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos's latest e-book Finally Heard (which I HIGHLY recommend) and it all has me thinking  and feeling quite a bit.

Is the infertility community no longer my tribe?

Do I no longer belong there?

When I think about some of the people I am closest too in the community, even they may not fit in our tribe much longer as many of them are pregnant after their infertility struggles (which is technically what we all want as our get out of this tribe ticket). They may actually get shoved out of the tribe which doesn't feel all that different than not be acknowledged.

Am I holding onto something that doesn't even want me any longer?

I get it, some really struggle with my story. My story does not include successful treatments and ends without children. I think it is safe to assume my story makes our community sad and scared.

Why am I holding on?

I'm not ready. Especially as a therapist working with people in the throes of the infertility journey, I am not ready to be left behind yet. Or, is it that I am not ready to move on yet?

But more than that, I'm not done. My advocacy and impact hasn't yet been felt enough for me to walk away without regret.

Do I care too much?

Is change even possible?

I want more. I want more as a survivor of the infertility journey. And, I want more for those still fighting the battle because I see the devastation on a daily basis in my private practice.

I simply want more, and as an advocate I will fight until I get it.

I want us to demand more from our infertility clinics; to be more than just their paychecks, to demand more mental health support and actual resources and to demand acknowledgment that sometimes we must stop treatments to save ourselves.

I want us to demand more from our culture; to help others understand that making a family is not always simple and hardly easy for many of us, to demand more fertility compassion and to practice more empathy than sympathy with one another.

I want us to demand more for and from ourselves; I want more than what we are giving ourselves permission for in the infertility journey. I want us to be more than our quest to become parents. I want us to trust that sometimes never giving up is the actually unhealthiest thing we are doing; we must practice hope balanced with active acceptance. I want us to know that we can write our own happy ending and it doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s.

I want to help instill these messages into my infertility community for many reasons.

  • Because I am a helper. I am most myself when educating, helping and practicing my spiritual gift of mercy.
  • Because I think these permissions could actually help our treatments be more successful and in the least help us not be completely destroyed by the journey.
  • Because I want us all to have the glory of being the happy, healthiest and most engaged versions of ourselves in this life.

And so, I want us to define our new tribe.

One that supports one another through empathy and trusts that there is room for all of us to belong. That if we are actually in this together we can change the unhealthy messages that surround infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery. And even though we may be in completely different places along the journey, we all can identify with what lies underneath this battle; the lifelong losses of what we had dreamed about and hoped for.

I am not ready to walk away from my infertility tribe but I also know and feel that it is not the healthiest place for me any longer. And sure, maybe I am simply in denial of my limbo land but I don't think so. I think we all need this new tribe, we need these messages to change and we need to fight for ourselves; to rise ever upward.

Who's with me?

 
Defining a new tribe; together in the
Defining a new tribe; together in the
 

Acceptance in Infertility: 9 Untruths in the 'Never Give Up' Message

Acceptance and the art of letting go are some of life’s trickiest sons of bitches. They are topics I often work on with clients and I, myself, practice daily. They also seem to be some of the most difficult hurdles in the infertility journey. The acceptance of my childfree, yet childfull, life does not mean I do not have the losses. It does not even mean that I like it most days. Acceptance is simply practicing my work every day to accept what is, what I cannot change and how to be okay despite the lifelong losses of infertility.

I am beyond thankful that infertility education is continuing to be in the spotlight and therefore hopefully fertility compassion will continue to grow. However, I believe, some of the messages being delivered by some voices with a huge platform are contributing to the loss of ourselves to this painful, difficult, long and oftentimes heartbreaking journey of infertility.

One of the biggest punch in gut messages that is probably one of the most spoken is the never give up message. Time and time again we hear celebrities or families with the “traditional” happy ending (read baby) saying   never ever give up.

I do not believe this to be a message of hope and light but rather one that dims our light and can leave a lot of us in the dark. Because, sometimes it is okay, and the healthiest option for us, to say no more and to accept what is. And, I don't think this is giving up in the least but rather fighting for and finding our ever upward.

And so, here are what I think are the 9 biggest untruths in the never give up message:

1. Minimizes the difficulties.

  • Infertility is expensive, and in most of our cases, we don't have endless resources and our insurance does not cover it.
  • Every cycle can feel like a loss. We live by the timelines and the waits. We oftentimes feel like no one understands and try to cope with it all on our own. The emotional difficulties of infertility feel endless.
  • The money, the losses, the stresses, all of it are so hard on our relationships. If we do the work to turn towards one another then many times our relationships gain strength but for many infertility will do undeniable and sometimes even irreparable damage.

2. Breeds comparison

  • It seems like no two infertility stories are the same, causes, medical and family history, treatment protocols, etc. and yet we compare so much.
  • Add to that that not all of us have the same financial resources, faith or religion, family and social support.

3. Triggers shame

  • Some of us did make the choice to stop treatments. Some of us do not choose adoption. Some of us choose to keep trying. These are choices sure, however, more times than not they are choices between two shit-ass choices.

4. Puts stress on the relationship

  • How long do we try? What if one partner only has one more round in them? What if one partner is not open to full IVF? What then?

5. Denies some truths

  • There are some of us that the all ends of the earth in fertility treatments will never work. Sometimes there are genetic or chromosome issues, sometimes our bodies completely betray and fail us, sometimes we will never get to know the reason.

6. Invalidates those who define their enoughs and everythings

  • Only we can determine when enough is enough and what our everything is. For some of us, that is only a the first step in the infertility treatment road but not full IVF treatments. For some of us it is two rounds, for others it may mean 8.

7. Makes us doubts ourselves and abandon our truth

  • These pressured messages, that may be completely inaccurate for ourselves and our situation as stated above, make us completely deny and abandon our truth, what we want and who we are.

8. Reduces us to our numbers, our losses, our ability to procreate

  • We must be so much more than this. We deserve to be so much more. We are so much more.

9. Sometimes it is okay to stop

  • This does not mean we are giving up but rather defining what our own happy ending is. This is finding and moving ever upward.

As both a survivor of infertility and a mental health therapist who works with clients every day I see the lifelong devastation that is created by the infertility journey. Every day I see people who have lost their light and lost themselves somewhere along the two week waits, the waiting rooms, the pokes, prods and meds, the losses, the judgement, the loneliness, the gravity of this battle. Every day I see people who are making decisions out of fear that are resulting in more pain.

The conversation must change. The education must continue. The compassion must grow. There are simply too many casualties to the infertility journey.

It is not about never giving up on treatments or the dream of parenthood but it must be about never giving up on ourselves. This is the hope of this journey, to not lose ourselves to it and in it. The hope of never giving up on our happiness and health, no matter what our ending may be, we must do the work to define it as happy.

 
 

This is the work. To stop proving it. To truly own it. Embracing it all. Living wholeheartedly brave. Owning it all.

This is my story. This is our story. This is ever upward.

 
 

Looking Back on a Year of Ever Upward

 
 

Since my 30th birthday I've made a very conscious effort to spend time on my birthdays to really reflect on the last year. How much has changed?

The struggles. The joys. The growth.

And, today as I turn 35 I look back at the past year in pure, wholehearted awe.

I have laughed more, cried more and just amazingly felt more of everything this past year.

There have been the struggles:

  • Major difficulty and heartache in a close relationship.
  • More than 230 rejection letters from agents and publishers.
  • My dad's accident.
  • Managing an evolving career while also paying the bills.
  • Coping with the lifelong losses and feelings of infertility and a childfree life.

There have been the joys:

  • Our first childfullChristmas.
  • Another year of dates with Chad.
  • More laughs and love than I can measure with the dogs.
  • Our first year in our family home MasonHouse.
  • Finally, getting published.
  • Seeing Ever Upward in print, in my hands and with my heart.

There has been the growth:

And, the yet to come:

  • Struggles
  • Joys
  • Growth
  • ...amazingness.

Tonight I celebrate Ever Upward at the book launch party with friends, family and even strangers. Tonight I will make sure to stop, to take it all in, to take a breath and truly feel the love, the light and the magic. But, most of all I will make sure to stop and take that breath and to feel me.

Because more than any other year of my life, I have walked into myself more than ever this year. I have struggled, I have overcome, I have grown and I have owned it all.

The always healing, the always growing, the always trying ever upward me.

 
 

Housekeeping

Ever Upward available now!

Ever Upward Launch Party is tonight!

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

An Imposter and Fraud or a Forever Grieving and Healing Mother?

They turned up the lights after one song. We usually sing four amazing rock band like songs which is one of the many reasons I love our church.

Then I remembered seeing the reserved seats walking in, "Reserved for families of children dedication".

Shit. Oh, shit.

Today is the children's dedication at church.

Okay, I can do this. I can hold it together.

I can celebrate through my jealousy and focus on the love of these families. I can focus on how adorable these kids are and how much their families love them.

I can do this. I can do this.

Nope.

Pastor Greg asked all the supporting family to come and join the families getting dedicated up front and we bowed our heads in prayer.

I have no idea what was said, at this point I was trying to focus on keeping my breathing steady in an attempt to not break down in heaving sobs.

Amen.

Lights dim, the singing surges back up and I sit my ass down to sob.

Grieving and healing

It's been a while since it has hit me like that; like a two ton boulder sitting on my chest, like the rug of life being swept out from under me, like a swift and stinging smack across the face.

And like everything else in my life, especially my life as a recoveringtherapist, it is nothing short of extremely complicated.

Ever Upward launches in just a couple of days. A book that includes to Own a Childfree Life in the subtitle. A book where I write about my struggle through infertility to accept a childfree life and thrive thereafter.

And yet, there I sat sobbing in the dark after the children's dedication at church this morning.

Am I an imposter?

Do I still have a ton of work to do?

Should I be able to handle this better by now?

Should I not be even more saddened as I hear my parents sniffling beside me knowing that I will never be able to give them grandchildren from Chad and I? Or are they sniffling just because they can see how much I am hurting?

Should I not be angry that families like us are not mentioned at all? And, that we aren't even the tiniest glimmers in anyone's heads or hearts?

And yet, can I still be so thankful that many won't even have to think about living life without children or won't ever have to pursue infertility treatments or lose babies?

Should I not be even a tiny bit cynical that infertility has changed how I see the world forever? As I looked at that line of families and asked myself in my head which ones suffered losses before, which ones had to use fertility assistance, which ones are still hurting just like me.

Am I a fraud?

Or am I just human.

An always grieving, yet healing, mother with a scarred heart.

A mother with empty arms on this side of eternity.

Can I be sure of my messages and advocacy in Ever Upward, can I own my acceptance of a childfree life, and still be healing and hurting all at once?

The release of this book doesn't mean I have this all figured out, I have never once claimed that. But what I am coming to understand is that it does come with this fear that people will think I am okay, I am healed, that it doesn't hurt anymore.

The Lifelong Losses

Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility is the first part of Ever Upward's subtitle and those words were chosen for very specific reasons.

This will always be hard. This will never go away. It lasts a lifetime.

There will always be those days that it hits me out of nowhere, like today. There will also always be those days that I know will be hard, like the due dates, every single year. There will always be times of the year that it feels impossible to be a part of social media. There will always be the reminders that I just don't quite fit in.

The struggles and the losses of family planning are never forgotten and I think, maybe never even healed.

But, I must choose to be forever healing.

I also must trust that this isn't for nothing. That I have not suffered these losses for naught.

It is through this work I can make sure that I am healing, that I am recovering, that I am scarred but never closed.

Ever upward isn't always easy but it will always be worth it. And this means giving myself permission to sometimes feel the world in my losses but to feel it in my enough.

And, so I choose; I choose to move and to be ever upward.

 
 

Housekeeping

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

To The Anonymous Critic(s)

A survey to...

  • gather information.
  • give the shamed silenced a voice.
  • start and continue an important conversation in our world.
  • educate.
  • continue the love of ever upward.

For the possibilities of defining, speaking, educating and embracing fertility compassion.

So far the results are incredible and heartbreaking and important and my light.

To which I am wholeheartedly thankful, especially considering the first person to take the survey was an incapable; a person not even in the arena, the person who just sits on the side lines judging and hurling hurtful and harsh criticisms.

My anonymous critic

A person who does not show up.

A person who does not live brave.

A person who in just three minutes attempted to shut me down, steal my light and use hate to hurt and anonymity for power.

"Mine has been your response calling cells BABIES...my god you were never prego, you did not even TRY to conceive yet you are on a pity party tour...get over yourself!! i feel for your clients. No one believes your story and no one is buying your book, quit making an ass of yourself! my friend is suffering from colon cancer after having 2 rounds of ovaian cancer yet shes not boo hooing cuz she legitimately cant have kids..."

To which my initial response was shame. For me, shame feels like my pounding heart, shaking hands, cold sweat and the light being sucked from inside me, like a dementor stealing my soul. Shame is the messages I, for a second, embrace as my own; messages like this will fail, who cares, I am not enough, etc.

But only for a few seconds.

Then some anger came in.

Who the hell do you think you are? If you don't agree with or like or believe in my writing and my story then stop reading! What a coward to post this comment anonymously where no one will see but me.

And then, thank you.

Thank you for proving my point exactly. And I think you may find some of your heart in my posts, When We Become a Mother or Father and Loss is Loss.

Here is what this person will be severely disappointed to hear.

I do not find my light, my soul, my permission from anyone.

And, I especially do not find them in people like you.

I do not find my light, my soul, my permission through fear, judgment and hate.

And, I especially do not find them in shame, scarcity and comparison.

 
 

I find my light, my soul, my permission within myself. Within the gifts and love I have to share with the world. Within my flaws and all. Within connection and compassion. Within ever upward.

And, so I thank you for taking three minutes out of your life in an attempt to shut me down. And, I will not apologize for disappointing you.

For you have simply ignited my light even brighter; making me even more brave.

Strengthening my resolve to change how we talk about fertility, infertility and recovery.

Cementing my conviction to practice my authentic courage to help give others permission to own their stories.

And, solidifying my tenacity in shining my light brighter for the world to see...

In hopes of enlightening ever upward.

~~~~

Housekeeping:

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

Kickstarter for Ever Upward Book Trailer has 11 days to go.

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Kickstarter for Ever Upward Book Trailer

I am scared to death to even ask for help. But, I am even more scared that it won't work.

So, I am going to practice my bravery and put it all out there anyway.

 
 

After incurring the costs, emotionally and financially (especially financially in this case) of IVF and getting this book published, we just don't have it in the budget to do an amazing book trailer that Ever Upward deserves. So I am asking for help (and there are rewards for those of you who help)!

Please check out my Kickstarter campaign for the Ever Upward Book Trailer.

A book trailer helps spread the word and build a platform better and faster because people are more likely to click and watch a video. And, it introduces the world to the subject, the book and most importantly to the author...me.

Even if you can't financially contribute right now, I'd really appreciate any support you can send my way in the form of prayers and positive thoughts but, most definitely in shares, reblogs, tweets, etc.!!!

Building the platform of Ever Upward has been one of the hardest parts of this journey and often times is feels pretty lonely and like I will never catch the big break. But, I am balancing that with doing what I can and trusting that it is enough with letting go to know Ever Upward will work, will produce change and will help.

Thank you for the love, the support, the friendships...the everything.

Justine

What Is Fertility Compassion?

My definition of fertility is one's ability to make a family. And, when I write make I don't mean produce. My definition of compassion is the ability to find and practice empathy for others. And, when I write empathy I definitely do not mean sympathy (remember sympathy is I feel for you and empathy is I feel with you.)

Therefore, my definition of fertility compassion is having empathy towards family planning.

Fertile or Infertile.

Family planning is complicated.

And, yet it is often minimized, insensitively judged and invalidated.

Everyone has an opinion on family planning and therefore everyone also has many questions. However, many times these questions, even though meant to be innocent, even loving at times, can feel invalidating and hurtful to the recipient.

Questions like:

When are you having kids? Well you have to have kids? Oh, you'll change your mind? Why don't you just adopt? When are you having your second, you don't want them too far apart? When are you having your second, you can't just have one? Three boys?! Don't you want to try for a girl? Oh, so you have the three kids. At least you weren't further along!

What are some of the most difficult or insensitive questions or statements you have received in regards to your family planning? It will take just five minutes, please take my fertility compassion survey!

This survey will help me get an idea of what could help with fertility compassion. Especially considering this was my first comment on the survey:

"Mine has been your response calling cells BABIES...my god you were never prego, you did not even TRY to conceive yet you are on a pity party tour...get over yourself!! i feel for your clients. No one believes your story and no one is buying your book, quit making an ass of yourself! my friend is suffering from colon cancer after having 2 rounds of ovaian cancer yet shes not boo hooing cuz she legitimately cant have kids..." (please excuse the typos as I wanted to honor the integrity of the comment).

I want to thank this kind person for proving my point exactly...and for inspiring a soon to be released blog post ;).**

Silence leads to ignorance

These are innocent, inquisitive (although sometimes just down right nosey), questions; but, I believe, for the most part they come from a place of love. The place of I want to take away your pain because it makes me uncomfortable. The place of let's just fix it. Whatever place these questions come from, I think, they mostly come from a place of ignorance; of just not knowing.

Considering many of us keep our family planning to ourselves, either because we just don't like sharing or because we have been silenced by the shame of infertility, these questions can cut like a knife.

But it is within our shamed silence that this ignorance lives. We will only receive empathy and understanding from others when the ignorance is broken. Breaking more of our silence means more education. And, it is only within this education that we will ever find and receive fertility compassion. Your education can be in the whisper or the shout but at least own it to yourself and your closest loved ones. Own it for yourself, for your well-being and for your family.

Broken ignorance leads us to fertility compassion

I suppose this is one of my biggest dreams for Ever Upward.

I am less than a month from launching my debut book. The fear still lingering but I am not allowing it to hold as much power. As I know how much ever upward has already helped and changed the landscape of fertility conversations, even if just a tiny bit. Because we all need as much compassion as we can give and receive. And, I think fertility compassion may just be a great place to start.

In a month books will begin shipping out. In a month I will celebrate with friends and family at the launch party (take my poll to choose which chapter I read from). In a month readers will hear my voice reading the story of Ever Upward in the audio book. In a month I will have an Amazon page.

In a month I will let go of my ever upward in hopes that it is received with open minds, open hearts and open arms. I will let it go and trust that it can and will help. I will let it go knowing only then can it go ever upward.

My hope is readers will be entertained by the story. My dream is readers will walk away with the permission to own all the parts of their story. My awe is readers walking back into themselves and therefore back into their lives; no matter their story and no matter their recovery to find their ever upward.

Ever upward is finding the light through the dark.

It is letting go of what isn't in order to embrace what can be.

It is more than the silver lining, it is home.

It is redefining.

I choose ever upward.

I am ever upward.

 
Fertility Compassion Ever Upward book
Fertility Compassion Ever Upward book
 

**Added edit to original post.**

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale.

In ever upward light and love, Justine

The Lifelong Loss of a Due Date and Still Choosing to Be Ever Upward

August 31st, 2012 The day we dreamed our first child (or children, as we transferred two embryos) were to be born. We would have hoped to welcome one or two babies into the world around this time. But they were never our babies to have on this side of eternity. I was never meant to mother them in the traditional sense. Always to be just a dream and yet so much more.

But instead we spent time together in Lake Tahoe redefining after infertility treatments, side effects, financial stressors and no babies to show for it.

I had to walk back into myself that day. Because if I didn't make that choice I think I may have literally died of a broken heart.

As the day passed...I chose myself again.

As the day passed by I chose to find a piece of ever upward.

August 31st, 2013

They would have been one year old today. So much work and healing in the last year, on myself especially but, also in every single relationship in my life.

But instead we moved into Mason House; the family home we created to share with our loved ones for years to come.

As the year passed by...the pain began to subside just a tiny bit and it stings a little less every day as we actively find other love and joy.

As the year passed by I chose to make my ever upward.

August 31st, 2014

I felt off all day. But I didn't even notice the date necessarily, I actually was a day off. Obviously, I knew in my heart and soul that our babies were due this day and that today they would have been  two years old.

But instead I spent the day with my namesake, Abigail Justine. I held her, I loved on her and played with her. We went and saw butterflies together and rode the carousel. I have no doubt she is the enough in my life after so much almost enough.

 
Lifelong losses of due date choosing to be ever upward
Lifelong losses of due date choosing to be ever upward
 

This and my loved ones are beginning to read my book, Ever Upward. As I watch them feel the book in their hands and take in the beauty of the cover, I see the smile come across their faces, their eyes fill with tears and true love and support exuding from them. In all of this I feel many of the same feelings I think I may have had had they been holding my child.

Ever Upward has been a labor of my love and pain. It has been conceived through the dream of becoming a mother and the loss of that dream. And, it has been birthed with the help and love of so many. Ever Upward is my baby many years in the making.

As the years pass by...the scars heal a bit more, I embrace it all and trust my ever upward.

As the years pass by I choose to be ever upward.

And, most of all I make sure to be open to the ever upward that has come from the lifelong losses of this journey through my work.

These choices are not consolation. These choices don't erase the losses. These choices can never make it better.

These choices are simply the lights of what happens when I do the work to let go of what isn't in order to grasp what is.

This is the light, the love, the essence of ever upward.

This is the choice to be ever upward.

*To read more about my experiences through two back surgeries, the survival of infertility and how I chose to change my life make sure preorder your copy of Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

This post linked up with Amateur Nester's Link-Up!

Exclusive Look at Chapter 1 of Ever Upward

I am so thankful to Baby Hopeful for their feature on Ever Upward. If you just can't wait for the October 1st release date, you can read the first 1000 words of Chapter 1~Conceiving Our Chosen Family here! Don't forget to pre-order your book today!

And, don't forget to register for the book signing and launch party!

So far the reviews are amazing, make sure to check them out and spread the word!

Having trouble describing Ever Upward to others?

Ever Upward is a book of stories, my story, about what to do with your life when it just didn't turn out how you had hoped; it is about letting go of what isn't in order to find and embrace our ever upward.

Also, here is the back cover text just in case:

“When are you having kids?”

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

To the 1 in 8 couples who endure infertility treatments, common questions like these do not feel at all innocent or well-meaning. Instead, they can feel invalidating to the brutal battle of infertility and minimizing to the often arduous path of adoption.

Ever Upward is the story of how Justine Brooks Froelker redefined her life for the better after the heartbreaking, devastating and lifelong losses of infertility. Beginning with Justine’s incredible story of surviving two back surgeries, a year in a body cast and IVF with a gestational surrogate, Justine guides the reader through the strategies she used to overcome the loss of her dream of motherhood and chose to thrive through the ownership and acceptance of her childfree, yet childfull life.

Providing a voice to those silenced by infertility, Ever Upward gives permission to talk about it, embrace it and own it all. Opening the conversation to ask for understanding and acceptance of the path that sadly doesn’t include children, it challenge us all to consider more than one happy ending.

Ever Upward is Justine’s story, and yet it is our story, parent or not, because behind the wall of shamed silence, the smile and “I can do everything” attitude lies millions of couples suffering with the pain of infertility. Join Justine as she shows us that the connection to our stories in the only way back to the truth of who we are.

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

When We Become a Mother or Father

A deep knowing breath. The warmth of a soul scar healing just a bit more.

A sense of truth, understanding and validation.

This is just a tiny sense of what I felt when I read these words from Lindsey Henke in her Still Standing post.

"But in my opinion a mother isn’t born when a child is born. A mother and father are born when the dream of a child is conceived."

There are times when I allow my comparison, scarcity and shame to dim my light and I am fearful of sharing my story. This fear is born out of the messages I tell myself. The messages that have actually been said out loud to me. And, the messages that society drills into me.

There will be some who will never ever consider me a mother. The ones who say I didn't try enough. The ones who judge my decision to not adopt. The ones who say I must not have wanted to be a mother badly enough. The ones who say I didn't lose because our three babies were only eight cell embryos.

I will never get full understanding from everyone, let alone validation. But, I will still speak my story. I will own all the parts of my story. And, I will continue to fight and break the shamed silence that surrounds infertility, miscarriage, infant loss and recovery.

But, I will not do so to convince my deniers.

I will do so because if I don't I simply am not living my ever upward.

If I don't I am not practicing my recovery, that I fought like hell to get to.

If I don't I am not following my light.

Becoming a mother

I became a mother the minute I posted my ad on the surrogacy message board. I became even more of a mother when I met Michelle. I became even more of a mother when our embryos were transferred into her loving and mothering uterus. I became even more of a mother the days we received the call that none of our babies were strong enough to even implant.

I am a mother with empty arms here on this earth. I am a mother who parents her children on this side of eternity. I am a mother to many people and things in my life.

Simply, I too, was born a mother the day I dreamed of becoming one.

I am a childfree mother who lives a childfull life.

This is me.

This is my light.

This is my ever upward.

Always redefining, finding ever upward

We dream and then sometimes we lose.

We suffer and then we rise.

We struggle and then we thrive.

These are choices we must make each and every day. These are my choices to let go of what was never meant to be mine and to make sure it wasn't for nothing. Because I know I am a mother and more.

These are our choices to embrace our stories, to redefine and own it all.

This is life.

It is sad.

It is amazing.

It is ever upward.

*To read more about our surrogacy story and my recovery to preorder your copy of Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

The Latest in Ever Upward

Ever Upward book
Ever Upward book

The presale is live!

Help us get an idea of demand by preordering your copy of Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life. This will help us to order at the lowest price point from the printer and help in shipping costs (much needed in this self/entrepreneurial publishing deal).

Ever Upward launches on October 1st and will be available on Amazon in February and in bookstores in March 2015.

If you are in the Saint Louis area (or want to make a trip in) I would love to see you at the book signing and launch party on October 4th!

I have several more reviews going up in the next several weeks but, for now make sure to check out the reviews so far.

Thank you so much for all the support, the shares, the feedback, the love and friendship!

In ever upward light and love,

Justine

It's here!!!!

A year in a body cast. Twenty years of my dimmed light.

A year of infertility treatments and losses.

A year of writing and editing.

A year of submitting to publishers and agents.

Over two years of practicing my recovery.

Ever Upward is here!

 
Ever Upward book
Ever Upward book
 

And, I am feeling all the feels.

I am feeling scared to death. I am feeling excited. I am feeling hopeful. I am feeling scared to death. I am feeling accomplished. I am feeling at peace.

I feel amazing awe; to hold it in my hands, to see the brilliant colors of the artwork that means so much to me, to flip through it to see my words and pictures and to feel the light that I hope this holds for others.

I hope it helps and I hope you like it.

We hope to have presale information up within a week.

Book launches October 1st on www.everupward.org, Amazon in March and bookstores in April. We will be celebrating with a book reading and signing on October 4th here in St. Louis click here for invite/registration.

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

An Apology and Thank You to Bobbie Thomas

Dear Bobbie,

An apology.

First an apology.

I was fully prepared to walk away from your interview yesterday with Kathie Lee and Hoda feeling shamed and frustrated.

Let me explain.

As someone who has struggled through infertility and IVF, survived and is thriving thereafter, I feel not so alone when a celebrity comes forward with their own struggles. But, despite the broken silence as a survivor and an advocate for breaking the shamed silence surrounding infertility the message that is often times portrayed by celebrities struggling with infertility leaves me wanting, even sometimes leaves me angry.

More often than not the words are spoken much like these messages:

Never give up.

Just keep trying and it will work.

Don't stop.

This message is unrealistic for many of us. Unrealistic because we don't have insurance that covers treatments and procedures. Unrealistic because we are not in the same tax bracket. Unrealistic because our resources are just not comparable. And, unrealistic because sometimes it just won't work.

This message is also shaming for many of us. Shaming because it comes from a place of comparison and scarcity. Shaming because our stories and circumstances are sometimes not that comparable. Shaming because each family must determine what their enough and everything is and when it is okay to stop. Shaming because our paths don't have to and probably won't look the same for each of us to reach our happy ending.

And, so it is with a very grateful heart, that I apologize for assuming you would deliver these same messages.

A thank you

And instead, I want to say a wholehearted thank you.

As an advocate building a platform for breaking the shamed silence surrounding infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy loss and recovery and for my first book, I often times feel very alone. Sometimes, it even feels like the world isn't ready for my message.

 
 

But, in that short five minute interview I found a fellow warrior in you.

Thank you for your bravery in filming the ultrasounds, the blood draws, procedures and weight gain; showing how physically and emotionally exhausting it all is.

Thank you for your courage is sharing the pain that comes with a negative result.

Thank you for your openness in sharing your story with the world and saying how much it helps. Thank you also to your doctor for validating this.

Thank you for your acknowledgement that you are lucky that insurance covers most of your treatments.

Thank you for your realism that this doesn't always work.

Without even knowing it, you had my back yesterday in that interview.

Thank you for supporting what needs to be the message:

Permission to speak our truth.

Permission to embrace our whole story.

Permission to practice our recovery.

Permission to own it all.

Through these permissions, I think, we can change the way we talk about and move through the experience of infertility. And that if we do, not only could it maybe work more often but we can hopefully all be okay thereafter, maybe even better, and not feel so damn broken.

Thank you for your courage, for your message and for your light.

In ever upward light and love

Your fellow warrior,

Justine

*To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of the very soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

This post linked to Amateur Nester's Link Up.

Isaiah: My Joyful Shout To Fill the World

My friend and fellow warrior over at Rejoice, Beloved reblogged one of my posts and in a comment she wrote she led me to more clarity.

She pointed me in the direction of Isaiah 54, and in those words of scripture I found another piece of my soul.

Isaiah

 
 

Sing, childless woman, you who have never given birth.Raise a joyful shout, you who have never gone through labor...

Enlarge your house. You are going to need a bigger place; don’t underestimate the amount of room that you’ll need. So build, build, build.

You will increase in every direction to fill the world...

Don’t be afraid, for there is no one to shame you.Don’t fear humiliation, for there is no one to disgrace you...

She wrote that my ever upward is my joyful shout to the world. And, in reading her words I felt myself give myself the permission I need to really fill the world with my singing.

To build, to fill the world.

To walk straight through my fears.

This light inside of me to speak, to educate, to help and to give myself and others permission.

Permission to speak our truth.

Permission to embrace our whole story.

Permission to practice our recovery.

Permission to own it all.

Ever upward is my joyful shout.

Ever upward is my mark on the world; my legacy, just not left in the legacy of my own children.

Ever upward is my continued seeking and fighting to reveal our shame and rise above it.

Ever upward is my connection to my story and to our story.

Because our stories, our shout or whisper to the world, is the light and the love of ever upward.

*To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of the very soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

A Buried Treasure of Emerging Seashells

The house had a seashell room. The entire ceiling of a bedroom was decorated with a mosaic of seashells and mirrors.

Picture frames made of shells.

Lamps filled with more shells.

Glass tabletops filled with even more shells.

Then we found the moldy boxes full of seashells, at least four of them, buried in the basement.

They loved seashells.

As we cleaned out the house, we threw them all out, along with their years of painful hoarding and our years of three lost babies and a lifelong dream.

Reminders of the Past

 
 

And yet, we see seashells every day.

And, I feel my lost babies every day.

The shells continue to come up in a certain part of the yard.

And, my scarred heart and soul ache and yet, feel whole every second of every single day.

Both like a buried treasure, that isn't worth much and yet is a constant reminder of the past.

Just like every day moments or comments in my life that are constant reminders that I will never be a mother; will never quite fit in, will always be considered not whole, will always be judged and pitied.

Because, I am not a mother with living children.

And yet, I am more whole than I have ever been through my recovery from infertility.

Just like the every day reminders that I must practice my recovery: working on self care every day, reaching out and asking for help, doing the things that help keep me healthy and practicing courage, compassion and connection. Because, I am recovering from infertility, scarcity, comparison, anxiety and depression.

And yet, I am whole in my practicing recovery from these, and from myself. Our buried treasures of our past, of our losses, traumas and tragedies, will never stay buried forever. We will always have emerging seashells in our lives.

Embracing Our Past

I guess this is where practice comes in. We must practice to use these reminders for us rather than against us. That they are not there to haunt us forever. But, rather to remind us of where we've been and how far we have come.

 
reminders-buried-treasure.jpg
 

Within the buried treasure we can find our whole.

Within the buried treasure we can embrace it all.

Within the buried treasure we can be found.

Because, the buried treasure of losses, junk, gold, seashells and all, is our story.

Our story of the work of recovery.

Our story of the work and practice of our ever upward.

*To read more about my story, my recovery and Mason House make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Start Again, Not Over: Ever Upward Book Cover Reveal

Stop starting over, start again. I've said these words to clients many times over.

I've reminded myself of these words many times over.

These words have also been at the core of the creation of the book cover of Ever Upward.

At the heart of it all, they are the true spirit and essence of ever upward.

But, this week they have seemed to be significantly powerful. Especially in giving a few of my clients the permission to move forward.

Starting Again Instead

Every time we start over we also attempt to erase us or at least parts of us. I know many of us are struggling to forgive ourselves of our past mistakes or struggles or regrets. Or we wish we had been or done differently in the past. But when we look to erase these parts of our story or completely start over, we don't honor who we are today.

I would not be this happier, healthier, healing person without my past.

I would not be this happier, healthier, healing person without my mistakes.

I would not be this happier, healthier, healing person without the previous unhappy, unhealthy, suffering person I was before.

Therefore, I would not be this happier, healthier, healing person if I had started over.

My work in my ever upward recovery has been in the spirit of starting again.

Putting one foot in front of the other and choosing the best next step.

Not the right step or the perfect step or the reset start over step.

The best start again step.

Ever Upward Book Cover

And true to my life, this was also the case for the cover of my first book. My cover designer, Kristen Ashley designed an initial concept. It was stunning. We fell in love with that first cover. The story behind it was amazingly parallel to my ever upward journey.

It was perfect.

Until, it wasn't.

We couldn't get the rights to the image.

We started again with the amazing help and teamwork of several people who care a lot about me and believe in Ever Upward.

We started again, not over.

Within this starting again, we've developed the best version possible of the cover.

Not right.

Not even perfect.

But, the best version.

Much like my continually healing self.

Because, it is only in owning all the parts of our story; mistakes, struggles and all and practicing our recovery that we become the always growing, the always healing, the ever upward best version of ourselves.

~~~~

So without any further ado...

 
froelker-everupward-cvr-lg.jpg
 

Here is the cover of my first book (yes, there are plans for others, three more actually...for now ;) ).

I hope you love it as much as I do.

I hope you find hope, healing and power within it. I hope you see the struggle and the recovery within it. I hope you sense the brokenness and healing within it. I hope you breathe in the light and love from it.

And, of course don't forget the chance to win a giveaway of a free signed copy of Ever Upward (expected late fall/early winter) and the chance of artwork by the amazing Jen of Daring Happiness!

Blog giveaways

FB giveaways

  • 400th like on Ever Upward's FB – free signed copy of the book

*To read more about my story make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Book Cover Reveal Sneak Peek #2

Here's your 2nd sneak peek of the book cover of

Ever Upward!

 
 

And your reminders for some cool giveaways!

My dear friend and fellow vulnerability warrior Jen at Daring Happiness has lovingly heard my cry for help in building the platform. She is an amazing artist and will be doing a few pieces of art for me to use as giveaways to some of my supporters.

So here are your guidelines ;)

Blog giveaways

FB giveaways

  • 1st share on Ever Upward’s FB of book cover reveal – free signed copy of the book
  • 20th share on FB of the full cover reveal – free signed copy of the book and artwork
  • 400th like on FB – free signed copy of the book

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Book Cover Reveal Sneak Peek

After much work, effort and help from many people the book cover of Ever Upward is ready! I am so amazed at how it came out. And I hope you all love it as much as I do. I will post the full cover tomorrow some time. Make sure you like the Ever Upward Facebook page and follow here at the blog so you don't miss any updates or giveaways!

My dear friend and fellow vulnerability warrior Jen at Daring Happiness has lovingly heard my cry for help in building the platform. She is an amazing artist and will be doing a few pieces of art for me to use as giveaways to some of my supporters.

So here are your guidelines ;)

Blog giveaways

FB giveaways

  • 1st share on Ever Upward's FB of book cover reveal - free signed copy of the book
  • 20th share on FB of the reveal - free signed copy of the book and artwork
  • 400th like on FB - free signed copy of the book

And, here is your first sneak peek:

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Defining Our Enoughs and Everythings

Amy Klein's post You've Done Everything You Can for the New York Times was the first spark I needed to write something about our enoughs. Our everythings.

Then I wrote Our Infertility Rap Sheets, even though I was scared to death of putting it out there. But, the feedback I received was the second spark I needed to write something about our enoughs.

Our everythings.

Igniting the third spark, a fellow warrior and blogger messaged me today. Her bravery in reaching out was enough for me to pull this post from drafts, assign my own photo and share. As, she is in the midst of defining her enough is enough.

Her everything.

As I have written, I've taken out my counts; how many rounds of IVF I tried because I have found I included them only out of my own shame. Out of this need to prove to the world, and maybe to myself on some days, that I too have suffered and lost.

Infertility or not, we all must define our own enoughs and everythings.

What is enough? What is everything?

Have you done everything you can? Have you done everything you need to? 

Have you done enough? Have you lost enough? Have you suffered enough?

Defining our everything and our enoughs in order to let go, embrace and move forward.

I think we can apply these questions to many areas of our lives that we are struggling with.

Infertility. Recovery. Relationships. Dreams. This list goes on and on.

I think what we all must remember is that only we can define what is everything and when enough is enough. When we define these through others' expectations or society or because it is "what we are supposed to do" it only comes from this place of shame; a place of not honoring ourselves. Our everythings and our enoughs can, and need to, only be defined within ourselves.

If I don't hold on to this, I can very easily get wrapped up in the shamed silence that surrounds my infertility journey and my recovery. Because, technically, I suppose, we could have kept trying. Technically, science has provided many options for us to keep trying. Technically, there are also other options.

But to not listen to myself, my husband and our light and truth would have been the biggest disservice to me, our marriage and, in reality, to the world. For us to go above and beyond what we know is our enough and our everything would have destroyed us because it simply would not have been our truth.

 
 

We tried. We tried more than we had planned to. But, we tried again because our losses felt that crushing. We tried again because we knew that our everything wasn't met yet. Only we could make that decision. We need to explain it only to each other.

Only we define our enough and everything.

And, our ever upward.

To let go of comparison, especially in our sufferings and recovery, is to find our truth.

Because we all suffer. We all lose. Hard is just hard.

And, we all must practice our recovery.

Trust in your truth. Trust in your everything. Trust in your enough.

Because, within that trust you will be found.

*To read more about how we defined our everything and how I have practiced my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

The cover of Ever Upward is done! I am so excited to share later this week along with a giveaway!

 
Thank you also to the designer of my book cover, Kristen Ashley, for this beautiful version of the photo!
Thank you also to the designer of my book cover, Kristen Ashley, for this beautiful version of the photo!