Time Flies Through Forever Ago

The two little girls see us come into the bowling alley and their faces light up with the childlike smiles I love and yearn for each day. Granted I am holding a shiny present in my hand for them, so that excitement is most likely for the gift and our presence is just an added bonus.

We laugh, we bowl and we chat for the next couple of hours until they open their Christmas gift (better late than never) from Chad and I.

The wonder of what is underneath the shiny holiday wrapping that melts into the joy of the gift they absolutely love is something that will never get old to me.

And, with the direction from their mom, as is required of any elementary age kid, "What do you tell Justine and Chad?"

"Thank you!" they say in unison not even looking up from their new found treasure.

The moments of childfull living I seek to create, work to accept and am beyond grateful for.

After bowling Chad and I head out for a quick bite to eat. Over some chips and guacamole we realize that ever elusive concept of time, realizing that Chad has been at his "new" job for 4 years this March.

"It's gone by so fast," we both agree.

It is then that I realize what next month will be for us.

"Next month is five years since we started our infertility journey." I say through a sense of disbelief and knowing all in the same breath.

Chad replies, "Now that, for some reason, feels like forever ago."

"I know, kind of weird right?" I reply back.

He shifts his focus down to his plate of warm, delicious Mexican food.

"Maybe it is because everything is so different, and in many ways better and healthier." I say with the complete embodiment of the complicated gray.

Because those five years have flown by but only through forever ago; five years ago I placed an ad on a surrogacy website asking for advice and more information. Little did we know what would lie ahead for us. That through the black fog of synthetic hormones, through the desperation of tens of thousands of dollars spent and loans taken out, through the devastating loss of three babies and through the soul crushing and soul completing bittersweet decision to define our own happy ending lay the life we choose to live now.

It has only been through this forever ago, that we were able to create this incredible childfull life we live today. An incredible life laced with forever longing of our babies, like a heavy stone I carry in my pocket always, and with the joy and health we've worked hard to create and maintain.

This is living life in the complicated gray; embracing the mucky space between grief and joy, the dark and the light, to awaken to life in color.*

 
the-complicated-gray-embracing-the-mucky-space-between-grief-and-joy-the-dark-and-the-light-to-awaken-to-life-in-color.jpg
 

*Watch for updates here and on my social media as I continue to work on my 2nd book, The Complicated Gray.

The Gift of Childfull Living

 
fb_img_1448049417178.jpg
 

"What do you want to do today Evan?" I ask him with just as much excitement as his three year old bright blue eyes are beaming with. "Just(ine) Dance!"

Of course, we could probably play Just Dance all day long if I let him.

My friend Sam thinks I was helping her out on this random Friday, when in reality she was handing me a gift. She was headed out of town for a girls weekend and her husband not quite back in town yet from business, and so I had a full day with their youngest son, Evan. We had the whole day to ourselves, just needed to be home in time sitting in the cul-de-sac for his two big brothers to get home from school.

 
img_2228.jpg
 

And so we played Just(ine) Dance before heading out to ride the carousel and see butterflies (of course). He fell pretty hard at lunch, scaring me half to death before being completely cured by a few cuddles. We played games. Many, many games; three rounds of Candyland, half a round of Sorry! and three rounds of Memory to be exact.

"Oh yea, oh yea!" He says doing a wiggle victory dance as he literally scores 7 matches beating me in the game of Memory.

We finish our day looking at pictures and videos from the day while we wait for his brothers to get off the bus. As they run up Lane hands me his turkey art and Noah is asking to go to a friend's house.

 
20151120_175425.jpg
 

"Nope, we're going to play together today, your dad will be home soon." I say with the most motherly sternness I attempt to channel from Sam.

After a bit of moaning we settle on playing Battleship in teams...and we laugh.

And I feel myself fill up with the gift of childfull living.

~~~

She walks in with the look of yearning any child on the cusp of getting a gift they've been excited about would have. She hands me her handwritten thank you card, "Thank you Justiene for the costumes."

And she immediately, follows up with the question, "Can we try them on now?"

I kneel down on her level and promise her, "We're going to eat Thanksgiving lunch first and then we'll get out all the costumes and you both can do a fashion show for us. For now, how about you go downstairs and play?"

With the true disappointment of crushed dreams, Hannah takes her sister Maya downstairs to play Just Dance.

It was their first Thanksgiving with us, as they were new, yet quick,  friends of ours from church. We don't have kids to enjoy the holidays with and my friend Izzy does not have her family here, so I asked them to Thanksgiving day with us when in reality I was basically asking them to become part of our chosen family.

After lunch, we all headed downstairs, my parents included, to go through the massive trunk of dance costumes from my childhood. Costumes ranging from when I started dance at age 4 to when dance was taken away by two back surgeries at age 13.

 
7475.jpeg
 

The memories flooded me in songs and steps as I pulled out each costume for Hannah and Maya to run to the bathroom to try on. They both would run/skip/saunter/dance out to show off how each costume looked on them.

 
img_2333.jpg
 

The steps Maya made up in the emerald green with gold beads and green feathers. The twirl Hannah spun with the red ballet skirt flowing out from her. The pure joy on everyone's face, especially theirs and most definitely mine.

And again, I fill up with the gift of childfull living.

~~~

One of the only ways I have thrived after failed infertility treatments is by making sure to have children in my life. Creating this childfull life means I am not left a shell of a mother, it means defining my own happy ending.

It is a true gift, this childfull life; a gift I must ask for, a gift I must receive and a gift that has not come without the cost of loss.

But a gift it is; a gift of grace.

 
20151126_150221-1.jpg
 

Still Mothers: Skipping With My Three

Most of our closest friends have three kids. Three!

Three seems to be the new 2.5 kids in our culture. We love those big families of five even if sometimes we look at each on our way to the childless quiet of our home and say to one another, “Man, three kids! The kids literally out number the adults. Do you think we would have gotten three?”

But we do have three.

Just not here with feet skipping along the earth.

Continue reading my first guest post over at Still Mothers here.

Petite Post: Even In Our Longing

I've always wondered how our family portrait would ever be complete. How do I honor my three without my three here on earth?

And then some photos from a few photographers starting showing up on my social media, a result of how much coverage Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is getting this year.

And so, we now have our first complete, and yet forever, longing family portrait too (thank you Betsy!).

~~~

 
 

Never to feel the relief at the sound of your first cry.

And yet, I imagine your giggles, always.

Never to know your name.

And yet, you are known and spoken by my heart, always.

Never to feel the warmth of your skin in my arms.

And yet, I feel you holy every day, always.

Never to know the tangible completeness; always wondering who you might have been and who we might have been.

And yet, trusting and knowing we are whole, even in our longing, always.

 
 

In the Quiet of a Holiday Weekend

A long weekend without many plans. So much time to get things done; do a bit of work, serve at church, work around the house and relax.

Sleep in.

Play with the dogs.

Take care of the caterpillars and butterflies.

Swim in our pool.

Quiet, nice relaxing, low key weekend.

And then your one real plan of the weekend gets canceled and you realize everyone else has plans with their families.

Their families with kids.

That irrational, inner critic voice inside your head whispers,

Get used to this, you'll get canceled on the the rest of your life for the fun with the families with kids.

Everyone will always be too busy with their kids to fit you into their calendar.

The shame, the sadness and that dark sense of being left behind settles in.

Of course, I know this is not my truth but the fog that can easily move in from shame hovers over me almost the entire weekend; enveloping all of me if I am not careful.

Of course, there is the bigger part of me that has enjoyed the quietness of this weekend. The quality time with Chad and the dogs, butterflies and caterpillars. The time to finally work around the house and on my writing with some time off of our regular work schedule.

But I struggled a lot to take my usual deep knowing breath and  puff away the fog, even through this gratitude and joy.

And once again I am reminded that this lifelong journey will always be bittersweet; the complicated grey.

After writing and talking with Chad I realize that mostly I am lonely and I need to do a better job with connecting rather than allowing my shame to disconnect me.

And I need to practice my shame resilience through writing, connecting and practicing my mothering.

But most of all, I need to honor and fight for myself by completely shattering the foggy darkness by speaking it.

 
 

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