Becoming Known

One day when I get to travel more I will get to meet all my fellow warriors around the world, and Lesley is definitely on that list. She has been so supportive of my work and an incredible advocate for childless women. I am so happy to share her story with you today as we gear up for National Infertility Awareness Week next week with my #MoreThan1in8 project. Make sure to check out her site here. ~~~

Becoming known

I've been aware of Justine's #MoreThan1in8 initiative for a few weeks now and every time I see the phrase I start singing lyrics from a 1980's song called 'One in Ten.' Yes I know it's not 1 in 8 but when you read the words you'll realise why they're so relevant.

'I am the one in ten A number on a list I am the one in ten Even though I don`t exist Nobody Knows me But I'm always there A statistic, a reminder Of a world that doesn`t care'

Ouch! A perfect description of what it's like to be childless don’t you think?

The words that jump out at me are 'Nobody Knows me' because this is how I felt for ten years. In fact I'll go further and say that I didn’t know myself either.

We started to try for children when I was 35 and after a year were referred for IVF. Three years and six unsuccessful rounds later we were thrown off the end of the roller coaster without any support. We felt as if we were the only people in the world who couldn’t have children.

Our parents knew but none of our friends. On the outside I was projecting the Lesley who was ambivalent about children, the Lesley that was tough and strong; but inside I was falling apart. I know now that I was grieving, but I didn’t know then. I just assumed I felt sad.

I felt completely alone; I didn’t know who I was or my place in the world.

I built a shell round me, like a caterpillar stuck in her cocoon because she doesn't know what sort of butterfly she is to be and has forgotten the instructions.

I stayed in my cocoon for ten years, stuck in the dark, hiding from the world. It was lonely, not where I was meant to be and certainly not where I wanted to be. And the more I hid, the more lost I became and the fewer people knew the real me.

I thought that time on its own would heal my grief and transform me into the butterfly I wanted to be.

But it didn't.

It took work and asking for help.

Training as a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Practitioner replaced my grief, sadness and other negative emotions with self-confidence, self-acceptance, inner peace and happiness. Then working with a coach who believed in me, and the difference I wanted to make in the world helped me to develop the inner strength I needed to be open about my life and to set up my business supporting childless women.

It has been a challenging journey but very rewarding.

And now the phrase 'Nobody Knows me' doesn’t apply to me. I'm comfortable talking about my childlessness in public and I've learned that the more I talk about my life the more I give others permission to do so.

I've become stronger and comfortable and confident with who I am. I know myself better than ever and I'm excited about the future.

And for the first time in my life, I’m authentically me and it’s wonderful.

I know that I have beautiful wings which are different from the norm but that's what makes me special.

It took me ten years for people to know me and even longer to get to know myself.  And now, I want to show other women that they don't have to wait that long. I want to show them that they don’t have to hide, and if they take action to find support they can become the beautiful butterfly that’s inside them.

And that's why I'm happy to stand with Justine because it's only by standing together that the world will know us.

 
Lesley
Lesley
 

~~~

Lesley Pyne supports childless women to heal and to create a life they love.  She uses her first-hand experience in coming to terms a life without children and her professional skills in NLP and time line techniques to help other childless women.

She publishes stories of other childless women who are willing to be known on http://www.lesleypyne.co.uk/category/inspirational-stories/

Her website is www.LesleyPyne.co.uk

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.

 
 

They Count Too

Note: I had hoped HuffPost Parents would pick this up today, as I wait I wanted to post here to say thank you before the day's end. ~~~

When I profusely thank such organizations as Beat Infertility, Don't Talk About the Baby and Share for including me and my story, I both hope they know how sincere I am being but also know they are probably thinking,

Of course, what is the big deal?

My words of thanks come from a place of love formed in the darkness of loss.

I have never been pregnant.

Thank God because being pregnant for me after two back surgeries and a year in a body cast would never lead to the normal celebratory leap of joy over 2 pink lines that those of us in the infertility and loss community long for.

My surrogate never achieved pregnancy with our embryos either.

And yet, there is not a National Failed Infertility Treatment Awareness Month or National IVF Embryos Count Too Awareness Month, and so the month of October's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is where I fall (or perhaps force my way in). Even though I can at times feel like the odd man out, left behind or the girl just beyond the outskirts of fitting in often wondering to myself,

They probably don't think I belong here. I did not lose enough. I am not enough.

That damn inner critic and scarcity, and yet, I know I am nowhere near alone.

Just as my friend over at Another Forty commented on my last post:

Having never been pregnant, though, I realize that I still have some shame related to whether or not pregnancy and infant loss awareness month applies to me. I have these pictures of our four embryos that feel like the only tangible remnant of our efforts, the closest I ever got to pregnancy. But at the end of the day I never did get there. So does it still count? I want it to desperately, and I want others to recognize it. It is such an odd thing to lose something you never really had.

To which I replied:

Those pictures of my 8 celled babies are not only cells in a petri dish to me, never strong enough to take strong footing in a warm mother’s womb, they are my babies. They count, they most definitely count. I am with you sister, it sometimes feels like there is not a place for us, but I assure you it is here. We too became mothers the day we dreamed of becoming mothers.

To you, they may simply be 8 celled embryos who were a science experiment in a sterile lab and petri dish.

To me they were growing babies, made up of Chad's athletic ability and kind heart and my red hair and passionate personality, and transferred to Michelle's loving motherly womb. My babies who never took a breath of this earth's fresh air and who I must parent from afar for the rest of my life always wondering who they might have been and who I might have been as their mother.

 
 

Tonight we will join families all over the world in the Wave of Light as we light three candles in honor of our soul scars.

And as I look at those bright flames, I will wonder if they are proud of me, wishing they were here while all in the same breath knowing all is okay.

I will also say thank you.

Thank you for including me and for remembering mothers like us.

~~~

In honor of my three: 

 
 

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
 

Changing the Invisible Longing to Empowered Ever Upward

My latest original piece for HuffPost Parents:

Making the Invisible Longing Visible

A week after National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), when I reared my brave heart and our story ran on CNN, I sat in my own therapist's office with tears running down my face and my voice adamant.

Invisible.

Sad.

Angry.

Disappointed.

Fired up.

Just human.

Or at least that is what Shellie, my therapist, reminded that I am.

I have survived my infertility journey and I work every day to thrive thereafter as a forever healing childfull parent.

I advocate every day to break the silence and change the messages as I help others through their journeys both as an author and as a therapist.

Click here to read more.

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.

 
 

A Convoluted Christmas

I know I am not alone this Christmas; I am not the only woman who's heart is filled with joy yet sorrow. I know I have millions of fellow warriors in my club; the club of infertility. And, yet a significant part of me feels very alone.

I didn't get to play Santa into the wee hours of the morning doing last minute wrapping and assembly. I wasn't woken up by excited children at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought.

I feel sorrow.

Last night I did get to attend a beautiful Christmas service without being distracted by a child on my lap. Last night I got to eat out at my favorite nice restaurant, share a bottle of wine with my husband and have adult conversation and connection.

I feel joy.

I scroll through social media to see all the matching pajamas, the smiles in front of the tree surrounded by wrapping paper everywhere and pure Christmas joy. I Skype all of my chosen children to see what Santa brought them and to see them open the gifts we sent.

I feel sorrow.

 
 

The dogs play with their new toys and make a us laugh as they do every single day. I cook for the family Christmas we have this afternoon and for our own Christmas dinner tonight. And, I know tonight we will get to play games, have some more wine and have this Christmas to continue to figure out what our Christmases will look and feel like without children for the rest of our lives.

I feel joy, I feel sorrow, I feel it all.

I am struggling with how convoluted it all feels. I feel the freedom and less stress perhaps without having children at Christmas time. And yet, I feel so sad and maybe even a little empty without them. I can feel the miracles that are Christmas, including my three little ones looking down on me. And yet, I feel the ever upward clarity that I am okay.

I guess, I just feel it all. I am not sure what to do with it. I am not sure how to communicate it. And, I am not sure what it all means.

Our second Christmas without our should have been babies, and yet our second Christmas defining our family traditions and finding our ever upward; parts just us and parts childfull.

And, the permission to embrace it as it is, to practice my recovery more than ever today and to own it; sorrow, joy and all.

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

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

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

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!
 

My Story with Amateur Nester

My interview with Lisa at Amateur Nester is an excellent sneak peek into my book, Ever Upward. A huge, wholehearted thank to Lisa. Thank you for being a friend in this big amazing world of infertility blogging. Thank you for being a fellow warrior in sharing my message. Thank you for being you!. To read the full story, click here!

 
 

The Semantics

The shamed ignorance is becoming more and more fragile. Our shamed stories are gaining more and more attention.

The shamed silence is breaking.

Infertility continues to see more and more media coverage:

As the discussion and the education (thank goodness) continue to grow surrounding infertility, the claim over certain semantics has also grown.

In particular, the semantics surrounding the terms childfree versus childless.

I have read many articles and blog posts and also been confronted myself on why my use of the term childfree is incorrect.

To some people, maybe even most, the term childfree describes those who have chosen to not have children or the childfree by choice group. Whereas, childless describes those of use who have tried but cannot have children.

However, I describe myself as childfree, and will continue to do so.

The subtitle of my upcoming book Ever Upward is Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.

And yet, I desperately wanted children. I paid a lot of money to have children. And, I suffer lifelong losses from the journey I endured to have children.

I choose the term childfree over childless because I am not less of anything. I am not missing anything. I am not less of a woman because I cannot be a mother of the traditional sense. My life does not mean less than anyone else's. I am not not whole because I cannot be a mother.

istock_000001654806small.jpg

My heart, my soul, my life are not missing pieces. They are simply scarred by three tiny souls. These soul scars have not left me lacking anything but rather have left me more whole. For I am a more loving, more compassionate, continually healing person because I so loved those three tiny souls and even more so because I lost them.

I choose the term childfree because I refuse to be identified as less than.

I choose the term childfree, yet childfull, because this is where I have found my continuing recovery.

And yet, there are days it doesn't feel like a choice at all.

But I will continue to practice my recovery and choose my whole self and my whole story.

And, that is nothing less but really the true definition ever upward.

**I want to thank Adrie for taking the time to read and comment so thoughtfully on this post. She has made me completely rethink the term childfree and yet I am still not willing to use the term childless. So, I'm not sure where that leaves me but I can assure you I will find it. Maybe it is my term childfull or maybe I will just make up a new word. And, I'd love to hear your ideas! Thank you for joining me on this continually healing and messy journey!**

*To read more about my story and 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

Linked with Amateur Nester's Weekly Link Up.