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

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

A Letter to the 14 Year Old Girl Trapped in the Darkness of a Body Cast

August 25th, 1994 I had my first of two back surgeries, both of which left me in a body cast for 6 months following each surgery.

Twenty years later these are the words I need to say to that part of who I am still to this today.

The words to that scared 14 year old girl because in these words I choose to heal her.

Justine,

I know you are scared, but relieved that you finally have an answer to your pain. This is not the only time you will feel this gut wrenching and breath stealing bittersweet feeling. You will again feel this painful clarity on the day you receive the phone call that your last round of IVF did not work and you learn that your journey to have children is over.

But I can promise you, it is all worth it and you will be okay.

You have many years in front of you of struggle. Mostly with the struggle to find and believe in your light again. Because today, unfortunately, you will lose a major part of your spirit, only to fight for and find it again in twenty years.

In twenty years time, you will find this light again when you have survived failed IVF, lost three babies and fought for your recovery back to yourself.

This event of your first back surgery, yes honey, I am sorry but you will have to survive another one of these, puts in motion everything that will make you an amazing being.

You will have incredible stories of inspiration and laughter to share with the world of your back surgeries. You will have incredible stories of struggle and hope to share with the world of your fight to become a mother. You will have incredible stories of loss and purpose to share with the world of your ever upward journey to find yourself and recovery.

You will come to understand, accept, embrace and own every part of yourself and your story. You will own your shame surrounding infertility by understanding how alone you are about to feel throughout these surgeries. You will have endless help throughout these surgeries; people who love you, even those who barely know you, will step forward to help in some way. Twenty years later you will have the language to understand that your light was lost even within this amazing help because it was given through sympathy and not empathy. Because, really how else does anyone feel but sorry for the 14 year old having to have back surgery, live in a body cast and miss half of her freshman year of high school? Let alone to then have to do it all over again in a few years.

Twenty years later you will have the clarity to no longer dim your light around your story of surviving IVF and accepting a childfree life because of pity. And, instead choose to shine the light to break the silence of struggle and hard.

Because sad is sad and hard is just hard.

Some things just really can't be fixed that easily; like a 14 and 17 year old in a body cast and a 34 year old woman who really wanted to be a mother but can't.

Find the joy and the love in the help from everyone around you throughout this time, even it if is only in sympathy. Because it is still born out of the intention of great love.

Trust that you will thrive through this and that this isn't the end of your story; because, I promise, it is not even close.

 
Recovery Ever Upward Back Surgeries
Recovery Ever Upward Back Surgeries
 

And try, to hold onto that light just a little, knowing and believing that someday it will flicker again.

I promise this tiny belief and flicker is enough to get you through.

Because, your light will never be fully suffocated as you have an unending, ever growing and truly ever upward resilience.

In ever upward light and love,

Me

*To read more about my experiences through two back surgeries and a year of my life spent in a body cast 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

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.

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!

 
 

Our Infertility Rap Sheets

Ever Upward is growing. My world is expanding. My recovery is strengthening.

Which also means my shamed silence is triggered more often. Even though my shame resilience has grown as a result of my practicing recovery.

As I meet more and more people in the infertility world, blogging or otherwise, I am finding myself comparing my story to theirs. I have always been uncomfortable with the TTC (trying to conceive) timelines. I am especially uncomfortable when our About pages and Twitter bio's are our TTC timelines full of numbers and acronyms.

What I have come to realize is that my discomfort is simply a result of my shame being triggered.

The numbers we share to describe ourselves; how many miscarriages, cycles, IUIs, IVFs, BFNs, etc.* Hell, I have my numbers in my bio (two rounds of IVF and three never to be babies). I thought I included these because they are part of my whole story. But what I think I am figuring out through working my recovery is that I have left them in for proof and as a way to cope with my shame.

Proof that I too have suffered and lost; my comparing my story to others', my way of shouting out, "I tried too."

But, this really comes from my sense of not being enough, of trying to prove myself rather than owning myself. The scarcity culture, as Brené Brown describes in The Daring Way™ work. The never ______________ enough. Never pretty enough. Never thin enough. Never rich enough. Never happy enough.

This scarcity culture has helped turned these numbers into one of my biggest shame triggers.

My fear that I will be judged that I didn't try enough. That I didn't lose enough.

Because I don't have a long rap sheet of years of trying to conceive or IUIs, IVFs and BFNs.

And, I have no doubt that I have been and will continue to be judged for not trying more, just as much as I am judged for not choosing adoption.

And so, at least from Ever Upward, the blog, I have removed my counts, my proof, because I am more than just my two rounds and three lost babies. I am actually even more because of my lifelong losses. These numbers could never come close to describing what I have been through or what is left as a result.

Because within this I truly it own it, and myself.

Apart from surviving infertility and thriving thereafter, I also have the mental health therapist part of my head and heart at work with these TTC timelines and rap sheet descriptions. I cannot help but be scared and saddened by it. That as men and women suffering through infertility treatments we are identifying ourselves, sometimes completely, through how many treatments we have endured.

 
 

We are so much more than this.

We have to be so much more than this.

We have to be because, I think, that is the only way we will survive infertility and thrive thereafter, no matter what our ending looks like.

I am not sure what our motivations are for making our infertility rap sheets part of our bios or even our whole story. But for me, it was about comparison and scarcity. Comparison in making sure the world knew I tried too and therefore have suffered. Scarcity in proving that it was enough.

Comparison and scarcity; two things I am practicing shame resilience and recovery from.

Because, I did try and I have suffered.

Enough.

Because, only I define my enough and my "did we do everything?"

For me, I need to be more.

Because, this is ever upward.

I will talk about it, I will embrace it, I will practice and model recovery from it and I will own it. Because maybe within my ownership, one person will be brave enough to demand to be more than their infertility rap sheet.

Because we all are.

So much more.

And, we all deserve to be.

*For a full list of infertility acronyms click here.

*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

This post linked with Amateur Nester's Link Up #9.

The Dates Seared into Us

I am a numbers person. No, not the add, subtract, divide and multiply numbers kind of person (just ask my accountant husband).

The kind of numbers person who remembers dates, phone numbers and birthdays pretty well and for a very long time. I have clients' phone numbers committed to memory, for no reason, as I no longer work with them and my cell phone remembers them for me. I also usually, and very easily, remember birth dates of friends, family and all the chosen children in my life.

I also have many dates throughout the year that are forever seared into my very being.

I have always known the power of the dates that will haunt us forever as I often remind my clients of this. It is not uncommon that we begin to struggle some; anxiety is higher, depression is heavier or we just start to feel off and, then we stop to think of the date, or the time of year, and are reminded of that loss, trauma or tragedy that happened way back when.

I too have these kinds of dates seared into my heart and into my soul. My soul scars that never go away and in some ways haunt me all throughout the year.

August 25th, 1994 ~ My first back surgery.

June 19th, 1997 ~ My second back surgery.

December 28th, 2011 ~ The first phone call that stopped our lives, Michelle, our surrogate, was not pregnant.

April 16th, 2012 ~ The soul crushing and clarity providing phone call that our second, and last, embryo transfer did not take; Michelle was never going to be pregnant with our child.

June 26th, 2012 ~ The day we made another impossible decision to let go of our Maddie. The day of my true rock bottom.

 
 

August 31st, 2012 ~ What would have been the first birthday of our two embryos transferred in the first round of IVF.

 
 

December 21st, 2012 ~ What would have been the first birthday of our last embryo transferred in the second, and last, round of IVF.

June 17th, 2013 ~ The birth of Tipton, our chosen family's wonderful surprise, our bittersweet reminder that is outweighed by the the love we have for another of our chosen children.

 
 

I wish I could have been better prepared by the infertility blogs, message boards and even doctors that these dates never leave us.

Especially, the birthdays of our never meant to be babies, at least never meant to be in our arms on this physical earth.

They are forever, for better or worse, seared in my head, on my heart and within my soul.

Today, I am able to say for the better.

And, through the work of my recovery I am beginning to have more of the magical, full of love, moments seared into every piece of me.

Last night, on June 22nd, 2014, I publicly declared the private decision I was finally able to make for myself on May 6th, 2014.

 
 

I was baptized.

Just a few days shy of my rock bottom when we lost Maddie 2 years ago, after surviving IVF and losing 3 babies, I walked into the waters of baptism last night a renewed, a redefined and a continually healing woman.

I walked into those waters with a scarred but never closed heart and soul and, with my three babies watching from above.

On May 6th, my prayer that Jesus would show His love to me in a way I could finally understand, embrace and accept was answered. As I have written before, there is nothing like being a mental health therapist for over 14 years who has also struggled with infertility to make one doubt God and faith. But, what I realized on May 6th, is that I can still doubt and question. I can even still hold feelings of anger and feel like my life hasn't been fair.

And yet, I can still believe.

Doubt, questions, anger and all.

Wonder.

I can believe in His love for me. I can trust His plan for me. I can live my life knowing the ending of my story will be His way, whether or not I get to know it on this side of eternity. I can honor that He will take this life and let it shine.

My heart is full. My soul is continuing to heal. My ever upward wonder grows.

Seared dates, soul scars and all.

And, that this wonder, my wonder, is exactly what makes it faith.

*To read more about my seared dates make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Owning My Childfree Life in Our Child Obsessed.*

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

14 Reasons This is Just the Beginning

The growing momentum of Ever Upward. My continued ownership of my whole story.

The continuing opportunities to share this ownership.

All leading me to more and more clarity with which I am seeing, feeling and growing this light inside of me.

My essential truth.

Which I hope can become part of many of our essential truths; maybe even, the essential truth.

Talk about it.

Embrace it.

Practice recovery ofit.

Own it.

No matter what it is.

For my first televised interview on the book and blog, Ever Upward, I was blessed enough to be interviewed by Virginia Kerr of KMOV's Great Day St. Louis. I have appeared monthly on Great Day for over four years, in many ways I feel part of their family. I am so grateful for their love, support and the opportunity on the show to break the shamed silence of infertility.

Our six minutes went so fast, too fast. After the interview Virginia looked at me and said, "Did we cover everything? I don't think we did, I was just having an amazing conversation with you on air!"

It was real.

It was authentic.

It was amazing.

And, no, we didn't even begin to cover everything...

But, I will make sure it is just the beginning.

The clip has been one of the most shared posts I've had. It has also sparked some of the most amazing words of encouragement, support and love from friends, new and old.

And, this is just the beginning.

My essential truth was definitely highlighted throughout the interview but, what our short six minutes didn't allow for was why this essential truth is so important, especially in the world of infertility and in the world of whatever you need to recover from.

It's now been a few days since the interview. As I continue to navigate through the shares, comments, support and love, I am also overwhelmed by random moments in awe with glimmers of but wait this is part of my message too moments.

Things like:

1. We must talk about infertility so the public is more educated.

2. We must talk about infertility in order to get any of the understanding we want and need from our loved ones.

3. We must talk about infertility in order to be healthier and happier versions of ourselves both throughout treatments but, especially thereafter no matter the ending to that part of our story.

4. We must talk about infertility because only using our doctors and our partner for support is too much for just about any relationship.

5. We must talk about infertility because then, maybe, it could actually result in a higher success rate.

6. We must talk about infertility to educate on how expensive, painful and difficult the process is.

7. We must talk about infertility to challenge the message that you must keep trying because it will eventually work and to give permission to stop.

8. We must talk about infertility and fertility because it is the only way to broaden the story and increase understanding no matter the situation.*

  • The couple who has any kind of infertility diagnosis or a lack there of.
  • The same sex couple.
  • The single man or woman who desperately wants to be a parent.
  • The couple who cannot have a healthy baby with their own genes.
  • The couple who chooses to adopt.
  • The couple who chooses not to adopt.
  • The woman or couple who courageously gave up her/their child for adoption.
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  • The couple who use a donor egg or sperm.
  • The couple who adopts an embryo.
  • The couple who uses a traditional surrogate.
  • The couple who uses a gestational surrogate.
  • The couple who has embryos left.
  • The couple who has no embryos left.
  • The couple who were able to have one or some biological child(ren) and then chose adoption.
  • The couple who chooses to have one child.
  • The couple who can only have one child.
  • The couple who has children many years apart because they suffered miscarriages or endured infertility treatments between.
  • The couple who chooses no infertility treatments.
  • The couple who is able to try infertility treatments many times with success of children.
  • The couple who is able to try infertility treatments many times only to never have it work.
  • The couple who had kids before they were really ready or even really trying.
  • The couple who has suffered a loss of any kind, of any gestation, of any age.
  • The couple who has suffered a loss of any kind, of any gestation, of any age and is blessed with healthy children still.
  • The couples who are still parents no matter what the loss.
  • The couples with children.
  • The couples who live childfree but childfull lives.
  • All the families who don't know their loved ones are suffering.
  • All the families who know their loved ones' suffering but are flailing for the words to support.
  • Any couple, any family, because in reality life hardly ever turns out how we hoped, how we planned or even sometimes what we paid for; loss is loss.

9. I must educate about infertility and thriving thereafter because it is how I have fought for and continue to practice my recovery; in it I have found my calling and purpose.

10. I must break my silence because within this fight I have been found by my ever upward.

11. We must talk about all our losses, traumas and tragedies in order to heal.

12. We must embrace all the parts of our stories.

13. We must fight for and practice our recoveries to be healthier and happier versions of ourselves.

14. We must own it all to find and be found, to live our ever upward.

As I continue to practice my recovery, write Ever Upward, the blog (especially as it has taken on it's own amazing life) and build the platform for Ever Upward, the book, I hope we all find permission.

 
 

My essential truth of giving myself permission.

The essential truth of giving us all permission.

Permission to talk, to embrace, to practice and to own it all.

Because, this is just my beginning.

As, I will make damn sure my infertility journey is just one of my many epic journeys in this story of my ever upward life.

*Sometimes it is difficult to make sure I include everyone, if I've forgotten a situation please comment below so I can edit the post and add (giving you credit if you like).

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

You Don't Have to be Ever Strong

The infertility world is very much focused on women; in the treatments, in the education and in breaking the silence. However, the statistics are growing that men's factor infertility could be the case in one third to one half of the 1 in 8 (sometimes stated 1 in 6 depending on the resource) couples going through infertility. And regardless of the numbers or the cause of a couples' infertility, there are still two people in that relationship suffering through one of the most difficult journeys in life. So, on this Father's Day weekend I would like to pass along a message you simply cannot escape from when it comes to me. Especially to all of you fathers, no matter what version of father you are.

Talk about it.

Ask for help.

Break your silence.

 
 

And, if it counts for anything, I give you all permission to not have to be the ever strong husband.

I wish I had been able to communicate this more clearly to Chad as we were going through our own infertility journey. To be able to assure him that he didn't always have to be the ever strong man, never showing too much emotion and being stoically strong while I lost my shit.

Even though it may be scary at first for us to see this authentic vulnerability from men, to actually see behind the armor of a man's strength, it is truly what we want and need from our partners. And, even though this is counter intuitive to how you have been raised and what our culture says, I believe this authentic vulnerability from men is what will make marriages and each of us happier and healthier versions of ourselves.

Especially as you are fighting through infertility and even more so after, no matter your ending.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

Because, just as all women are some version of a mother, please give yourself permission to feel the same as a father, especially this weekend.

The Nail in the Floor

Sometimes our scarred imperfections are super visible. Sometimes our scarred imperfections define all of us and our whole story. But, sometimes our scarred imperfections are only visible upon a closer look. And, it is only with this closer look that we truly see and embrace the whole. After surviving infertility and accepting our childfree lives Chad and I made the biggest, and best, decision we have made of our almost ten year relationship. We put our suburban, good school district house on the market and we found a house who only people who have lost their everything would take a chance on.

We bought a home owned by someone who struggled with hoarding. Upon the closing on this house, we also came to be the owners all of the previous owner's belongings; an entire house filled floor to ceiling and wall to wall of her "treasures" .

For the first time in our marriage, and our long and frequent history of buying and selling homes, I had never had vision before. But after losing our three babies, my eyes had no choice but to see life through a new lens. I was able to see the future, our childfree future, in this amazing house we now refer to as Mason House.

 
 

We emptied the house of terrible memories and more stuff than anyone could imagine, filling dumpster after dumpster of the previous owner's pain and things. Along with her pain and stuff, we also filled every dumpster full of our grief and losses. We worked together, better than we ever have, to combine the mid-century history of the house with our modern and clean style from the studs out. We rebuilt the painful history of the house to create the future of all the love and laughter of our new family home; complete with a pool and toy room for our childfree yet childfull lives.

Mason House, inside and out, looks nothing like it did last year.

Our marriage, inside and out, looks nothing like it did before or during IVF and my recovery.

I, inside and out, look nothing like I did either.

 
 

If you look closely in our beautiful great room you will see the old nail holes from the carpet we pulled up when we saved the original wood floors. If we point it out and you look even more closely you will see a perfectly sanded nail on it's side embedded into the floor. Reminding us of the history of the home, of where it has been and how far it has come. You will see and feel the scarred imperfections that make Mason House exactly what it is meant to be today.

This perfectly placed nail is just a piece of the whole story.

If you look closely at our marriage you will see our history between us; some years better than others. As we interact, and you look more closely, you will see the growth, the fight and the connection that we have only been able to truly find through surviving infertility and losing our three never to be's. You will see our scarred imperfections in our laughter, in our touches and in our ownership of the times of true joy and sorrow of our journey.

The perfectly placed parts of our story of IVF are just a piece of our whole story.

If you look closely at me you will see someone who on the outside looks very different not only in body but also in presence than who she was before the fight of recovery. As you hear me own my story and you look more closely, you will feel my power, you will feel my passion and you will feel my ever upward. You will see, you will feel and you will be changed by my scarred imperfections.

The perfectly placed struggles of my life are just a piece of my whole story.

There is always a story of struggle and hope embedded within us.

A perfectly placed scarred imperfection that is just a piece of our whole story.

And, without them we simply cannot be whole.

We will suffer losses, traumas and tragedies in this life. When we lose one dream we must pick up the pieces and redefine. To wallow in the lost only defines us. To stay stuck on the never to be's only keeps us stagnant in life. To make our scarred imperfections our entire story misplaces them completely.

Where we find our purpose, where we find ourselves again is in embracing these parts as perfectly placed scarred imperfections and in making them part of our breathtaking story. We must fight, work and practice to own all of our scarred imperfections as perfectly placed parts of our story.

Just like the nail in the floor.

*To read the entire epic adventure of the Mason House journey make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Owning My Childfree Life in Our Child Obsessed.*

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

Understanding More of My Why While Practicing the How

It has been a whirlwind of a few weeks for me with the birth of my namesake and newest chosen child Abigail, the signing of my book contract for Ever Upward and my first podcast interview for infertility advocacy with Julie at Fertility Revolution. It has been a few weeks full of fear, exhaustion, love, excitement, pure enough moments and a sense that my ever upward is truly settling into my core, my spirit, my everything.

Building the platform for the book and doing my first interviews for infertility advocacy and for marketing Ever Upward has forced me to zero in on my message (more to come on this in a future post). It has also helped me to continue to wholeheartedly own all the parts of my story with brazen courage. It has also lit a fire inside of me that has brought me some considerable clarity.

Telling my story has brought me this clarity and the words to understand more of my why. This sense that even the painful, unlucky and just plain crazy parts of my story are okay; they are my path. They are simply my puzzle pieces of life.

These crazy twists of my life:

  • not one, but two, back surgeries both with a body cast.
  • IVF and gestational surrogacy not working for us and losing our three babies.
  • and the unexpected expansion of our surrogate's family, and therefore, my chosen children family.

are really enough to make anyone bitter, angry and forever scarred.

However, on this side of surviving infertility and recovering thereafter, I have come to embrace that I may never get the good enough reason why these things have happened to me. And I don't have to have this understanding to be okay or to even be fulfilled and happy.

And, as I have worked within my faith recently, I am also realizing that perhaps this is simply meant to be my story while also having the faith that it is not the end of it. Because I know with my whole heart that I have never done anything to deserve this amount of hurt and pain in my life. And even though I've always deemed myself as just unlucky, on this side of recovery I can truly say that this has nothing to do with luck at all.

 
 

Because as this light becomes more and more clear within me, what I am finding is that this is simply the reason I am here. This is my star soon to shine. I have loved which means I also have to choose.

I have to choose what I do with my story.

I have to choose what I do with my soul scars.

I have to choose to make it ever upward.

So, it is with more and more clarity and understanding of my why that I am still figuring out the how. Because, really, it is the how that everyone wants to know.

How did you survive two back surgeries? How did you survive living in a body cast? How did you survive losing three babies?

How have you not only survived but thrived?

In all honesty, I am not sure.

I have survived by fighting.

I have survived by practicing recovery.

I have survived because I didn't give myself any other choice.

I have survived because I have let go of needing the complete understanding of my whole why.

I am surviving because I am here; writing, struggling and owning it all every single day.

I am surviving, recovering and thriving because that is the light, the love, the soul of ever upward.

Not Just Another Birth Story: A Letter to Abigail

Had our IVF worked with our surrogate Michelle, I would have gotten to be in the delivery room to see our babies be born. But that was never my path to experience. I sincerely thought the only births I would ever see would be the ones in that terrible 5th grade sex education class we all had to take and the sensationalized ones shown on television and in the movies. So, when my oldest friend, my true witness of 30 years, asked me to be one of her delivery coaches when she delivered her first baby I cried with tears of honor and joy.

My friend who has seen me through my darkest of times and literally helped me through life in a body cast when we were much to young to handle such difficulties.

My friend who also knows the pain and losses of infertility.

My chosen family who I love so dearly.

Last week my friend gave birth to her daughter and I had the honor in helping her through her difficult delivery and being a witness as their family grew by one beautiful baby girl.

It is with much excitement and love that I (and her parents of course) welcome Abigail to the world! And with a full heart, I write her these words to hopefully last her a lifetime.

Dear Abigail,

Your mom and I have been through 30 years of friendship. We have been through things that really no two friends should ever have to see within a friendship. Your mom helped me through some of the hardest times of my life. I am sure we will one day share with you the stories of how she used to care for me as my nurse as I suffered through two back surgeries and lived in a body cast. She loves telling the stories of her helping me go to the bathroom, as I will admit they are pretty hysterical.

And on the day you blessed us all by coming into this world, I helped your mom through your very difficult and scary delivery. So, I now have my own stories to tell of things I simply can never unsee.

And yet, it was one of the most magical days of my life, as I know it was for your mom and dad.

Abbie, your mom and dad fought so hard to bring you here. Through three years they fought through frustrations, waiting games, anxieties, medical procedures, terrible side effects, misunderstanding from loved ones and the public and, especially, their fears; all to find you.

Your mom and dad continued this amazing fight through their difficult pregnancy and on the day of your mom's labor and delivery, their fight only continued.

Scared of my own limitations, fears and queasiness I pushed through to allow my anxiousness to become excitement and I fought alongside your mom and dad. I fought for them and I fought for you.

I was so proud and honored to be there supporting, helping and distracting them throughout your mom's labor.

But mostly, I was so proud and honored to simply witness them in their fight. Your mom's diligence in containing her anxiety and fears for your safety. Your dad's advocacy for you and your mom's care and safety. And, especially their ownership in how you came to be whenever any doctor or nurse asked about you.

Simply, profoundly and wholeheartedly, I am just so proud of them.

 
 

We all worked together as a team to bring you into this world, your mom definitely doing the hardest work of all. And at 4:40 pm you finally graced your mom and dad with the joy they've been fighting and hoping for for three long years; your peaceful and perfect face, your dark hair and your healthy cry brought tears of joy to all of us.

Throughout your mom's labor, of almost two full days, your mom and dad lied to me about your name, even though I asked them a million times (as you will get to know I never give up easily). Finally, the morning after your birth, when your mom was feeling better, they gave me the best surprise of my life, your name. I was truly surprised and completely honored to learn your name was Abigail Justine.

It is with a heart full of love and honor that these are my promises to you, Abigail Justine, my namesake:

I promise to always do my very best to be that person your parents believed in and loved enough to name you after.

I promise to always be here for your mom and dad, for whatever they may need.

I promise to always be here for you, no matter what.

I promise to always be your soft landing spot but to also always guide and push you when needed.

I promise to love all of you, always accepting you and honoring you; with me you will always be seen, known and loved.

Because being there with your parents throughout their journey to conceive you and being able to be present for your entrance into this world is my ultimate enough moment.

Because you, Abigail Justine, are my ultimate ever upward.

With much love,

Your Aunt Justine

 
 

*This post linked to Amateur Nester's Tuesday Link Up.

The Complicated Gray

Several days after one of the most difficult days of the year for me, Mother's Day, I am reminded at how complicated this whole thing actually is...infertility, childfree living, loss, trauma, tragedy, faith...life. I've written it many times before; life is hard and people are complicated. It never seems to be very black or white, which sometimes would be nice and so much simpler.

But most all of life is in the complicated gray; always between the simplicity of black or while.

Albeit, beautiful complicated gray.

 
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This weekend I felt everything. Mother's Day was a good day but it was still super difficult and felt very sad, at least inside my own head and heart. All the talk of mothers and mothering at church wasn't easy to hear. Feeling torn and like a bad daughter and daughter in law because just acknowledging the day is difficult and I really needed to honor my own pain and myself. But, also spending the afternoon swimming and playing with three of my favorite little boys filled every cell of my body with pure joy, love and laughter. I am also so thankful for all the messages and cards I received and for the blogs I read about how wonderful and difficult Mother's Day can be for so many of us.

The complicated gray.

Our losses, traumas and tragedies are never uncomplicated; infertility, IVF and accepting a childfree life are definitely not an exception to this complication.

For me, especially as a therapist who has survived infertility and has fought to thrive thereafter, the complicated gray is always there.

The complicated gray I feel between the lifelong costs and losses of infertility and childfree living with the peace, freedom and happiness I have achieved through my recovery.

The complicated gray of making my almost enough moments my enough moments.

The complicated gray of honoring my losses but never allowing my heart and soul to scar over and close.

The complicated gray of the anger and bitterness at the unfairness with the trust and faith in the 'I'm okay and it's okay'.

The complicated gray of owning my shame and sadness while also educating and fighting for my story and the importance of my message and voice.

And for the many women out there struggling with any difficulty in the department of mothering and infertility, the complicated gray is never ending.

The complicated gray of living in shamed silence of infertility and desperately wanting and needing to be seen and heard.

The complicated gray of self sabotaging ourselves because we feel so damaged and shamed in our infertility battles; betrayed by our bodies, by science and, sometimes even ourselves or our loved ones.

The complicated gray of every impossible decision that must be made in the journey of infertility whether emotional, financial, moral or ethical.

The complicated gray of every parenting decision.

The complicated gray of the cautious hopefulness and the reality of the statistical un-success of infertility treatments.

The complicated gray of our real stories not being seen, heard or understood by many.

~~~~

I always work with my clients on finding the middle, seeing the gray and not thinking in such black or white terms. For the most part, our health and happiness lie in the middle; in the gray.

Through my infertility journey, my recovery and my ongoing acceptance of a childfree life I am learning that maybe we really must also truly embrace this complicated gray.

Because, I think, it is within this complicated gray we will find our permission for it all.

Permission for our stories.

Permission for our recoveries.

Permission for our light.

Permission for finding our ever upward.

Happy Mother's Day to All the Mothers of Many

Happy Mother's Day! Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers to be. Happy Mother's Day to those who have lost mothers. Happy Mother's Day to those who hope to be mothers. Happy Mother's Day to those of us who are mothers of angels. Happy Mother's Day to those of who who never get to mother in the traditional sense of the word.

Actually, I challenge... Happy Mother's Day to all women!

Because if I have learned anything throughout my own recovery I have learned that we are all mothers of some kind especially considering we tend to be full of compassion and putting others above ourselves almost always.

However, this Mother's Day, I will not be woken up at the crack of dawn by my little ones surprising me with handmade cards and pancakes in bed. I will not get a bouquet of dandelions picked from the yard. I will not be acknowledged by the majority of people in my life as today being any different than any other day.

But, I will be woken early by Gertie's growling tummy, Gracie's cold nose and Bosco's gentle snoring. I will spend the day with my furry children and my husband, not unlike any other regular Sunday but all the while knowing that Mother's Day will be bittersweet for me the rest of my life.

I will spend the day allowing myself to feel the anger at how unfair it can feel that I won't ever get the joy of my children making this day all about me. I will spend my day allowing myself to feel the sadness at the lifelong costs and losses of infertility. I will spend the day at peace with my recovery and my work in accepting a childfree life. I will spend the day happy with my enough moments, my struggles and my light.

 
 

I will spend the day thinking of those three tiny souls in heaven  never meant to bloom here.

And, I will honor myself this day because I am a mother to many.

I will remind myself, as I want to remind all the mothers out there, to take care of ourselves, especially on this day. Make sure you receive care, from your loved ones and from yourself, because it is only through filling ourselves up that we can truly give and care for others.

So, on this angering, saddening, peaceful and happy day for me, I wish us all an ever upward Happy Mother's Day because I have no doubt we all mother something or someone in our lives.