Seeing Me

I sat at a table surrounded by five other women I've known for years but hadn't seen in quite some time. There was wine being shared, except by the few who were pregnant, and a basket of forbidden (well to me) gluten with hand whipped butter being passed around the table. I took a long sip of my red wine before taking the warm bread and smothering the butter onto it before taking a bite into a version of heaven to me.

I had come in with no expectations, yet was prepared to struggle a bit that night with a few pregnant bellies and the only one at the table who is not a traditional mother. But it had been some time since I had seen everyone and even though it was not kids I had to share about I still have an interesting life to share.

There was laughter, baby tips and birth stories.

There was not one single inquiry for me.

Not one.

I feel invisible a lot, especially marketing a book about infertility and loss. I feel invisible in our society a lot as the woman who can't have kids, where many times I am quite literally the only one every where I go.

Never have I felt more invisible than at that dinner table despite being surrounded by old friends. I breathed deep, engaged in the conversation and clasped my hands beneath the tablecloth harder and harder as if the pressure between my hands kept the tears from pouring down my face.

By the time I got home I was inconsolable.

I texted one of my other mom friends,

Thank you for seeing me, for always doing your best to make sure I don't feel invisible as the only one without kids. You have no idea how much that helps me survive this world.

Chad tried his best to console me as I tried to contain myself, he said,

You can cry.

He could tell I felt stupid and frustrated but there was no holding in these kinds of sobs,

It's not fair, you hardly ever have to deal with this.

He forced me into a hug and said,

You're right, guys don't talk about their kids nonstop.

He held me tighter and between sobs I managed to get out,

I will have to deal with this for the rest of my life.

As a therapist, hell as a human, I work hard to make sure every single person I am around feels seen, known and loved in my presence. Thriving after infertility without my own children has only strengthened this quality of mine.

Because I feel invisible almost all of the time.

It's been some time since that dinner, the work I have done the last several years helps me to know that this sense of being invisible is not my truth. It also helped going into National Infertility Awareness Week and my #MoreThan1in8 project and connecting with so many of my fellow warriors. But, it was scary knowing the dreaded Mother's Day was just around the corner.

The day of what feels like true disappearance from this world for a woman like me.

But this year, Mother's Day was different, for a couple of reasons.

  1. I reclaimed the day by giving myself permission to celebrate it myself.
  2. I felt more seen and loved well through it than ever before.

I received cards in the mail, texts and gifts from friends and more Facebook messages than I ever imagined. Many of these things coming from people who I never even realized were watching my journey at all, let alone cared about it.

I was a mother seen.

Because I speak my truth and own my story, sometimes to the dismay, disapproval and discernment of others, there is no choice but to know I exist.

I know my story is sad, I know it makes you uncomfortable and I know some wish I'd just stop already.

What I know now, several years into thriving, is that your denial, or perception, of my story does not change my truth.

I am seen. I am known. I am loved.

I am helping.

I am helping because I will make sure you feel seen, known and loved too.

 
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~~~

 
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Keep an eye on my social media outlets for Q & A Fridays, starting this week!

Instagram: @jlbf4

Twitter: @JustineFroelker

Facebook: www.facebook.com/everupwardblog

A Mother of Dragons Reclaiming the Day

A bereaved mother. A loss mother.

Not a mother at all.

A childless mother.

A childfull mother.

A mother to many.

A mother of all mothers.

A mother of dragons.

These are the many titles I have been given since we ended our infertility journey without our children in our arms.

This Sunday will be the fourth Mother's Day that I am woken up by a cold nose and pup cuddle and not burnt toast in bed with hand drawn cards. It will be the fourth Mother's Day I will cry as I run my fingers over the black and white picture of our three embryos as the forever longing bubbles up to a sharp sting of grief.

And, it will be the first Mother's Day in four years that I finally give myself permission to celebrate it myself.

Because I am all of the above titles and honors.

I am a mother.

This weekend I will give myself permission to cry looking at those eight cell embryos that are my children. I will give myself permission to wonder if they'd have Chad's calmness or my passion, his blond hair or my freckles. I will give myself permission to be sad, angry and even a bit bitter.

And then I will take a breath to allow a tiny bit more space to open up and I will choose my joy, my gratitude and my trust.

My joy that through my motherhood I have become the most amazing version of myself and am sharing this light to help so many. My gratitude for the journey and that I was given my babies to begin with. My trust in His story for me and that I can find my place in it.

And then I will spend this glorious day celebrating all mothers, including myself, by doing my most favorite things.

I will sleep in.

I will color.

I will brave church, because it is my most favorite 70 minutes of the week usually.

I will lay on the patio in the sun with three dogs who love me more than anything.

I will check on my gardens and continue preparing them for the soon to arrive monarch butterflies.

I will write.

I will drink red wine with my toes in the pool.

I will thank my mom for everything she does for me and how she loves me.

I will walk my dogs while singing my music way too loud for anyone's enjoyment.

I will look at my husband and thank him for getting me.

I will eat yummy food that will include my usually forbidden but delicious and warm gluten.

I will take a drive in my husband's car with the t-tops off, the sun on my face and the wind blowing through my hair.

I will watch our favorite Sunday night shows with three dogs on my lap and my husband spoiling the plot because he always guesses right.

I will celebrate myself.

I pray you do too, children by your side or not, because we are mothers.

 
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Because She is Mom

Please join me, along with founder Sarah Philpott of

All-American Mom

, this coming Mother's Day to #honorallmoms. I am thankful to HuffPost Parents for once again being supportive of my work and my mission.

~~~

Because She is the Mother of All Mothers

She can hear the giggles from down the hall.

She already knows what is coming as it has become a bit of a tradition since she they were old enough to walk.

Her three children will stumble through her bedroom doors full of smiles and unable to contain their giggles. Her oldest will be holding the tray of scrambled eggs, burnt toast and fruit their dad helped them to prepare. Her middle child will be holding the cards they drew at school this week for her. And her youngest will be holding dew covered flowers they picked from her own garden first thing this morning.

“I tried to contain them as long as I could,” her husband says apologetically.

“I wouldn’t trade this early wake up call for anything,” she replies through a yawn she allows only him to see.

Six years ago she only dreamed of this day. In the midst of infertility treatments and having lost two babies before she finally held her first son in her arms, Mother’s Day was a day she dreaded with everything of her heart, soul and being.

Click here to continue reading over at The Huffington Post.

 
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Permissions for Mother's and Father's Day

If I have learned anything throughout my own infertility journey and recovery I have learned that we are all parents. But most likely, we will be the men and women who feel invisible these months as Mother’s and Father’s Day are upon us again. This will be my third Mother’s Day since ending our infertility journey without the desired result of children. 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.

My previous Mother’s Day mornings were not that much unlike every other day. I was woken early by Gertie's growling tummy, Gracie's cold nose and Bosco's gentle snoring. I spent 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.

This Mother’s Day my husband, Chad, and I are skipping town for a long weekend trip to spend time together in the beauty of nature (and also a spa of course). My goal is to stay off social media and I will definitely be staying away from children friendly activities because this year I want to really take care of myself; honoring all the complicated gray of the infertility and loss journey.

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 childfull 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 and fathers out there, to take care of ourselves, especially this Mother’s and Father’s 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.

Never to forget the fathers of course, I would like to pass along a message you simply cannot escape from when it comes to me, no matter what version of a 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 sanity.

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, 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 loss and even more so after, no matter your ending.

I hope you get through these days together, turning towards one another and honoring the feelings of all the feels. I am assuming time helps this day get easier eventually, in the meantime do the work, speak your story and rise ever upward.

~~~

This post is a combination of two older posts submitted to the incredible Share Newsletter this month. Don't forget when you purchase Ever Upward through our online store, $5 of the purchase price goes to support Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support.

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.