Q & A with Tegan Wren

 
 

I am so excited to share a Q & A with my friend, fellow author and fellow warrior Tegan Wren, author of Inconceivable! I was honored to receive an advance copy of Inconceivable! Even though I spend most of my reading time on nonfiction, memoir and therapy books, I gladly admit I could not put down this romantic novel with a heartbreakingly real infertility twist! I truly relished every word and stayed up late too many nights devouring the book.

QUESTION: Inconceivable! seems to be the great combination of romance novel with a bit of education on infertility. What was it about the novel or even romance novel that pulled you in this direction? And why include the infertility struggle in it?

ANSWER: I love to read novels because I think fictional stories are powerful tools for revealing truths. It's my hope that my novel will illuminate truths about the infertility struggle that those of us who live it have experienced. Through those truths, I want to raise awareness of infertility and increase compassion for people who experience it. As far as writing a romance...Most infertility stories unfold within the context of a romantic relationship. For me and my husband, it felt like infertility interrupted our "happily ever after." I think it's like that for a lot of couples. So, I wanted to have the reader invest in a couple's romantic relationship first before bringing in the infertility storyline. That's how it happens in real life: you're going along just fine with your significant other and then BOOM! You can't achieve this one thing that you both want so much, the thing that society says is the tangible proof that your relationship is valuable. You feel like such a failure. It's a deeply personal and painful medical challenge.

QUESTION: What phrase in the book are you most proud of?

ANSWER: This is a passage about Winter's Feast, a holiday that's celebrated in my book's fictional country. I wrote it to have a double meaning; it describes the hope you hold in your heart when you go through infertility.  "In the scarcity of winter, may we celebrate our bounty. Winter’s Feast reminds us even though the land looks barren, the potential for life sleeps just below the surface."

QUESTION: Did you write in the order it ended up being published in?

ANSWER: No...This was my first novel, so I wrote several scenes out of order. In fact, the very scene I wrote is what became John's Epilogue. It's funny to think I wrote the ending first, but it was kind of neat because I always knew how my characters were going to end their story. Then, the challenge was choosing the beginning and filling in all the details for a complete and satisfying story.

QUESTION: Was there a section you struggled the most with to write?

ANSWER: I really struggled with a scene in which the main character grapples with loss. (I don't want to give any spoilers, so I'll just keep it kind of vague.) It was challenging to strike the right balance between dramatizing it and being too over-the-top in how I described her reaction. In the end, I was able to craft a scene that hits the right chord with the help of my amazing editor from Curiosity Quills Press. She also experienced infertility, and brought some excellent insights and recommendations to this particular scene. We really bonded over the process of editing my book.

QUESTION: How did you start and finish writing the book? What are your favorite writing tools?

ANSWER: I thought a lot about the story itself and my characters before I ever started writing. So, it began with plenty of brainstorming. There's no way to finish a book except to be disciplined enough to do it. You have to remember the first draft won't be perfect. But until you finish the first draft, you can't really revise, edit, and clean up your story. As for my favorite writing tools...I always write using my laptop. I love to have a coffee on hand. A thesaurus is a must. I use an online thesaurus to avoid too much repetition in word choice.

QUESTION: What do you hope readers get out of Inconceivable!?

ANSWER: I hope readers are entertained and enlightened. Fiction, at its best, does both. For readers who haven't experienced infertility, I hope they come away from the book with more compassion for people who struggle with this medical condition. One way to normalize a topic is to write stories about it and put those stories in books, in magazines, and in movies. I'd love to see more stories that give an accurate snapshot of what it's like to live through infertility For my sisters and brothers who have walked this lonely road, I hope they see hints of their own stories in these pages, and that it helps them know they are not alone.

QUESTION: What other authors do you enjoy reading, look up to or learn the most from?

ANSWER: I've learned a lot from reading talented writers like C.S. Lewis, Sena Jeter Naslund, Stephen King, and Anita Diamont. As you can see, my tastes are quite varied. I never really care what genre I'm reading. I just want to immerse myself in a great story. These writers do a magnificent job of weaving tales so engrossing that I lose track of time and stay up too late to finish a book! That's the kind of story I tried to write.

QUESTION: How much of your story is in Hatty's?

ANSWER: My personal journey inspired the infertility story in INCONCEIVABLE! Like Hatty, I had a chemical pregnancy, in utero inseminations, and an in vitro fertilization cycle. But the dynamics of Hatty and John's relationship are quite different from what my husband and I experienced. So, there are some similarities, but I took advantage of the liberties that come with writing a work of fiction.

QUESTION: What is next for Hatty and John?

ANSWER: I don't have firm plans to write a follow-up story about Hatty and John because I think they're in a really good place when their story ends. But I have the basic plot outline for a story about one of John's cousin and an American grad student. It's a romance, but does not touch on infertility. Instead, it's more about the secrets family keep, why they keep them, and whether it's worth hurting the people you love to reveal these secrets. I think those are all compelling issues that are ripe for exploration.

QUESTION: What is next for you?

ANSWER: I'm really focused on telling people about INCONCEIVABLE! Some days, I want to jump up on a roof with a megaphone and yell, "I have a new novel that deals with infertility! I think you'll enjoy it if you've experienced infertility or if someone you know has gone through it!" I've completed a second novel, though it's different in style, tone, and subject matter from INCONCEIVABLE. I'm doing some revisions on it in preparation to begin querying agents after the first of the year.

In closing, I just want to thank you for reading my book, Justine, and for allowing me to share about my book and personal journey. To your wonderful readers: I love to connect with people who are in the infertility and/or adoption communities, so please get in touch!

Film: One More Shot

Showing support for my friend Maya and her husband Noah and their new film One More Shot. Please consider watching the trailer and financially backing this important film. Together we can educate more people about what it really takes to make a family today. And, hopefully I can figure out how to get out to LA to be a part of the film so the childfull families are represented ;).
~~~~
In 2010, my husband Noah and I set out to make a baby. By 2012 we were completely baffled that what was supposed to be the most basic human process wasn’t going to work for us. I was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve at 32, and we were  basically told we would need to think outside the box in order to create a family.
2012 was also the year we picked up a camera. Noah is a TV producer and I am a clinical social worker, and between his desire to document to tell a story and my strong sense of advocacy, we set out to create a short film about our journey to parenthood. We felt strongly that there shouldn’t be shame or stigma attached to the medical diagnosis of infertility, and we were open to sharing parts of ourselves to help normalize this condition that over 7.3 million Americans face.
But by 2013, we had filmed much more than would fit into a short film. Perhaps we were naive to think that our first IVF cycle would just work. Perhaps we ignorant about the success rates of IUIs for someone with compromised ovarian functioning. Then we were stunned when my sister donated eggs to us, and that too didn’t work.
Somewhere along the way, we decided to start interviewing others who also had to think outside the box to conceive, and our short film began to morph into a feature length documentary about infertility, our journey to parenthood, and making modern families/redefining what family means. It became a quest for our baby as well as an exploration of how people cope with the pain of loss and how they resolve their infertility crisis. We learned that there are several options, though most of them are difficult choices to make. We also learned a lot about determination, flexibility, hope, and love. And we learned how to be open to wherever our path might lead us.
In 2014, I discovered embryo donation and found a good match for us in another state. Noah and I just had a feeling. We packed up the meds and the camera and got on a plane, and in July 2014 I had a frozen embryo transfer. Spoiler alert, it worked. I’m currently 37 weeks pregnant with a baby girl, and our other baby, our film, is nearly completely shot.
Our baby is due in March, which it’s also the month we’ve chosen to fundraise for our film through Indiegogo, so that we can cover post-production costs. We are hoping to come full circle with our journey and to help give a voice to the often silent infertility community.
~~~~
Still needing about half of the Thunderclap campaign supported. Please help by pledging a post!

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!
 

Resolve to Know More Than One Happy Ending

 
 

This week was National Infertility Awareness Week and it seems I needed the whole week to allow the theme of Resolve to Know More to really sink into my soul so my message could be clear. Especially considering that everything about infertility seems to be anything but clear, both to the general public for the most part and sometimes to those of us in the midst of it. However, the gut wrenching and crystal clear part of infertility is that it affects one in eight couples.

And, I am One in Eight.

And, I am one of the one in eight that refuses to stay in my dark, shamed silence.

Of course, there are the technical and medical definitions of infertility (see below).

There are countless ways a family finds themselves seeking further testing or trying assisted fertility treatments; recurrent miscarriage, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis, chromosome disorders, physical limitations, medical sterility, unexplained infertility, etc.

The paths that lead any of us to the world of infertility treatments are so different and yet can feel so much the same once in the humbling hell of the world of infertility treatments.

The so different and yet the very same theme also carries us straight through the synthetic hormonal hell of infertility treatments. No matter what your protocol looks like, how long it lasts or how many times you try different versions; Clomid, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), traditional or gestational surrogacy, embryo adoption, adoption, etc. The impossible decisions of infertility are decisions only to be made by each family individually. How much can you physically take? How much can you afford financially? How much can you give up and take emotionally? Ultimately, how far do you have to go in order to be okay with letting go of a lifelong dream?

Each of us will also survive through infertility in our very different, and yet I think, the very same ways. Some of us will tell absolutely no one besides our partner; the shame and fear and cautious hopefulness feeling like too much to put out there. Some of us will tell everyone, seeking support and opinions, attempting to break the silence and also knowing that this journey is just too difficult to not have as much support as possible. All of us just stumbling forward, trying to figure out how to survive what feels like an impossible journey. Shielding ourselves from judgment and misunderstanding of the impossible decisions we must make. Protecting our hearts from invalidating and minimizing questions every day from strangers and our loved ones. All while just fighting for what so many take for granted...a family.

Some of us will try for many years. Some of us will only be able to try for a couple of years.

Some of us will never get try to multiple rounds of expensive treatments. Some of us will get round after round paid for by insurance.

Some of us will stop at IUI. Some of us will stop at IVF. Some of us will just stop.

How our infertility journey eventually ends also seems to be so very different and yet the very same. There are many different ways for our families to look after infertility. I think the most accepted and expected happy ending is when the treatments work and you end up with a healthy baby, and preferably also a sibling, or two or three, one day.

 
 

And yet, here I am, recovering and resolving to know my own happy ending, and yet it looks nothing like what is accepted or expected as I am a childfree mother.

We must resolve to know that there isn't a perfect answer or ending to infertility. Some of us will get one child, some of us many. Some of these children will be our biological children, some will be adopted and some of us will never get to have children. We will all have scars, especially on our souls, from infertility, no matter the ending. And, we will all have losses and lifelong costs.

We must resolve to know that we must break the silence of infertility. We must own our stories. We must own our impossible decisions. We must give voice to all versions of the happy ending. Because sometimes treatments just aren't going to work. Because sometimes the ending doesn't include children. Because our infertility journeys are so very different, and yet the very same.

We must resolve to know that once we open ourselves up to all that life has to offer us, children or not, we will find our peace. We will find our recovery. We will find ourselves again in our ever upward happy ending.

~~~~

This post has been submitted to the National Infertility Awareness Week Bloggers Unite project.

For more information about infertility please click these links: Infertility 101 and National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW)

Mourning What Should Have Been

I significant part of me cringes as I put the word should in the title of this post. As a therapist who works some using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) I have attempted to erase should from my vocabulary. I also work with my clients to do the same. As some CBT therapists say, "Don't should all over yourself!" Should is typically riddled with guilt and shame and just yuck. What do we need and want? Not, what should we... Change should to need or want and feel the difference, both when you speak to yourself and when expecting things from your loved ones. I should go to the gym.

Do I need or want to go to the gym?

He/She should know how I'm feeling right now.

I need to tell him/her how I feel and what I want.

I shouldn't feel sad any longer.

Do I need or want to figure out this sadness still?

~~~~

I wrote my first post for Ever Upward five short months ago. Never could I have dreamed how much my life would change. Never could I have dreamed how many amazing people I would "meet". Never could I have dreamed how much our stories are all connected and the embrace I've felt through this connection.

This connection has only been further solidified through my participation in Momastery's Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project. Our stories, all messy and all beautiful, are what connect us to one another. I think, our stories, even more so, are what connect us back to ourselves. And, it seems our stories tend to have the major theme I often times see with my clients every day: mourning what should have been or what we thought should have been.

I think at times, at least for me, it can feel like these should have beens determine my everything; my every day, and even my every minute. And if I don’t practice the work of my recovery, I risk the should have beens taking over and defining my entire being. Just Google something like letting go of what isn’t and you will be overwhelmed by thousands of quotes on how we must let go of what isn’t in order to make room for what can be. In reality, this has probably been the major encompassing theme of Ever Upward from the beginning.

But what is striking me the most lately, is how much we judge others or lack empathy for others in regards to their mourning of their should have beens; their losses, their stories.

The very stories that seem and feel so different than ours, but I am realizing are so very much the same.

 
 

We all have should have beens…

I should have gone to school sooner.

I shouldn't have stayed so long.

I should have enjoyed my younger years more.

I should be able to forgive this by now.

I should have taken better care of my body.

I should have been more honest.

They shouldn’t have left me.

I should be better by now.

I should have left them.

I should be over this.

This list could go on and on. Ultimately, aren't we all just trying to figure out how to let go of what didn't turn out? To redefine after all our shoulds didn't come true?

And of course, there are the should have beens of motherhood and family, especially considering these are the ones that seem to go unspoken and judged the most.

Your child was born premature, you didn't get to hold him/her for weeks or months and you didn’t get that happy bring them home day or first few months.

You were miserably sick your entire pregnancy and you honestly hated every second of it, while also being so thankful for it and therefore felt guilty.

You lost a child way too early for anyone to bear, let alone understand the lifelong losses that come with that grief.

You were never able to even hold that child or only held that child for a few heartbreaking but  amazing hours.

You only achieved pregnancy through infertility measures and will never get to have wild drunk sex that ends up in your blessing of a child 40 weeks later.

You feel sad and guilty and mad that you didn’t start trying sooner.

You weren't planning on getting pregnant and therefore spent most of it scared to death rather than relishing every second of it.

You are a birth mom.

You are a mom mom.

You adopted your child or children or embryos and are so thankful for children but grieve that you will never get to see you and your partner’s genes combine.

You will never get to experience pregnancy yourself.

You have had to make major IVF decisions such as how many embryos to transfer, what to do with leftover embryos, what happens if you can’t afford another round of treatments, etc., etc.

You are blessed with one or two or even three children but always wanted a big family and it doesn’t seem to be happening, you feel the gamut of sadness, anger and guilt coupled with how lucky and blessed you are to have any children.

You are a stay at home mom but wish you were working.

You are a working mom but wish you were a stay at home mom.

You have a happy and healthy children but your friends don't, and you feel blessed and lucky but guilty, especially when sometimes you'd really like Sunday completely to yourself, on the couch watching The Walking Dead all day long.

Your infertility is due to one partner or maybe the combination of you together and it creates frustration, sadness, guilt and maybe even blame.

I am sure I am missing many, many more here.

And then there is my story, I wanted to a mom, I tried to a mom but it is not my journey to have. And I’ve worked to accept a childfree life and fight for my recovery. But now for the first time, I am beginning to experience those feelings of relief, calm and even gratitude when my chosen children don’t come home with us or they go to their own homes after visiting. Or that our Sunday is filled with whatever we want, even that day long marathon of The Walking Dead. Or that I don’t have to negotiate over meal time or wake up at the crack of dawn.

 
 

Does that mean I didn’t want our three babies enough? Does that mean I’m not sad anymore? Or does that simply mean I’m figuring out how to let go of what I wanted and hoped for. That I am figuring out my mourning for what should have been, and learning to accept my true childfree life.

It’s all so complicated; neither story better or worse or more difficult than the other. It’s just life, which includes suffering for us all. And it is our sufferings and our recoveries from them that make us who we are. As David Brooks wrote for the New York Times in his article titled What Suffering Does, “Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don’t come out healed; they come out different.”

But it is through this ongoing process of healing, of figuring out what comes after the should have been, that we find ourselves and our story again.

Because, who are we to have the power to say what should have been?

I am not meant to be a mother.

Should I have been?

Perhaps, but continuing to insist on the should only denies my truth.

But more importantly, who are we to judge or question one’s grief around these sufferings or losses? Who are we to judge one for how they mourn their should have beens? Who are we to dare ask, "When are you going to get over it?"

I think we must figure out how we can we give ourselves, and others, permission to mourn their should have beens? Can we give ourselves, and others, permission to feel it all; the blessings, the lucky, the anger, the sadness, the guilt, and even, the shame.

Because, really it is through these permissions that our recoveries can begin. It is within these permissions that I finally put the puzzles pieces into my bigger life story. It is within these permissions that I can allow myself the relief, and even gratitude, of a childfree life while also, at the very same time, feeling my sadness, anger and envy of your childfull life.

It is within these permissions that we open up the space and light for the mourning of what should have been to become what needs to be.

It is within these permissions that I have found my purpose, and of course, my ever upward.

What are your should have beens? How do you practice your recovery to make the should have beens become the need to bes?

Chosen Children

A picture mail text of Lyla's drawing of us.

 
 

Snail mail of Joycelyn's drawing of the dogs.

A picture mail text of Lane with his "Justine socks" on.

 
 

A voice mail from the boys begging us to come play Just Dance.

My favorite picture of the boys cuddling with the three dogs watching cartoons.

A birthday card from McKinley.

The moms in my life will never know how much the small gesture of letting me know their children are thinking of me mean to me; as they mean the world.

I will forever spend my energy making sure these children know I love them and I am here for them and more than anything I want, and really need, to be part of their lives.

As, these are our chosen children.

The children we have the honor of being godparents to. The children we have the privilege of being their guardians. The children we get to see grow up. The children who ask to see us. The children who love us. The children we love more.

Or maybe, it's really that they are the children who have chosen us.

Surviving the losses of IVF and accepting a childfree life to redefine family for us has meant we figure out what it means to still have children in our lives. It means living my truth as a woman who wanted, and desperately, tried to have my own children. It means having the courage to say adoption isn't for us. And yet, it is also making sure my heart is not closed off to all the light and love that family and children can bring to my life, even if it comes with the bittersweet sadness that they aren't my own.

It means traveling to Vegas for McKinley's birthdays.

It means going to Noah's piano recitals.

It means sending happy birthday and happy valentine's videos of the dogs singing to all of the kids.

It means having a toy room in my house.

It means having the pool for everyone to enjoy all summer long.

It means watching the boys play the Wii for hours.

It means hosting chosen family every spring break and playing St. Louis tourist.

It means embracing my sadness that I will never get to parent in the traditional sense, in order to make room for the endless, ever upward light that all of these families and kids bring to my life every single day.

I do it because the alternative is too dark. I do it because it is my journey. I do it because I have fought for my recovery. I do it because it is ever upward.

And, because we have all chosen each other.

 
 

I’ve Stopped; They're Still Trying

Being a mental health therapist means I have the personality, training and education for empathy. I live every minute of my life, personally and professionally, having almost too much empathy a lot of the time. The older I get the more I wish I had been warned of this hazard of my field in graduate school. Being wired this way (and also trained and educated) I never get to just be pissed at someone or hurt. I can always see all sides of everything…all of the time! I, almost always, can get you. I get it. For the most part, my job, my being, my soul all see you, know you, love you and understand you. In other words, I felt a dramatic pull to this week’s writing challenge! This post is inspired by the Wordpress Weekly Writing Challenge: Leave Your Shoes at the Door: "This week, we’re asking you to consider things from a different point of view — to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Leave your moccasins and bunny slippers at the door, and tell us a tale from a fully-immersed perspective that is not your own. Show us your truth’s journey. We want to walk this mile with you."

I have been bravely honest about my failed journey in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and my struggle in learning how to accept a childfree life throughout my entire Ever Upward. Coming out to publicly state that I have said enough is enough to infertility treatments before they achieved me the intended result of a child. Publicly stating that adoption isn’t for my husband and me. Publicly, stating that we are working the Frankenstein walk of accepting a childfree life.

Living all of these truths, out loud, while also openly showing how much I love children, how badly I wanted them and how much I still love to have them in my life. Educating on all of these truths, because it is time we finally talk about them in order to shine light on the shame of infertility. Owning all of my truths, because I hope to help myself in my own continued healing, to inspire others and to help in some understanding of what my story, and millions of other women’s stories, that are infertility.

I’ve Stopped ~ My Story (Short Version – Complete story in the forthcoming book Ever Upward)                  

Due to medical reasons, it has never been recommended that I carry a pregnancy. And frankly, it simply isn’t a risk I have been willing to take after two back surgeries and spending a year of my life in a body cast. We tried two rounds of IVF with a gestational surrogate, transferring a total of three embryos. A pregnancy was never achieved (as my letters from the IVF clinic always apologized for). We had only planned, emotionally and financially, to try it once. But after losing our first two embryos (our first two babies), the loss crushed us enough to try one more time. We had always known adoption was not something that we felt was a good fit for us, which is a difficult truth to own. And after two years of IVF treatments, tens of thousands of dollars spent, three lost babies and more heartache than one should ever have to bear we made the impossible decision of ending IVF, owning that adoption isn’t for us and beginning the real work.

The work of redefining ourselves and our family.

The work of learning to let go.

The work of pushing through fear to own our truth and accept joy.

The work of our Ever Upward.

This work has included finding our spark again through actually dating each other. This work has included some traumatically lost relationships with our loved ones. This work has included major love and support from amazing loved ones. This work has included getting healthier and happier. This work has been nothing short of our own miracle.

They're Still Trying ~ Walking a Mile in Someone's Shoes

I received this amazing, and anonymous, message from my dear friend. The message was referring to my Conceiving Our Chosen Family post.

“Wow didn't know you knew the blog writer personally. Can I tell you how timely your post was? I can only     imagine that God himself was involved I am laying in bed today after having my 6th egg retrieval for IVF. I was having a mini pity party when I came across that blog post. For me it was another confirmation that God is good and he forms families in so many different ways. Ways that I cannot even fathom. Your posting was meant for me today, I just know it!”

The other side of this story is the one that isn’t talked about. The women (and men) who continue to live in shamed silence within their infertility battle, and after. The ones who have the means, or figure out where to find the means, to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on treatments. The ones who spend 5, 10, 15 years trying to conceive their dream family. The ones who try 5, 10, 15 rounds of IVF. The ones who move onto adoption when all other treatments fail.

I get these women. We keep trying because you can’t imagine not being a mother. We keep trying because that is what we are supposed to do. We keep trying because it does and can work…30% of the time. We keep trying because we can’t envision life if we were to stop.

But I also hurt for these women. I know the pain that is seared into every cell of our body with every negative pregnancy test or lost soul. I know the emotional and hormonal hell of the treatments and recoveries. I know the blinding agony of knowing that we want to be done but the fear that keeps us going because of the panic of being left with nothing to show for it.

I learn from those still trying, as their strength inspires me to continue my ever upward. And I can only hope my story can provide them with even just a little bit of hope. They may not be able to completely understand how I've stopped trying, as I may not be able to completely understand how they keep trying, but I have no doubt our stories are still much the same.

Our stories, infertility or not, are all different and yet the very same. No matter how long we've tried, no matter when or if we stop, we all share pieces of our stories, for they are our shared stories. We will all suffer loss and we all must learn to redefine. Ever Upward is my story, and yet I am finding it is every woman’s story; mother or not, because behind the wall of silence, shame, the smile, and the ‘I can do everything’ attitude lies millions of women suffering in silence with the pain of infertility. And yet our connection to our stories is the only way back to the truth of who we are, to own ourselves again, to find our ever upward.

My Full of Love, Laughter and Light Twins

I feel intense, heart growing, soul expanding, unconditional joyful love...

every time I enter a room and their nub tails wag with anticipation before they are invited to greet me.

every time she cuddles her head on my neck.

every time she tilts her head in her understanding of my human words.

every time she bats at Bosco begging him to chase her.

every time she barrel rolls across the floor.

every time I hear racing up and down the halls.

every time I see them jump in the snow.

every good morning dog pile...on my head.

every time they chase each other in the back yard.

every game of hide and seek and pounce on each other.

every loving growl and whine.

every time...anything.

On April 16th, 2012 we got the news that our dream of having children was over. Michelle, our surrogate, wasn’t pregnant, again. The second transfer had not worked. We had prepped ourselves for this 30 second phone call, and the words, “I’m sorry, she isn’t pregnant”, for we had already heard these words the December before.

In December they were breath stealing and crushing, the saddest disbelief feeling I have ever experienced.

This second time, was hauntingly bittersweet.

Our journey of IVF was over, and it was both devastating and freeing; no more shots, no more pain, no more waiting, no more loans, no more soul crushing heartbreak. Time to move forward to letting go of this dream and grasping onto a new one, feeling the grief and loss and working on the acceptance of this new definition... of everything.

The first step? Adopting our version of twins.

And today, two of the brightest lights in my life turn 2 years old!

We had always known we wanted to expand our furry family, especially since our first fur baby, Maddie, was not doing well. But we had never thought we would adopt 2 puppies, at the same time. But for one of the first times in the crazy painful journey, we jumped into a decision that some may have thought of as insane. But my dad said it best, when I told him we were actually going to adopt both of the puppies he said, "You guys are grieving, take both of them home, you deserve some happiness!"

I'm not recommending everyone go out and rescue puppies after suffering major loss, trauma or stress. And you can say dogs are not the same as kids, but I assure you my heart feels just as powerful about my furry babies as you do about your children.

Gertie and Gracie, my full of light and laughter, version of twins have been a huge part of saving my life.

Of helping me to save my own life...

Unending love.

Accepting true joy.

Pushing through fear.

Laughing every single day.

Of finding my ever upward.

Taking Off the Armor of My "Choice"

Publishing a book and blog for the entire world to read, means one must be ready for the critics, even the really unforgiving, judgmental and unsympathetic ones. Sometimes they are strangers on the other side of the world and other times they are your very own loved ones.

I’ve experienced my first super harsh critic. And one who said the words I have feared the greatest.

You CHOSE to not have kids.

Publicly starting the conversation that it is okay to stop IVF treatments before getting the intended result of becoming a mother and publicly owning our decision to not adopt have been some of the scariest things I have ever done.

Scary because I have ultimately feared this exact judgment.

What if people think I did not want kids bad enough because I didn’t do 5, 10 years of treatments? What if people think I did not want kids bad enough because I’m willing to admit that adoption isn’t right for me?

What if people think I didn’t want to be a mom bad enough?

Maybe to some, I have chosen to not be a mother.

But I know my truth.

I fought really hard to be a mother. I paid lots of money to be a mother. I endured painful tests and procedures to be a mother. I put my body through synthetic hormonal hell to be a mother. I put my faith and trust into many doctors and other humans to be a mother.

Does accepting that the battle would never have my desired outcome mean I chose to not be a mom? Does redefining my life and figuring out childfree mean I chose to not be a mom? Does accepting what is mean I chose to not be a mom?

Maybe to some, this is my choice to not have children. But, I know I tried to be a mom. And, though, I respect your opinion I will not be defined by it.

I am working every day to accept graciously that I will never be a mom in the traditional sense.

 
 

And I know, accepting this as my truth doesn’t mean I didn’t want it.

And I know, redefining everything doesn’t mean I chose not to have kids.

I have chosen what I can. I have accepted what is.

And I write about it, to help and heal myself, and hopefully others.

And I will not apologize for that, as I choose to be my own witness in search of others; my warriors and friends.

And the only thing scarier than publicly owning all of this as my truth?

Would be not owning it.

Sometimes we don’t get what we want or what we dreamed of or what we fought really hard for or, even, what we feel is meant as ours.

Sometimes we lose our way, our truth, our dreams and faith.

But, sometimes it is through these very never meant to be’s that we find ourselves, our journey and our truth.

No matter the judgments and shaming and misunderstanding, this is my story of not just proving it, but owning it.

So be clear as I clarify for my critics, I will not armor up, I will not shy away and I will not stop living my authentic truth.

Because this is my ever upward.

Fear in Owning My Truth

Life the last 2 weeks, while working on a few of the early chapters in my book, has been the true essence of contradiction.  Scary but freeing.  Difficult but amazing.  Sad but happy.  Angry but accepting.  Complicated but clear.  Proving but owning. What I've come to realize, with the help of my therapist (yes, great therapists have their own great therapist), is I'm undeniably scared shitless of publicly owning my truth.  Because even though it is my truth, it is also against the grain, misunderstood, and not considered the norm.  This fear, if coupled with my innate calling to tell my truth, to own it and speak out, to live my authentic soul and to love my native genius, can create mind numbing, gut wrenching, and discontented paralysis.  And bottom line, I never have, nor will I ever start, to live my life shying away from my own truth.

So, here we go, the first post in truly owning it…

~ We stopped IVF before it worked.  We stopped the hormones, the drugs, the painful  procedures and the exorbitant amounts of money BEFORE we got a baby.

~ We are not choosing adoption.

~ And I’m okay with these decisions, I trust them and I know they are right for us.

IVF can work.  And it does work for so many.  But for some of us, it just won’t.  Some recent reports actually state a 70% failure rate.  We have to start acknowledging (and talking about) the whole story of IVF, the beautiful healthy babies and complete families that can result but also the painful procedures, the risks, the money and the strain on our emotional and relationship health.  Because when we acknowledge the whole story we make room for everyone, even those of us who have made the impossible decision to say enough is enough.  Those of us who are working, every minute, to accept what was never meant to be and what is.

“Why don’t you just adopt?”  I know the words come from a place of love, curiosity and just wanting to “fix” my pain.  But these words, more often than not, feel invalidating and minimizing.  Invalidating to the journey we’ve been through with IVF, the loss of our 3 babies, our 3 dreams.  And minimizing to how difficult the process of adoption can be.  Adoption isn’t for everyone, and I know that’s okay, but also beyond terrifying to admit out loud, let alone here in print.

We are the only ones to make these decisions, for it is our family.  We must make them because we know they are right for us.  And we don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why we’ve made them and, therefore, must let go of trying to justify them to everyone. We must also let go of the fear of being judged or misunderstood, and hope our loved ones are still able to find their way to support us, even if they don’t fully understand our choices.

And the best way I know to do that is to talk and write, sharing and living it authentically.  Because when I live my life with that courage, the floodlight of shame doesn’t stand a chance, allowing me the space to accept, embrace and own it.  To truly let the world see me.