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

Wallow, But Just For a Bit, Then Stop Sitting in the Shit

I will fully admit I had a rough day yesterday. I wallowed. I really wallowed for a bit.

Going to the OB/GYN is never fun for a woman, but it can definitely be hell for a childless woman. Let alone getting news that is it quite possible that IVF triggered my useless ovaries to develop painful cysts which are now causing major back pain, and having to remind my team of doctors that IVF didn’t work for us, there is no baby, and yes we are done trying.

I cried.

I pouted.

I talked.

“I’m frustrated.”

“I’m pissed”.

“It's not fucking fair.”

Then life somehow pulls you out if, but only if you have your eyes wide open to it.

I had some amazing sessions with clients. I reminded myself of my own session with my therapist. The puppies finally played in the deep snow and made me laugh just when I needed to. And three of my favorite little boys left me a voicemail and sent me a video text message.

 
choose.jpg
 

As my therapist reminded me earlier this week, “You have chosen what to do with all of this. You could never not be Ever Upward; always growing, learning, changing, educating, evolving, and figuring it out. “

And she’s right

I didn’t get to choose that I would spend a year of my life in a body cast after two back surgeries. I didn’t get to choose that IVF did not work for us. And I definitely didn't choose that my body feels like it is rebelling against my childless status right now.

But I can choose resiliency. I can choose to speak the truth about IVF and loss. I can choose to connect with others through our stories. I can choose where I go from here and who I want to be. I can choose my ever upward.

My clients also reminded me this week as they continue to fight for themselves, change for the better and not be their pasts, their  struggles, traumas or losses.

I choose to fight too.

My dogs reminded me to get out of my head and to just laugh; watching them play in the snow is pure joy.

I choose joy.

And finally, three of my favorite kiddos, begging me to come play Just Dance 2014… well nothing makes me smile more than that.

I choose love (and fun).

Life, God, Mother Nature, Humanity, whatever you believe in, will always send us the message to remind us that there is a higher purpose to our journey.

We simply have to be open enough to choose it.

So wallow, but just for a bit, we are totally allowed.

But be careful of sitting in the shit for too long, you just might miss the message; the moment of pure joy, the love, the choice of your ever upward.

Resilient Dreams ~ The Essence of Ever Upward

Looking through old records from my back surgeries to help finish one of the chapters in the book was like being transported back in time.  I was flooded with memories of the pain and heartache but also the laughter and determination, of both myself but more importantly of my family and friends.  Through this search, I found a paper I had written after my first back surgery when I was 14.  Towards the end of the paper was a paragraph that frankly brought me completely full circle.  Reading it to myself I took a knowing deep breath, felt the chills of goose bumps and felt the sense of all is exactly as it should be fill my soul. In it I write, “I lost a lot of things because of all this.  I lost dreams, I lost friends, I lost my dancing career and I even lost some faith and trust.  But I also gained some things too...  And I began to dream new dreams.  I also gained a new outlook and attitude on life.”

Like, I’ve written before, my life has been the embodiment of starting over, of redefining.   A constant lesson of learning how to not only let go and accept but also of how to put one foot in front of the other and dream new dreams.

Is this resiliency inborn?  Is it a result of how my parents wholeheartedly raised me?  Is it the result of trauma at a young age?  What I can be sure of now, is that it is probably all of the above but that it is also something that we all can choose.   Something we all must choose.

Life is difficult and people are complicated, terrible things happen and none of us come of out this unscathed.  All of us have the bumps and bruises of this amazing thing called life.  Having 2 back surgeries, surviving IVF without becoming a mother and losing 3 babies are my bumps and bruises.  The only thing left to do is pick myself up and put one foot in front of the other, fully embracing my story and all of who I am.  And truthfully, I believe, this is something we all must eventually choose.  We all must choose to change.  We all must choose to grow.  This doesn’t mean it isn’t painful, uncomfortable or at times downright torturous and full of fear, it just means we get to find our ever upward.