Are They Thinking It Too?

A mini post about something that, of course, caught me off guard and has been bugging me a bit.

Do the mothers think of us non-mothers in a group conversation?

A few weeks ago I attended the biggest convention of my life; 7000 people big.Which means I met a lot of incredible people and I had to give my elevator speech of who I am many times over.

There is always that part...the part where you share about your family and my response is one not many people identify with, "No, we don't have kids, we tried but can't have them."

Sometimes the conversation ends there, sometimes they try to fix my pain and offer the usual quick fix of adoption and other times they lovingly want to know more.

But then as the weekend goes on and I as get to know these incredible women and am having so much fun the conversation inevitably turns to their kids and being mothers.

And I am left without the experience to contribute and completely in my head.

Sometimes I wonder, do they ever stop and think of us?

Do they ever have that moment of

Poor Justine, we're just talking about our kids and she's over there and she can't have them.

Or do they never have that thought and I am just personalizing all of it way too much?

But, I know I am not the only one out there who has felt this way. So my question, for our recovery, is what do we do with this?

I think our job is to make sure to stay engaged. If we disengage from the conversation completely we lose connection. And, we already feel lonely enough as women without children in our society. So we must engage and look for that moment to contribute to the conversation or maybe even change the subject.

 
 

Or maybe one day, we can brave enough to just call it out and just state the awkwardness that we are feeling, and maybe they are too.

What I know for sure is that I will continue this work in rising ever upward to always be engaged in my life, even when I am feeling that sense of not fitting in. Especially because, most likely, it is in my head and only my perception that is causing that feeling.

And that, is completely changeable and in my control.

I'd love to hear what your experiences have been. How do you handle this part of the infertility and childfull journey? What about all you mothers out there, what are your experiences?

The Sword of Silence

An original piece for HuffPost Parents was published yesterday. I was thankful to wake up this morning to see that they had shared it on their Facebook wall which is the only way it gets a lot of exposure. For me, it may be one of the most important pieces and messages of Ever Upward so I wanted to make sure to share it here too. I hope you enjoy and please as always share!

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The silence that surrounds infertility, pregnancy and infant loss is a double-edged sword.

One side is sharpened by our society and culture; the side that keeps us silent due to mis-education, misunderstanding, blame and sympathy.

The other side is sharpened by our own grief and shame; the side that keeps us silent due to our broken hearts and our mistaken sense of being utterly alone in it.

I've been told I talk too much. My story has not only been shut down but even completely denied by even some of my closest loved ones. My infertility losses and my childfull motherhood are hardly ever publicly acknowledged. My bright shining light of Ever Upward scares many.

And yet, I still speak. And, I will shout until all of us speak more.

(Click here to continue reading...)

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Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 3

 
 

Part One here. Part Two here.

What do we need instead?

Question Three of the Fertility Compassion Survey:

What could have been a better way for the question to be asked?

I had two strong responses to this question: mind your own business and love.

Don't ask

Over a third of my responses came from the place of just don't ask questions or make statements about family planning.

It feels rude. It is super personal. It is really no one's business. And, especially don't bring it up until we bring it up.

However, I am not sure this is possible. We are naturally curious people. We are especially curious about people we love and care about. So we ask. We ask what we think are these innocent and simple questions that are packed with so much emotion that we actually do the exact opposite of the intention; we disconnect rather than connect.

Sure, I know some of the questions and statements covered in part one are out of people being nosey and maybe even judgmental. But, I think, for the most part these questions and statements come from a place of love and curiosity.

Ask with compassion

The other two thirds of my responses asked for more compassion, empathy, kindness and tolerance.

Simply, more love.

Ask with kindness, empathy and compassion;

I am so sorry for your loss.

I wish I could help. It must be so hard. You will be a great mother.

I can't imagine but I am sure this must be so difficult.

That sucks, you would be awesome parents.

I am sorry this is so hard.

Did you always want three kids?

And, stop assuming; practice tolerance;

Not all of our paths are the same.

Adoption is not the answer for us all.

Please don't make light of it.

Sometimes just listening and being quiet.

The script of words

I am not sure it is fair to ask people to not ask about our family planning and it is simply unrealistic. So as part of the fertility compassion and ever upward movement I think we need to simply ask for what we need and want. Often times I work with clients on giving their loved ones the script. Sometimes what we are going through is really difficult for our loved ones to understand, to get, so they keep quiet or they ask these insensitive questions, both of which make us feel very alone. Sometimes we just need to give them the words. Sometimes offering our loved ones the script gives them the words to help, to hear, to listen; to truly see, know and love us.

In regards to fertility compassion; here is your script directly from the survey:

Do you plan to have children?

Do you mind sharing about your family?

Tell me about yourself.

What are your thoughts on ______________?

A simple, How are you?

What makes you happy when it comes family?

Most of all, check your intention in the asking. Does this come from a place of love (empathy) or fear (sympathy)?

Because when it comes to family planning, fertility, infertility, miscarriage, infant loss and recovery there really can't be too much love.

So please drown us in it and practice empathy and compassion.

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Overall, my Fertility Compassion Survey left me with hope. I wanted to provide the space for our voices to say what leaves us feeling alone and more broken. And, to ask for what we want and need. But, most of all I wanted to see and feel how to bridge the gap.

I wasn't at all surprised to see that love, compassion and empathy are the bridge. We don't need to have experienced the exact same loss, trauma and tragedy to understand the feelings that come with those losses, traumas, and tragedies.

Sometimes it all just feels really, really difficult and impossible.

And, sometimes this is just life.

Which means we all can get it.

We all can love. We all can help. We all can practice this empathy and compassion.

We all can move ever upward.

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Ever Upward available now!

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 2

Part One here.

Our response to sympathy versus empathy

 
 

When we practice empathy we connect. When we receive empathy we feel seen, known and loved. In other words, we all feel not so alone in this huge, hard world.

Sympathy on the other hand is a sure fire way for us to all feel disconnected. When I receive sympathy, or pity, I feel like I am in this fight all by myself.

Sympathy versus empathy is at the heart of my Fertility Compassion Survey.

Question Two on the Fertility Compassion Survey:

How did you respond? And why? (to those difficult/insensitive statements or questions in regards to your family planning).

The difference between fear and love; despair and hope

I was saddened and yet motivated with feeling empowered at these responses as they seemed to be almost split down the middle

About half of the responses were along the lines of responding with the truth and the other half of the responses were along the lines of dimming our light.

The educational truth

The truth came out mostly in one of two ways; educating being at the heart of both. However one from a place of love and ownership and the other from a place of anger or what I think is really fear, sadness and shame.

According to my findings about half of the time, when asked a difficult or insensitive question about family planning we are truth tellers. We speak our truth and we educate. But, some of the time this truth telling came out in anger. I think in retaliation of wanting (or needing) to shut that person back down as we feel so shut down by their question or statement. So we make them feel stupid and we use words that cut like a knife.

After my work, for me it is in the ever upward way of just schooling the person; saying the truth and taking the opportunity to educate. For example, here's my script I've gotten used to saying as this is just a part of my life:

Stranger/Friend/Family: Do you have kids?

Me: We tried to have kids but we can't.

Stranger/Friend/Family: But you're still so young!? Well, you can always just adopt?

Me: We did IVF with a gestational surrogate and lost three babies and adoption is not for our family. So we are accepting a childfree life. IVF is very expensive and the losses are terrible and adoption is a long difficult path, we've decided to determine what is our enough and everything and accept a childfree, yet childfull, life.

Sometimes they'll keep asking more questions. Sometimes they'll have no idea what the hell to do with that and awkwardly change the subject.

Either way, I own my story. It doesn't come from a place of fear or anger anymore (after a lot of work on my part), it comes from a place of love.

We lose our light

The other half of my respondents responded to these insensitive questions and statements by allowing fear, sadness and shame to dim their light; making themselves disappear.

Some changed the subject. Some faked it by brushing it off. Some took care of of the other person by minimizing how difficult it really is.

Most then left those situations in more pain, feeling more alone and ultimately feeling worse.

To speak our truth

An essential message of Ever Upward is that we must speak our truth. It doesn't have to be to the whole world in a book or a blog. Still, I think, we must speak it. It is the only way to educate and it is absolutely the only way we will ever get more understanding and compassion when it comes to family planning.

I know this is hard and I know it takes great guts of bravery no matter how big or small your truth telling is but, I also believe it is the only way we will see fertility compassion grow.

I will not dim my light to take care of you, I will not dim my light because if makes you uncomfortable, I will not dim my light to make you feel better any longer. I will move and I will be ever upward.

Family planning, fertility, infertility, miscarriage, infant loss and recovery are some of the most difficult struggles and losses of our lives. And, it is something that literally impacts all of our lives at some point somehow.

Speak out, embrace it all, practice recovery and own it; own all of it.

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In Part Three I will discuss the third and final question in my Fertility Compassion Survey: What we need instead; how can these questions and statements be more compassionate?

Housekeeping

Ever Upward available now!

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine