Is Compassion Online Dead?

After the hateful firestorm from my HuffPost Parents piece on Tuesday, my courage and fire were shining bright. So I wrote a follow up piece. HuffPost ran it just a few hours ago. I sincerely hope I did us justice.

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Has the Internet Killed Compassion?

I have been writing about my journey of recovery from anxiety, depression and infertility for almost two years now. The Huffington Post has run many pieces for almost a year of that.

Writing publicly about my struggles means several things to me:

  • Continued healing for myself.
  • Helping others to feel not so alone in their struggles.
  • Offering help and support for those who choose to change their lives for the better.
  • Ignorant and hateful comments from people who don't show up themselves.

However, I have never had a response like I did on my last piece. Within 10 minutes it was a firestorm of hate, judgment and hurtful words.

Continue reading at HuffPost Parents here.

Acceptance in Infertility: 9 Untruths in the 'Never Give Up' Message

Acceptance and the art of letting go are some of life’s trickiest sons of bitches. They are topics I often work on with clients and I, myself, practice daily. They also seem to be some of the most difficult hurdles in the infertility journey. The acceptance of my childfree, yet childfull, life does not mean I do not have the losses. It does not even mean that I like it most days. Acceptance is simply practicing my work every day to accept what is, what I cannot change and how to be okay despite the lifelong losses of infertility.

I am beyond thankful that infertility education is continuing to be in the spotlight and therefore hopefully fertility compassion will continue to grow. However, I believe, some of the messages being delivered by some voices with a huge platform are contributing to the loss of ourselves to this painful, difficult, long and oftentimes heartbreaking journey of infertility.

One of the biggest punch in gut messages that is probably one of the most spoken is the never give up message. Time and time again we hear celebrities or families with the “traditional” happy ending (read baby) saying   never ever give up.

I do not believe this to be a message of hope and light but rather one that dims our light and can leave a lot of us in the dark. Because, sometimes it is okay, and the healthiest option for us, to say no more and to accept what is. And, I don't think this is giving up in the least but rather fighting for and finding our ever upward.

And so, here are what I think are the 9 biggest untruths in the never give up message:

1. Minimizes the difficulties.

  • Infertility is expensive, and in most of our cases, we don't have endless resources and our insurance does not cover it.
  • Every cycle can feel like a loss. We live by the timelines and the waits. We oftentimes feel like no one understands and try to cope with it all on our own. The emotional difficulties of infertility feel endless.
  • The money, the losses, the stresses, all of it are so hard on our relationships. If we do the work to turn towards one another then many times our relationships gain strength but for many infertility will do undeniable and sometimes even irreparable damage.

2. Breeds comparison

  • It seems like no two infertility stories are the same, causes, medical and family history, treatment protocols, etc. and yet we compare so much.
  • Add to that that not all of us have the same financial resources, faith or religion, family and social support.

3. Triggers shame

  • Some of us did make the choice to stop treatments. Some of us do not choose adoption. Some of us choose to keep trying. These are choices sure, however, more times than not they are choices between two shit-ass choices.

4. Puts stress on the relationship

  • How long do we try? What if one partner only has one more round in them? What if one partner is not open to full IVF? What then?

5. Denies some truths

  • There are some of us that the all ends of the earth in fertility treatments will never work. Sometimes there are genetic or chromosome issues, sometimes our bodies completely betray and fail us, sometimes we will never get to know the reason.

6. Invalidates those who define their enoughs and everythings

  • Only we can determine when enough is enough and what our everything is. For some of us, that is only a the first step in the infertility treatment road but not full IVF treatments. For some of us it is two rounds, for others it may mean 8.

7. Makes us doubts ourselves and abandon our truth

  • These pressured messages, that may be completely inaccurate for ourselves and our situation as stated above, make us completely deny and abandon our truth, what we want and who we are.

8. Reduces us to our numbers, our losses, our ability to procreate

  • We must be so much more than this. We deserve to be so much more. We are so much more.

9. Sometimes it is okay to stop

  • This does not mean we are giving up but rather defining what our own happy ending is. This is finding and moving ever upward.

As both a survivor of infertility and a mental health therapist who works with clients every day I see the lifelong devastation that is created by the infertility journey. Every day I see people who have lost their light and lost themselves somewhere along the two week waits, the waiting rooms, the pokes, prods and meds, the losses, the judgement, the loneliness, the gravity of this battle. Every day I see people who are making decisions out of fear that are resulting in more pain.

The conversation must change. The education must continue. The compassion must grow. There are simply too many casualties to the infertility journey.

It is not about never giving up on treatments or the dream of parenthood but it must be about never giving up on ourselves. This is the hope of this journey, to not lose ourselves to it and in it. The hope of never giving up on our happiness and health, no matter what our ending may be, we must do the work to define it as happy.

 
 

This is the work. To stop proving it. To truly own it. Embracing it all. Living wholeheartedly brave. Owning it all.

This is my story. This is our story. This is ever upward.

 
 

What Is Fertility Compassion?

My definition of fertility is one's ability to make a family. And, when I write make I don't mean produce. My definition of compassion is the ability to find and practice empathy for others. And, when I write empathy I definitely do not mean sympathy (remember sympathy is I feel for you and empathy is I feel with you.)

Therefore, my definition of fertility compassion is having empathy towards family planning.

Fertile or Infertile.

Family planning is complicated.

And, yet it is often minimized, insensitively judged and invalidated.

Everyone has an opinion on family planning and therefore everyone also has many questions. However, many times these questions, even though meant to be innocent, even loving at times, can feel invalidating and hurtful to the recipient.

Questions like:

When are you having kids? Well you have to have kids? Oh, you'll change your mind? Why don't you just adopt? When are you having your second, you don't want them too far apart? When are you having your second, you can't just have one? Three boys?! Don't you want to try for a girl? Oh, so you have the three kids. At least you weren't further along!

What are some of the most difficult or insensitive questions or statements you have received in regards to your family planning? It will take just five minutes, please take my fertility compassion survey!

This survey will help me get an idea of what could help with fertility compassion. Especially considering this was my first comment on the survey:

"Mine has been your response calling cells BABIES...my god you were never prego, you did not even TRY to conceive yet you are on a pity party tour...get over yourself!! i feel for your clients. No one believes your story and no one is buying your book, quit making an ass of yourself! my friend is suffering from colon cancer after having 2 rounds of ovaian cancer yet shes not boo hooing cuz she legitimately cant have kids..." (please excuse the typos as I wanted to honor the integrity of the comment).

I want to thank this kind person for proving my point exactly...and for inspiring a soon to be released blog post ;).**

Silence leads to ignorance

These are innocent, inquisitive (although sometimes just down right nosey), questions; but, I believe, for the most part they come from a place of love. The place of I want to take away your pain because it makes me uncomfortable. The place of let's just fix it. Whatever place these questions come from, I think, they mostly come from a place of ignorance; of just not knowing.

Considering many of us keep our family planning to ourselves, either because we just don't like sharing or because we have been silenced by the shame of infertility, these questions can cut like a knife.

But it is within our shamed silence that this ignorance lives. We will only receive empathy and understanding from others when the ignorance is broken. Breaking more of our silence means more education. And, it is only within this education that we will ever find and receive fertility compassion. Your education can be in the whisper or the shout but at least own it to yourself and your closest loved ones. Own it for yourself, for your well-being and for your family.

Broken ignorance leads us to fertility compassion

I suppose this is one of my biggest dreams for Ever Upward.

I am less than a month from launching my debut book. The fear still lingering but I am not allowing it to hold as much power. As I know how much ever upward has already helped and changed the landscape of fertility conversations, even if just a tiny bit. Because we all need as much compassion as we can give and receive. And, I think fertility compassion may just be a great place to start.

In a month books will begin shipping out. In a month I will celebrate with friends and family at the launch party (take my poll to choose which chapter I read from). In a month readers will hear my voice reading the story of Ever Upward in the audio book. In a month I will have an Amazon page.

In a month I will let go of my ever upward in hopes that it is received with open minds, open hearts and open arms. I will let it go and trust that it can and will help. I will let it go knowing only then can it go ever upward.

My hope is readers will be entertained by the story. My dream is readers will walk away with the permission to own all the parts of their story. My awe is readers walking back into themselves and therefore back into their lives; no matter their story and no matter their recovery to find their ever upward.

Ever upward is finding the light through the dark.

It is letting go of what isn't in order to embrace what can be.

It is more than the silver lining, it is home.

It is redefining.

I choose ever upward.

I am ever upward.

 
Fertility Compassion Ever Upward book
Fertility Compassion Ever Upward book
 

**Added edit to original post.**

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.

In ever upward light and love, Justine