FREE 7 Week Rising Ever Upward Mini-Course

Last week I kicked off my FREE 7 week Rising Ever Upward Mini-Course on Facebook and at my Ever Upward subscriber list. I will be sharing unique and exclusive material at both platforms as I lead up to leaving on tour in July. Make sure to follow at both platforms so you don't miss anything, and of course, a share goes further than you think. Thank you in advance!

The Rising Strong™ work has changed everything for me and I am so excited to be able to offer my workshops and intensives in a city near you this summer! I'd love to see you on tour!

For now and this one time only, I thought I would share Week 1 from the email list here for you to get an idea of this incredible work for yourself. Make sure to also follow along on Facebook for a weekly challenge, live video and graphic!

 
 

Receiving the Moments

So many moments that would never be had my story turned out how I wanted...how I hoped, dreamed, and planned.  I no longer torture myself with the, 'I'd trade it all for them...' Because it's not helpful and doesn't honor them. It doesn’t honor them because it doesn't honor where and who I am now, in reality only because of our three

He knew better, He had better. 

I must, however, do the work to keep my heart open enough to receive this better He has for me. 

And so, I'll love harder, fuller, and better because of them, honoring the mom they made me. 

And, I'll mother anyone who wants to love this way too.

This week, I am so honored to have been here to witness my oldest friend's second daughter come into this world, my namesake's little sister, Alexandra. 

And, I am so grateful. 

 
 

Book Signing & Giveaway

I am speaking and signing books today from 1-3 pm at Barnes & Noble in Fairview Heights, Illinois! Purchase your book at the signing and get a FREE Ever Upward journal! I hope to see you there! If you aren't local purchase your book online today through the Barnes & Noble website, send me your receipt and you'll be entered to win a FREE Ever Upward journal!

 
 

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.

~~~

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.

Tread, Float or Just Stand

I have been blogging for a year and half now. A lot of learning, growth, healing and connection has happened in that year and a half. 190 posts of learning, growing and healing to be exact. As I am continuing to work on growing the platform of Ever Upward, I am growing my Justine Froelker's YouTube channel. You can find Self-Care Tip Tuesdays, funny videos of the dogs, tapping scripts, my appearance on Great Day St. Louis and videos of me speaking to old blog posts, so please subscribe!

I originally wrote Tread or Float in February of 2014. This is a slightly reworked and updated version of it, along with a NEW video explanation.

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For the last 15 years I have had the honor of witnessing people journey through some of the most difficult times of their lives to emerge as happier, healthier and whole people. As a mental health therapist I fulfill multiple roles on a daily basis; teacher, healer, helper, educator, coach, big sister, mother, friend, confidante, trainer and, in all honesty, sometimes I’m the provider of a swift kick in the ass. Unbeknownst to them, my clients also, at times, fulfill these same roles for me as they are my reminders, and examples, of fighting the good fight to being better than okay.

Throughout the years of working with clients I have found there will be times where I must push, and I mean push really hard. Making sure they know they have the strength to change their lives; and that they are ready. There are other times where I will simply hold their hand, walking alongside them through their journey of self discovery, self doubt and finding peace. Then there are times, where I will take their hand and pull them forward, at times, begging them to trust me and try things a different way; to put one foot in front of the other and follow me.

No matter the concern someone is coming into therapy and coaching for, they are facing the hardest work of their lives. They are facing times of progress and times of feeling so stuck they can’t stand it. They will doubt their abilities, and maybe even mine to help them. They will get worse before they get better. They will at times hate me for the things I ask them to do. They will walk away and come back. They will push me away because it hurts that badly to trust someone or to have someone believe in them so much when no one else ever has.

They will question.

They will resist.

They will work.

They will change.

Simply, we will all face struggle.

Where we lose ourselves, I think, is when we make these struggles all of who we are. We turn them into our whole story. They become our entire identity, even when they start working against us rather than for us. We hold on so tightly to these struggles and what we think works to manage them that we lose the great parts, the whole parts, of who we are.

When our struggles are our whole story, we struggle to own those stories, and therefore struggle to find our ever upward. We must find the way to make these struggles simply parts of who we are, parts of our story.

But we hold onto the trouble, the trauma, the loss, the struggle because it is all we have ever known. We hold on because the unknown is scarier. We hold on because we have no idea what else to do. We hold on because, at least we’re surviving. We hold on because the old ways of coping because they have worked, we think they are our water wings, our life preservers.

But eventually, we hold on so tightly and so long, the very things that have saved us, that have helped us to survive, become our own cement blocks.

Our own cement blocks drowning us in ourselves.

What I ask my clients to work through and change every day is no less than an act of faith and trust. I am asking them to let go of their way. The way that has actually worked for years, at least worked in numbing or self-medicating themselves. The way that has helped them to survive but is now drowning them. I ask them to let go because if they don’t they won’t have any free hands to grasp onto the tools and the hope I am offering them.

They must let go in order to begin again.

But the most excruciating part of this battle, is that they must have faith that they will either float or tread water while they learn, grow and change.

Because they will. They will tread or float, and I will be right there with them; coaching, believing, pushing and loving.

And eventually, they will be able to grasp onto those tools.

But most importantly they will find their freedom to finally believe in the hope I hold for them.

And they will save their own lives.

They will find their own ever upward.

For me, I have also come to trust that not only can I trust and have faith in myself that I can tread or float but also there is a firm foundation just underneath me that I can trust. Reading one of my Sarah Young devotionals one night, helped me feel it completely. Just underneath me in the ocean of life, in the water that I may feel like it drowning me, are His hands.

I just have to stand.

 
 

Guest Post: Ever Upward in Treatment

In celebration of and to help build momentum for the April 7th bookstore launch of Ever Upward, I will be posting a guest post each week. These guest posts are written by my dear friends and biggest supporters of my work. I am so excited to introduce you all to their stories, their voices and their work in the coming weeks. This week we have my hysterical soul sister Kaeleigh from Unpregnant Chicken. Kaeleigh and I first became close over my love/hate relationship with Twitter. She has been such a huge support of Ever Upward, without her tweets, her cheers, her ideas and her love I would have lost my mind months ago. I am so excited for future work with her both as a friend and as a fellow infertility advocate. Together we will change the conversations and the support the infertility community sees. I am so thankful for this incredible piece on the book, thank you my friend, thank you!

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I recently finished reading Justine’s book Ever Upward and it was amazing. I found many useful tools in the pages to help me on my journey with infertility and here’s the thing…. My journey is far from over. Unlike Justine, I am not at the end of my long road yet. We have been TTC for 2 years 9 months and are beginning our first IVF cycle this month. Even though I am not at a time in my life where I am ready to embrace a childfree lifestyle I found this book amazingly helpful. Here are some ways that I think Ever Upward can help you, even while still in treatment. First, Some reasons to read the book:

Why you can enjoy “Ever Upward” while still walking your TTC path:

  1. It gave me perspective: As someone in treatment I can struggle to wrap my head around people who are at different stages in their journey or who are making different decisions from me. Justine is very eloquent and I found myself identifying with her so much, even when her decisions were things I have never been through or considered.
  1. I felt less alone: This journey can be hard. I am on Twitter, Facebook and my Unpregnant Chicken blog and even still I can feel really alone. This book was great for those moments when no one else was available (3 am cry fest, anyone?). It’s great to have a pocket friend who gets it for those times you really need to feel that SOMEONE out there does.
  1. The benefits of a professional: Justine is not just a fellow Infertility Warrior, she is also a psychologist with 15 years of experience. So you know that the vast majority of advice in her book is something that your own therapist might suggest. It made me feel better about listening to some of her suggestions.
  1. It is, plain and simple, a fun read: There’s so much more to this book than simply infertility stuff, or treatment stuff, or moving past loss stuff—it’s in there—but it is also about a LIFE. You’ll feel like you have a new friend at the end of the read. A friend who has done more interesting things than you and who let you live vicariously through her for a while.

Now, all that said, there are a few points from this book that I think are essential for someone going through treatment to take to heart. Namely: Self-Care. Self-care is hugely important for all human beings. If you are a human being you should be making sure that you honor, love and care for yourself all the time. But when we face challenges in our lives it can be very difficult to remember that. Especially when those challenges make you feel inadequate or mad at yourself. I think that so often with infertility we wind up really being angry at ourselves and shunning our self-care out of spite. Fine, I can’t get pregnant? I won’t work out or eat right then… you probably know the drill. There is a great chapter, chapter 4, where Justine talks about choosing change and moving on with her life after reaching the end of her treatments. A lot of this choosing life centers on self-care routines.  I want to challenge the idea that you need to reach “the end” to apply these things. These things are good for everyone everywhere, but ESPECIALLY during a treatment cycle. I want to choose happiness, I want to choose life… even now, in the depths of my uncertainly. So, secondly, some of the best and most applicable tips to apply while still in treatment.

Ever Upward tips to apply during treatment cycles:

-Diet And Exercise: Justine really delves into this in the book but I’ll keep it simple, stupid…There is nothing like having a healthy body to help you have a healthy mind. When your body is functioning at peak capacity it is more likely to easily roll with the challenges of a cycle. I won’t say it will get you pregnant, but it will give you a good shot and keep you more level as you go through it. *As always, remember to check with your dr. about the recommended range of weight for you and your bodies needs during treatment before starting any new diet and fitness routines.*

-Nighttime Routine: At night time we are so wound up from the challenges of our day to day life that it can feel like pulling teeth to sit ourselves down without electronics and allow ourselves to truly unwind. But it is worth it. When your mind isn’t sufficiently relaxed you are unable to get the good night’s rest that your body and brain require. The more sleep deprived you are, whether you feel it or not, the more stress your body is under in general. Also Melatonin is connected to your other girly hormones and during a cycle it is imperative that you don’t mess with them. On my IVF form they list getting a strict 8 hours a night as mandatory. So unplug your devices, read a good book, meditate, have some herbal tea. Allow your body the rest it deserves.

-Journal/Write: When TTC there are a lot of powerful emotions floating around. For all involved. It can be very helpful to write these emotions down in order to help you gain perspective and work through the complicated web to understanding. You don’t have to share it with anyone, you don’t have to do it every day, but it is helpful to write when you are unhappy. Writing when upset clears your mental air. On the other hand you should also write when you are feeling great. Writing when happy allows you to fully focus on the positives in your life and be grateful. Both types of writing help you to be more emotionally balanced. When dealing with the crazy shit in a cycle one can ALWAYS use some extra balance.

-Utilize Music: Music is incredibly powerful. It can transport you to different times and places and allows you to really feel your emotions. It can also be incredibly cathartic to let it move your body. Ever put on a happy tune when you are having a bad day and start dancing around the room like a maniac? I do. And at the end there is always a HUGE smile on my face. Music therapy is big business, because it is effective. Use music in your own life to help you cope as you ride the treatment rollercoaster. Invite JOY back into your home.

-Get Help From A Trained Professional: Last but certainly not least. See. A. Shrink. No you are not crazy.  But you are human. Humans need help from time to time to deal with the shit that crops up in our lives. Infertility stirs up an awful lot of shit. Especially during active treatment. There is no shame in this. Psychologists are pretty awesome people. Just look at Justine! All joking aside, I really do implement this in my real life and it has been a life saver these past few years.

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg of what this book can offer. Ever Upward really can reach you right where you are, right now, and help empower you and invigorate your life. Justine is at a different stage in her journey than I am, but her story, this book, touched me all the same.

In closing, I want to pull out what I imagine to be the central thread of the Ever Upward message – Allow yourself to be present and joyful in your life, even when it is painfully hard. Be really engaged with the world around you. By doing this you reaffirm to yourself every day that you are worth it. You are worth living. Choose life. Embrace all that it has to offer. Embrace your Ever Upward Journey, no matter what stage of the journey you find yourself on.

With Love,

Unpregnant Chicken

Our Story: Ever Upward Updates

 
 

I am two months from the bookstore launch of Ever Upward which means a final push in exposure hoping for the light to shine brighter. Which also means I have a lot going on that I wanted all of you to be a part of. So today I am writing you an update of all the happenings in the world of Ever Upward!

Breast Cancer and Infertility Support Week

Next week I am so excited to be collaborating with my dear friend Marie over at Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer for a week of guest posts, support and community. Oftentimes breast cancer fighters and survivors also become members of the infertility community. Marie will be hosting a week of guest posts over at her blog. I will be sure to reblogging them here at Ever Upward also. And, on Friday she will be running an original piece I've written in honor of the week.

Book Club with Justine

Next, I am hosting a book club via Google Hangout On Air, Google + and on my YouTube channel. I'm offering two different two week book clubs. I'd love for you to email your questions about the book and for me to everupwardbook@gmail.com prior to the dates and I will do my best to answer them all live on air. You can purchase your copy of the book here, make sure to use coupon code BOOKCLUB for a discount or you can purchase the e-book or audio book version through your favorite online bookstore.

  • Chapters 1 through 4 on 2/26 and 3/19 @ 8pm CST
  • Chapters 5 through the Epilogue on 3/5 and 3/26 @ 8pm CST
 
 

Book Signing

Finally, I have booked my first book signing for April 11th at 1pm at Barnes & Noble West County in Saint Louis, Missouri! I am so excited and would love to see you all there!

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Make sure to subscribe here so you don't miss any other updates. Plus when you subscribe you will get 30 days of amazing self-care tips, tricks, ideas and resources for FREE!

Living In the Tension

I cannot tell you how many times I have said this phrase in my office lately.

Living in the tension.

Another way to describe my concept of the complicated grey.

Because nothing in this life is all good or all bad, despite our brain literally being wired to over-categorize and to think in the black or white or in the all or nothing.

Life is simply just too complicated.

I believe our happiness lies  in living in this tension between the two worlds; living in this complicated grey.

It is the best way to describe how my life and my recovery has been after surviving infertility and defining my own happy ending. I must practice this work of living in the tension because this recovery is complicated. It includes lifelong losses of the infertility journey. It includes managing, and therefore being a thriver, of anxiety and depression. And, it includes practicing the daily work to be better than okay.

It is what it is.

As a mental health therapist I have heard the phrase it is what it is in many contexts.

Half of me believes this statement can be about acceptance. The acceptance of things that cannot be changed. The acceptance of our circumstances. The acceptance of what is not in our control. Many of us could be happier and healthier people with this work in active acceptance.

But the other half of me knows that this statement can also be used in an apathetic way. The way to declare powerlessness. The way to assume being the victim. The way to choose to stay stuck, stand in our own way and not change our lives.

Where we find our magic.

I think recovery for all of us must lie in the tension between active acceptance and this passiveness. In other words, perhaps we must work to find our place between the two. And embrace that feeling lost between the two just may be where we find our magic; where we actually find ourselves.

At least that is where I have found mine, as it has only been in embracing this tension that ever upward was born within me and is my love to share with the world.

The work of living in the tension between overcoming the lifelong losses of infertility and defining my own happy ending.

The tension between the sadness of not being able to be a mother and the freedom and joy of being a childfull mother.

The tension between the days that the sadness, anger and unfair bitterness strikes and the days I know I am okay, actually better than okay because of this journey.

The tension between soul crushing sadness and emptiness and the deep knowing breath of my version of mothering.

The tension between the hard anxiety and depression days and the choosing to practice recovery from both.

The tension between feeling alone in the pushing and delivery of Ever Upward and trusting that God has it all in His hands and perfect time.

The tension between never fixed and forever changed.

The tension between knowing what I know and trusting what I can't.

The tension between soul scars and always healing.

The tension between accepting what is and hoping for what could be.

The tension between the struggle and the choice to practice recovery.

The tension between doing and letting it be.

The tension between fighting until our enough and everything and never giving up on ourselves.

Simply, and yet utterly complicated, it is the tension of our epic lives.

Because, It is within this tension, and the complicated grey, that the brilliant colors of ourselves, and of life, emerge; embracing that within this tension our ever upward will be born.

 
 

It's Always Been For You: An Ever Upward Circle Back

Admit when you are wrong. Understand the mistake and make it better.

Learn from it.

Circle back.

I was wrong. I tried my best but now realize my misstep and want to make it better. So here I am circling back.

Ever Upward has started to gain some major traction. The universe is churning, my hard persistent work is paying off and I am trusting it all.

Between my HuffPost Parents piece, Acceptance in Infertility, my Twitter becoming more active especially because of my fellow warriors and more and more people reading, loving and talking about the book I am feeling and actually trusting that this bright shining light of ever upward is making change. And, that it will get the attention it deserves so it can grow.

All this churning means more and more conversation, which is the entire point of Ever Upward in many ways. Through this conversation and continued work on my own recovery I have come to realize that the subtitle to Ever Upward must change. Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life is not only the complete wrong subtitle but it also does not accurately portray the book at all. And, most of all, I fear it will keep people from picking it up when it could help them so much.

But, most importantly this subtitle was more about me than you.

I was adamant about having the word childfree in the subtitle. Adamant because I was working through my own stuff at that time of my journey. I have written about the semantics of childfree versus childless before and now often times use the phrase childfree, yet childfull, to describe my own life. When in reality I just need to fully accept that my journey; my life, my essence, my ever upward simply cannot be contained in a single word or even a couple of words, as it is just too much. I also need to fully accept that it will change, because being a survivor of infertility truly does mean lifelong losses, which means a lifelong journey.

I wanted children. I can't have children. I am not choosing adoption because I know it is not right for my family. But I love children and have many of them in my life. I am a mother, just not in your traditional definition of a mother.

The business side of me that wants this book to sell so our investment can at least break even knows that the word childfree will prevent people who are going through the infertility journey from picking up the book at all. Hell, you won't even read the back cover. Because most likely you are nowhere near ready to consider that childfree life. Just as I wasn't when we were in the midst of it all.

The advocate side of me that wants this book to sell so everyone can feel the freedom of fighting for and finding their ever upward journey knows that the word childfree does not accurately describe myself any longer. Because, the ever upward journey is simply about defining our own happy ending; it is about figuring out how to be better than okay when it just didn't turn out how you had hoped.

 
 

The everything of who I am knows the word childfree was more about where I was in my journey and that this journey is no longer about me at all.

And, that actually it never was.

This book is for you, it has always been for you.

This book is for everyone who is struggling. This book is for everyone who needs a good story to show them some ways out and that it is possible. That we all have the power to change our lives; the power to define our own happy ending.

And so, with both the sense of humbleness, and yet pride, I am here circling back. Asking for a second chance as I turn this book over to you because it was always for you. And I ask for your reconsideration and support, especially with the new subtitle: Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Define Your Own Happy Ending.

I give you your Ever Upward;my baby.

Because she was never really mine to begin with.

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To stop proving it. To truly own it.

To fight for it. To break the silence.

To embrace it all. Living wholeheartedly brave.

This is my story. This is our story.

This is Ever Upward.

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.

~~~~

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

Ever Upward Reader Survey

I've always been a seeker of knowledge and it seems it has grown my love of surveys ;)! I am looking to get to know my readers better. If you could take just a few minutes to complete this quick demographic and psychographic survey it would mean so much to me. I will be collecting data for this survey for only a week in hopes of putting it all to work very soon.

Thank you so much for reading and support me and Ever Upward!

<3, Justine

Breaking the Shackles of Shame and Fear Because I Think I Can Help

The light blinded out the shame. The light shined so brightly that I found another piece of my clarity.

My light sparked just a bit more brilliantly.

All ignited by two simple conversations with my 8 year old nephew.

Dogs aren't kids?

Earlier in our visit my nephew heard me call the dogs my babies. To which he replied, "They are kind of like your babies since you can't have babies." I honestly am unsure as to how much or what he has been told about our journey through infertility or why his Aunt Justine and Uncle Chad don't have kids.

I said to him that yes he was right. I can't have babies so Gertie, Gracie and Bosco are my babies. And, in his amazingly loving 8 year old way he replied, "Well, you will have to get more of them because they just don't live as long as us real kids."

I laughed, a true laugh because he is funny and I love him.

I also laughed, an uncomfortable laugh, as I know how true that is.

Because, sometimes, our babies never even take a breath of this earth's fresh air.

A book that can help

Later in our visit my nephew discovered that I had written a book. He asked what the book was about and if it was a series like the Harry Potter series he loves so much. To which I said I plan to write several books but not a series like Harry Potter. His dad also reminded him that there are no wizards in my books.

When I told him my book is about what his Uncle Chad and I had gone through to have our own babies his response surprised me. He stated, very matter of factly, "Oh so it's just a book for our family to read then."

Even then, a very innocent question from my nephew triggered the shame. For a second, I felt myself doubt, question and dim my light some.

That inner critical voice of my shame:

We didn't lose enough.

No one cares.

We didn't try enough.

Who am I to try to help others?

I am not good enough.

I am not enough.

But, just for a second did I allow shame to take over before I practiced my resilience and spoke my story.

Instead, I took that moment to let him see my soul and the world through my heart, because, again, I honestly don't know what he has been told about our journey. I said, "Well there are lots of people who go through hard stuff like what we did to have a family."

"Millions in fact."

I said that I think, and hope, my story could actually help some of those people.

By this point his 8 year old attention span was kaput and we moved on.

The power of shame

The power of the shame that surrounds our infertility, miscarriage and pregnancy and infant loss stories is overwhelming.

Even if just for a second, mine was even triggered by the childlike wonder of my nephew.

 
 

But, even that innocent wonder brought on the dementor of my shame; the shackles that drown me.

I have done, and continue to do, great work surrounding my shame around my story. I have had to compose the elevator speech on what Ever Upwardis about. I have had to compose the marketing blurb also. But to explain to an 8 year old what Ever Upward is, was nothing I was prepared for.

He made me stop and think, why is Ever Upward so important?

To which the light brightly blinded my shame and broke those shackles.

Because I think I can help.

Because I hope I can help.

Because I can't not try.

Doing this work of recovery does not mean that shame isn't always lurking in the background to steal my light. It simply means I must practice my shame resilience when needed by speaking it and owning it.

Shame and fear

I felt it again the other night when I had my first sheer panic about the book coming out. The oh shit people could actually read this book. The oh shit I will have people who really hate it, criticize it and judge it....hate me, criticize me and judge me. The oh shit I might even upset some people I love. 

And, then I remember to look to the important seats in my world; the people who love me, see me and know me.

And, that this is who I choose to be in this world. I want to live my life with wholehearted courage and owning it all.

Always.

Because, that is ever upward.

To stop proving it. To truly own it. To fight for it. To break the silence. To embrace it all. Always living wholeheartedly brave.

This is my story. This is our story.

*To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life available October 1st at www.everupward.org.*

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

My Story with Amateur Nester

My interview with Lisa at Amateur Nester is an excellent sneak peek into my book, Ever Upward. A huge, wholehearted thank to Lisa. Thank you for being a friend in this big amazing world of infertility blogging. Thank you for being a fellow warrior in sharing my message. Thank you for being you!. To read the full story, click here!

 
 

14 Reasons This is Just the Beginning

The growing momentum of Ever Upward. My continued ownership of my whole story.

The continuing opportunities to share this ownership.

All leading me to more and more clarity with which I am seeing, feeling and growing this light inside of me.

My essential truth.

Which I hope can become part of many of our essential truths; maybe even, the essential truth.

Talk about it.

Embrace it.

Practice recovery ofit.

Own it.

No matter what it is.

For my first televised interview on the book and blog, Ever Upward, I was blessed enough to be interviewed by Virginia Kerr of KMOV's Great Day St. Louis. I have appeared monthly on Great Day for over four years, in many ways I feel part of their family. I am so grateful for their love, support and the opportunity on the show to break the shamed silence of infertility.

Our six minutes went so fast, too fast. After the interview Virginia looked at me and said, "Did we cover everything? I don't think we did, I was just having an amazing conversation with you on air!"

It was real.

It was authentic.

It was amazing.

And, no, we didn't even begin to cover everything...

But, I will make sure it is just the beginning.

The clip has been one of the most shared posts I've had. It has also sparked some of the most amazing words of encouragement, support and love from friends, new and old.

And, this is just the beginning.

My essential truth was definitely highlighted throughout the interview but, what our short six minutes didn't allow for was why this essential truth is so important, especially in the world of infertility and in the world of whatever you need to recover from.

It's now been a few days since the interview. As I continue to navigate through the shares, comments, support and love, I am also overwhelmed by random moments in awe with glimmers of but wait this is part of my message too moments.

Things like:

1. We must talk about infertility so the public is more educated.

2. We must talk about infertility in order to get any of the understanding we want and need from our loved ones.

3. We must talk about infertility in order to be healthier and happier versions of ourselves both throughout treatments but, especially thereafter no matter the ending to that part of our story.

4. We must talk about infertility because only using our doctors and our partner for support is too much for just about any relationship.

5. We must talk about infertility because then, maybe, it could actually result in a higher success rate.

6. We must talk about infertility to educate on how expensive, painful and difficult the process is.

7. We must talk about infertility to challenge the message that you must keep trying because it will eventually work and to give permission to stop.

8. We must talk about infertility and fertility because it is the only way to broaden the story and increase understanding no matter the situation.*

  • The couple who has any kind of infertility diagnosis or a lack there of.
  • The same sex couple.
  • The single man or woman who desperately wants to be a parent.
  • The couple who cannot have a healthy baby with their own genes.
  • The couple who chooses to adopt.
  • The couple who chooses not to adopt.
  • The woman or couple who courageously gave up her/their child for adoption.
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  • The couple who use a donor egg or sperm.
  • The couple who adopts an embryo.
  • The couple who uses a traditional surrogate.
  • The couple who uses a gestational surrogate.
  • The couple who has embryos left.
  • The couple who has no embryos left.
  • The couple who were able to have one or some biological child(ren) and then chose adoption.
  • The couple who chooses to have one child.
  • The couple who can only have one child.
  • The couple who has children many years apart because they suffered miscarriages or endured infertility treatments between.
  • The couple who chooses no infertility treatments.
  • The couple who is able to try infertility treatments many times with success of children.
  • The couple who is able to try infertility treatments many times only to never have it work.
  • The couple who had kids before they were really ready or even really trying.
  • The couple who has suffered a loss of any kind, of any gestation, of any age.
  • The couple who has suffered a loss of any kind, of any gestation, of any age and is blessed with healthy children still.
  • The couples who are still parents no matter what the loss.
  • The couples with children.
  • The couples who live childfree but childfull lives.
  • All the families who don't know their loved ones are suffering.
  • All the families who know their loved ones' suffering but are flailing for the words to support.
  • Any couple, any family, because in reality life hardly ever turns out how we hoped, how we planned or even sometimes what we paid for; loss is loss.

9. I must educate about infertility and thriving thereafter because it is how I have fought for and continue to practice my recovery; in it I have found my calling and purpose.

10. I must break my silence because within this fight I have been found by my ever upward.

11. We must talk about all our losses, traumas and tragedies in order to heal.

12. We must embrace all the parts of our stories.

13. We must fight for and practice our recoveries to be healthier and happier versions of ourselves.

14. We must own it all to find and be found, to live our ever upward.

As I continue to practice my recovery, write Ever Upward, the blog (especially as it has taken on it's own amazing life) and build the platform for Ever Upward, the book, I hope we all find permission.

 
 

My essential truth of giving myself permission.

The essential truth of giving us all permission.

Permission to talk, to embrace, to practice and to own it all.

Because, this is just my beginning.

As, I will make damn sure my infertility journey is just one of my many epic journeys in this story of my ever upward life.

*Sometimes it is difficult to make sure I include everyone, if I've forgotten a situation please comment below so I can edit the post and add (giving you credit if you like).

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 Nail in the Floor

Sometimes our scarred imperfections are super visible. Sometimes our scarred imperfections define all of us and our whole story. But, sometimes our scarred imperfections are only visible upon a closer look. And, it is only with this closer look that we truly see and embrace the whole. After surviving infertility and accepting our childfree lives Chad and I made the biggest, and best, decision we have made of our almost ten year relationship. We put our suburban, good school district house on the market and we found a house who only people who have lost their everything would take a chance on.

We bought a home owned by someone who struggled with hoarding. Upon the closing on this house, we also came to be the owners all of the previous owner's belongings; an entire house filled floor to ceiling and wall to wall of her "treasures" .

For the first time in our marriage, and our long and frequent history of buying and selling homes, I had never had vision before. But after losing our three babies, my eyes had no choice but to see life through a new lens. I was able to see the future, our childfree future, in this amazing house we now refer to as Mason House.

 
 

We emptied the house of terrible memories and more stuff than anyone could imagine, filling dumpster after dumpster of the previous owner's pain and things. Along with her pain and stuff, we also filled every dumpster full of our grief and losses. We worked together, better than we ever have, to combine the mid-century history of the house with our modern and clean style from the studs out. We rebuilt the painful history of the house to create the future of all the love and laughter of our new family home; complete with a pool and toy room for our childfree yet childfull lives.

Mason House, inside and out, looks nothing like it did last year.

Our marriage, inside and out, looks nothing like it did before or during IVF and my recovery.

I, inside and out, look nothing like I did either.

 
 

If you look closely in our beautiful great room you will see the old nail holes from the carpet we pulled up when we saved the original wood floors. If we point it out and you look even more closely you will see a perfectly sanded nail on it's side embedded into the floor. Reminding us of the history of the home, of where it has been and how far it has come. You will see and feel the scarred imperfections that make Mason House exactly what it is meant to be today.

This perfectly placed nail is just a piece of the whole story.

If you look closely at our marriage you will see our history between us; some years better than others. As we interact, and you look more closely, you will see the growth, the fight and the connection that we have only been able to truly find through surviving infertility and losing our three never to be's. You will see our scarred imperfections in our laughter, in our touches and in our ownership of the times of true joy and sorrow of our journey.

The perfectly placed parts of our story of IVF are just a piece of our whole story.

If you look closely at me you will see someone who on the outside looks very different not only in body but also in presence than who she was before the fight of recovery. As you hear me own my story and you look more closely, you will feel my power, you will feel my passion and you will feel my ever upward. You will see, you will feel and you will be changed by my scarred imperfections.

The perfectly placed struggles of my life are just a piece of my whole story.

There is always a story of struggle and hope embedded within us.

A perfectly placed scarred imperfection that is just a piece of our whole story.

And, without them we simply cannot be whole.

We will suffer losses, traumas and tragedies in this life. When we lose one dream we must pick up the pieces and redefine. To wallow in the lost only defines us. To stay stuck on the never to be's only keeps us stagnant in life. To make our scarred imperfections our entire story misplaces them completely.

Where we find our purpose, where we find ourselves again is in embracing these parts as perfectly placed scarred imperfections and in making them part of our breathtaking story. We must fight, work and practice to own all of our scarred imperfections as perfectly placed parts of our story.

Just like the nail in the floor.

*To read the entire epic adventure of the Mason House journey make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Owning My Childfree Life in Our Child Obsessed.*

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

Understanding More of My Why While Practicing the How

It has been a whirlwind of a few weeks for me with the birth of my namesake and newest chosen child Abigail, the signing of my book contract for Ever Upward and my first podcast interview for infertility advocacy with Julie at Fertility Revolution. It has been a few weeks full of fear, exhaustion, love, excitement, pure enough moments and a sense that my ever upward is truly settling into my core, my spirit, my everything.

Building the platform for the book and doing my first interviews for infertility advocacy and for marketing Ever Upward has forced me to zero in on my message (more to come on this in a future post). It has also helped me to continue to wholeheartedly own all the parts of my story with brazen courage. It has also lit a fire inside of me that has brought me some considerable clarity.

Telling my story has brought me this clarity and the words to understand more of my why. This sense that even the painful, unlucky and just plain crazy parts of my story are okay; they are my path. They are simply my puzzle pieces of life.

These crazy twists of my life:

  • not one, but two, back surgeries both with a body cast.
  • IVF and gestational surrogacy not working for us and losing our three babies.
  • and the unexpected expansion of our surrogate's family, and therefore, my chosen children family.

are really enough to make anyone bitter, angry and forever scarred.

However, on this side of surviving infertility and recovering thereafter, I have come to embrace that I may never get the good enough reason why these things have happened to me. And I don't have to have this understanding to be okay or to even be fulfilled and happy.

And, as I have worked within my faith recently, I am also realizing that perhaps this is simply meant to be my story while also having the faith that it is not the end of it. Because I know with my whole heart that I have never done anything to deserve this amount of hurt and pain in my life. And even though I've always deemed myself as just unlucky, on this side of recovery I can truly say that this has nothing to do with luck at all.

 
 

Because as this light becomes more and more clear within me, what I am finding is that this is simply the reason I am here. This is my star soon to shine. I have loved which means I also have to choose.

I have to choose what I do with my story.

I have to choose what I do with my soul scars.

I have to choose to make it ever upward.

So, it is with more and more clarity and understanding of my why that I am still figuring out the how. Because, really, it is the how that everyone wants to know.

How did you survive two back surgeries? How did you survive living in a body cast? How did you survive losing three babies?

How have you not only survived but thrived?

In all honesty, I am not sure.

I have survived by fighting.

I have survived by practicing recovery.

I have survived because I didn't give myself any other choice.

I have survived because I have let go of needing the complete understanding of my whole why.

I am surviving because I am here; writing, struggling and owning it all every single day.

I am surviving, recovering and thriving because that is the light, the love, the soul of ever upward.

The Complicated Gray

Several days after one of the most difficult days of the year for me, Mother's Day, I am reminded at how complicated this whole thing actually is...infertility, childfree living, loss, trauma, tragedy, faith...life. I've written it many times before; life is hard and people are complicated. It never seems to be very black or white, which sometimes would be nice and so much simpler.

But most all of life is in the complicated gray; always between the simplicity of black or while.

Albeit, beautiful complicated gray.

 
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This weekend I felt everything. Mother's Day was a good day but it was still super difficult and felt very sad, at least inside my own head and heart. All the talk of mothers and mothering at church wasn't easy to hear. Feeling torn and like a bad daughter and daughter in law because just acknowledging the day is difficult and I really needed to honor my own pain and myself. But, also spending the afternoon swimming and playing with three of my favorite little boys filled every cell of my body with pure joy, love and laughter. I am also so thankful for all the messages and cards I received and for the blogs I read about how wonderful and difficult Mother's Day can be for so many of us.

The complicated gray.

Our losses, traumas and tragedies are never uncomplicated; infertility, IVF and accepting a childfree life are definitely not an exception to this complication.

For me, especially as a therapist who has survived infertility and has fought to thrive thereafter, the complicated gray is always there.

The complicated gray I feel between the lifelong costs and losses of infertility and childfree living with the peace, freedom and happiness I have achieved through my recovery.

The complicated gray of making my almost enough moments my enough moments.

The complicated gray of honoring my losses but never allowing my heart and soul to scar over and close.

The complicated gray of the anger and bitterness at the unfairness with the trust and faith in the 'I'm okay and it's okay'.

The complicated gray of owning my shame and sadness while also educating and fighting for my story and the importance of my message and voice.

And for the many women out there struggling with any difficulty in the department of mothering and infertility, the complicated gray is never ending.

The complicated gray of living in shamed silence of infertility and desperately wanting and needing to be seen and heard.

The complicated gray of self sabotaging ourselves because we feel so damaged and shamed in our infertility battles; betrayed by our bodies, by science and, sometimes even ourselves or our loved ones.

The complicated gray of every impossible decision that must be made in the journey of infertility whether emotional, financial, moral or ethical.

The complicated gray of every parenting decision.

The complicated gray of the cautious hopefulness and the reality of the statistical un-success of infertility treatments.

The complicated gray of our real stories not being seen, heard or understood by many.

~~~~

I always work with my clients on finding the middle, seeing the gray and not thinking in such black or white terms. For the most part, our health and happiness lie in the middle; in the gray.

Through my infertility journey, my recovery and my ongoing acceptance of a childfree life I am learning that maybe we really must also truly embrace this complicated gray.

Because, I think, it is within this complicated gray we will find our permission for it all.

Permission for our stories.

Permission for our recoveries.

Permission for our light.

Permission for finding our ever upward.

Celebrating To Embrace Jealousy

The commercials have started airing to remind us all to get the perfect gift for some of the hardest working people on earth; mothers. I will assume I don't have to go into exactly why Mother's Day tends to be difficult for us women who are childfree whether by choice, chance or circumstance. And, rest assured, you are safe to assume I have a post scheduled for Mother's Day anyway ;). As a woman who can't have children, seeing these commercials or hearing my loved one's Mother's Day plans is some of the, thankfully few and far between, times I feel my jealously come up. Admittedly, it is scary and difficult to even type that sentence...

Throughout my work of recovery I have come to understand jealously a little differently. It first started at the Emerging Women conference last October in Boulder when I saw an interview with Tami Simon and Alanis Morissette. Tami interviewed Alanis about the book she is writing and about her work with Relationships First. One of the points she spoke about was what she thinks the difference between jealousy and envy is. She said that jealousy is about connection; that when we are jealous of someone or something it is about self improvement, we want it too. But when we are envious of something we not only want it for ourselves but we want to take it away from the other person, making it not about connection but disconnection. She used a really simple example of her hair. She said something to the effect that she knew many of us in the audience were jealous of how great her hair looked (it was the shiniest most beautiful head of hair I've ever seen). She said that some of us were probably jealous of it (for me, she was completely saw my green accurately). She said we just wanted some of the hair gods to shine on us too. So her suggestion was to go out and buy the pomade she used to make it look that gorgeous. She then explained that if we were envious of her hair it would be more about chopping it off her head for ourselves so that not even she could have the luxury of this beautiful mane.

This definition makes sense to me. And, by this definition, I am jealous that the majority of women get to be mothers and I don't, but I am not envious. I am sure of this because it is one of the best parts of my life, and of my recovery, to see my loved ones be mothers.

And yet, I will admit feeling this jealousy doesn't necessarily feel good either. Through my recovery I have found that there are times I need to allow myself to feel sorry for myself, to feel that jealousy. To ask the impossible questions of why didn't I get to be a mom? Why does she? To feel that jealousy consume me, especially around the holidays or the first days of school or any other popular put your kids on your social media wall day. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing these pictures and posts and it isn't uncommon that I am showing your adorable children to my friends and family but I would be lying if I didn't admit that when I only have dog pictures to post, even though they are literally the cutest pups ever, my green eyed jealousy monster definitely rears it's ugly head.

But if I allow these thoughts and feelings to overtake my light my recovery suffers. For me the only way through this jealousy, to embrace and truly own it, has been through celebrating. I didn't know I was celebrating until a client of mine told me about one of her church small groups where they talked about celebrating as the cure to jealousy.

 
 

That's exactly what I do, I cure my jealousy through celebrating the very things I so badly want for myself in others. I surround myself with my chosen children because through this celebration my jealousy wanes. I ask to be as involved as possible in my friends' parenting and in their childrens' lives because through this celebration my jealousy loses some of it's negative power.

This concept is not easy, but it is very simple.

And, for me, it works. Celebrating through my jealousy provides me with what life is all about, connection. Sitting in jealousy doesn't feel good and celebrating others' happy feels pretty amazing, simple but not an easy choice but a choice nonetheless. Besides, I know that my mom friends can sometimes have some jealousy of what my childfree life provides me.

If we aren't careful we can all get tripped up on wanting what we don't have and staying stuck in jealousy. And while, I will always suffer the lifelong losses and costs of infertility and my childfree life, I am also learning that I have some amazing things to be thankful for only because of this very bittersweet journey I have been on.

I don't want to be angry or envious, so I will allow myself to sit with jealousy but just for a bit. Then I will take that breath, find my gratitude and celebrate through to embrace it because only then do I honor my ever upward.

Thriving Growth - Tell Me How You Feel and What You Think!

 
 

Ever Upward, the blog, has changed my life. It has been ever influential in my healing process and recovery. It has brought so many amazing people, new and old, into my life. And, it seems to be helping some people along the way through connection and story. Ever Upward, the book, is officially finished. And, as I am in the trenches attempting to get published, the feedback I tend to get is that I need a bigger platform.

And yet, I am wholeheartedly grateful for the success of Ever Upward, the blog. Ever Upward is six months old. I have posted 60 times. I currently have 115 followers, have been viewed over 14,000 times and in over 55 countries.

But, six months and 60 posts in, I want to hear from my readers, both to make sure you are getting what you need from Ever Upward and in an attempt to improve my brand, platform and Ever Upward. I would greatly appreciate it if you would take 5-10 minutes out of your day and click the link below to answer my 12 question survey.

Take the survey here! Thank you so much!

In ever upward light and love, Justine