The Warm Embrace From the Club I'll Never Belong To

I am practicing my patience, some days with gritted teeth and total white knuckles, but I am actively practicing it trying to relax in the hammock (I explain below I promise). The patience I need as Ever Upward gets into the hands of those who need it, is seen by the eyes that need to read it and is felt by the hearts that need the connection of it. This sometimes painstaking patience is lit up by the messages and reviews Ever Upward is slowly receiving. Ever Upward is a book of my story. My story through the losses of infertility. My story into the acceptance and ownership of a childfree life. These words had to be on the cover because I trust the infertility community to help me get the full story out to the rest of the world. But they were also words we thought about leaving off the cover because Ever Upward is so much more than an infertility story that ends in owning a childfree life.

It is our story.

It is a book about life. A crazy epic story about overcoming the hard stuff and finding and fighting our way to being okay; to being better than okay.

I want this book to be the permission we need to talk about our stories,the permission to embrace them, the permission to fight for our recovery and our version of the happy ending, and most definitely, the permission to own it all.

I hope people fighting their way through the darkness of infertility treatments find comfort in my words.

I hope people trying to figure out what happens next when it didn't turn out how they hoped find their way in my words.

And, I hope anyone struggling with the darkness of life finds the light they need in my words.

What I was not prepared for was the messages and reviews from mothers, mothers of all kinds; mothers to living children, mothers to angel children, mothers to living and angel children.

Mothers.

 
 

Me, the woman who cannot be a mother, the woman who wrote a book with the term childfree in the subtitle, is being lovingly embraced by the very club she will never be a member of.

And, yet it feels like home.

A home we all belong to.

Because, somewhere along the journey of surviving and thriving this life and especially in the making of ourfamily, we have all lost and suffered somehow, somewhere.

Because it is not a club of just mothers. It is a club of anyone who has struggled, lost and survived.

So, a club we are all members of.

Because, when does life ever really turn out how we had planned or hoped?

And, yet we can do this work.

We can choose to be okay.

We can choose to be better than okay.

We can find our ever upward.

This surprising acceptance, this warm motherly embrace, has left me finding even more ever upward in this journey. This wholehearted embrace by the very group of women that I may forever long to fit into has allowed me to let this all be just little bit more this week.

*Or as my therapist helped me with my metaphor in letting this be...I think I am actually sitting in the hammock.

Let me explain.

The endless work of the last year or so are the fishing poles I have cast out into the crystal clear turquoise water. I must stick those poles into the warm white sand of the beach and walk away. They are cast to the big fish that could easily change my life and show the world Ever Upward with one tiny chance they give me. They are cast to every single person who needs to give themselves permission to find their own ever upward. They are cast out to you. And, I must stop putting my toes and hands in that beautiful water and allow it to become that crystal clear calm glass so you can be drawn to the amazing light that is this work. So, I am actively working on walking away, grabbing my sangria (served in a carved out pineapple of course) and sitting in that comfy hammock to soak up the embracing magic of the sun and of my own light.

This is how the perfectly imperfect person I am is going to muster up the strength to let this be, trust the work I have done, trust the universe and get the hell out of the way.

Sitting in the hammock, soaking up the sun, breathing in the salty air, sipping my sangria and truly allowing myself to really receive that warm embrace from the club I'll never belong to.

~~~~

Make sure to purchase your copy of Ever Upward today!

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.

~~~~

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.

~~~~

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.

~~~~

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

Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 1

Because you can't, sometimes things just can't be fixed

 
 

I'm sad.

Just cheer up, it will be okay!

I'm anxious.

Just take a deep breath and calm down.

I'm angry.

Just count to 10 or walk away.

We're having trouble getting pregnant.

Just adopt! Just relax! Just stopping trying!

We think these above statements are empathy. But, really they are pity filled sympathetic responses to provide that quick fix; our attempt to try to make it better.

It seems like empathy skills are missing for a lot of us. We aren't taught how to be empathic and, I think, we even sometimes think we would rather have sympathy than empathy.

Sympathy is I feel for you; pity.

Empathy is I feel with you; I get it.

A think a major confusion is that we are mistaken in thinking that we must have gone through the exact same instance in order to have empathy. But that just isn't how it works. In order to be empathetic we simply need to be able to understand and know what it feels like to feel the feeling that someone is experiencing. As Brené Brown states in The Daring Way™ curriculum, if you have ever experienced guilt, sadness, anger, disappointment, etc. then you are equipped for empathy.

So we all (outside of the extreme sociopath, read the Underwood's from House of Cards) are able to show empathy and yet we are so quick to just fix it coming from a place of sympathy.

When we hear someone is in struggle we want to take away the pain, we want to make it better, we want to fix it.

Why?

We cannot stand discomfort.

We don't like to feel sad or mad or disappointed ourselves, let alone to be with someone we care about in their sadness or anger or disappointment.

We don't want someone we love, hell even a complete stranger, to feel this discomfort either. But, really it's more about our struggle sit with them through it.

So, we try to fix it with a quick solution, a just stop talking about it.

And when we do this we minimize and invalidate; even if it does come from a place of love.

Practicing empathy means being willing to sit with someone in their discomfort. It means being willing to just be with someone maybe not saying a single word. It means simply saying, that is so hard, that sucks, I can't imagine, ugh.

Compassion

This is where I birthedfertility compassion.

The world needs a whole lot more compassion in every area. But through my work in Ever Upward, fertility seems to be one of the biggest areas.

Why?

Because everyone has an opinion on family planning and it is assumed that everyone wants, needs and is able to make a family.

When in reality, this can't be further from the truth.

My #fertilitycompassion survey had three questions:

  1. What are some of the most difficult/insensitive statements or questions you have received in regards to your family planning?
  2. How did you respond? And why?
  3. What could have been a better way for the question to be asked?

The survey was anonymous and was answered by both men and women and by both people with and without children, fertile and infertile, and some childfree by choice, chance or circumstance.

Unfortunately, the results were not surprising to me as this has been my life, especially for the last years since we tried to have kids with a surrogate and are now accepting a childfree life.

Question #1 - The minimizing, invalidating, simple fix questions

These fell into 11 categories.

  1. God's plan.
  2. Just adopt.
  3. Getting pregnant is so easy.
  4. Just relax.
  5. But you're the lucky one.
  6. Parenting is the only purpose.
  7. Empathy versus sympathy.
  8. Easy solution.
  9. You'll change your mind.
  10. Point the finger and blame.
  11. Family planning.

1. God's plan - reading these statements made my heart ache and my eyes sting with tears.

"You're just not being faithful enough. You aren't praying the right healing prayers. It's just not in His plan for you to be a mom. God doesn't think you're financially ready to be a parent. It's just not meant to be."

2. Just adopt - these still spark some anger in me, mostly at the lack of understanding.

"Just adopt. Why don't you just foster? There are so many minority kids who need good homes. Don't you think you should save a child before having any more of your own?"

3. Getting pregnant is so easy - obviously not: 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility and 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage.

"You're so young, you have so much time. You're next! A lot of women miscarry! You were so early!"

4. Just relax - if only it were this simple for all of us.

"Just relax. Go on vacation. Have a margarita. Just don't think about it."

5. But you're the lucky one - the one upper, I have it so much worse.

"You have it so easy without kids. You don't need time off work, you don't have kids waiting for you at home. Oh, I'm a terrible mother, you can have my kids. You can borrow mine any time."

6. Parenting is the only purpose - if this is true I'm screwed.

"You aren't a parent, you wouldn't understand. But kids is the only purpose we have in life. Who will take care of you when you are old? But, having kids is the only way to really feel love."

7. Empathy versus sympathy - your pity does nothing for me and only leaves me feeling even more alone.

"I feel for sorry for you. Oh, I am so glad we never struggled, I can't imagine."

8. Easy solution - there are a millions way to make a family, none of them easy.

"Have you tried this? Or that? $15,000 isn't that much money, just do IVF. My friend had that too, she got pregnant just fine. Just try again. I'll carry for you."

9. You'll change your mind - we each have our own path, allow everyone to own theirs even if it is different than yours.

"But how do you know you won't want kids later in life? You can always just adopt later on."

10. Point the finger and blame - this feels so damning.

"Is he shooting blanks? What's wrong with you? Who's fault is it? There must have been something wrong with it."

11. Family planning - everyone has an opinion they must share or could this just be a bid for connection?

"Everyone assumes we have 3 because we stopped trying."

"You must want a girl or aren't you glad you didn't have a girl?! (We have three boys and our little girl is in heaven)."

"When are you having another?"

"Be thankful for the one healthy child you have."

"You don't want them too far apart! (we've had three miscarriages after our first)"

"You should really try for a girl next time. (we have two boys; we have lost three female babies)."

"Shouldn't you just be happy with the two you have."

"You don't want to be too old."

"Was she an accident? (she is five years younger than her brothers)."

Before I move on to writing about questions 2 and 3, I will let these settle in some.

Are we all just being too sensitive?

Perhaps.

But as someone who has struggled to do the very thing that many of us believe we were put on earth to do, be a parent, these questions and statements cut like a knife.

They hurt.

They invalidate the painful journey we have been on.

They minimize the paths before us.

And, even though I sincerely believe they come from love (and curiosity), I also know they come from ignorance and comparison.

So for now, think before you speak and watch your tone, you honestly have no idea what the person on the other side of your words has gone through; the pain they have suffered, the losses they have endured and the struggles of their daily lives.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."—Rev. John Watson

"Including you."—Glennon Melton

Don't make your words added pain.

And, in part 2 I will share how people respond to these questions and statements. But, mostly I will focus on what we all really want and need to hear instead.

Compassion. Empathy. Hope.

Ever upward.

Housekeeping:

Kickstarter for Ever Upward Book Trailer has only hours to go and we are so close! Every dollar (share and prayer) helps!

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

Fertility Compassion Survey will continue to collect 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

To The Anonymous Critic(s)

A survey to...

  • gather information.
  • give the shamed silenced a voice.
  • start and continue an important conversation in our world.
  • educate.
  • continue the love of ever upward.

For the possibilities of defining, speaking, educating and embracing fertility compassion.

So far the results are incredible and heartbreaking and important and my light.

To which I am wholeheartedly thankful, especially considering the first person to take the survey was an incapable; a person not even in the arena, the person who just sits on the side lines judging and hurling hurtful and harsh criticisms.

My anonymous critic

A person who does not show up.

A person who does not live brave.

A person who in just three minutes attempted to shut me down, steal my light and use hate to hurt and anonymity for power.

"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..."

To which my initial response was shame. For me, shame feels like my pounding heart, shaking hands, cold sweat and the light being sucked from inside me, like a dementor stealing my soul. Shame is the messages I, for a second, embrace as my own; messages like this will fail, who cares, I am not enough, etc.

But only for a few seconds.

Then some anger came in.

Who the hell do you think you are? If you don't agree with or like or believe in my writing and my story then stop reading! What a coward to post this comment anonymously where no one will see but me.

And then, thank you.

Thank you for proving my point exactly. And I think you may find some of your heart in my posts, When We Become a Mother or Father and Loss is Loss.

Here is what this person will be severely disappointed to hear.

I do not find my light, my soul, my permission from anyone.

And, I especially do not find them in people like you.

I do not find my light, my soul, my permission through fear, judgment and hate.

And, I especially do not find them in shame, scarcity and comparison.

 
 

I find my light, my soul, my permission within myself. Within the gifts and love I have to share with the world. Within my flaws and all. Within connection and compassion. Within ever upward.

And, so I thank you for taking three minutes out of your life in an attempt to shut me down. And, I will not apologize for disappointing you.

For you have simply ignited my light even brighter; making me even more brave.

Strengthening my resolve to change how we talk about fertility, infertility and recovery.

Cementing my conviction to practice my authentic courage to help give others permission to own their stories.

And, solidifying my tenacity in shining my light brighter for the world to see...

In hopes of enlightening ever upward.

~~~~

Housekeeping:

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

Kickstarter for Ever Upward Book Trailer has 11 days to go.

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

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