Six to Seen

Today marks what would have been the 6th birthday of our our third - six years of healing, of wonder, and most of all, of honor. 

This grief journey never gets easier, it simply gets different, and this year is no exception. 

Most years, especially since it is the holidays, it is easy for me to believe the lie that I'm invisible. In fact, that is the single most used word to describe my new book from readers,

Thank you for putting into words and giving me the words to describe how I'm feeling, invisible.

For the first time in six years, I don't feel this, and not because I feel seen, rather because I don't need to be, at least not in that way anymore. 

For the first time I am beginning to feel the peace settle into my soul right beside my forever wonder and yearning of who they would have been, and of who I would have been as their mother. 

And, with a breath, I am realizing that this mother I am here on earth without them is pretty amazing and completely enough, even in, and perhaps most especially, in their absence. 

Because they were never mine to begin with, they were His.

And, because they brought me to Him. 

Instead of sitting in that lie of feeling invisible today I chose to be invisible sitting in a Starbucks. 

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I had $33 in Starbucks gift cards from speaking engagements, and admittedly I only get Starbucks at airports because I much prefer my Three Story Coffee at home. After I bought my black coffee I told the barista to use the remaining money for everyone else behind me until it was gone. Then, I asked her not to tell them who bought their coffee. I'll admit, my heart yearned for her to ask why, so I could say, "This is in honor and remembrance of my three, they would have been six this year".

And then I sat and watched. I watched people receive a gift, a gift as simple as free coffee, not believing they deserved it. I watched people pay it forward. I watched people look around and try to figure out who bought their morning cup of happy. One man, whether he saw me do it or the barista told him, stopped on his way out, smiled and thanked me. 

The card didn't last long and the experience was relatively uneventful, until of course I opened my Bible to John 1...

Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity. And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom— the Light that darkness could not diminish! John 1:4‭-‬5 TPT

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Perhaps, today a simple cup of free coffee made someone feel seen. I know for me it helped remind me that I don't have to be seen by the world because I am always seen by my loving Father. 

Our three, they made me a mother. 

He chose me, bursting through my gloom, in the gift of them. 

I am a happy and grateful mother. 

~~~

The Complicated Gray now available here or signed copies in the store.

Our Three and a Bag of Frozen Peas

"How do you feel?" I asked as I drove him home from the doctor's office.

"Fine, it's numb right now," he replied.

The ever-stoic Chad with the ever-rumbling Justine; thank God we both choose to do the work to be complementary in our differences.

"That's good," I replied. "Are you sad at all?"

He looked at me with love in his eyes, with what I assume is that part of him that knows I want more from him, for him to feel even just a smidge of what I am feeling and in the way I am feeling it.

As I have learned through the years, he simply feels it all very differently than me.

"I mean, it's done." I continued. "I know it was done before, but this is for sure and permanent, we aren't having kids. Our genes will never live on."

"I suppose we can always reverse it if we want," he joked back. “You remembered to get frozen peas, right?”

***

Chad and I are 6 years out of our failed infertility journey - a journey that included tens of thousands of dollars, even more tears, countless injections, a surrogate, and three lost babies.

In the last six years, we have advocated for the infertility and loss community, published books, created our legacy and our happy, and I finally chose Jesus back.

It has been six years of fighting for, creating, and receiving this incredible life, of doing the work to make it all a gift.

We love our childless-not-by-choice life and we will always have lifelong wonders and grief.

Still, I was so over using condoms as a 39-year-old woman, preventing something that had the smallest hell-freezing-over chance of ever happening. As a woman, I had been the one responsible for birth control for much of my life, even if it was only to help my cycle or clear up my skin.  Still, I had to take the pill or endure the IUD, for years!  Plus, there is nothing like pumping your body full of synthetic hormones to try to have a baby that makes you want to never have synthetic hormones in your body ever again.

Hence, a vasectomy for a couple who can't have kids.

Should be simple, right?

Except, a decision, one as permanent as this, is the kind of thing that triggers that lifelong grief.

Then, on top of that bubbled up pain, we often judge it - it feels dumb and frustrating.

Damn it, I am sad.

It’s complicated.

This complicated gray of acceptance and love of this life with the lifelong sadness is the thing that many people have difficulty understanding when they stand across from me and my pain.

Simple: You’re sad. Fix it and figure out how to have the baby.

I get this a lot still, even 6 years out, especially in the faith community.

“Just adopt.”

“I am praying for a miracle baby for you guys.”

“Just try another round.”

When we stand across from someone and their pain, many of us will have the undeniable urge to take away that pain or fix it with what we think are simple solutions. We do this out of both love and our fear of vulnerability, because, the thought of feeling the sadness with someone is something that is often too scary.

This complicated gray of acceptance and love of this life with lifelong sadness is much easier, albeit not comfortable, to understand when you sit beside me with my pain.

Complicated: loving my childless-not-by-choice life and the forever yearning.

Because the thing is, I don’t want a baby now.

I want my three babies who would be six this year.

I want those babies.

So we made a decision to prevent pregnancy once and for all.

It is freeing and shitty.

It is exciting and sad.

Sit beside me, not across..jpg

It is another reminder that this journey will never leave us.

It is The And.

I am a forever grieving mother and a woman who chooses to do the work to see the gifts in everything.

So, I speak this truth because then I honor my three, I glorify Him, and I serve the world.

And, as always, I ask you to simply sit beside me and not across from me.

Right this minute though, feeling the yearning for my three, I gotta grab Chad a fresh bag of frozen peas.

The Extra of the Infertility Journey

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The friendships. A wholehearted truth. Renewed dreams. My reclaimed life.

Just a few of the extras of my infertility journey, none of the above a consolation prize of my hard story and three lost babies, rather gifts that I have fought for, created, and received.

My friendship with Kaeleigh, of Unpregnant Chicken, is one of those extras. Last week my friend, who I only met through the community of infertility and loss and this big awesome world of blogging and social media, released her first book. I am so excited to support her by being a part of this amazing blog tour and offering a giveaway! To be entered to win your own copy of Extra! simply comment on this post. I will draw a winner on February 15th, 2018. I am so proud of this project and it's offer to families who need a little extra to find their way to their version of the complete family portrait.

Make sure to follow along on this blog tour and check out Christine's post from Friday and Victoria's which is coming tomorrow!

It's Not, Just Have a Baby 

A piece many may struggle to read, which is exactly why I wrote it and submitted it to HuffPost! Enjoy!  ~~~

Four years out from ending our own infertility journey and the difficult decisions of the infertility journey are still part of my daily life.

In full disclosure, we ended our journey without the intended, hoped for, dreamed of and paid for ending of happy, healthy babies in our arms.

Professionally, I have been working with clients through and after the infertility journey for the last three of those four years; had to work out my own stuff first.

Throughout these three years I have worked with women in every place of the infertility and loss journey; years of trying, all levels of treatments, miscarriages, stillbirth, secondary infertility and everything in between. I, especially, have found a true gift in walking alongside someone during the pregnancy after the infertility and loss struggle.

I have also been honored with witnessing and guiding my clients through some of the toughest moral, ethical and relational decisions of their lives.

Because making a baby in 2016 is not simple for over 7 million of us.

It is those tough moral and ethical issues no one ever really thinks about when they embark on the infertility journey that, I think, have great potential to destroy us.Click here to continue reading. 

Guest Post - Facing the Storm

In celebration of and to help build momentum for the April 7th bookstore launch of Ever Upward, I have been 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.

For the final week before launch we have my very good friend Lindsey over at Awaiting Autumn sharing her light, her courage and her love as she has honestly been in the storm of a lifetime. I feel lucky and blessed to have Lindsey as a friend and to be able to witness her journey thus far. I feel like I have found a sister in her and can't wait to see what is in store for her growing family.

~~~

Facing the Storm

Much like Justine Brooks Froelker’s journey to owning her childfree life, I am also on a journey ever upward embracing my success after infertility and navigating the waters of pregnancy after loss.

In October 2014, we lost our 1st child at 7 weeks, 1 day due to ectopic pregnancy from an IVF cycle. In January 2015, we became pregnant again from a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) cycle. I am currently 12 weeks pregnant, but I keep asking myself:

Just because the rainbow is on its way, does that mean the storm is over?

The answer is no.

I am afraid of losing this baby.

Whew. I finally said it.

Ever so blessed, yet still scarred… and scared!

New fears surface each time you pass through one phase of life and into another. Although I am beyond grateful to be expecting this child, it does not erase my anxiety and worry for what could lay ahead.

Hope fuels me. I believe this baby will arrive safely and be placed in my arms, but that doesn’t mean that ride will be smooth and easy. Sometimes, it’s the inner battles that are the hardest of the journey.

I tame my fear by:

  • Following my intuition
  • Developing and maintaining a self-care practice
  • Trusting and believing

Through my struggles, I have learned a series of valuable life lessons.  I know how to survive, how to thrive and how to not let my fears overcome me.

Instead of fearing the next storm, I’m facing it. I’m willing to get wet. I allow life to be messy. With a deep breath, I take a step forward into the darkness. I don’t know what will come, but I always know the light brings beauty. For without rain, there would be no rainbows.

As I enter motherhood, all I wish for is the ability to reflect on this bumpy ride with gratitude and appreciation. I am not the same Lindsey I was before we started trying to conceive. I am a better version of myself.

I am an infertility warrior.

I am a baby loss survivor.

I am a courageous Momma.

And I guarantee it will all be worth it. 

 
 

~~~~

Lindsey writes about her journey through infertility, pregnancy loss and into motherhood at 

Awaiting Autumn

. She lives on the Canadian Prairies with her husband and their 3 fur babies.

~~~

Ever Upward

launches next week in bookstores on April 7th! I am so close to launching with my goal of over 50 reviews. If you  have read

Ever Upward

, please consider doing a review on

Amazon

. Just click the Kindle version of the book, then click the customer review link under the title, then click write a review. Thank you so much!!

Choosing to Be Remade

I am not one to believe in the mindset of victim.

I do not believe we are victims unless we choose to be.

Labeling myself as a victim only leaves me powerless in changing my life.

Horrible things happen to all of us, hard is hard and struggle is struggle. If I sit in the victim place, at least for myself, I sit in the shit. Rather than being mindful of my suffering in order to move through it and then rise above it.

This has always been a common theme in my office. I have said these sentences too many times to count, over and over:

Being our past

You can choose to be your past.

You can choose to be your past mistakes.

You can choose to have all of your past hurts, losses, traumas and tragedies be your whole identity.

Choosing to be more

Or you can choose to learn from your past and move forward.

Or you can choose to embrace your mistakes and try again.

Or you can choose to make your past hurts, losses, traumas and tragedies just a piece of your story and not your whole identity.

You choose.

So it isn't surprising that when I heard the song You Are More on Joy FM by Tenth Avenue North I was immediately sending it to some of my clients. The chorus goes,

You are more than the choices that you've made, You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, You are more than the problems you create, You've been remade.

I realize when the artists are singing, you've been remade, they are referring to Jesus dying for our sins and with this grace we are remade. But as a mental health therapist, even one with my own strong and yet questioning faith, I must meet my clients where they are, faith or not.

 
 

Even with my faith, and the amazing grace of Jesus,I think, I also must still choose.

Choosing to be remade

We must choose to be more.

We must choose to be more, faith or not.

And if Jesus isn't your thing, well, then you still have a choice to make. You can choose to be more than the choices that you've made. You can choose to be more than the sum of your past mistakes. You can choose to be more than the problems you create.

You can choose to to be remade. You can choose to not be a victim to your life circumstances, your past hurts or mistakes. You can choose the power to change your life.

Choosing to be remade is my work in ever upward. When I choose to be remade because of and within the grace and love of Jesus, but also because I choose every single day, I choose me. I choose to be more than the woman who cannot have kids. I choose to be more than the woman who survived infertility and lost three babies. I choose to be more than depression and anxiety.

I choose to be remade.

This is my work in ever upward that I hope others can embrace for themselves.

Because we are so much more than those past choices, past hurts and past mistakes. They are just pieces to our brilliant life puzzle, they are just pieces of our story. We must do the work to embrace them all.

Because only then will we own all the parts of our story.

And, only then are we choosing to be remade.

 ~~~~

Housekeeping:

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

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

Emerging to Own Myself Again - Chp 8 Review

It takes my breath away to see my words sharing space with the beautiful words of Dani from Blooming Spiders. Thank you so much Dani for your review, support and friendship!

Some time ago, fellow blogger and sister-in-loss, Justine Froelker, reached out and asked me to review a chapter of her upcoming book, Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life. I’ll admit I was hesitant, since reading and somehow “grading” a person’s heart notes can be scary, especially if the relationship isn’t the stuff of marrow and soul. But I wanted to do it for her, in honor of the heart shards we share.

The chapter title which spoke to me most was Chapter 8: Emerging to Own Myself Again. The visual representation I had was of a wounded butterfly recocooning itself to heal, yet reemerging, after a Season of grief and recovery, better and stronger because of its traumas or, as Justine calls them, “soul scars”. It is precisely that image that Justine puts into words:

It was with these words, “own and…

View original post 390 more words

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

Kickstarter for Ever Upward Book Trailer

I am scared to death to even ask for help. But, I am even more scared that it won't work.

So, I am going to practice my bravery and put it all out there anyway.

 
 

After incurring the costs, emotionally and financially (especially financially in this case) of IVF and getting this book published, we just don't have it in the budget to do an amazing book trailer that Ever Upward deserves. So I am asking for help (and there are rewards for those of you who help)!

Please check out my Kickstarter campaign for the Ever Upward Book Trailer.

A book trailer helps spread the word and build a platform better and faster because people are more likely to click and watch a video. And, it introduces the world to the subject, the book and most importantly to the author...me.

Even if you can't financially contribute right now, I'd really appreciate any support you can send my way in the form of prayers and positive thoughts but, most definitely in shares, reblogs, tweets, etc.!!!

Building the platform of Ever Upward has been one of the hardest parts of this journey and often times is feels pretty lonely and like I will never catch the big break. But, I am balancing that with doing what I can and trusting that it is enough with letting go to know Ever Upward will work, will produce change and will help.

Thank you for the love, the support, the friendships...the everything.

Justine

A Letter to the 14 Year Old Girl Trapped in the Darkness of a Body Cast

August 25th, 1994 I had my first of two back surgeries, both of which left me in a body cast for 6 months following each surgery.

Twenty years later these are the words I need to say to that part of who I am still to this today.

The words to that scared 14 year old girl because in these words I choose to heal her.

Justine,

I know you are scared, but relieved that you finally have an answer to your pain. This is not the only time you will feel this gut wrenching and breath stealing bittersweet feeling. You will again feel this painful clarity on the day you receive the phone call that your last round of IVF did not work and you learn that your journey to have children is over.

But I can promise you, it is all worth it and you will be okay.

You have many years in front of you of struggle. Mostly with the struggle to find and believe in your light again. Because today, unfortunately, you will lose a major part of your spirit, only to fight for and find it again in twenty years.

In twenty years time, you will find this light again when you have survived failed IVF, lost three babies and fought for your recovery back to yourself.

This event of your first back surgery, yes honey, I am sorry but you will have to survive another one of these, puts in motion everything that will make you an amazing being.

You will have incredible stories of inspiration and laughter to share with the world of your back surgeries. You will have incredible stories of struggle and hope to share with the world of your fight to become a mother. You will have incredible stories of loss and purpose to share with the world of your ever upward journey to find yourself and recovery.

You will come to understand, accept, embrace and own every part of yourself and your story. You will own your shame surrounding infertility by understanding how alone you are about to feel throughout these surgeries. You will have endless help throughout these surgeries; people who love you, even those who barely know you, will step forward to help in some way. Twenty years later you will have the language to understand that your light was lost even within this amazing help because it was given through sympathy and not empathy. Because, really how else does anyone feel but sorry for the 14 year old having to have back surgery, live in a body cast and miss half of her freshman year of high school? Let alone to then have to do it all over again in a few years.

Twenty years later you will have the clarity to no longer dim your light around your story of surviving IVF and accepting a childfree life because of pity. And, instead choose to shine the light to break the silence of struggle and hard.

Because sad is sad and hard is just hard.

Some things just really can't be fixed that easily; like a 14 and 17 year old in a body cast and a 34 year old woman who really wanted to be a mother but can't.

Find the joy and the love in the help from everyone around you throughout this time, even it if is only in sympathy. Because it is still born out of the intention of great love.

Trust that you will thrive through this and that this isn't the end of your story; because, I promise, it is not even close.

 
Recovery Ever Upward Back Surgeries
Recovery Ever Upward Back Surgeries
 

And try, to hold onto that light just a little, knowing and believing that someday it will flicker again.

I promise this tiny belief and flicker is enough to get you through.

Because, your light will never be fully suffocated as you have an unending, ever growing and truly ever upward resilience.

In ever upward light and love,

Me

*To read more about my experiences through two back surgeries and a year of my life spent in a body cast make sure preorder your copy of Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

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

The Latest in Ever Upward

Ever Upward book
Ever Upward book

The presale is live!

Help us get an idea of demand by preordering your copy of Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life. This will help us to order at the lowest price point from the printer and help in shipping costs (much needed in this self/entrepreneurial publishing deal).

Ever Upward launches on October 1st and will be available on Amazon in February and in bookstores in March 2015.

If you are in the Saint Louis area (or want to make a trip in) I would love to see you at the book signing and launch party on October 4th!

I have several more reviews going up in the next several weeks but, for now make sure to check out the reviews so far.

Thank you so much for all the support, the shares, the feedback, the love and friendship!

In ever upward light and love,

Justine

It's here!!!!

A year in a body cast. Twenty years of my dimmed light.

A year of infertility treatments and losses.

A year of writing and editing.

A year of submitting to publishers and agents.

Over two years of practicing my recovery.

Ever Upward is here!

 
Ever Upward book
Ever Upward book
 

And, I am feeling all the feels.

I am feeling scared to death. I am feeling excited. I am feeling hopeful. I am feeling scared to death. I am feeling accomplished. I am feeling at peace.

I feel amazing awe; to hold it in my hands, to see the brilliant colors of the artwork that means so much to me, to flip through it to see my words and pictures and to feel the light that I hope this holds for others.

I hope it helps and I hope you like it.

We hope to have presale information up within a week.

Book launches October 1st on www.everupward.org, Amazon in March and bookstores in April. We will be celebrating with a book reading and signing on October 4th here in St. Louis click here for invite/registration.

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

Start Again, Not Over: Ever Upward Book Cover Reveal

Stop starting over, start again. I've said these words to clients many times over.

I've reminded myself of these words many times over.

These words have also been at the core of the creation of the book cover of Ever Upward.

At the heart of it all, they are the true spirit and essence of ever upward.

But, this week they have seemed to be significantly powerful. Especially in giving a few of my clients the permission to move forward.

Starting Again Instead

Every time we start over we also attempt to erase us or at least parts of us. I know many of us are struggling to forgive ourselves of our past mistakes or struggles or regrets. Or we wish we had been or done differently in the past. But when we look to erase these parts of our story or completely start over, we don't honor who we are today.

I would not be this happier, healthier, healing person without my past.

I would not be this happier, healthier, healing person without my mistakes.

I would not be this happier, healthier, healing person without the previous unhappy, unhealthy, suffering person I was before.

Therefore, I would not be this happier, healthier, healing person if I had started over.

My work in my ever upward recovery has been in the spirit of starting again.

Putting one foot in front of the other and choosing the best next step.

Not the right step or the perfect step or the reset start over step.

The best start again step.

Ever Upward Book Cover

And true to my life, this was also the case for the cover of my first book. My cover designer, Kristen Ashley designed an initial concept. It was stunning. We fell in love with that first cover. The story behind it was amazingly parallel to my ever upward journey.

It was perfect.

Until, it wasn't.

We couldn't get the rights to the image.

We started again with the amazing help and teamwork of several people who care a lot about me and believe in Ever Upward.

We started again, not over.

Within this starting again, we've developed the best version possible of the cover.

Not right.

Not even perfect.

But, the best version.

Much like my continually healing self.

Because, it is only in owning all the parts of our story; mistakes, struggles and all and practicing our recovery that we become the always growing, the always healing, the ever upward best version of ourselves.

~~~~

So without any further ado...

 
froelker-everupward-cvr-lg.jpg
 

Here is the cover of my first book (yes, there are plans for others, three more actually...for now ;) ).

I hope you love it as much as I do.

I hope you find hope, healing and power within it. I hope you see the struggle and the recovery within it. I hope you sense the brokenness and healing within it. I hope you breathe in the light and love from it.

And, of course don't forget the chance to win a giveaway of a free signed copy of Ever Upward (expected late fall/early winter) and the chance of artwork by the amazing Jen of Daring Happiness!

Blog giveaways

FB giveaways

  • 400th like on Ever Upward's FB – free signed copy of the book

*To read more about my story make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

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

Book Cover Reveal Sneak Peek #2

Here's your 2nd sneak peek of the book cover of

Ever Upward!

 
 

And your reminders for some cool giveaways!

My dear friend and fellow vulnerability warrior Jen at Daring Happiness has lovingly heard my cry for help in building the platform. She is an amazing artist and will be doing a few pieces of art for me to use as giveaways to some of my supporters.

So here are your guidelines ;)

Blog giveaways

FB giveaways

  • 1st share on Ever Upward’s FB of book cover reveal – free signed copy of the book
  • 20th share on FB of the full cover reveal – free signed copy of the book and artwork
  • 400th like on FB – free signed copy of the book

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

Book Cover Reveal Sneak Peek

After much work, effort and help from many people the book cover of Ever Upward is ready! I am so amazed at how it came out. And I hope you all love it as much as I do. I will post the full cover tomorrow some time. Make sure you like the Ever Upward Facebook page and follow here at the blog so you don't miss any updates or giveaways!

My dear friend and fellow vulnerability warrior Jen at Daring Happiness has lovingly heard my cry for help in building the platform. She is an amazing artist and will be doing a few pieces of art for me to use as giveaways to some of my supporters.

So here are your guidelines ;)

Blog giveaways

FB giveaways

  • 1st share on Ever Upward's FB of book cover reveal - free signed copy of the book
  • 20th share on FB of the reveal - free signed copy of the book and artwork
  • 400th like on FB - free signed copy of the book

And, here is your first sneak peek:

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 Tablespoon of Shame

Many say our generations have been raised very differently. Some say that our previous generations were raised with humility at the core. This message that you aren't that special and you must work to prove your worthiness, maybe even to the point of perfection. This message was especially delivered with that sense that you must appear perfect, especially to everyone on the outside.

Then we have some saying that our newer generations are being raised one of two ways:

  • to think we are all too special thus leading us to this sense of entitlement on one extreme, maybe even to the point of laziness and a lack of responsibility.
  • Then the other extreme, this sense of needing to always be the best at any and everything, leading us to having an identity of only accomplishments, hence even more perfectionism.

I am not here to share the research or to even prove or disprove either argument. And, I am not going to write about parenting today. However, as I work with clients every day, especially through the shame resilience work of The Daring Way™, and I continue to work on my own recovery, I am seeing a few patterns that seem to be haunting many of us today.

 
 

With the previous generation this message of humility seems to often have been handed down with a tablespoon of shame. This idea that you aren't that special. You must prove yourself; you must be perfect even.

What I see in my office with clients today are people trying to figure out what to do with this sense of unworthiness that this tablespoon of shame has left them with. This sense of never being enough. This idea that unless I am perfect, unless I prove myself, I am unworthy of love and belonging; because, I am not that special.

With the newer generations and the message that we are all really special, still taught with a tablespoon of shame as it is directly tied to self worth, I see clients who are feeling extremely lost.

So scared to make a decision, maybe even scared of the work required of whatever decision they finally make. The fear of the responsibility because if they do make a mistake then they are handed the message, with that tablespoon of shame, that they are no longer special at all.

Or the other side, the side of always having to be the best; to have the ultimate college application or resume. That perfectionist, only born out of that tablespoon of shame, accomplished list rather than a soul or person. Because, I am only special because of what I can do or what I have accomplished.

I am finding that they too are very lost. Lost in finding their authentic truth. Lost in being able to trust themselves. Lost in knowing who they really want to be, especially outside of their accomplishments.

All three groups, at least what I see in my office on a daily basis, are left with this sense of never being enough and yet this sense of having to be everything. And, this damn tablespoon of shame that seems to haunt them relentlessly. Making it all tied to their sense of love, belonging and worthiness.

We are all worthy. We are all lovable. We all belong.

And, we are all worthy of love and belonging.

However, I think, this tablespoon of shame, leaves many of us never believing the above statements.

Technically we are supposed to get this sense of love and belonging from our family of origin but sometimes they just don't have it to give, maybe because they were never taught or shown it or because life has just been that difficult. Hopefully then we get it from our social and peer groups or even school or work settings.

For me, with where my life is, my tablespoon of shame is typically delivered from our culture and, unfortunately, even from some loved ones.

It is delivered in those messages that try to dim my light and shame my story.

The complete mis-education and misunderstanding of infertility.

The invalidation of the lifelong costs and losses of infertility.

The judgments on me for not choosing adoption and accepting a childfree but childfull life.

The denial of my story because it is too difficult or uncomfortable to hear.

No matter the tablespoon of shame in our lives, this sense of love and belonging can still be felt by all of us. It is in all of the daily practices we must choose in order to find this for ourselves; to find it within ourselves. Those daily practices of connection, compassion, brave vulnerability and self care. For me, it has been the work that I have learned from Brené Brown's research combined with everything I have learned working in this field for the last 14 years.

It is recovery.

It is living the wholehearted life. It is practicing happy to be happy. It is being authentic. It is being brave. It is being vulnerable.

It is in owning it all.

No matter which group we may identify with above, I think our answer through it to our happier and healthier selves is in our practice, fight and work in our own recoveries in life.

It is in owning all the parts of our stories.

It is in leaving out that tablespoon of shame in our recipe for an ever upward life.

*To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

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

The Dates Seared into Us

I am a numbers person. No, not the add, subtract, divide and multiply numbers kind of person (just ask my accountant husband).

The kind of numbers person who remembers dates, phone numbers and birthdays pretty well and for a very long time. I have clients' phone numbers committed to memory, for no reason, as I no longer work with them and my cell phone remembers them for me. I also usually, and very easily, remember birth dates of friends, family and all the chosen children in my life.

I also have many dates throughout the year that are forever seared into my very being.

I have always known the power of the dates that will haunt us forever as I often remind my clients of this. It is not uncommon that we begin to struggle some; anxiety is higher, depression is heavier or we just start to feel off and, then we stop to think of the date, or the time of year, and are reminded of that loss, trauma or tragedy that happened way back when.

I too have these kinds of dates seared into my heart and into my soul. My soul scars that never go away and in some ways haunt me all throughout the year.

August 25th, 1994 ~ My first back surgery.

June 19th, 1997 ~ My second back surgery.

December 28th, 2011 ~ The first phone call that stopped our lives, Michelle, our surrogate, was not pregnant.

April 16th, 2012 ~ The soul crushing and clarity providing phone call that our second, and last, embryo transfer did not take; Michelle was never going to be pregnant with our child.

June 26th, 2012 ~ The day we made another impossible decision to let go of our Maddie. The day of my true rock bottom.

 
 

August 31st, 2012 ~ What would have been the first birthday of our two embryos transferred in the first round of IVF.

 
 

December 21st, 2012 ~ What would have been the first birthday of our last embryo transferred in the second, and last, round of IVF.

June 17th, 2013 ~ The birth of Tipton, our chosen family's wonderful surprise, our bittersweet reminder that is outweighed by the the love we have for another of our chosen children.

 
 

I wish I could have been better prepared by the infertility blogs, message boards and even doctors that these dates never leave us.

Especially, the birthdays of our never meant to be babies, at least never meant to be in our arms on this physical earth.

They are forever, for better or worse, seared in my head, on my heart and within my soul.

Today, I am able to say for the better.

And, through the work of my recovery I am beginning to have more of the magical, full of love, moments seared into every piece of me.

Last night, on June 22nd, 2014, I publicly declared the private decision I was finally able to make for myself on May 6th, 2014.

 
 

I was baptized.

Just a few days shy of my rock bottom when we lost Maddie 2 years ago, after surviving IVF and losing 3 babies, I walked into the waters of baptism last night a renewed, a redefined and a continually healing woman.

I walked into those waters with a scarred but never closed heart and soul and, with my three babies watching from above.

On May 6th, my prayer that Jesus would show His love to me in a way I could finally understand, embrace and accept was answered. As I have written before, there is nothing like being a mental health therapist for over 14 years who has also struggled with infertility to make one doubt God and faith. But, what I realized on May 6th, is that I can still doubt and question. I can even still hold feelings of anger and feel like my life hasn't been fair.

And yet, I can still believe.

Doubt, questions, anger and all.

Wonder.

I can believe in His love for me. I can trust His plan for me. I can live my life knowing the ending of my story will be His way, whether or not I get to know it on this side of eternity. I can honor that He will take this life and let it shine.

My heart is full. My soul is continuing to heal. My ever upward wonder grows.

Seared dates, soul scars and all.

And, that this wonder, my wonder, is exactly what makes it faith.

*To read more about my seared dates 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

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

Hopefully the First of Many

My first television interview on the book and blog. So thankful that Great Day St. Louis on KMOV was willing to help me break the silence.

 
 

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

This post included in Amateur Nester's Link Up.