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.

Permissions for Mother's and Father's Day

If I have learned anything throughout my own infertility journey and recovery I have learned that we are all parents. But most likely, we will be the men and women who feel invisible these months as Mother’s and Father’s Day are upon us again. This will be my third Mother’s Day since ending our infertility journey without the desired result of children. This Mother's Day, I will not be woken up at the crack of dawn by my little ones surprising me with handmade cards and pancakes in bed. I will not get a bouquet of dandelions picked from the yard. I will not be acknowledged by the majority of people in my life as today being any different than any other day.

My previous Mother’s Day mornings were not that much unlike every other day. I was woken early by Gertie's growling tummy, Gracie's cold nose and Bosco's gentle snoring. I spent the day with my furry children and my husband, not unlike any other regular Sunday but all the while knowing that Mother's Day will be bittersweet for me the rest of my life.

This Mother’s Day my husband, Chad, and I are skipping town for a long weekend trip to spend time together in the beauty of nature (and also a spa of course). My goal is to stay off social media and I will definitely be staying away from children friendly activities because this year I want to really take care of myself; honoring all the complicated gray of the infertility and loss journey.

I will spend the day allowing myself to feel the anger at how unfair it can feel that I won't ever get the joy of my children making this day all about me. I will spend my day allowing myself to feel the sadness at the lifelong costs and losses of infertility. I will spend the day at peace with my recovery and my work in accepting a childfull life. I will spend the day happy with my enough moments, my struggles and my light.

I will spend the day thinking of those three tiny souls in heaven never meant to bloom here.

 
 

And, I will honor myself this day because I am a mother to many.

I will remind myself, as I want to remind all the mothers and fathers out there, to take care of ourselves, especially this Mother’s and Father’s Day. Make sure you receive care, from your loved ones and from yourself, because it is only through filling ourselves up that we can truly give and care for others.

Never to forget the fathers of course, I would like to pass along a message you simply cannot escape from when it comes to me, no matter what version of a father you are.

Talk about it.

Ask for help.

Break your silence.

And, if it counts for anything, I give you all permission to not have to be the ever strong husband.

I wish I had been able to communicate this more clearly to Chad as we were going through our own infertility journey. To be able to assure him that he didn't always have to be the ever strong man, never showing too much emotion and being stoically strong while I lost my sanity.

Even though it may be scary at first for us to see this authentic vulnerability from men, to actually see behind the armor of a man's strength, is truly what we want and need from our partners. And, even though this is counter intuitive to how you have been raised and what our culture says, I believe this authentic vulnerability from men is what will make marriages and each of us happier and healthier versions of ourselves.

Especially as you are fighting through infertility and loss and even more so after, no matter your ending.

I hope you get through these days together, turning towards one another and honoring the feelings of all the feels. I am assuming time helps this day get easier eventually, in the meantime do the work, speak your story and rise ever upward.

~~~

This post is a combination of two older posts submitted to the incredible Share Newsletter this month. Don't forget when you purchase Ever Upward through our online store, $5 of the purchase price goes to support Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support.

The Completeness of Just the Beginning

 
 

On Friday I was surprised by an email from the Barnes & Noble in Saint Louis where I will be doing my first book signing with this incredible picture! There she is, my baby, on the shelves of an actual bookstore.

I literally gasped with tears of joy.

As I have come to expect of life, my life especially, there will always be joy right along with the struggle.

That night Chad and I attended our first class of a marriage seminar our church offered. I had requested to not be seated with couples who had young children for obvious reasons. We sat down and directly across from me was a woman who was about 6 months pregnant.

I looked at Chad and whispered, "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Yep, I totally said that in church.

Then we learned the couple next to us was also expecting, 11 weeks along.

I took a breath, held back the tears, looked up, said a quiet prayer and said out loud, "Challenge accepted."

It was a great first class, I learned so much about what a healthy, biblical marriage looks like. I also gained a better understanding of Ephesians 5; an understanding where I do not gag on the word submit.

Class ended and I knew I had to face the pregnant women again tomorrow and I would choose to be okay. When I turned my phone back on I was notified that the Thunderclap campaign went through. Thank God! Of course you can still sign up but since we had 100 people pledge a post it means that over 91,000 people will be notified of the Ever Upward launch on April 7th. When I turned my phone back on, I also was able to read one of the most amazing reviews someone had posted on Amazon!

The dark with the light, the joy with the struggle; this is what you get when you choose to live an engaged, wholehearted courageous life. 

And it is worth every single second.

Saturday night Chad, my parents and my friend Lindsay ventured to the bookstore to see Ever Upward in person. We wandered together at first trying to find that beautiful orange breakaway monarch on the cover but eventually we split up.

"I found it!"

I had shouted way too loud for a bookstore.

I stood there by myself for just a few seconds in this moment of awe; overwhelmed by a completeness and yet, the sense that this is really just being the beginning.

 
 

I felt proud. I felt accomplished. I felt happy. I felt deserving. I felt excited.

In that moment I allowed myself to feel all the goodness.

 
 

But, along with all that goodness also comes the reminder of the journey I had to survive to get here, the losses that have forever scarred my heart and the part of me that will always be different.

I am learning this journey never ends. I will never be complete or at the end of it; or at least in how I expected. It will only be through my own work and recovery, through my connections and relationships and through my faith that I am okay.

Just as I sang in church today, "I stand in Him complete." And so, even though I may never feel the completeness of finality, I know I can find it in Him. I know He has this; just as He has Maddie and my three never to be babies.

I know in Him I rise ever upward and therefore this is just the beginning.

~~~~

I am so close to hitting 50 reviews on Amazon before the April 7th launch. If you have read Ever Upward please consider doing a review. Just click the Kindle version of the book, click the customer review link under the title, then click write my own review.

You may also notice I have added a tab in the menu. If you are interested in the all natural health and wellness supplements I personally take and recommend to my clients you can check out more info there.

Guest Post: For Better or For Worse

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 new friend Chelsea over at Starbucks, Peace and the Pursuit of a Baby. I absolutely love this guest piece she has written for me! Infertility can having amazing or awful consequences on our relationships, we must talk about this! Make sure to follow Chelsea's blog for amazing Friday laughs and her incredible light of faith she shines on this world. Please also send her love, light and prayers as her and her husband are enduring another loss right now.

~~~~

Infertility is hard. Who’s with me? The battle is filled with highs and lows, moments you think you’re beating it and then moments your world seems to come crashing down. My journey through infertility has brought us through a PCOS diagnosis, 6 Clomid cycles, several IUI + letrozole cycles, 4 IVF cycles (2 fresh and 2 frozen) and 2 miscarriages. As I look back at this blur of years, I realize that other than my faith, the only consist part of my journey has been that my husband Josh has been with me throughout it all.

In Justine’s book Ever Upward, she says “Marriages and partnerships, just like relationships, will either evolve and flourish or wither and die in times of trauma and hardships.” How true is that? All relationships in your life will be challenged when you are struggling with infertility, but the one that can take the greatest beating is your marriage. Josh and I will be married for 10 years this July and as we march through this war, I am constantly reminded that we made a promise that we would be together “for better or for worse”. Truth is, infertility feels like a big unanticipated dose of “for worse”. Miscarriages, brutal surgeries, insane amounts of medicine, impressively intense mood swings – all of these things add up and wham, hit your marriage with challenges, making communication critical.

But here’s the thing I have continued to learn as we fight – this relationship is the most important one to protect and that because we have each other, we are not alone. Can I encourage you today to remember that your marriage deserves even more attention than your infertility? I have been guilty of focusing so much on treatments and how I feel, that my communication skills become lack luster. But when Josh and I are in a good groove, communicating openly, making time for one another, listening and attempting to love each other with one another’s Love Language, the battle, as hard as it is, seems a whole lot easier.

Having a baby isn’t going to make a marriage magically all better. In fact, from what I have heard, it makes it even harder. Becoming parents isn’t going to make you click more, connect deeper, fit into your group of friends better. You have to start with a solid foundation before you add to it. This is a challenge because your spouse can be the easiest person to take all your emotions out on. After a long day of feeling brutally run down from hormones, I want to shut down, hold up, snap and demand that Josh matches my mood. Nights like this are rarely a highlight of the week because communication is messy and I fall into the rut of someone held captive by her swinging emotions. Even worse, sometimes I use my medicine as an excuse to be impatient or demanding or cranky. Not okay.

If you are struggling to figure out how to reconnect with your spouse, I want to commend you for knowing that something is off. As soon as we are aware that there is something we want to work on, it becomes easier to work towards a solution. Communication is the best way to ensure a relationship is successful – and communication doesn’t mean a whole lot of yelling and “I always …. you never..”’s

Justine shares in her book some great ways to reignite the spark by having monthly date nights, an idea I love! It’s so great to focus on each other and date again. Perhaps you are a little stalled for conversation - grab some starter questions easily found on the internet. Open yourself up to being open and honest about how you are handling this road. It’s a vulnerable place, there may be tears, there may be questions, but it’s so worth it.

Don’t forget to laugh together and respect one another’s emotions. If you are like us and you have a marriage founded on your faith in Christ, Casting Crowns + Focused on the Family recently offered a great series, 28 Days to a Thriving Marriage, which is an emailed devotional that can challenge and inspire you and your spouse to move closer together.

When you are in a funk, remind yourself that you married your spouse because you wanted to spend forever with them, not because you wanted to procreate with them. Infertility is a battle, adoption can be tough, and choosing to live a childfree life is hard. But your spouse? They are likely feeling the same things as you, even if they don’t share it as often. Reignite that spark and let your love flag fly.

 
 

I love to connect with new readers and friends! Stop by my blog at trialsbringjoy.com or let’s connect on Instagram at @chels819. Can’t wait to “meet” you!