The Grief of What Could Have Been

For the past four weeks 14 incredible women have shared their stories and their babies as part of the Footprints Blog Tour in honor National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. To read all their amazing posts please click here. Today I am proud to share mine.

Please join us tomorrow night, October 15th, at 7pm in the Wave of Light in honor of all the babies gone too soon. And, please share this video far and wide, in it the stigma will be shattered, our hearts healed a bit more and our babies honored.

 
 

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. 

Don't Talk About the Baby: The Missed Goal

 We only have 4 more days in the final funding campaign for the documentary Don't Talk About the Baby. In support of the campaign Chad and I wrote companion posts and here is mine (you can read his

here

). Please share far and wide and contribute to the film if you can. Thank you!

The Missed Goal

 
 

I sit on the hard bench in the warm sun watching two of our chosen children run the field in the 5 year old soccer game. Lane is running down the field with his arms pumping with a might I’ve never seen before. His little brother Evan trails behind the whole team seeming a bit lost as he is technically a year too young to be playing. Both of them smile the whole game shining pure joy everywhere.

I snap a few pictures with my nice camera to be able to send to my friend Sam later that day. I enjoy watching the boys play for an hour but am also slightly distracted. We attend many of their events; games, concerts and plays. It is an honor and joy to be such an active part of their lives, it is something I am beyond thankful to their parents, our friends, for letting us be.

But there are always the whispers in my heart.

They would have turned four years old later this summer and early fall.

Click here to continue reading.

Getting Back to Ourselves

Today's #MoreThan1in8 words are from author Jen Noonan. Jen is the author of In Due Time, a book I cannot wait to read myself (along with the other twenty or so books in my ridiculous nightstand pile). Jen's voice in the infertility and loss community is one I am so thankful for! ~~~

Getting Back to Ourselves

National Infertility Awareness Week is a bittersweet time for me personally. It is an optimistic time when hundreds of thousands of us unite to share our stories, support one another, and advocate on behalf of our brothers and sisters. It warms my heart watching and participating in breaking the silence of a physically and emotionally debilitating disease that still has stigma attached to it.

However, it is also the week that I said goodbye to my incredibly sought after baby. Almost four years ago I walked into a hospital ultrasound room, expecting to hear my thirteen week old baby’s heartbeat.

Expecting to be told that he or she was healthy.

Expecting to see a yawn, a smile, or a hand or leg movement.

When I asked “Is he asleep?” I never expected to be told “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

Nothing prepares a mother to hear those words.

Nothing.

It shattered my world.

I shook. I cried. I screamed in anger.

I worried. I became depressed. I couldn’t eat.

Throughout this life changing event, I had the support of a fellow 1 in 8. Actually, several of the 1 in 8. They offered me comfort, telling me it had happened to them.

That I was not alone.

That they would walk me through the procedure I was about to have. That it would get better. That my heart would not heal entirely, but I would feel better.

And things have gotten better.

The pain has not disappeared entirely, but it has lessened.

Still, every single year that passes, I remember how old my unborn child would have been. I remember when I lost him or her, and I remember his or her due date.

Always.

I hear songs with lyrics that remind me of a life that was never to be. And I cry. Sometimes the tears take a while to stop.

But the pain has lessened.

When I think of the phrase “More than 1 in 8,” I know that we are not just our diagnosis. Or we are not just our lost babies. Or we are not just whatever has happened to us.

There is so much more to each and every one of us, and we sometimes forget this. The pain of infertility and loss is so all encompassing that we often lose ourselves in it. We forget that we’re more than that. We forget that we used to take pleasure in everyday activities. And by getting back to ourselves, our hearts begin to crack open, bit by bit.

I am more than 1 in 8. I am an adventurous soon to be 40 something, who has traveled the globe. I am a dedicated friend who consistently lends an ear to those who need support. I am a passionate advocate of all things infertility related. I am a scrapbooker who enjoys taking photos and putting memories to paper. I am a runner and practitioner of yoga and meditation.

I am so much more.

We are ALL more than 1 in 8.

 
jenno.jpg
 

I Am Much, Much More

Courtney's beautiful family picture and gut wrenching story hit my inbox last week as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project. She took me to my knees, both in empathetic pain and in gratitude of her bravery in sharing her story. And so, I asked her if I could share it publicly here with you all. Recently I have found another reason I was chosen to be the mother to my babies, even if only from afar. It seems I have a gift for working with people through not only infertility but also secondary infertility and pregnancy after loss. I don't know what it is as it is hard to even put into words. It is a space I can hold, a love I can share, a permission I somehow can give.

This work is life changing, it is some of the most important work I have ever done.

Here is Courtney's incredible story, make sure to check out her blog at Hope Sweet Hope.

~~~

I am more than 1 in 8.

I much more than 1 in 8.

I am a fighter. A survivor. A mother.

I have been through hell and back- yet I stand tall. My journey to becoming a mother has been heartbreaking and tragic. I have been let down by my body time and time again, yet I stay determined.

In 2011 we went through our first IVF attempt. 2 embryos were implanted. Success. We got pregnant.

Sitting on top of the world I remember feeling lucky and grateful. It only took us one try. IVF does a number to your mind and body and I certainly couldn't imagine doing multiple rounds.

A couple weeks after we got the good news we found out we were expecting twins. We were overjoyed to say the least. How lucky are we!? We tried and tried for two years to get pregnant and now that we are pregnant we get TWO! We were thrilled.

A couple weeks later is when our lives changed forever. I went in for a routine ultrasound. While making small talk with my favorite ultrasound tech I remember looking up and seeing a surprised look on her face.

"Oh my...there's three babies in here."

My heart started beating rapidly. Three!? Come again!? How?? I was speechless.

The room was silent and she was looking intensely at the sonogram. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped.

"Four. There's four babies."

I immediately told her to stop counting. Shock is putting it lightly. How in the hell was I pregnant with four babies!? How in the hell would a whole 5'1" of me carry four babies!? Deep down, I knew this wasn't good.

Hours later my doctor called me. Carrying these babies wouldn't be an option. A selective termination was what he recommended and over the course of a few weeks my husband and I painfully agreed.

We were pregnant with four babies; A, B, C and D. A & B shared a sac and didn't appear healthy. C was by itself. D was by itself however- with very low fluid. We lost D by miscarriage a few days before Christmas.

The termination is hard to talk about. I remember every single second of that day. It is, and will always, be the worst day of my life. We terminated A & B while giving Baby C the best chance of survival.

I talk about my pregnancy in my blog, Hope Sweet Hope. My pregnancy was brutal. I was on bed rest for the entire pregnancy and on June 19, 2012, we welcomed a healthy, happy baby...Olivia Hope.

Since becoming a Mom I have made it a point to take too many pictures, kiss her too many times, brag about her often, and make every moment bigger and better than the last. I have NOT ONCE taken for granted that I am a Mom.

When I was pregnant with Olivia I always said I wouldn't do it again. I was petrified of being pregnant. But once I held her tiny self I made her a promise that I would do everything I could to bring her a sibling.

And that leads us to today. We decided before her first birthday to start IVF for Baby #2. We were naive in thinking that getting pregnant was the easy part. I mean, after all- it did only take one try to get pregnant with Olivia.

So far we have tried for 2 straight years while taking this past year off due to unknown health issues.

In two years I feel I have lost count in the amount of IVF attempts. I have lost count in the number of embryos we have frozen. I have lost count in the amount of injections, pills, blood draws. What I thought would be easy has turned into a nightmare.

So far, during my entire infertility journey, I have lost 5 innocent souls. 2 miscarriages and 3 selective terminations. Each loss has brought me to my knees. Each loss has rocked my faith. Each loss has brought heartache, anger and confusion.

Each loss has taken a piece of my heart.

I have sat up many of nights praying to whoever is there to listen. I've cried. I've screamed. I've begged. I've wondered time and time again what I've done wrong. What we've done wrong. I've looked for signs, begged for signs.

Not only has my body failed me getting pregnant naturally, my body has failed holding on to my babies.

Do you know how much of a failure that makes one feel?

Because I have one child, people don't understand why I don't just give up. Why I'm not "grateful" for one child. When I miscarry I get comments like, "well, that just means the baby wasn't healthy"...or...."it just wasn't meant to be."

The comments are brutal. Relationships with friends and family members have been tested.

I feel an immense pressure to get pregnant with #2. I've always wanted multiple children. I would like to complete my family. Most of all, I would like a sibling for my child. I had 3 siblings and I can't imagine life without every single one of them.

I won't always be here for my daughter. My husband won't always be here. There will come a time that my daughter won't have her parents...so it's important to us that we give her the gift of being a big sister.

Infertility is brutal. The struggle is real and unless you've gone through it you will never fully understand it. Infertility has changed my life.

But, infertility doesn't define me. Being a Mom defines me.

I am much, much more than 1 in 8.

 
Courtney

Courtney

 

What Infertility Did to Me

When these words were shared as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project I knew I needed more from Meaghan over at My Beautiful Crazy.

The motherhood dream hasn’t happened (and may not), but it isn’t the only one I’ve got; isn’t the one that makes me more valuable, more useful or more ME.

Today I am happy to share with you one of her a posts I think embodies rising Ever Upward.

~~~

It…

hurt me.

scared me.

threatened me.

scarred me.

broke my heart.

tore at my spirit.

uncovered my limits.

forced me to dig deep.

helped me understand.

guided me to find strength.

restored my compassion.

showed my courage.

inspired grace.

encouraged joy.

It made me…more ME.

I’m coming to believe the healed scars from our struggles become the most beautiful, interesting parts of our spirit. Some of the things we brave, endure and survive are awful and they make us feel awful (understandably so), but we can twist it…if we want to. We can allow them to make us better, more useful and freer than we have ever been.

 
Meaghan
Meaghan
 

~~~

I will be accepting submissions for the #MoreThan1in8 project through this weekend. Please share your story, show your face and end the silence of infertility.

When we speak, we thrive.

The Magic Answer

I don't think there is any better way to honor ourselves, our story and our babies than to speak our truth and tell the world. And so, I am honored to share Jana's story with you today as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project.. I met Jana through my publisher for Ever Upward, Morgan James Publishing. It did not take long into our conversation for us to learn that we are fellow warriors in this battle of infertility. Our stories very different and yet so much the same, especially in the lifelong consequences of infertility and loss. Through my advocacy work the last few years a special place has grown in my heart for those  struggling with secondary infertility. Jana's brave voice  and story are very important in our community. Make sure you check out her blog, Jana Says.

~~~

The Magic Answer

When I was a kid, I knew three things for sure: I was going to be either a writer or a lawyer, I was going to live in Washington DC, and I was going to have 2 kids.

None of those happened.

And while I can reconcile the first two, the last, well, I struggle with that.

A lot.

It’s a hard thing to accept when you make a concrete plan for your life and it doesn’t turn out that way. Especially not something as emotional as having kids. Because no one who wants kids grows up, or enters childbearing years, thinking they won’t be able to have them.

It’s a huge kick in the face when it turns out that way, though.

At least it was for me.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do have one child. She’s 9. Every day, I feel blessed and honored that I get to be her mom (even on the days I wish she still took 3 hour naps). And when I was pregnant with her, I never thought she’d be an only child. I figured that since it was so easy to get pregnant the first time, it’d be just as easy to do it again when we felt ready.

Except it wasn’t.

It took 7 years to get pregnant again. And then I miscarried roughly 2 weeks after I found out (in fact, today, April 15 was the one year anniversary of my miscarriage).  And then there were the unsuccessful IUI treatments that followed that summer. And we won’t even talk about adoption because for my family, it’s not an option and also, it’s not necessarily the solution.

I spent a good part of last year wondering why I was being punished and not allowed to have another baby. And all the questions started. What did I do wrong? Am I not a good enough mother to the one I have? Did I do something awful I don’t know about and this is karma coming to get me? Is my body a failure? Am I a failure?

Dammit if I didn’t want answers. I don’t know how many hours of sleep I lost or how many productive days flew out the window searching for answers that, deep down, I knew would never come.

Until one day, they did. And I might not like the answer but it’s all I’ve got and it’s what I’ve learned to live with.

What is the magical answer?

“That’s just how it is.”

That’s just how it is. Vague yet specific. Helpful yet not helpful at all. It does nothing but does everything. It lets me hurt yet lets me heal. Because I’ll never truly know why I miscarried or why the IUI treatments didn’t work or why my body won’t let me be pregnant again. My husband can’t tell me why. Doctors can’t tell me why. God can’t tell me why.

There is no why.

There’s only acceptance.

“That’s just how it is.”

And while I don’t like having to accept my infertility, I know it’s something I have to do. Because without accepting it, I’ll never be able to move on.

Moving on doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. It doesn’t mean I don’t mourn what I’ve lost. But it gives me permission to own my feelings, whatever they may be. It gives me permission to always feel that my family is incomplete. It gives me permission to stop blaming myself every day. It gives me permission to forgive myself losing the pregnancy and not being able to have another one.

 
Jana
Jana
 

It gives me permission to be content with what I’ve been given.

While I’ll always feel the void left by my miscarriage and unsuccessful IUI treatments, I’m grateful for what those babies did for me. They’ve made me a stronger person, they’ve made me a better mother to the child I have with me, and they’ve given me new perspective on life. I appreciate the small and mundane more than I did before. I appreciate what I do have in a way I didn’t think possible.

That’s their legacy.

By sharing my story, that’s their legacy, too.

And for those who don’t understand, well.

That’s just how it is.

Petite Post: Loving Well and Fully in Honor of Them

I have found a special love, and talent for those in the battle of secondary infertility and those in the midst of pregnancy after loss. The other day I had an aha with a client coping with pregnancy after loss. One of the biggest misconceptions of the trying to conceive, infertility and loss community is that a healthy pregnancy is our cure all. I see some of the hardest struggle during this time, which if you think about it, is not that surprising. We've already had the worst case scenario happen, we already know that not everything always turns out. A healthy pregnancy, although amazing and happy, is also filled with anxiety, worry and, if we aren't careful, all consuming fear.

What I am especially seeing in my office is the difficulty for mom to allow herself to attach and fully love the growing baby in her belly,

Because what if it isn't okay? What if I lose it?

To which I say,

Your children before this, although you may have never had the blessing to meet them, made you the mother you are today. You love this baby well because of them. You love this baby fully in honor of the ones who made you a mother to begin with.

The complicated gray of afraid and brave all at once my fellow warriors, loving well and loving fully is what our children deserve, it is also what we deserve.

 
we-love-well-because-of-them-we-love-fully-in-honor-of-them-they-made-us-mothers.png
 

~~~

Don't Talk About the Baby

Please share and support (if you can, every $5 helps) the film Don't Talk About the Baby, our all or nothing campaign is ending soon.

 
 

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!!

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!

Guest Post: The Gift of Infertility

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 I am beyond grateful to share a piece by Sophia's Story. In the truest sense of the words, I have found a true fellow warrior in Sophia's Story. Her courage to share her love and loss of Sophia and to keep the love and spirit alive is a message at the heart of Ever Upward. We must talk about our children, our losses; our loves. And, we ask you, our loved ones, to also talk and speak of our angels. Through our spoken words we can continue to heal and choose how we are forever changed by them. We not only educate but we can heal together and rise ever upward.

~~~~

The Gift of Infertility

Holding my tiny baby, born at twenty weeks, my heart melted with love for her despite her imminent death lurking from the depths of my worst nightmares. Her red skin fragile under the cotton blanket, I was too afraid to move her, to hurt her, to let her go. Gingerly passing her back and forth with my husband, careful to support her apple-sized head and to keep her warmly swaddled in the blue and pink polka-dots, we spent nearly ninety beautiful minutes with Sophia before she was gone. Despite being left with nothing but a silver heart full of ashes, her presence lingers each day in my thoughts, my actions, my words. She dances in my mind, reminding me of who I am and where I have been.

We were assured by doctors that Sophia’s genetic condition, while largely unknown, was a fluke. Others encouraged us to try again. We did—twice. We lost babies—twice. After the second loss, I thought oh no, not again! After the third, I wanted to kill the Universe, however one goes about doing that.

We were begrudgingly catapulted into the “recurrent pregnancy loss” club. Unbeknownst to me in a previously carefree life, this also meant we joined the ranks of infertility. We were like other couples wanting children who struggled; nonetheless, we were different. We could get pregnant. It was sustaining a pregnancy that felt momentous, impossible, unattainable.

With each loss, waves of grief ebbed and flowed. Some days I felt “normal”. Most days I felt alone. Many days I sobbed. Rare days I laughed as though sadness were nothing but a despondent affliction. Through the pain, tears, and desperate clinging to my husband--who was the only one who understood me now--I wrote. I shared. I connected with men and women whose lives, completely unknown to me, had inexplicably bumped into mine through our shared loss experiences. Having no fear, other than the world losing Sophia’s memory, I relayed her entire life, putting in details that I should have found too private to impart.

The bonds I have made with strangers are as tight as connections with people I have known for years. The power of empathy, heightened by the abysmal depth of my grief, opened my senses to feeling what others feel, sensing what others sense, and connecting to the community in unfathomable ways. People, in their own time and their own way, feel safe to share their stories with me. People trust me. And, hopefully, people find a sense of comfort from me.

Recently, on my last day of a volunteer job, I sat back-to-back with a coworker. We worked silently at our computers, until she made a fleeting comment about my blog. She and I had rarely spoken over the course of nine months, sharing pleasant greetings and cordial smiles. On this day we sat together, alone, in a small furniture-stuffed office. Word passed throughout the staff of my story; others who knew of her strife shared my writings in an earnest effort to ease her grief. Behind her occasional hellos, soft smiles, and fleeting eyes, her life’s journey was a mystery to me.

 
the-greatest-gift-of-my-life.png
 

Somewhere in her soul, she sensed a rare chance to reach out and expose what she had so carefully hidden away, revealing a miscarriage after going through infertility treatments. My cheeks released their tension, the friendly grin fading into a grimace of concern.  My condolences ended with: “it is a lonely journey, but you are never alone.” She replied, “You’re right, I do feel so lonely.” A pause allowed for her face to soften. “But I never thought how I am not actually alone.” For my words she shed a tear, wiped it quickly away, and hugged me.

Four years ago, holding our little baby wrapped so tenderly in polka-dots, I never dreamed of what Sophia’s short life would afford me. I never dreamed I would break out of my introverted shell and reveal profoundly personal parts of my journey with whoever will listen. I never dreamed I would find an inconceivable pride for helping humanity in a way that only survivors can. Sophia is our loss, but more importantly she is my inspiration to live compassionately, to empathize, and to reach out to as many people as possible. Sophia is the greatest gift of my life.

Guest Blog: Surviving & Living After Infertility by My Perfect Breakdown

The friendships I have found and nourished over the last year and a half of blogging have literally changed my life and also been a huge part of my recovery. I have reached out to several friends in hopes they would be willing to write guest posts for me these next three months while I build momentum up for the bookstore release of Ever Upward on April 7th. Here is the first from my dear friend over at My Perfect Breakdown. Our stories nothing alike and yet very much the same. I feel lucky and so grateful to have her in my life as she challenges me, helps me grow and learn and frankly just loves and supports me. As I hope I do for her also. The universe was on our side back in October when we both happened to be in NYC at the same time and I was able to meet her and Mr. MPB for a drink. Thirty minutes of my life that I will forever cherish. Please enjoy and make sure to check out her incredible journey that she shares on her blog.

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One thing I’ve learned from the infertility blogging community is that regardless of your specific infertility journey, it is all consuming and willcompletely and utterly suck!

Once part of this exclusive and horrible club, our lives completely change and everything we do is impacted.  And, I assume always will be.  Our lives become consumed by:

our attempts,

our scheduled procreation sex,

our two weeks waits,

our new language spoken almost entirely in acronyms (TWW, FRER, AF, CD, PIO, etc.),

our failures,

our hopes,

our breakdowns,

our dreams,

our soul crushing losses,

our medical appointments and procedures that take over our calendars.

Very quickly our lives shift from that of our relatively carefree lives we had innocently grown accustomed to, and become that a of stranger walking around in our bodies while we are held captive and forced to watch and experience the trauma of never seeing two pink lines, or waiting for miscarriages to occur, or watching our babies slowly die.

Slowly we start to become estranged to our friends, our family and most importantly ourselves.  Usually we still resemble ourselves from the outside (even when the infertility treatments cause us to gain very much unwanted weight).  Yet, if you peel back the layers, we and some of our closest friends, know that we are no longer the same person.  We walk around faking it.  We spend countless hours hiding our hurt.  We avoid potential triggers to the very best of our ability.  We cringe at the sight of a pregnancy announcement. We find ourselves crying in the bathroom at family events or while driving to a meeting.  Simply, we hurt.  We make decisions which will forever alter our lives and those of our children.  The hurt runs deep and it touches into the deepest part of our soul.

We all dream of the elusive take-home baby.  We all know the happy ending stories, where after years of struggles, losses, and financial hardships, the stars align and it finally works.  We dream and we hope that one day our stars will align.

But, not all of us will get that miracle rainbow baby.  For some of us, one day, we realize that we are reaching our tipping point.  Suddenly we want to stand up and scream:

ENOUGH!  Emotionally, physically and/or financially, a person can only take so much.  And I have reached my enough!  I have reached the end of my rope.  I either step off the crazy train and start focusing on my physical and mental health recovery, or I risk losing myself completely on a ride that has spun completely out of control.

So, what happens when we step off the train?  What do we do when we reach our enough?  How do we move from the assumed family to something completely different and unknown and often scary?  How do we start to reclaim our lives and begin to live again?  How do we hold onto our lost dreams and our lost children?  How do we let go of the hurt that is seared into our souls?  How do we move on to lead a meaningful life when our little ones are forever missing?

Some of us decide that our family will be childfree, yet childfull (i.e. Justine and Chad).  Some of us decide to pursue our family through adoption (i.e. Mr. MPB and I).  Yet, as strange as it may sound, I don’t believe the actual route we choose to create our chosen family is the important part of moving on and learning to live again after the hurt of infertility and the scars of lost babies.

The important pieces of moving on in a healthy way comes from our work to recover and reclaim our lives.  This means, we choose to focus on our recovery and to put in the effort required to learn to live in a very different way than our preconceived ideas ever imagined. We have to choose to work daily to survive and even triumph with what life has offered us.

So, how do I do it?

I work to heal the gaping holes left seared into my soul from saying good bye to our babies.  I grieve, I cry, I mourn, I remember, and sometimes I even laugh.

I nurture my marriage through open communication, love, honesty, and even simple things like dating and laughing together.

I am putting effort back into my physical health, as soon as I was medically able.  I am running and cycling again after being forced to the sidelines for over 2 years.

I started socializing again.  Once we began openly sharing our experience and losses, we were no longer afraid to see our friends who have been supportive.

I live freely now – I no longer worry about what cycle day I am on, or what potential damage I could do to myself or my potential children by having a sip of alcohol or drinking non-FDA approved tea or having medium rare steak because I like it.

I remove negativity from my life whenever I need to.  I try to recognize negativity early and eradicate it from my life.  This has meant the end of “friendships” that were more toxic to us then good.  This has also resulted in me resigning from my full time professional employment.

I work very hard to focus my energy on the things I can change, and to let go of the things I cannot.  (And this one takes a lot of effort for my classic type-a personality).

I work to recognize, accept and move beyond the extreme emotions that I have experienced in the last few years.  Anger that I never knew existed within me.  Deep and intense frustrations.  Sorrow that touched me deeper than I ever thought possible.

I search for happiness.  Every single day I am determined to acknowledge at least one happy moment, regardless of how bad my day is.

I hope that tomorrow will be a good day.  There have been times where I wanted to break up with hope, but instead, I keep returning to it.  I need hope to guide my way.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  Rather, quite the opposite, at times it is very hard!  I have bad days.  Sometimes I take 1 step forward and follow it up with 2 steps backwards.  But by continually making an effort to live happily, I am confident that I will survive and I will thrive.

 
 

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Loss is Loss and Comparison Only Leaves Us Alone In It

The loss of an eight cell embryo. The loss of miscarriage at 6 weeks, 10 weeks, however many weeks.

The loss of stillbirth at any week.

The loss of a toddler.

The loss of any child.

Loss.

Loss is loss.

I had the honor to process this lesson of life with a client on the same day that my fellow warrior at My Perfect Breakdown wrote a beautiful, kind of rebuttal, piece to my piece Our Infertility Rap Sheets.

And, again I am reminded that there simply are no mistakes made in this life or coincidences. And, that I have amazing people around me in this journey.

In her post My Perfect Breakdown discussed how her numbers are important to her because they are her children lost to miscarriage. In my piece, I wrote about taking my numbers out because, for me, they came from a place of shame, scarcity and comparison.

It is simply impossible for me to live a wholehearted life with courage, compassion and connection when I live from a place of shame, scarcity and comparison. I believe this to be true for all of us. And, I challenged those of us with the struggles of infertility to ask themselves where their count, their infertility rap sheet, was truly coming from.

What I did not write in Our Infertility Rap Sheets was the number I will never remove.

Three.

To the general population they may have just been three eight cell embryos.

To me they are my three babies.

My three babies who never had the chance to take a breath of earth's fresh air.

My three babies who never grew.

My three babies I can parent only from this side of eternity.

My three soul scars.

My three.

Three will never be taken out of my story. It is within these three lost souls that I have been found and have found myself.

 
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I see three everywhere I go. I feel my three every single day. I dream of my three and mourn the what ifs. I heal from my three always.

Loss is loss.

Being able to process this difficult lesson of life with my clients; women who have had miscarriages, women who have given up their child for adoption, clients who have lost their child beyond way too early to tragedy is something I feel honored with and thankful for.

Does is hurt less that I lost mine before they could grow?

Does it hurt less that she didn't suffer?

Does it hurt less that she was only in the first trimester?

Does it hurt less that I have lost three but she has lost five?

Does it hurt less that you at least got a couple of years with him?

Does it hurt less that she lived a longer life and mine never grew?

Loss Comparison

This comparison; this my pain is worse than yours, or even my pain could still be worse, is heartbreaking, soul crushing comparison.

And, it keeps us alone.

All alone with only our losses.

If we can embrace that loss is loss; if I can sit across from my clients in the presence of their loss, with their loss, rather than comparing our losses then we are simply two mothers who have lost.

People who have lost.

And, that it is all just really fucking horrible.

But, we're in it together.

And, at least, we are not sitting in it all alone with only shame, scarcity and comparison as our comrades.

In this, is the ever upward recovery.

And, I choose that.

*To read more about 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