The Breath of Healing and a Strawberry Shortcake Bandage

Her scraped up knee is bright red with fresh blood. Plump tears roll down her rosy cheeks. "Okay, ready? It is going to burn but mama will blow on it to help."

"Okay," she gets out in the midst of a sob.

 
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I pour the clear peroxide over the freshly scraped up knee so rightfully and bravely earned from her first go around without training wheels. The familiar white bubbles appear as her leg jumps out of reflex and an audible whine escapes her mouth.

"Okay, blow on it with me," I coax her.

We both gently blow a steady stream of what has to feel like healing cool air onto the foaming and now clean injury.

"How's that?'

"Better," she musters through the slightest of smirks.

We sing a song while we wait for the boo boo to air dry.

"My Little Pony or Strawberry Shortcake bandage?" I ask.

"Strawberry," she answers with the faintest little girl accent.

That's my girl, Ithink back to my own Strawberry Shortcake curtains and bedding as a kid her age.

I gently place the pink and red bandage over the scrape.

"Kiss?"

"Yes."

The simplest of moments between a mother and a daughter. A moment I am sure most parents never give a second thought to. For me, a moment in my forever longing and wondering imagination. Yet, I got some semblance of it this weekend when one of my clients texted me for help. She was off visiting where she is going to continue her college education far, far away from the city limits of St. Louis and in the mountains where she spent the last couple of days hiking much to the chagrin of her heels.

A picture of the biggest blister I have ever seen came through on my phone with a message of, "Please tell me what to do. Do I clean it? Cover it? Help. Please."

Not the normal text I get as a mental health therapist, yet one I wasn't surprised by.

I talked her through cleaning her blisters and taking care of them but at first forgot to tell her about blowing on the foaming peroxide! My self-talk was not much unlike what I hear in my office from mothers who hardly ever give themselves credit for the brilliant jobs they are doing, Crap! God, I suck.

I circled back and let her know to blow on the bubbles to help with the sting. I then told her that I was sorry she was never taught this growing up and that she deserved better. Her mother died when she was young and she grew up without a mother like figure to teach her these kinds of things.

And, I am growing old without my own children to teach them to.

God's plan in something as simple as a boo boo.

Much of what we do as therapists is re-parenting our clients. I teach, I coach, I push, I hold space for healing, I keep accountable and I deeply care. Actually, this is also what I do if you are my friend or family. It is kind of impossible to shut off.

It was there before the infertility journey. Only, made stronger by becoming a mother to my three. And, something I am thankful for every single day.

The bossy, pushy, loving mother I am. The mother they made me. The mother armed with the breath of healing and a Strawberry Shortcake bandage.

HuffPost Parents: When Your Child Asks Why I Don't Have Kids

I originally wrote this piece for another outlet but received the official rejection for that yesterday. When one door closes you open another. I am beyond thankful to HuffPost Parents for their continued support of Ever Upward

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When Your Child Asks Why I Don't Have Kids

At 3 he asked his mom, “Why don’t Justine and Chad have kids?”

His mom replied with a generic, “Well, they have three dogs instead.”

At 6 he asked in front of us at the dinner table, “Why don’t you have kids?”

Before I could answer, his mom said, “That’s why they love spending so much time with you guys!”

It is a simple question from him, grounded in true loving curiosity. It is a loaded question for me that speaks volumes he is too little to understand yet. It is a question he deserves a truthful answer to, as it has to be confusing to see these people who love him so much not look like all the other families around him.

How do you as parents answer this question in a way that honors your child’s curiosity and respects the feelings and the story of the stunned couple in front of you?

Click here to continue reading over at HuffPost Parents.

Birthing a Rare Kind of Parenthood

My latest for HuffPost Parents. It is some of my most important writing and is part of something I had hoped to use in my TEDx talk. But sharing it here felt right and I simply could not sit on it any longer. ~~~

I Will Never Birth a Child, But I'm Still a Parent

It is not uncommon that an interview with Kim Cattrall be shared on multiple media outlets. However, it is uncommon when you consider one of the topics she discussed: how she parents even though she does not have her own children.

Across social media her quotes ignited comments of both major support and criticism. As an advocate for breaking the silence of infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery I was excited and as a writer, I have my own words.

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I always knew my journey to parenthood would not be traditional, and yet I never could have imagined the unexpected extraordinary life that has been born of my journey.

I met Michelle on a surrogacy website. My husband and I were beginning the journey to make our family through gestational surrogacy. Michelle was a mother of two children and a first time surrogate. We did In vitro fertilization (IVF), putting both of our bodies through synthetic hormonal hell, transferred a total of three embryos, lost our three babies and our dreams to make our family ended.

Who are we if we are not parents? What is our legacy if no one carries on our family name, our gorgeous red hair, vivacious laugh and vibrant, passionate personalities?

Click here to read the whole piece.

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

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

It is our story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mothers.

 
 

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

And, yet it feels like home.

A home we all belong to.

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

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

So, a club we are all members of.

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

And, yet we can do this work.

We can choose to be okay.

We can choose to be better than okay.

We can find our ever upward.

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

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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Make sure to purchase your copy of Ever Upward today!