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.

 
 

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.

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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

 

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.

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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
 

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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.

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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. 

 
 

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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.

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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 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.

 
 

If you like this post, please feel free to share it and please click the follow button on the side or return to myperfectbreakdown.com to follow my journey.

Fill in your _________________.

My mission of Ever Upward has been clear from the very beginning and my purpose in Ever Upward continues to only grow stronger. Because, I write for many reasons; healing, helping, educating... but as I have learned over the last week in my Daring Way™ certification training, I write to invoke change. I have been torn between being oh so grateful for the many shares, views, follows and the expansive exposure Ever Upward has received in only 3 short months and the inherent need for more. Analyzing how to write so more people are moved and so more people have the courage to share it on Facebook or to email it to someone they love. Questioning myself in my desires for the outside validation of the view count or earning Freshly Pressed versus my soul's desire for my words to reach many in order to help.

It has been suggested, and most of me knows, that for Ever Upward to continue to grow and to reach the people who need it most, I must write to the masses, which for many would be to not include infertility, IVF, pregnancy loss and childfree acceptance. Those who bravely read and share Ever Upward; my friends, my family and even the strangers all across the world supporting me, know Ever Upward is about more than IVF; it is about life. Ever Upward is about recovery. However, it would be naive to believe that people will click on or share my words freely when it includes some of the most shamed and silenced parts of our society and ourselves.

So, I propose a challenge for us all. Fill in the ____________________.

Whatever your struggle. Whatever your loss. Whatever your hurt. Whatever your shame.

What is your recovery? When you read IVF, fill in your ____________________.

For me, I have recovered from anxiety, depression, general discontent, unhappiness and anger, and yes, IVF, shame and childlessness. That is my journey. That is my story. But I know parts of it can apply to everyone's story.

As part of my training for The Daring Way ™ I wrote a personal manifesto on the first night of training. Sitting here this last night before heading home tomorrow I am even surer of the words I wrote:

 
 

I will practice authenticity and have the courage to tell my story, living it out loud, without apology, in order to stop proving it and to actually own it.

Because I was born, and have survived to thrive, to help and heal myself and others.

And in my heart of hearts, I believe my story can start the conversation to change the isolating shame that surrounds infertility, IVF, pregnancy loss, childfree acceptance and recovery.

As it is only through my own daring greatly, and the connection of my story, that I can be healed and find myself again. And, only then will I connect, help and heal others.

Ever Upward will continue to include some of the most shamed words in our lexicon; IVF, infertility, pregnancy loss and childlessness. Because this is my journey. My story. And it is with much hope that I choose to believe that one day my light and the courage I have found in owning my story will move you to share it anyways, to inspire the continuation of the excruciating shame conversation that suffocates the infertility world. However, I will also continue to write about life, learning, growing and choosing change. Because, it is only with this acceptance of the shame surrounding IVF, infertility and childlessness, that more eyes and hearts will stumble upon my words.

As, I will have faith that my words will reach who needs them most. And I will trust that my story will spark change. Given that, I will no longer try to just prove it and I will own, and live out loud, my story and my light.

Because this is myever upward.