Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 3

 
 

Part One here. Part Two here.

What do we need instead?

Question Three of the Fertility Compassion Survey:

What could have been a better way for the question to be asked?

I had two strong responses to this question: mind your own business and love.

Don't ask

Over a third of my responses came from the place of just don't ask questions or make statements about family planning.

It feels rude. It is super personal. It is really no one's business. And, especially don't bring it up until we bring it up.

However, I am not sure this is possible. We are naturally curious people. We are especially curious about people we love and care about. So we ask. We ask what we think are these innocent and simple questions that are packed with so much emotion that we actually do the exact opposite of the intention; we disconnect rather than connect.

Sure, I know some of the questions and statements covered in part one are out of people being nosey and maybe even judgmental. But, I think, for the most part these questions and statements come from a place of love and curiosity.

Ask with compassion

The other two thirds of my responses asked for more compassion, empathy, kindness and tolerance.

Simply, more love.

Ask with kindness, empathy and compassion;

I am so sorry for your loss.

I wish I could help. It must be so hard. You will be a great mother.

I can't imagine but I am sure this must be so difficult.

That sucks, you would be awesome parents.

I am sorry this is so hard.

Did you always want three kids?

And, stop assuming; practice tolerance;

Not all of our paths are the same.

Adoption is not the answer for us all.

Please don't make light of it.

Sometimes just listening and being quiet.

The script of words

I am not sure it is fair to ask people to not ask about our family planning and it is simply unrealistic. So as part of the fertility compassion and ever upward movement I think we need to simply ask for what we need and want. Often times I work with clients on giving their loved ones the script. Sometimes what we are going through is really difficult for our loved ones to understand, to get, so they keep quiet or they ask these insensitive questions, both of which make us feel very alone. Sometimes we just need to give them the words. Sometimes offering our loved ones the script gives them the words to help, to hear, to listen; to truly see, know and love us.

In regards to fertility compassion; here is your script directly from the survey:

Do you plan to have children?

Do you mind sharing about your family?

Tell me about yourself.

What are your thoughts on ______________?

A simple, How are you?

What makes you happy when it comes family?

Most of all, check your intention in the asking. Does this come from a place of love (empathy) or fear (sympathy)?

Because when it comes to family planning, fertility, infertility, miscarriage, infant loss and recovery there really can't be too much love.

So please drown us in it and practice empathy and compassion.

~~~~

Overall, my Fertility Compassion Survey left me with hope. I wanted to provide the space for our voices to say what leaves us feeling alone and more broken. And, to ask for what we want and need. But, most of all I wanted to see and feel how to bridge the gap.

I wasn't at all surprised to see that love, compassion and empathy are the bridge. We don't need to have experienced the exact same loss, trauma and tragedy to understand the feelings that come with those losses, traumas, and tragedies.

Sometimes it all just feels really, really difficult and impossible.

And, sometimes this is just life.

Which means we all can get it.

We all can love. We all can help. We all can practice this empathy and compassion.

We all can move ever upward.

~~~~

Ever Upward available now!

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

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

Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 2

Part One here.

Our response to sympathy versus empathy

 
 

When we practice empathy we connect. When we receive empathy we feel seen, known and loved. In other words, we all feel not so alone in this huge, hard world.

Sympathy on the other hand is a sure fire way for us to all feel disconnected. When I receive sympathy, or pity, I feel like I am in this fight all by myself.

Sympathy versus empathy is at the heart of my Fertility Compassion Survey.

Question Two on the Fertility Compassion Survey:

How did you respond? And why? (to those difficult/insensitive statements or questions in regards to your family planning).

The difference between fear and love; despair and hope

I was saddened and yet motivated with feeling empowered at these responses as they seemed to be almost split down the middle

About half of the responses were along the lines of responding with the truth and the other half of the responses were along the lines of dimming our light.

The educational truth

The truth came out mostly in one of two ways; educating being at the heart of both. However one from a place of love and ownership and the other from a place of anger or what I think is really fear, sadness and shame.

According to my findings about half of the time, when asked a difficult or insensitive question about family planning we are truth tellers. We speak our truth and we educate. But, some of the time this truth telling came out in anger. I think in retaliation of wanting (or needing) to shut that person back down as we feel so shut down by their question or statement. So we make them feel stupid and we use words that cut like a knife.

After my work, for me it is in the ever upward way of just schooling the person; saying the truth and taking the opportunity to educate. For example, here's my script I've gotten used to saying as this is just a part of my life:

Stranger/Friend/Family: Do you have kids?

Me: We tried to have kids but we can't.

Stranger/Friend/Family: But you're still so young!? Well, you can always just adopt?

Me: We did IVF with a gestational surrogate and lost three babies and adoption is not for our family. So we are accepting a childfree life. IVF is very expensive and the losses are terrible and adoption is a long difficult path, we've decided to determine what is our enough and everything and accept a childfree, yet childfull, life.

Sometimes they'll keep asking more questions. Sometimes they'll have no idea what the hell to do with that and awkwardly change the subject.

Either way, I own my story. It doesn't come from a place of fear or anger anymore (after a lot of work on my part), it comes from a place of love.

We lose our light

The other half of my respondents responded to these insensitive questions and statements by allowing fear, sadness and shame to dim their light; making themselves disappear.

Some changed the subject. Some faked it by brushing it off. Some took care of of the other person by minimizing how difficult it really is.

Most then left those situations in more pain, feeling more alone and ultimately feeling worse.

To speak our truth

An essential message of Ever Upward is that we must speak our truth. It doesn't have to be to the whole world in a book or a blog. Still, I think, we must speak it. It is the only way to educate and it is absolutely the only way we will ever get more understanding and compassion when it comes to family planning.

I know this is hard and I know it takes great guts of bravery no matter how big or small your truth telling is but, I also believe it is the only way we will see fertility compassion grow.

I will not dim my light to take care of you, I will not dim my light because if makes you uncomfortable, I will not dim my light to make you feel better any longer. I will move and I will be ever upward.

Family planning, fertility, infertility, miscarriage, infant loss and recovery are some of the most difficult struggles and losses of our lives. And, it is something that literally impacts all of our lives at some point somehow.

Speak out, embrace it all, practice recovery and own it; own all of it.

~~~~

In Part Three I will discuss the third and final question in my Fertility Compassion Survey: What we need instead; how can these questions and statements be more compassionate?

Housekeeping

Ever Upward available now!

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

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

Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 1

Because you can't, sometimes things just can't be fixed

 
 

I'm sad.

Just cheer up, it will be okay!

I'm anxious.

Just take a deep breath and calm down.

I'm angry.

Just count to 10 or walk away.

We're having trouble getting pregnant.

Just adopt! Just relax! Just stopping trying!

We think these above statements are empathy. But, really they are pity filled sympathetic responses to provide that quick fix; our attempt to try to make it better.

It seems like empathy skills are missing for a lot of us. We aren't taught how to be empathic and, I think, we even sometimes think we would rather have sympathy than empathy.

Sympathy is I feel for you; pity.

Empathy is I feel with you; I get it.

A think a major confusion is that we are mistaken in thinking that we must have gone through the exact same instance in order to have empathy. But that just isn't how it works. In order to be empathetic we simply need to be able to understand and know what it feels like to feel the feeling that someone is experiencing. As Brené Brown states in The Daring Way™ curriculum, if you have ever experienced guilt, sadness, anger, disappointment, etc. then you are equipped for empathy.

So we all (outside of the extreme sociopath, read the Underwood's from House of Cards) are able to show empathy and yet we are so quick to just fix it coming from a place of sympathy.

When we hear someone is in struggle we want to take away the pain, we want to make it better, we want to fix it.

Why?

We cannot stand discomfort.

We don't like to feel sad or mad or disappointed ourselves, let alone to be with someone we care about in their sadness or anger or disappointment.

We don't want someone we love, hell even a complete stranger, to feel this discomfort either. But, really it's more about our struggle sit with them through it.

So, we try to fix it with a quick solution, a just stop talking about it.

And when we do this we minimize and invalidate; even if it does come from a place of love.

Practicing empathy means being willing to sit with someone in their discomfort. It means being willing to just be with someone maybe not saying a single word. It means simply saying, that is so hard, that sucks, I can't imagine, ugh.

Compassion

This is where I birthedfertility compassion.

The world needs a whole lot more compassion in every area. But through my work in Ever Upward, fertility seems to be one of the biggest areas.

Why?

Because everyone has an opinion on family planning and it is assumed that everyone wants, needs and is able to make a family.

When in reality, this can't be further from the truth.

My #fertilitycompassion survey had three questions:

  1. What are some of the most difficult/insensitive statements or questions you have received in regards to your family planning?
  2. How did you respond? And why?
  3. What could have been a better way for the question to be asked?

The survey was anonymous and was answered by both men and women and by both people with and without children, fertile and infertile, and some childfree by choice, chance or circumstance.

Unfortunately, the results were not surprising to me as this has been my life, especially for the last years since we tried to have kids with a surrogate and are now accepting a childfree life.

Question #1 - The minimizing, invalidating, simple fix questions

These fell into 11 categories.

  1. God's plan.
  2. Just adopt.
  3. Getting pregnant is so easy.
  4. Just relax.
  5. But you're the lucky one.
  6. Parenting is the only purpose.
  7. Empathy versus sympathy.
  8. Easy solution.
  9. You'll change your mind.
  10. Point the finger and blame.
  11. Family planning.

1. God's plan - reading these statements made my heart ache and my eyes sting with tears.

"You're just not being faithful enough. You aren't praying the right healing prayers. It's just not in His plan for you to be a mom. God doesn't think you're financially ready to be a parent. It's just not meant to be."

2. Just adopt - these still spark some anger in me, mostly at the lack of understanding.

"Just adopt. Why don't you just foster? There are so many minority kids who need good homes. Don't you think you should save a child before having any more of your own?"

3. Getting pregnant is so easy - obviously not: 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility and 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage.

"You're so young, you have so much time. You're next! A lot of women miscarry! You were so early!"

4. Just relax - if only it were this simple for all of us.

"Just relax. Go on vacation. Have a margarita. Just don't think about it."

5. But you're the lucky one - the one upper, I have it so much worse.

"You have it so easy without kids. You don't need time off work, you don't have kids waiting for you at home. Oh, I'm a terrible mother, you can have my kids. You can borrow mine any time."

6. Parenting is the only purpose - if this is true I'm screwed.

"You aren't a parent, you wouldn't understand. But kids is the only purpose we have in life. Who will take care of you when you are old? But, having kids is the only way to really feel love."

7. Empathy versus sympathy - your pity does nothing for me and only leaves me feeling even more alone.

"I feel for sorry for you. Oh, I am so glad we never struggled, I can't imagine."

8. Easy solution - there are a millions way to make a family, none of them easy.

"Have you tried this? Or that? $15,000 isn't that much money, just do IVF. My friend had that too, she got pregnant just fine. Just try again. I'll carry for you."

9. You'll change your mind - we each have our own path, allow everyone to own theirs even if it is different than yours.

"But how do you know you won't want kids later in life? You can always just adopt later on."

10. Point the finger and blame - this feels so damning.

"Is he shooting blanks? What's wrong with you? Who's fault is it? There must have been something wrong with it."

11. Family planning - everyone has an opinion they must share or could this just be a bid for connection?

"Everyone assumes we have 3 because we stopped trying."

"You must want a girl or aren't you glad you didn't have a girl?! (We have three boys and our little girl is in heaven)."

"When are you having another?"

"Be thankful for the one healthy child you have."

"You don't want them too far apart! (we've had three miscarriages after our first)"

"You should really try for a girl next time. (we have two boys; we have lost three female babies)."

"Shouldn't you just be happy with the two you have."

"You don't want to be too old."

"Was she an accident? (she is five years younger than her brothers)."

Before I move on to writing about questions 2 and 3, I will let these settle in some.

Are we all just being too sensitive?

Perhaps.

But as someone who has struggled to do the very thing that many of us believe we were put on earth to do, be a parent, these questions and statements cut like a knife.

They hurt.

They invalidate the painful journey we have been on.

They minimize the paths before us.

And, even though I sincerely believe they come from love (and curiosity), I also know they come from ignorance and comparison.

So for now, think before you speak and watch your tone, you honestly have no idea what the person on the other side of your words has gone through; the pain they have suffered, the losses they have endured and the struggles of their daily lives.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."—Rev. John Watson

"Including you."—Glennon Melton

Don't make your words added pain.

And, in part 2 I will share how people respond to these questions and statements. But, mostly I will focus on what we all really want and need to hear instead.

Compassion. Empathy. Hope.

Ever upward.

Housekeeping:

Kickstarter for Ever Upward Book Trailer has only hours to go and we are so close! Every dollar (share and prayer) helps!

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

Fertility Compassion Survey will continue to collect responses.

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

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

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

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

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

Justine,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because sad is sad and hard is just hard.

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

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

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

 
Recovery Ever Upward Back Surgeries
Recovery Ever Upward Back Surgeries
 

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

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

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

In ever upward light and love,

Me

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

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