I'm Stuck in a Life I Didn't Plan by Kristy Taxson

I absolutely LOVE today's piece by my new friend Kristy over at TTC a Taxon Baby. This is why I keep doing this work, because broken silence heals.

I'm Stuck in a Life I Didn't Plan

I love living by the ocean!  There's just something about breathing in the salty air, with your toes in the sand and looking out at the waves rolling in that will bring a sense of peace and calming over your whole body. I find myself sitting in the sand and staring out at the ocean a lot more lately, needing that calming feeling I'm so desperately trying to hold on to. During my latest TWW (two week wait), a little over a month ago, I found myself here again just thinking about everything and focusing on staying calm.  I sat there trying to read my book but found my mind wandering. Thinking about my life and how it didn't go according to my plan. I always knew I wanted to have kids one day, but I kept changing my mind on exactly how many. Never in a million years did it ever cross my mind that I wouldn't be able to have any.  You see, unfortunately, infertility treatments never worked on me.

Click here to keep reading.

Permission to Feel by Erica Stepteau

Today's post for the Ever Upward Blog Tour is from my new friend Erica Stepteau, author of Unstoppable Tenacity. Check her out, she is amazing!!!

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Today I am sharing my In Vitro Fertilization story dedicated to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker's latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward releasing on April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma.

Yesterday Heather shared her story and Monday we will hear from Kristy at TTC a Taxon Baby. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward.

PERMISSION TO FEEL

In 2013 my husband (Joshua) and I decided to give In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) a try in hopes of achieving the dream of becoming parents. For those who don’t know much about IVF; it is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus. It is a very long strenuous 6-8-week process of daily needles, vaginal ultrasounds, and raging hormones.

Five percent of couples with fertility issues seek out IVF. With top chances of IVF success have per-cycle success rates of 40% or higher. During a regular cycle, there is a 15-20% chance to conceive naturally in any month for any couple. Our Fertility specialist shared with us before proceeding with IVF and after our 2nd miscarriage that we had a 2% chance of getting pregnant on our own. Hearing such a small number as a chance to become parents was devastating for us. We honestly thought going with IVF would be the answer to solve our uncertainty, frustrations, and void in our hearts.

I remember us being so excited to get started with IVF because we had just celebrated our 10 year   Anniversary/Renewal of Vows ceremony and just knew this was our year! We had thoughts that since we originally married in a courthouse, that maybe we didn’t consecrate our marriage effectively in 2003 and God was waiting on us to do it the “right” way before blessing us with a child. When you have tried to achieve a dream for this long, you start creating all types of thoughts and philosophies to the mix to provide deeper understanding to be at peace. As humans, we tend to have to KNOW it all and know WHY something is happening to actually embrace it. Can you relate?

For the first time in our whole marriage we shared with everyone that we were trying to conceive. Before starting the process, we got our friends involved and co-workers. For 10 years, we kept it to ourselves and mourned with BFNs (Big Fat Negative Pregnancy tests) in secret. So, this time around we thought if we shared with others this will automatically manifest the babies we desperately desired. We thought it would rally up prayers, high vibes, and good goo-goo to provide a chance for others to witness a miracle unfold with their human eye.

We just knew it was going to happen this time around, we felt it in our deep core and was so assured God will not let us down since we were being so transparent and open. Everyone was so beyond excited for us and cheering for success. Every day we would have conversations with others about us having twins and how life would be so different and even MORE meaningful.

I began to pin every picture on Pinterest of women pregnant with twins. We even started to pick out nursery colors and themes because we were obsessed with the idea of becoming parents.  All of the pics are still on my iPad to this day and when I accidently come across them I feel all the joy and excitement I had at that time to obtain a dream I have been waiting on for over a decade.

As we begin the process, our IVF team assured us we were on track and everything was looking great. No one could tell us there was 100% chance of success, but after doing our baseline biomarkers: hormone levels, ovaries and sperm analysis they felt confident we would be parents as well. Our physician even stated the results we had so far was practically “text book” and this provided to the team even more assurance that this will work for us.

At this time, I was very active and working out with a cool team during lunch hour at a medical device company in Highland Heights, OH. I decided to stop all running which hubby and I did almost every evening in the Metro Parks and the intense Shaun T (Insanity) workout. Instead, I started meditative Yoga. I was really thinking that my high intense physical activity could prevent pregnancy and the success of the IVF process. I didn’t want to take a chance since this procedure was close to $25,000 plus the cost of all the injectable medications.

After using contraceptives for approximately 2 weeks to suppress ovarian production we begin the 4-week process of IVF with the crazy daily fertility injections. I remember being so freaked out by putting a needle in my belly. Joshua had to help a lot with this because I would freeze up and start shaking. Around day 5 I started to feel a bit moody and irritated, and the following week I was having all types of meltdowns about food, work, and the feeling of overwhelm. I had to take a leave of absence from work to finish off the IVF process because how crazy I was feeling.

I remember going into the doctor office starting day 5 of cycle every day for blood work and pelvic ultrasounds. They poked me so much that I began to have bruises on both forearms and I was afraid that I looked like a drug addict. I had to wear long sleeve shirts (thankfully it was still a bit chilly in Ohio) to hid the bruises.  And those internal pelvic ultrasounds were so annoying, but I know they had to constantly check how the ovaries were doing during the process. For 7 days, I almost got use to walking in the office getting poked with a needle 2-3 times then jumping on the table and spread my legs open for internal ultrasound.

As we begin to get closer to egg retrieval day the technician stated that one of my ovaries were the size of a golf ball. I already looked 5 months pregnant and was beginning to have cramping and very uncomfortable pelvic pain. I believe at this time we had 15-18 follicles (eggs) to use to proceed with process.

Egg retrieval day came. We prayed so hard the night of, we ask God to have his way. At this point of the process I was so bruised and beat up, sore, tired, aggravated, and uncertain on the next steps. As they prepped me for surgery Joshua held my hand and we locked eyes. We didn’t say much because we both were very nervous and scared. They grabbed my husband and had him exit room so that they can collect sperm to seal the deal after retrieving my eggs.

I was placed under powerful anesthesia and a needle was passed through the top of my vagina under ultrasound guidance to get to the ovary and follicles. The fluid in the follicles was aspirated through the needed and the eggs detach from the follicle wall and were sucked out of the ovary.

When they completed the 30min surgery, they were able to create 8 embryos. Those were our 8 babies in production. Now the waiting game began to see which 2 embryos do they transfer to my uterus. This waiting game can be up to 5 days. We went home and I was still in excruciating pain. I went from pain at a level of 6 on the scale of 1-10 to like a 20 in a matter of one hour. Joshua rushed me to emergency. We explained to them that I just had an egg retrieval surgery. They did an external ultrasound and found that my right ovary ruptured. So yeah, the pain at the rate of 20 made complete sense at that time. I was in so much pain all I did was sleep, they gave me some low dose meds since I was anticipating to put my “babies” in the oven within a few days. We went home the next morning and I was feeling much better.

When we returned home, we were glued to the phone awaiting information about our “babies”. The nurse called the first thing that morning and said 3 of them started to dissipate and were not valuable to place in uterus. We started to get sad, but had a very small amount of hope for the other 5.  The next day the nurse called again and said 2 more dissolved and then the next day after that she explain we had no more. Our IVF failed. We were crushed because we told everybody and their mama that we will be parents this time. We thought the vulnerability would be the key and sharing our story will solidify our dream. I questioned God on this decision and outcome.

We were very lost on how to move forward at this time. I took another week off work on FMLA because I was so depressed and humiliated. I was disappointed in myself thinking maybe I ate something wrong, didn’t relax enough, or missed a step with injections.  I also felt horrible that my hubby had to endure all the mood swings, nagging, and errands to accommodate me along the journey without providing to him a very special gift of a child. I was worried about how hubby felt.

He was so sad and there was a lot of silence for a few days in the house. He went to work and came home, I cooked, we ate and that was it. Neither one of us wanted to talk about it. Our phones were blowing up. Everyone wanted to send their condolences, we received flowers in the mail, encouraging text messages, and when I returned to work my team even had a card for me.

After a few days, I allowed myself to actually feel the pain and allowed a few to witness the pain and know that I was struggling to keep my faith and sanity.

What I learned from this particular situation is that it’s important to give yourself permission to feel. Since this incident, I have been able to share my journey towards fertility a bit more with ease and flow. We are currently still on our journey towards fertility and just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. We still have hope to be parents one day, sharing has allowed me to heal some deep wounds associated with this journey. Not that every layer is healed, but I am better off allowing myself to feel the pain instead of hoarding it and allowing it to kill me internally.

It’s something liberating about allowing yourself to feel, don't numb emotions or play like everything is ok. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Find a confidant who is willing to be present NOT just provide guidance or their input. Remember you can't specifically numb these feelings without numbing joy in your life at the same time. So, cry, yell, scream, and grieve when you have to then get back up with confidence and assurance that it will be ok.

If you are grieving or experiencing a painful moment in your life right now, give these tips below a try. It will for sure help you embrace your journey a bit more and heal from within while you still keep the faith alive on the outside!

  • Journal thoughts about a time you needed to “feel” instead of masking emotions. As you reflect back, allow yourself to scream, yell, cry, or grieve when necessary.
  • How have you lost your tolerance of vulnerability? You cannot selectively numb sections of vulnerability because by default you will numb your joy. The best ways to embrace vulnerability is to have gratitude for all your blessings and give yourself permission to feel.
  • What masks are you wearing? In what ways, will you start removing them? What is your biggest fear of exposing yourself?

Chad's Voice: The Missed Homerun

Chad wrote his first blog post in honor of the documentary Don't Talk About the Baby. Please read and share far and wide! The male perspective is so important in the infertility and loss world! ~~~

The Missed Homerun

... Mountains of articles and posts exist about the impact of infertility and loss but surprisingly very few share the male perspective. I think a huge reason for. this is men’s ability to be completely lost in a single topic or event. Some may call this presence and being engaged but I also think it’s our ability to compartmentalize. The way I am wired allows me to compartmentalize my thoughts, feelings and experiences much more than Justine...

Claire here to read more.

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
 

Becoming Known

One day when I get to travel more I will get to meet all my fellow warriors around the world, and Lesley is definitely on that list. She has been so supportive of my work and an incredible advocate for childless women. I am so happy to share her story with you today as we gear up for National Infertility Awareness Week next week with my #MoreThan1in8 project. Make sure to check out her site here. ~~~

Becoming known

I've been aware of Justine's #MoreThan1in8 initiative for a few weeks now and every time I see the phrase I start singing lyrics from a 1980's song called 'One in Ten.' Yes I know it's not 1 in 8 but when you read the words you'll realise why they're so relevant.

'I am the one in ten A number on a list I am the one in ten Even though I don`t exist Nobody Knows me But I'm always there A statistic, a reminder Of a world that doesn`t care'

Ouch! A perfect description of what it's like to be childless don’t you think?

The words that jump out at me are 'Nobody Knows me' because this is how I felt for ten years. In fact I'll go further and say that I didn’t know myself either.

We started to try for children when I was 35 and after a year were referred for IVF. Three years and six unsuccessful rounds later we were thrown off the end of the roller coaster without any support. We felt as if we were the only people in the world who couldn’t have children.

Our parents knew but none of our friends. On the outside I was projecting the Lesley who was ambivalent about children, the Lesley that was tough and strong; but inside I was falling apart. I know now that I was grieving, but I didn’t know then. I just assumed I felt sad.

I felt completely alone; I didn’t know who I was or my place in the world.

I built a shell round me, like a caterpillar stuck in her cocoon because she doesn't know what sort of butterfly she is to be and has forgotten the instructions.

I stayed in my cocoon for ten years, stuck in the dark, hiding from the world. It was lonely, not where I was meant to be and certainly not where I wanted to be. And the more I hid, the more lost I became and the fewer people knew the real me.

I thought that time on its own would heal my grief and transform me into the butterfly I wanted to be.

But it didn't.

It took work and asking for help.

Training as a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Practitioner replaced my grief, sadness and other negative emotions with self-confidence, self-acceptance, inner peace and happiness. Then working with a coach who believed in me, and the difference I wanted to make in the world helped me to develop the inner strength I needed to be open about my life and to set up my business supporting childless women.

It has been a challenging journey but very rewarding.

And now the phrase 'Nobody Knows me' doesn’t apply to me. I'm comfortable talking about my childlessness in public and I've learned that the more I talk about my life the more I give others permission to do so.

I've become stronger and comfortable and confident with who I am. I know myself better than ever and I'm excited about the future.

And for the first time in my life, I’m authentically me and it’s wonderful.

I know that I have beautiful wings which are different from the norm but that's what makes me special.

It took me ten years for people to know me and even longer to get to know myself.  And now, I want to show other women that they don't have to wait that long. I want to show them that they don’t have to hide, and if they take action to find support they can become the beautiful butterfly that’s inside them.

And that's why I'm happy to stand with Justine because it's only by standing together that the world will know us.

 
Lesley
Lesley
 

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Lesley Pyne supports childless women to heal and to create a life they love.  She uses her first-hand experience in coming to terms a life without children and her professional skills in NLP and time line techniques to help other childless women.

She publishes stories of other childless women who are willing to be known on http://www.lesleypyne.co.uk/category/inspirational-stories/

Her website is www.LesleyPyne.co.uk

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

 

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.

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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
 

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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.

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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.

Stepping Out From Behind the Computer Screen

There is nothing quite like getting the message from a reader thanking me for my work and my story. When that story includes how they were finally able to break their silence and tell their story to friends and family because of my words, it honestly helps me to solidify my purpose even more. I shine my light so bright because I know even the slightest flicker of yours will help you heal, survive and eventually thrive.

Today we have my friend Sondra's story as part of my #MoreThan1in8 project! She writes about going from not sharing her story and writing a blog completely anonymously to now sharing it with the world and therefore being able to helping others even more. We have become friends through the last couple of years and I only hope and pray we get to meet in person one day. Thank you so much Sondra for contributing to #MoreThan1in8 and sharing your family with us! Make sure to go check her out at her blog A Calm Persistence.

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Why was I suffering in silence? Why was I so afraid? Why did I hold so much shame over something that is completely beyond my control? Why did I feel like I had to do this alone?

I can answer all of those questions - I wasn’t ready to share my story and part of me truly believed I was alone in this. It took a long time, a lot of processing, and one terribly brave first step to realize I was one of many.

Last April, I decided to take a courageous step during National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and share my battle. It started with a simple (or not so simple) Facebook post.

Just months prior, I had boycotted Facebook completely, it was just too triggering. I’m sure most of you reading this can understand that.  Then, there I was during NIAW back on Facebook after another canceled cycle, hitting publish on one of the most personal posts I had ever written on social media. I’ll never forget the way my heart pounded out of my chest waiting for ‘likes’ or replies to reassure me that I had made the right decision.

 
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I had been blogging anonymously for over a year, completely anonymous.  Everything about my journey was a secret. My blog readers didn’t have a name or a face to put with my story, nor did anyone in my life know how immensely I was struggling.

I silently found support online hiding behind the screen, but at the time that was enough. I never in a million years thought I would ever share my story publicly. It was my secret life, the struggle only my husband and I understood, and keeping it my own felt secure.

Only, it wasn’t really secure at all. I was falling apart, piece-by-piece, miscarriage by miscarriage.

How do you tell people that you’ve had four miscarriages? That the 4th one was under a Reproductive Endocrinologist’s care and even he couldn’t help you?  How do you tell people that you are completely breaking? That even getting out of bed is a struggle because you miss your babies so much? How do you explain the grief that comes along with losing one child? And, how do you explain the grief that comes with losing 4 in a row?

I didn’t know how to tell others. I was the 1% that had three or more miscarriages. How could anyone in my life even understand recurrent pregnancy loss?

I was 1 in 100.  

Why did I even decide to open up about my struggle?

I guess I got to a point where I had wondered how much longer I would be in the trenches. I got to that breaking point and I was tired of lying, so incredibly exhausted both physically and mentally.  I didn’t want to live this ‘secret life’ anymore.

I always said that if someone would just tell me when I’d have a baby in my arms, I could hang on… I could even be strong and happy while waiting.  I knew I could wait for 2 years, 5 years, or even 10, just as long as I just knew the ‘when’. But that’s part of the struggle with infertility, you don’t know ‘when’ and you really don’t know ‘if’ it will ever happen.  Last April, I had decided if I did have to wait another 3, 5, 10 years or even if I’d never be a mother to a living child, I couldn’t keep living this double life.

 
Sondra
Sondra
 

My ‘when’ ended up being only a year later. I sit here holding my rainbow baby girl in my arms now.  She was born on St. Patrick’s Day only a few short weeks ago.

When I shared that brave post last year, I had no idea that only a few months later I would become pregnant for the 5th time and that time, against all odds, would give me my daughter.

And so, a year ago, during NIAW, I shared our journey on Facebook. I didn’t post details, but I did share. I now know that post had so much importance in my own life. It lead to me openly sharing my blog, taking away the anonymity, and being available to  support others.

I took that first step and when the comments and likes started flooding my Facebook feed and I got notification after notification, I started to realize I wasn’t alone. And there is so much value in knowing you’re not alone.

No matter what step you choose, even if you never decide to share your story the way I have, it’s important to know you’re not alone.

I am one in eight.

A Tale of Surviving and Thriving - What's Yours?

Silent Sorority

was the first book I ordered when searching for infertility books on Amazon five years ago. It was one of the only books I could find with a healthier message. It also inspired me to write

Ever Upward 

to join Pamela in shouting our missions of difficult conversations and healthier messages into this world. Little did I know the fellow warrior I would come to find and know in Pamela. I am excited and honored Pamela agreed to share her

#MoreThan1in8

submission with you all. We have a little less than two weeks before National Infertility Awareness week and I need more courage, more voices and more support. You can read more about the project

here

, I hope I squash any qualms you may have about going public there.

If we want more understanding and compassion from our world, we must tell our stories and ask for what we want and need. Help me to end the silence that surrounds infertility and loss by participating in this project.

Because together, we are #MoreThan1in8.

~~~

A Tale of Surviving and Thriving - What's Yours?

We live in an era where scientific and medical breakthroughs in the fertility world are a double edge sword. While we instinctively cheer for fertility successes, society -- and the medical community in particular -- lack a framework to help process the losses when success is elusive.

Nothing in our otherwise modern life fully prepares us for an infertility diagnosis. For those in the confounding 'unexplained infertility' category it can be particularly difficult to pick up the pieces and imagine surviving, let alone thriving. Those of us who have lived it know all too well there are no clear instructions on what it takes to embark on a life path that doesn’t involve parenting following fertility treatment losses. As I look back on that difficult period of life, there were many emotional and practical considerations that led us to acknowledge that it was time for us to find a way to move on.

In 2007, I began the long, slow process of healing and surviving by creating a safe place for me and other women embarking on a new life after confronting infertility. My first blog was appropriately titled Coming2Terms. An added benefit to opening up about the personal challenges that infertility inflicted has been exploring a universe of ideas and connecting with a remarkable set of women and men who are also busy healing, surviving and reinventing themselves.

My blog -- and later books and advocacy work -- have brought forth new understanding about the complex effects of infertility and catalyzed an important cultural discussion. Together with women like Justine and others around the globe, we continue to foster support and further education about the infertility experience. The stigmatization and pain is further complicated, we've learned, by an avoidable trauma:  abandonment by fertility clinics more interested in securing a new customer than in providing compassionate care to those grieving when science and Mother Nature don't result in a pregnancy or live birth. The lack of palliative care is particularly harsh for those reeling with complex emotions.  Sadly patient abandonment is prevalent in the fertility industry. In the past decade a chorus of voices has emerged calling for change.

In sharing what we’ve learned we not only offer camaraderie and celebrate new beginnings we ensure the next generation will be well informed and benefit from lessons learned.

To those just embarking on the path, I can assure you that after my grieving ended a lightness, an effervescence returned not only to my marriage, but to my friendships and relationships. I’ve tapped into a well of strength and resilience I didn’t know existed.  The love, acceptance and compassion have nurtured hope and happiness in a different form.

Pamela
Pamela

In thriving we have helped to showcase families after infertility in a new light.

We continue today, my husband and me, to push forward, to shape and define a life outside the more conventional path of parenting. We challenge each other to uncover new possibilities, to seek new adventures and discoveries that will enrich our understanding of the world and our place in it. That’s exactly what we would have encouraged our children to do.

~~~

Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos is the author of the award-winning memoir Silent Sorority. Her latest ebook is Finally Heard: A Silent Sorority Finds Its Voice.

In July 2015 her blog earned at Top Health Blognod from Time, Inc.'s Health Magazine. For more of her writing visit: Silent Sorority.com

#OnComingAlive: Becoming a Gift

Today I'd like to share with you an original piece I wrote for the #OnComingAlive project through the amazing blog Scribbles & Crumbs. I am so honored and thankful Lexi ran my piece. ~~~

Sitting over tea in a dimly lit coffee shop she asks, “How often do you think of them?”

I shift my eyes to notice how many moms and babies are in the bustling shop. “Every day,” I respond.

“How?” she asks.

“I wonder how different our lives would be. I wonder what they would be learning and what we could be teaching them. I wonder who they would have been and who we could have been.”

She looks down into her steaming cup of tea and she adjusts her body as if feeling uncomfortable in the booth. “It lasts forever doesn’t it?”

“I think so.”

“Does it get better?” she asks. I know she’s hoping I will say that it does.

“It gets different,” I respond.

I glance down at her very pregnant belly and ask what must become the most annoying question for pregnant women, “How are you feeling?”

Jump over to Scribble & Crumbs to read more here.

 
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Life Without Baby: Q & A With Lisa Manterfield

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I am honored to share a Q & A with my friend, author and fellow warrior Lisa Manterfield! Lisa has a new book, Life Without Baby, that I can't wait to read and add to my resource page!

Why Life Without Baby after I’m Taking My Eggs?

I wrote I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home because I didn’t know what else to do. There were no resources at that time and the only way I knew how to work through my grief was to write about it.

Life Without Baby is the other bookend of my story. I’m at a place of contentment in my life (somewhere I never imagined I could be) and I’m now able to look back and give some perspective to my experience. I can see the things that helped me to heal and the places where I could have done things a better way. I wanted to share myself experience so that others don’t have to stumble through the mess alone.

What is the biggest piece of your story you felt like you needed to share at this stage?

That there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even when you’re mired in grief and can’t see how you’ll ever make peace with not being a mother, there is a way forward. I never imagined I could ever be okay with not having children, but here I am. Your experience will always be a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define you.

What phrase or section in the book are you most proud of?

I would like for everyone to read the section about grief, because it’s the thing I struggled the most to understand.

When I first acknowledged that I wasn’t going to be a mother, I honestly didn’t understand the extent of that loss and how many aspects of my life and my identity were tied into those plans. And because I’d never met anyone else who’d been through this, I didn’t know how to talk about it. It wasn’t until I started to emerge that I understood the enormity of the loss and that all the wild emotions and crazy thoughts I’d had came from grief. Just like any other loss, this isn’t something you “get over”. Infertility forever changes you, but you learn to move forward and live with it. It’s the living that’s the important part.

How did you start and finish writing the book?

It’s funny how much the process of writing the book mirrored my process of healing. I knew I needed to write this book as the final piece of the puzzle in my own story, but I put it off for years because the task seemed overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. There is nothing linear about the healing process and when I looked at where to begin the book, the answer was “everywhere.” I needed to offer a glimpse of a possible future and also needed to write about drawing a line in the sand and deciding to take the first small steps. At the same time, I knew I needed to cover some practical aspects of getting through the day, such as how to answer “do you have kids” or what to do when a baby shower invitation arrives.

Finally, I decided to break the book into four distinct sections and write each as a short e-book, which also allowed me to break the project down into manageable bites with firm deadlines. I think this idea of taking small steps is a good way to approach any difficult task and “Go easy on yourself” is certainly a mantra I repeat throughout the book.

What are your favorite writing tools?

The one tool I can’t live without is nature. A lot of this book was written in my head on some long walks (and a few runs). I find I need to get away from the desk and the words in order to be able to see the intention and make sure what I’m writing isn’t just hypothetical nonsense, but is actually practical and applicable. A good editor is gold, as is a supportive spouse, and I was lucky enough to have both. Other than that, a laptop, some coffee, and a pen with lots of red ink are all you really need.

How do you wish readers to use this book in their life?

Anyway they choose, as long as it works for them. As I said earlier, this isn’t a linear process and there will be days of making progress and days of struggling even to get out of bed. Some days you’ll need a practical plan and others you’ll just need to read that someone else understands what you’re going through. Most people will likely have to jump around to get different kinds of help as they need it, however working through the book in order will make sure that the most difficult but important steps, such as dealing with grief, don’t get skipped over.

What do you hope readers get out of Life Without Baby?

My first hope is that they will find compassion, understanding, and the realization that they are not alone. Ultimately, I hope they will find a way to make peace with a life without children and go on to truly thrive. I also hope that by sharing my story and experience I can hold a beacon for the future and show that there is a way through.

What other authors do you enjoy reading, look up to or learn the most from?

I’m really encouraged by the growing number of resources on this topic. Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos’s Silent Sorority was the first book I read about a woman who decided to get off the infertility crazy train and make peace with a life without children. Since then several of our “sisters” have taken great leaps. Jody Day just re-released her book, now titled Living the Life Unexpected and is getting a lot of attention for our community in the UK. Here in the U.S., Tracey Cleantis has used her experience with infertility to reach a broader audience on the topic of giving up on a dream in her book, The Next Happy. It’s inspiring to see so many women stepping up and speaking openly about a topic that has been taboo for so long.

What is next for you?

Despite having written two books now, I never set out to write non-fiction. My first love is fiction and I’m anxious for that part of my work to find its way out into the world. I’m hoping my first novel will make its debut in the coming year. That said, Life Without Baby has been an important part of my life for six years now and it’s helped me in ways I never envisioned when I first launched the site. Even though I feel this second book is the final piece in my story, I can’t imagine life without this wonderfully supportive community.

~~~

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Lisa Manterfield is the creator of LifeWithoutBaby.com, the online community that provides resources, community, compassion, and support to women facing a life without children. She is the author of Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen and the award-winning memoir I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. She lives in Southern California, with her wonderful husband (“Mr. Fab”) and overindulged cat, where she is working on her latest novel.

Choosing to Make the Time

Today I am part of the Rewired Life Blog Tour, where we are all exploring and digging deeper in the concepts of Loving yourself, Healing your body and mind, and Celebrating life. Click here to read all of the other amazing bloggers!!! ~~~

Four years ago my life fell apart and together all at once.

And every day since, I've fought, white knuckled, practiced and chosen my life in recovery.

There is not much like a failed infertility journey, three lost babies and the darkness of grief, anger and general life-isn't-fair-and-I'm-the-victim to get you deep in the darkness.

And still, I believe, we must realize that it is always a choice.

A choice to be a victim to life, a victim to what has happened, what has been done, the losses. traumas and tragedies or a choice to overcome through choosing how to respond to it and redefining ourselves and our lives.

Just a week ago one of my clients said,

I know you are so, so busy. How do you do it? How do you still do all the self-care?

With ownership of my own work I responded,

I make the time. No one has time for anything extra in their lives. We are all busy, too busy. We must choose to make the time for what we want and need in our lives. My happiness and sanity ride on me choosing daily self-care.

She responded with a bit of exasperation in her voice,

But when do you do it? How do you find the time?

Four years into my practice of fighting for my redefined happy life it is easy to instruct someone on this work,

I think good and doable self-care is 3-5 things every morning and 3-5 things every night before you go to sleep that you make the time for. Some days it is a complete struggle and I must force myself. I force myself because those choices are aligned with who I want to be. Other days those choices are natural and easy, but this is also years into my journey.

She replies,

And, you still do it all? Every day?

With authentic honesty I reply,

Pretty much very damn day.

There must come a point for us all that we have had enough. Enough of feeling miserable. Enough of being busy with things we don't care about or that don't make us happy.

Enough.

The hardest part of reaching that state of enough is that it means finding the time and space to add more to your life. One more thing, that we already feel like we cannot possibly fit in. Except that one more thing is finally choosing to make the time to change our lives through taking care of ourselves.

 
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My daily choices to choose the life I want through my self-care has not only saved me from the darkness that follows when life doesn't turn out how you hoped and dreamed, but it has opened me up to receive the life filled with dreams I never even imagined.

So I challenge you, what can you add to the start of your day and the end of your day, every single day, that will fill you up?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Color! Adult coloring are not only a fad, the relaxing and creativity building effects of them are being more and more supported in the research.

Meditate! Some of my favorite resources are the Headspace app, The Tapping Solution or using a song or a scent.

Intentional reading! A devotional of some kind, does not have to be religious necessarily. My favorites are anything by Sarah Young (Christian) and Panache Desai'sFinding Your Soul Signature.

Journal! Write about your day, the peaks and valleys and most especially finish it with a gratitude. I prefer 1-3 things that I am grateful for (they have to be different every day). Then I write 3-5 sentences about why I am grateful for one of those things.

Write! Set a timer and write for five minutes based on a random writing prompt you find online.

Walk! Specifically, walk outside in nature and practice presence. How many shades of green do you see? What do you smell? Do you feel the wind?

Read! Especially at night before you go to sleep, read a real book!

Hobby! Do, practice or create something that gets you excited and makes you curious. For me, it is gardening, raising monarch butterflies and volunteering.

Gratitude! It is the single most important and life changing skill for getting out of this thriving and not only surviving.

~~~

Yesterday we heard from Yogi Tish over at her blog Ocho Brazos Yoga.

Coming Monday we get to hear from Dan Mason over at Creative Soul Coaching.

Finally, don't miss a free sample chapter of Rewired Life by my friend Audrey Michel here.

The Bright Shining Light of Community

It has been a busy couple of days as Ever Upward has been featured a few times in the blogosphere. I am honored. I am grateful. I am excited!

And of course, I had to share!

Sarah at infertilityhonesty shared a satirical piece about the HuffPost debacle last week; read the Satirical Fairy Tale here.

Don't Talk About the Baby ran my guest piece, The Knowing Heart of Loss. Please support this film's Kickstarter campaign here.

Pamela Tsigdinos, author of Silent Sorority and Finally Heard, featured Ever Upward in her post today, called First We Get Really Uncomfortable...

Finally, I wrote a guest piece for Eva's World called Why Counseling Needs to Be Part of Our TTC Journey.

As always, thank you so much for the shares, the likes, the comments and simply your support and love!

Justine

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: Life Is Messy

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 a post from Elisha over at Waiting for Baby Bird. Elisha has been a huge support of Ever Upward and a great friend and honestly faith mentor to me (even if she doesn't know that until now). I appreciate and love her vulnerability as she writes about her struggles and triumphs through infertility, fostering and standing stronger than ever in her faith.

~~~~

Life Is Messy

 
 

I scroll through Facebook and I look at everyone's beautiful pictures on Instagram and as much as I try not to, comparison sneaks in and starts to fatigue my soul. Thoughts of...she is prettier...her cooking is better...their clothes are nicer...their life is easier...her house is perfect...their marriage is flawless...and so on roll through my mind. And before I know it, I feel like I have been in a mugging.  Comparison comes, punches me in the gut, and steals my joy.  It makes me feel as if I am not enough and what I have accomplished isn’t enough. Especially since this is the view of my bedroom this morning. Oh how I wished it didn't look like this. Instead I wish the clothes were folded and neatly put away. The drawers were closed. My bed was made with the pillows perfectly arranged on top and everything else was in its proper place and therefore worthy of a picture to post for the world to see and click “like.” And then turn around and pridefully give myself a pat on the back for how many "likes" I got.

But it's not.  And the one thing I have learned about comparing my life with hers or his or theirs, is that no matter what I am comparing it to, it is an ugly thing.  It has the ability to instantly and without warning replace my happiness and joy with bitterness, jealously, envy, and hopelessness as I only begin to start seeing what other people have that I want. It creates a type of tunnel vision to where everything around me starts to look dark and gloomy.  And it creates the false belief that God is sitting up there picking favorites.  Which I know is wrong according to Romans 2:11 which states, "God does not show favoritism." But still, I can't shake the thought.  Can you relate? If so, you are not alone. I am not alone.

In Justine Froelker's book, Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Define Your Own Happy Ending, she says that comparison definitely got the better of her more times than not.

But the truth that we need to have resonate in our souls is that we can't judge our insides by someone's outsides. We can't compare ourselves to what we think we know about someone just by reading their status updates, looking at their perfectly filtered Instagram photos, or seeing them stroll through Target.

Because that woman I became jealous of the minute I saw her with a shopping cart full of kiddos or holding a precious newborn baby, might just be fostering. Or perhaps she once struggled too. And that husband and wife who I always see smiling together, might actually be struggling behind closed doors. And the momma who looks like she has it all together, might be hanging on by a thread. Or that family who has the fancy cars, trendy outfits, and extravagant vacations might be drowning in debt.  And that meal my friend posted and bragged about cooking could actually taste like...well, crap. And those Pinterest projects they always do with their kiddos probably cost them too much money and added unneeded stress to their day. (Side note: It is okay to stick with Play-Doh.  It is cheap and not as stressful.)

So friend, let me be the first to say, it’s time you and I start taking it easy on ourselves.  Because just like my room is messy, so is life. Life is messy. It's scattered and unorganized. It's dirty and more often than not, it never looks the way we want it to.  But despite the messy, scattered and unorganized parts, there is something I have learned over the course of time and through reading Justine’s book; and that is the prettiest filter through which we can view our lives, is the one that recognizes the beauty even through all the mess.

It is the laundry that needs to be folded because we are blessed to have clothes to wear.

It is our husbands dirty socks thrown on the floor next to the clothes hamper that remind us of how hard working he is to provide for the family.

It is the unmade bed that reminds us we had a soft and warm place to lay our heads down at night.

It is the blankets not folded and put back that remind us of when they were used for snuggling.

It is the dirty dishes in the sink that serve as a reminder of the stories exchanged over dinner. And it's the contents of your fridge that look more like a science experiment that remind us that the reason it wasn't eaten, was because we have more than enough...

It is easy to want life to look a certain way and get frustrated when it doesn't. But friend, despite it not always looking like what we imagine, it is still okay. It is okay because while life can be messy, scattered and unorganized, it can also be beautiful when we choose to look through the filter of gratitude and love and joy.

So my sweet friend, if today you are struggling with the way your life looks, just change the filter. Try to look past the mess and see the beauty. It's there. I promise.

 
 

I love to connect with new readers and friends!  Stop by my blog at waitingforbabybird.com or let's get connected on instagram at @waitingforbabybird or through my facebook page by clicking here.  I can't wait to "meet" you!

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: Ever Upward in Treatment

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 hysterical soul sister Kaeleigh from Unpregnant Chicken. Kaeleigh and I first became close over my love/hate relationship with Twitter. She has been such a huge support of Ever Upward, without her tweets, her cheers, her ideas and her love I would have lost my mind months ago. I am so excited for future work with her both as a friend and as a fellow infertility advocate. Together we will change the conversations and the support the infertility community sees. I am so thankful for this incredible piece on the book, thank you my friend, thank you!

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I recently finished reading Justine’s book Ever Upward and it was amazing. I found many useful tools in the pages to help me on my journey with infertility and here’s the thing…. My journey is far from over. Unlike Justine, I am not at the end of my long road yet. We have been TTC for 2 years 9 months and are beginning our first IVF cycle this month. Even though I am not at a time in my life where I am ready to embrace a childfree lifestyle I found this book amazingly helpful. Here are some ways that I think Ever Upward can help you, even while still in treatment. First, Some reasons to read the book:

Why you can enjoy “Ever Upward” while still walking your TTC path:

  1. It gave me perspective: As someone in treatment I can struggle to wrap my head around people who are at different stages in their journey or who are making different decisions from me. Justine is very eloquent and I found myself identifying with her so much, even when her decisions were things I have never been through or considered.
  1. I felt less alone: This journey can be hard. I am on Twitter, Facebook and my Unpregnant Chicken blog and even still I can feel really alone. This book was great for those moments when no one else was available (3 am cry fest, anyone?). It’s great to have a pocket friend who gets it for those times you really need to feel that SOMEONE out there does.
  1. The benefits of a professional: Justine is not just a fellow Infertility Warrior, she is also a psychologist with 15 years of experience. So you know that the vast majority of advice in her book is something that your own therapist might suggest. It made me feel better about listening to some of her suggestions.
  1. It is, plain and simple, a fun read: There’s so much more to this book than simply infertility stuff, or treatment stuff, or moving past loss stuff—it’s in there—but it is also about a LIFE. You’ll feel like you have a new friend at the end of the read. A friend who has done more interesting things than you and who let you live vicariously through her for a while.

Now, all that said, there are a few points from this book that I think are essential for someone going through treatment to take to heart. Namely: Self-Care. Self-care is hugely important for all human beings. If you are a human being you should be making sure that you honor, love and care for yourself all the time. But when we face challenges in our lives it can be very difficult to remember that. Especially when those challenges make you feel inadequate or mad at yourself. I think that so often with infertility we wind up really being angry at ourselves and shunning our self-care out of spite. Fine, I can’t get pregnant? I won’t work out or eat right then… you probably know the drill. There is a great chapter, chapter 4, where Justine talks about choosing change and moving on with her life after reaching the end of her treatments. A lot of this choosing life centers on self-care routines.  I want to challenge the idea that you need to reach “the end” to apply these things. These things are good for everyone everywhere, but ESPECIALLY during a treatment cycle. I want to choose happiness, I want to choose life… even now, in the depths of my uncertainly. So, secondly, some of the best and most applicable tips to apply while still in treatment.

Ever Upward tips to apply during treatment cycles:

-Diet And Exercise: Justine really delves into this in the book but I’ll keep it simple, stupid…There is nothing like having a healthy body to help you have a healthy mind. When your body is functioning at peak capacity it is more likely to easily roll with the challenges of a cycle. I won’t say it will get you pregnant, but it will give you a good shot and keep you more level as you go through it. *As always, remember to check with your dr. about the recommended range of weight for you and your bodies needs during treatment before starting any new diet and fitness routines.*

-Nighttime Routine: At night time we are so wound up from the challenges of our day to day life that it can feel like pulling teeth to sit ourselves down without electronics and allow ourselves to truly unwind. But it is worth it. When your mind isn’t sufficiently relaxed you are unable to get the good night’s rest that your body and brain require. The more sleep deprived you are, whether you feel it or not, the more stress your body is under in general. Also Melatonin is connected to your other girly hormones and during a cycle it is imperative that you don’t mess with them. On my IVF form they list getting a strict 8 hours a night as mandatory. So unplug your devices, read a good book, meditate, have some herbal tea. Allow your body the rest it deserves.

-Journal/Write: When TTC there are a lot of powerful emotions floating around. For all involved. It can be very helpful to write these emotions down in order to help you gain perspective and work through the complicated web to understanding. You don’t have to share it with anyone, you don’t have to do it every day, but it is helpful to write when you are unhappy. Writing when upset clears your mental air. On the other hand you should also write when you are feeling great. Writing when happy allows you to fully focus on the positives in your life and be grateful. Both types of writing help you to be more emotionally balanced. When dealing with the crazy shit in a cycle one can ALWAYS use some extra balance.

-Utilize Music: Music is incredibly powerful. It can transport you to different times and places and allows you to really feel your emotions. It can also be incredibly cathartic to let it move your body. Ever put on a happy tune when you are having a bad day and start dancing around the room like a maniac? I do. And at the end there is always a HUGE smile on my face. Music therapy is big business, because it is effective. Use music in your own life to help you cope as you ride the treatment rollercoaster. Invite JOY back into your home.

-Get Help From A Trained Professional: Last but certainly not least. See. A. Shrink. No you are not crazy.  But you are human. Humans need help from time to time to deal with the shit that crops up in our lives. Infertility stirs up an awful lot of shit. Especially during active treatment. There is no shame in this. Psychologists are pretty awesome people. Just look at Justine! All joking aside, I really do implement this in my real life and it has been a life saver these past few years.

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg of what this book can offer. Ever Upward really can reach you right where you are, right now, and help empower you and invigorate your life. Justine is at a different stage in her journey than I am, but her story, this book, touched me all the same.

In closing, I want to pull out what I imagine to be the central thread of the Ever Upward message – Allow yourself to be present and joyful in your life, even when it is painfully hard. Be really engaged with the world around you. By doing this you reaffirm to yourself every day that you are worth it. You are worth living. Choose life. Embrace all that it has to offer. Embrace your Ever Upward Journey, no matter what stage of the journey you find yourself on.

With Love,

Unpregnant Chicken

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.

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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.

 
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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 Post: A Mighty Throng

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 Lisa from Amateur Nester. Incredibly, just like many of my other friends in the blogging community, I cannot say for sure how Lisa and I found one another. All I know is that it was no mistake and God's timing has been perfect. I have learned so much from Lisa's journey especially in regards to her strong faith through her infertility journey. I am thankful to have her to look up to and respect, especially for me in the faith department. Mostly, I am simply thankful for her joyful shout she shines into the world.

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A Might Throng

I recently came across the Bible verse Psalm 68:11, “The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng.”  Regardless of whether you practice the Christian faith, the image of a “mighty throng” of women proclaiming truth should stop us in our tracks.

It makes me think of all the women out there who use their blogs to spread hope and positivity during infertility or childlessness.  One tiny blog might not reach many people on its own, but when you think about the combined reach all the bloggers have, the more stunning the imagery in the Bible verse becomes.

Some of you might be thinking about how you can spread light to others.  Perhaps you are interested in starting your own blog.   Maybe your first step is just sharing your story over coffee with a friend or co-worker.  Or maybe you feel a calling to write a book.  Everyone’s gift and talents are unique, so there are so many creative ways we can give hope to others.

Even if you only pass your hope and positivity on to one other person, you are part of this “mighty throng” of women.

So start your blog, and keep writing even if no one appears to be reading yet. Give your testimony at church. Take your neighbor to coffee. Give support to people going through tough times on Twitter or Facebook.  Proclaim truth and light for the benefit of others. And as each of us reaches one person at a time, we are indeed a mighty throng!

Lisa Newton writes about her infertility journey and the faith that gets her through at Amateur Nester.  She lives on the California Central Coast with her husband, Tom, and their spoiled orange cat, Hemingway.

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Please consider spreading the word and signing up for my Thunderclap campaign for the April 7th bookstore release of Ever Upward!  Be a part of spreading positive light and education in a social media flash mob!

Also, don’t forget to send me those questions for the Ever Upward Book Club!