The Heartbeat of 9 Million

The email was short and sweet,

It’s here!

Followed by the link.

A link to one of my dreams come true, the hardest work of my life, and a story of my sacred truth all there for an audience of over 9,000,000.

Whoa!

My hands shook and my heart pounded so hard and loud I could feel it pulsating throughout my whole body.

Fear and trust, excitement and surrender.

The And.

As I sent the link to everyone I know and refreshed the YouTube channel my pounding heart skipped a beat as I saw my other TEDx go live right before my eyes.

Two TEDx talks, both live, to over 9,000,000 in less than three hours.

Holy shit!

A squeal and a jump followed by an immediate hitting of my knees in gratitude and asking for protection, I felt washed over with a sense of knowing and unknowing all at once.

The And.

Here you go world, my two TEDx talks (The Permission of The And and The Donut Effect). Watch, share, give brave feedback, and share again. And, most of all, thank you.

 
 

A Workshop and Dream

Tomorrow kicks off my Rising Ever Upward Tour, and there are not enough emotional words to type to accurately describe how I am feeling. Thank God I have this work to help me navigate it all.

Tonight I am offering a FREE workshop as I wrap up my 7 week Mini-Course, I'd love for you to join me. I'll be sharing a glimpse into what this work is all about and much more. You can read more about it here.

 
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I feel a lot of writing coming from me while on tour, some for the next book of course, and some for you all here. Thank you for your patience as I enter into this new stage of my career. I cannot thank this community enough.

Another Round

Sitting on my orange couch flanked by all three of our dogs, I giggle to myself as Cassandra, my coach, continues on, "How did that turn out?" Unbeknownst to her, her face has been frozen for the last 5 minutes of our conversation; and yet her question, both powerful and one she already knows the answer to, hits me to the core.

"It didn't work out how I wanted," I reply with just the slightest annoyance in my voice.

"And, how did that turn out?" she asks.

"I created and have received this incredible and fucking beautiful life," I state back with a clarity and a knowing, though a catch of my voice and the tears in my eyes reveal my truth that this life has not come without years of loss, work, and trust.

It was just a minute before, on our call, that I had come to realize that the risk I am taking in going out on tour, offering my workshops and intensives, is not much unlike the risk we took 6 years ago in doing IVF.

Financial sacrifice?

Check.

Paralyzing fear?

Check.

Doubt, our own and that of many, many others?

Check.

Hope?

Check. Why else would we sign up for it?

So much the same, and so much, so very different.

Going through the infertility journey six years ago, I was a completely different person.

Back then, who I was with the addition of financial stress, waiting games, synthetic hormones, and no babies was the perfect storm for the deepest darkest crash of my entire life. I was, in many ways, living my life from the place of shame, scarcity, comparison, and with my weaknesses in total control.

The darkness left behind by our infertility journey that ended without kids, was the ashes from which I needed to rise.

And now, to leap into another unknown.

I needed to choose myself, to do the work, and to rise into this incredible person I am and into this incredible  life I have now.

I am preparing to leave for tour in less than two weeks, which means the talons of PTSD clutch every organ in my chest and stomach often, as if we are doing another round of IVF. This PTSD triggers overwhelming fear that could easily take over every thought and my entire body if I let it.

I find my breath stolen from me in a second, without so much as a trigger - the fear, doubt, anxiety, shame, and comparison charging up my physiological response to emotion in my pounding heart and shortness of breath.

Yet, I stop myself.

It's different now.

It has only been with this work, the work I am fighting so hard to bring to my community on tour, that I recognize the symptoms and then refuse to attach to the drama. It is in this choice that I give myself the permission to rumble with what is really going on. It is through this rumble with my shame shit that I choose to cope, to be always rewriting my story, and standing in my sacred truth.

With this work, and my team and community rallying and surrounding me, those PTSD talons are no match for this person and life I have created, fought for, and done the work to receive these last few years.

Most of all, it is no match for my level of faith. Sure, I am quite possibly the literal poster child for when things don't turn out how you hoped, dreamed, and planned. But...

I am also the flawed, full-of-grit-and-grace badass who rises from those ashes a better person, one who loves harder and shines brighter. It is within this hard that I help others and with that light that I am able to see how beautiful of a life I have been given.

I go into this unknown from a place of self-love, passion, and a burning desire to heal the world.

I eventually took a picture of Cassandra and sent it to her on Messenger. We both laughed and we ended our session in our usual way: of her palpable excitement for what is and what is to come, my complicated gray of excitement and fear, and both of our's full knowing that whatever is to come of this incredible work we are doing together, we are both certain that it far exceeds our wildest dreams.

I don't know what God's plan is for this tour. Just like I didn't know what God's plan was for our three.

 
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I know it will be filled with people who are ready to heal and courageous enough to do this work with me. I know it will change their lives, my life, and therefore, the world. I know that no matter if every registration is booked, and no matter how much money made or lost, that it will be God-willed, God-filled, and amazing.

Because unlike the 30% odds of the "successful" outcome with an infertility journey, my odds are 100% when it comes to who I have become, the work I am willing to do on a daily basis, God's grace, and my badassery rising.

Called

I am just a couple of weeks out from the kick off of my Rising Ever Upward tour. The registrations are starting to fill my inbox.

People are sending messages.

They are engaging with my Mini-Course and Facebook Lives.

In fact, 22 people took advantage of a last minute pop up class last night for FREE (a $200 value).

A couple of them even registered to come do this work with me in a city near them.

Clarity took root last night for me... I am doing this. I am supposed to be doing this.

And, I am super excited and oh so grateful.

Make sure you have subscribed to my subscriber list, as we still have 2 weeks left of exclusive content coming, along with following along at Facebook.

And, have no doubt, I have a HUGE and AMAZING close planned for this 7 week Mini-Course!

Thank you for your support!

 
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The Rising Ever Upward Tour

 
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If you seek a life lived more authentically... 

If shame keeps you from living and loving fully...

If you want to build shame resilience and courage practices...

If you want to learn how to live more bravely in the arenas of your life...

 If you simply want to learn how to live, love, parent and lead more wholeheartedly and with deep courage...

The Daring Way™ and Rising Strong™ work is for you.

Join me on tour this summer,

full details at www.daringinstl.com.

Silence in Infertility: The Race Gap

Because infertility knows no bounds of ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. Because the silence is destroying us.

Because it is important to circle back.

Because we desperately need to have these conversations.

Honestly, it is best explained here...

 
 

The Ever Upward Blog Tour starts March 27th right here!

 
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They See Us

Said to me from my brown leather couch in my sun-drenched office,

I can't even go to church.

Written in a social media post,

I can't go to the baby shower.

Shared in a blog post,

I can't believe she's pregnant...again.

From my own mouth,

They are everywhere.

In the journey of infertility these are all statements we probably have said out loud or to ourselves. I hear them in my office all the time. I also have no doubt I said them to myself in the midst of our trudge through hell a few years ago.

Only now, a few years into Ever Upward and working with clients through and after this journey, are they the phrases that make me the saddest.

When we are fighting, what at times feels like a losing battle, to have babies we often find being around children too difficult. We find it so difficult that many of us cut them completely out of our lives.

We cut out the very thing we are fighting so hard for.

But, this isn't the saddest part.

When we cut out all the children from our lives, we also shame, blame and deny, the mother we are so desperately trying or wanted to be.

We do this out of self-protection. It is natural and I suppose works decently for most of us. But I am finding and discovering that perhaps it is really only help for the most part because it is avoidance and numbing.

Both of which are short lived and not part of this wholehearted life.

Because the fact is, there is no way around this pain.

Despite our best efforts to numb and avoid, we can't. We simply, albeit not easily, must feel it, feel it all, move through it and find our ways of moving forward into our sacred truths.

Admittedly I've been on my own struggle bus of darkness this December. The other night when I was seeking support from my friend Sam I realized something else about the danger of numbing and denying our motherhood. The kids in my life, my chosen children, see me. They truly see me. They see me always, with curiosity and unconditional love. Many days I walk this earth feeling invisible, especially during these holidays. I don't have kids who are excited about Santa. I don't have every weekend booked with the Polar Express, Breakfast with Santa and basketball or soccer games. Instead, this year I am struggling like hell to even finish decorating my Christmas tree. But my chosen children, they see me. Which also means I need to be around them.

 
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No matter where you may be in this journey of infertility and loss, hell even if it is a different, yet so much the same, journey, I want you to ask yourself: Am I avoiding and numbing from the very thing I miss and want so much? 

Chances are the answer is yes.

To which, I guess, I'd like to challenge you a bit. What if choosing the joy in it is the very thing that helps us not completely lose ourselves? What if we changed the meaning we attach to it?

We can either choose to think of being around kids as the constant reminder of what we don't have. How sad, mad and unfair that can feel. Or we can choose to love them hard, laugh with them and invest in them. Because in that love, laughter and investment we honor, not only, the mother we want to be, we also we honor the mother we are.

And the Soul Felt It's Worth

The lights cast a glow throughout the house that is both calming and unnerving. The scent of pine brings both joy and sadness.

The stubborn ache in my chest like a constant reminder of what could of been and the gift of what is.

December is kicking my ass this year.

I am tearful easily. I am overwhelmed with it all. And, I know I am not alone.

Most people, even my closest loved ones, have asked, "But, why are you struggling so much?"

Side note: This is not the most empathetic way to ask...

Then there are my fellow warriors and even my always trying husband Chad, who have asked with empathy and love, "Is this different or harder than last year? How come you think you're struggling so much?"

 
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I am as surprised (and annoyed honestly) as anyone else, as I would like to say this gets easier.

Every year that passes there is this naive part of you that thinks it won't hurt as bad, maybe just maybe, it will get better. But as I always say, it just gets different.

There are a myriad of reasons this Christmas season is kicking my butt. Bottom line infertility and loss changes you forever. If we choose to do the work it changes us for the better, I promise. No amount of twinkling lights, carols, jingle bells and damn glitter (literally, damn glitter, it should not be on cards in my opinion) lessens the longing in my soul that I wish my three were here with me on earth. In fact those lights, carols, bells and glitter only remind me of everything I do not get with my own children. They remind me of what I am missing out on and of what is missing of me.

Admittedly, all that missing out and grief stirs up the voice in my head and the ache in my heart that tells me I am not enough, that I will never be enough, especially because I am not a mother.

Yet, I have done the work, I know this is not my truth.

And still, shame weasels in so easily and steals my light.

I have changed that story...most days. Through the work I have done and especially in my faith I know my truth is that I am worthy, I am enough and I am a mother.

This December it seems, my shitty first draft of I am not enough is winning more days than not.

Perhaps you saw me Sunday on the live stream of my church service desperately taking notes and attempting to control my tears. As soon as we sang O Holy Night with the lyric, and the soul felt its worth, a peace settled into my soul right next to my forever longing.

Be still, my child. It is Me and it is about Me. I am here with you always.

My worth is not in children by my side, in being called mom or being seen as someone who matters by society. My worth is in Him and what better time of year than now to remember that.

And, as my amazing friend and fellow blogger Caitlin says,

In the end my identity doesn't come from hearing a child call me mom but knowing the King who calls me daughter.

Deep complicated gray breath.

I still have not fully decorated that lit tree or put up any other Christmas decorations, and I am giving myself permission that this is okay this year.

This hurts, and it always will. I am sad, and that is okay. I may feel invisible, and I am worthy.

These are my truths.

So, I look through the glow of the unadorned lit tree filling my lungs with the scent of pine in a deep knowing breath to feel the ache and the awe, the longing and the joy, my worth, His love and my three.

A Community of Never Enough Mothers?

A woman with two devastating losses currently pregnant with a miracle. A woman in the midst of her very last round of infertility treatments after five losses.

A woman with two losses she has never felt good enough to claim.

A woman told at 16 years old she would never conceive.

Women who are all mothers, not in your traditional sense of the word of 2.5 children in the family picture, but mothers still.

I am one of these mothers; failed infertility treatments, three lost babies and learning to live life parenting from afar. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor who has been certified in the work of Dr. Brené Brown for almost three years now. I have completed The Daring Way™ curriculum with over 50 clients helping them to rise over shame and learn to live and love wholeheartedly.

A couple of weekends ago I led the four above mentioned women through Brené’s new Rising Strong™ curriculum. It was my first infertility and loss intensive, and it was four years in the making.

Click here to continue reading over at HuffPost.

 
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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.

~~~

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.

 
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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.

The Goosebumps of Knowing Awe

The email comes through with the subject line of #MoreThan1in8 and my heart skips a beat. The social media notification comes through with the brave words and beautiful faces of someone breaking the silence and I'm overcome with goosebumps in knowing awe.

The knowing awe of the power of telling our stories.

The knowing awe of the freedom of owning stories.

The knowing awe of the world changing.

In one week I have had 29 people share their stories of thriving through and thereafter infertility along with their bright shining faces. In the next two weeks I hope and pray that number jumps to no less than 100.

Because I want more from us and for us. It is my #startasking I suppose.

Even if you are not comfortable, now or ever, to share your infertility story publicly on social media, I would be appreciative if you would at least share the project. More than that I would be honored if you would share your story and show your face with me privately via email. I am not publicly posting the stories. I am however going to use our faces, the images of thriving through and after infertility, for a project during National Infertility Awareness Week. But your photo may not necessarily be identifiable, as it will be very, very small. Too public for you even still? Then please share your story with me and a photo of the hobby, the pets, the books that are helping you thrive through and after your infertility journey. Or if you think I'm crazy and this will never work, I'll just take those thoughts, prayers and lots of magic that this project can provide some of us the outlet to tell our stories.

But still, I beg you, break your silence in a way that honors your truth and changes your life and the world.

We cannot want more from our loved ones and our society unless we tell our stories. We must ask for what we want and need, and we must educate if we are going to get the understanding and compassion we all so desperately need through and after this journey. No need for the public blog or social media posts or publishing the book, but please, speak  your story to someone who loves you, to someone you trust.

I think, speaking our truth and owning our stories, is one of the only ways we will get out of this alive and well.

 
 

To participate in #MoreThan1in8 please send however much of your story and a photo that you are comfortable with, and thank you in advance!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/everupwardblog

Instagram: www.instagram.com/jlbf4

Twitter: @JustineFroelker

Email: everupwardbook@gmail.com

The Wholehearted Hustle

I'm trying to finish getting ready. I know I am not late and yet there is an overwhelming sense that I am. I am rushing all around at lightening speed and no one is around to help.

I run down the hallway my heart beating at top speed as fly down the stairs. I push open the door so hard it bangs on the outside wall that the sound nearly brings me back to reality.

I feel the crisp air on my face and piercing my lungs as I try to catch my breath when the sound of the closing door stops me in my tracks realizing there is no one there and nowhere to go.

They left.

I am alone.

For months it seemed like this was the theme of my nightly dreams, different settings but always the same scenario and feelings; fear, sadness and confusion.

They left me. I am forgotten. They've moved on.

And, they didn't even look back.

I am invisible.

I've done enough work to know where these dreams are coming from. There is not any unconscious or subconscious bullshit that I am not aware of because I've done the work and live it every damn day.

As a woman without children and an infertility advocate without the "happy" ending not only do I hardly ever fit in but I am also often ignored and forgotten.

So why were these dreams beginning to plague me now?

It wasn't until I went to my Rising Strong™ facilitator intensive that I was able to see and therefore understand and even change this theme in my life.

In the Rising Strong™ work we identify a face down in the arena moment, a moment in our lives here we have fallen or failed or perhaps completely lost ourselves. It was only in picking myself back up and rewriting my story that I realized what was happening.

I'd been hustling for so long to build the platform of Ever Upward; working my ass of on posting, emailing, writing and submitting, all in hopes of my healthier messages reaching a bigger audience. Along the way in Montana I realized, with a lot of help and love from my tribe, that my mission had actually stolen my voice. What I learned further in my Rising Strong™ work is the reason for this; the inner critic of fear and shame.

I am feeling invisible.

Often feeling like the invisible advocate only seemed to strengthen my hustle but not in a healthy way. Rather, it was a hustle from scarcity as if trying to convince myself that I am enough. Finally, with the Rising Strong™ work I realized that this shameful and fearful part of me felt that if I didn't get Ever Upward noticed and keep hustling, that not only would I be unseen and invisible but my fear of disappearing would come true.

And yet, I know I matter. I will never disappear, even if I am unseen.

Because I am worthy.

The dreams have since stopped. In this work I have been able to again let go a bit more and walk even more into my own grace as my friend Susan says.

And yet, I know I am still a person of hard work and hustle.

I am determined.

But, for my well being and to honor the work I have done, and my truth, I must hustle from a place of wholeheartedness and not scarcity.

This clarity came right at the same time as a book was delivered on my doorstep (God knows when you are ready to receive).

I had preordered Hustle Believe Receive months ago and had honestly kind of forgotten about it.

And just like that my hustle became fun again and not desperate.

 
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I highly Sarah Centralla's book. I love her 8 steps to getting what you want in life because she makes them tangible and doable for everyone. It is also highly aligned with my values and the work of Ever Upward; we choose our lives and define our own happy ending. I especially love that she shares her story along with 51 other stories of people who believed they could, worked their asses off to create the lives they desire and allowed themselves the belief and love of themselves to receive it.

I am rising Ever Upward.

I just finished Sarah's Step5: #SeeIt and can feel the strength of my dreams empowering my hustle instead of it being powered by the fear of being left behind.

Because I believe in hard work. I believe in my voice, my truth and my dreams.

I believe in rising ever upward in the wholehearted hustle.

***Includes Amazon Affiliate links.

Penned Musings: Shoulder Pads

Penned Musings are posts based off of my daily writing prompts. You can read more here. ~~~

Shoulder Pads

Speak it.

Speak it so fucking loud that the shame monster looks at you shocked and frozen. Because that monster speaks lies to you. That monster tries to lull you into submission by telling you that you don't matter. That you're unworthy. That your fear will always stop you.

Look her straight in those sinister green eyes and speak.

I'm scared. I'm lost.

But you're not my truth.

And then walk towards her feeling your racing heart and sweaty palms propelling you forward and wrap your arms around the shoulder padded business suit of shame.

Hold tight and feel the fear and shame melt between you both to make room and allow the warmth between you; invite in your awe.

The awe that you've survived. The awe that you have a story. The awe that your voice is beautifully important.

Because you're it. The only one ever like you; shame monster and all; fucking shoulder padded business suit shame monster.

And say,

Thank you, but no thank you.

May I take your blazer?

Show your beauty, your heart; your awe.

The light filled awe.

Shine bright my love, shine bright in awesome glory; in awe struck, fear filled awesome glory.

 
 

They Count Too

Note: I had hoped HuffPost Parents would pick this up today, as I wait I wanted to post here to say thank you before the day's end. ~~~

When I profusely thank such organizations as Beat Infertility, Don't Talk About the Baby and Share for including me and my story, I both hope they know how sincere I am being but also know they are probably thinking,

Of course, what is the big deal?

My words of thanks come from a place of love formed in the darkness of loss.

I have never been pregnant.

Thank God because being pregnant for me after two back surgeries and a year in a body cast would never lead to the normal celebratory leap of joy over 2 pink lines that those of us in the infertility and loss community long for.

My surrogate never achieved pregnancy with our embryos either.

And yet, there is not a National Failed Infertility Treatment Awareness Month or National IVF Embryos Count Too Awareness Month, and so the month of October's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is where I fall (or perhaps force my way in). Even though I can at times feel like the odd man out, left behind or the girl just beyond the outskirts of fitting in often wondering to myself,

They probably don't think I belong here. I did not lose enough. I am not enough.

That damn inner critic and scarcity, and yet, I know I am nowhere near alone.

Just as my friend over at Another Forty commented on my last post:

Having never been pregnant, though, I realize that I still have some shame related to whether or not pregnancy and infant loss awareness month applies to me. I have these pictures of our four embryos that feel like the only tangible remnant of our efforts, the closest I ever got to pregnancy. But at the end of the day I never did get there. So does it still count? I want it to desperately, and I want others to recognize it. It is such an odd thing to lose something you never really had.

To which I replied:

Those pictures of my 8 celled babies are not only cells in a petri dish to me, never strong enough to take strong footing in a warm mother’s womb, they are my babies. They count, they most definitely count. I am with you sister, it sometimes feels like there is not a place for us, but I assure you it is here. We too became mothers the day we dreamed of becoming mothers.

To you, they may simply be 8 celled embryos who were a science experiment in a sterile lab and petri dish.

To me they were growing babies, made up of Chad's athletic ability and kind heart and my red hair and passionate personality, and transferred to Michelle's loving motherly womb. My babies who never took a breath of this earth's fresh air and who I must parent from afar for the rest of my life always wondering who they might have been and who I might have been as their mother.

 
 

Tonight we will join families all over the world in the Wave of Light as we light three candles in honor of our soul scars.

And as I look at those bright flames, I will wonder if they are proud of me, wishing they were here while all in the same breath knowing all is okay.

I will also say thank you.

Thank you for including me and for remembering mothers like us.

~~~

In honor of my three: 

 
 

Petite Post: It Gets Different

Every day I learn a lesson in this lifelong journey of grief. Now a few years out of our failed infertility journey some of those lessons knock me on my ass, some push me forward and some lift me up on a firm foundation.

 
 

I am often asked,

Does it ever get better?

To which I say in complete love and loathing of the complicated gray,

It gets different.

Some days are better.

Some are brutal.

All days, in each lesson, I am shown that it gets different.

I am different; some days better, some brutal.

Penned Musings: My Shifting Shadow

My trip to Montana for the Haven Writing Retreat with New York Times bestselling author Laura Munson was the best money I have ever spent, the best moment I have ever listened to that voice telling me I have got to do something and some of the best days of my life. Montana is my happy place. Laura is my friend, coach and a gift to the world and my life; I learned so much from her. In addition, there simply are not enough words for the women I met at Haven. They are my new found tribe that I so desperately needed after the last year of lonely platform building and trying to get Ever Upward noticed and selling. They are my soft landing spot full of inspiration and love.

I found my voice there in the quiet of beautiful Montana. And most of all, Laura and my new friends helped me to discover that my passion, although one of my very best qualities, was allowing the mission to get in the way.

And so, I am anew; practicing my art of writing differently, and daily, and working on the sequel to Ever Upward in a completely different way.

Because through only my truth and only my voice will the mission actually shine bright.

~~~

And so, I thought I would occasionally share some of my writing prompts that I work on daily here at Ever Upward, especially while I work more on the second book for now. I hope you enjoy, I hope they inspire you, I hope they make you laugh, and most of all, I hope you can trust me in this slightly new direction.

~~~

My Shifting Shadow

Walking down two short gravel roads in the Montana crisp air alone with only the bright moon as my guide I realize how quiet my surroundings are and just how alone I am.

Shit, I did not walk along this barn before.

The gravel crunches beneath my feet as my pace picks up both out of fear and shiver as I feel the cold Montana air seep through my clothes and onto my now anxiously sweating skin.

It's okay just back track, I think I just missed a turn.

The stars shine bright, more of them at once than I have ever seen, and the moon nearly bright enough to guide my walk.

Oh fuck, what happens if I can't find my way?

Oh how loaded this question really is...

She had put me in the back of the property in the most isolated and quiet cabin she had. She was the New York Times bestselling author, so I knew she had her reasons but my stubborn ass was not going to thank her that first night as I calmed down from missing a turn in the pitch black Montana night.

And I sure as hell wasn't thanking her as I laid in my bed that first of four nights attempting to journal through the deafening silence that hit my eardrums as hard as the bass at a Taylor Swift concert.

A deep breath makes tears spring to my eyes but only briefly as the clarity of my voice begins to gain strength.

These women will change my life. God, I have missed community.

And I begin to write, just a bit because tomorrow begins the first big day of finding my voice with the guidance and loving arms of Haven.

My voice, now more audible than a library whisper,

I'm here, just a bit drowned by the social media-ing, the earning a living-ing and a mission we are so desperate to accomplish.

By the third morning, she's no longer a whisper but a rather confident and renewed heart and soul-filled voice.

She's me.

With the sun shining bright, the morning air crisp with possibility and the Canadian geese as my own personal morning playlist, I walk up that gravel road alone. I am greeted by the steam rolling off the tree embraced lake and with my next step I notice her, my shadow.

My shifted shadow.

My shadow that is no longer casting my darkness ahead but rather trailing behind as if to stand in holy support.

 
 

In the Quiet of a Holiday Weekend

A long weekend without many plans. So much time to get things done; do a bit of work, serve at church, work around the house and relax.

Sleep in.

Play with the dogs.

Take care of the caterpillars and butterflies.

Swim in our pool.

Quiet, nice relaxing, low key weekend.

And then your one real plan of the weekend gets canceled and you realize everyone else has plans with their families.

Their families with kids.

That irrational, inner critic voice inside your head whispers,

Get used to this, you'll get canceled on the the rest of your life for the fun with the families with kids.

Everyone will always be too busy with their kids to fit you into their calendar.

The shame, the sadness and that dark sense of being left behind settles in.

Of course, I know this is not my truth but the fog that can easily move in from shame hovers over me almost the entire weekend; enveloping all of me if I am not careful.

Of course, there is the bigger part of me that has enjoyed the quietness of this weekend. The quality time with Chad and the dogs, butterflies and caterpillars. The time to finally work around the house and on my writing with some time off of our regular work schedule.

But I struggled a lot to take my usual deep knowing breath and  puff away the fog, even through this gratitude and joy.

And once again I am reminded that this lifelong journey will always be bittersweet; the complicated grey.

After writing and talking with Chad I realize that mostly I am lonely and I need to do a better job with connecting rather than allowing my shame to disconnect me.

And I need to practice my shame resilience through writing, connecting and practicing my mothering.

But most of all, I need to honor and fight for myself by completely shattering the foggy darkness by speaking it.

 
 

I Get It, My Story Makes You Really Uncomfortable

HuffPost Parents ran an original piece yesterday and I wanted to make sure everyone here saw it too. Also, a piece from a friend! Have a great weekend! Justine ~~~

When Your Truth Makes Others Uncomfortable

The first defining part of my life story is one that makes people curious and sometimes left in awe.

I had two back surgeries in high school and was in a body cast for a year of my life.

I survived and overcame.

This makes people feel good and they want to know more; they want to know me.

Skip to 20 years later, and to the most defining part of my life, and it is one that makes people sad and scares the hell out of them.

Infertility treatments did not work for us and we are choosing a childfree not by choice life.

I survived and actively work to overcome and thrive each day.

This makes people sad and uncomfortable.

Click here to keep reading over at HuffPost Parents.

~~~

In Other News

My friend and a huge supporter of Ever Upward, Jessica over at A Hummingbird Paused has been selected as one of the Best Blogs for Resolve's Hope Awards.  I am so excited for her and asked her to write a blurb to share here:

You are not alone. As the theme for this year's Bloggers Unite challenge, it was easy to write about the infertility community and how to find support. There are so many ways to make connections and reach out to the community. But the loneliness? The isolation? That's not something that will just disappear. Because it all starts within your mind. That sense that you're different. Your path to parenthood may be unconventional or non-traditional. You may be forced to make hard choices that few can comprehend. You compare yourself to others and suddenly you start to feel isolated, lonely, and misunderstood. But let me tell you, just because your journey is different doesn't mean that you're alone. You are part of a welcoming and open community, and your story matters.

Being part of any community requires conversation and interaction. It's truly amazing how supportive the infertility and loss community is. And Resolve is a big part of that. They are a huge supporter of the blogging community, as well as providing invaluable resources and a voice on Capitol Hill. I'm so grateful for all they have accomplished and for what they continue to work towards.
Your voice in this community matters. And I would greatly appreciate your vote. But please check out the other bloggers who were nominated as well. Each one of them deserves this nomination for adding their voice to this challenge and for their vulnerability in sharing their stories. We are all in this together, and your participation in this vote is greatly appreciated!

 

The Tablespoon of Shame

Many say our generations have been raised very differently. Some say that our previous generations were raised with humility at the core. This message that you aren't that special and you must work to prove your worthiness, maybe even to the point of perfection. This message was especially delivered with that sense that you must appear perfect, especially to everyone on the outside.

Then we have some saying that our newer generations are being raised one of two ways:

  • to think we are all too special thus leading us to this sense of entitlement on one extreme, maybe even to the point of laziness and a lack of responsibility.
  • Then the other extreme, this sense of needing to always be the best at any and everything, leading us to having an identity of only accomplishments, hence even more perfectionism.

I am not here to share the research or to even prove or disprove either argument. And, I am not going to write about parenting today. However, as I work with clients every day, especially through the shame resilience work of The Daring Way™, and I continue to work on my own recovery, I am seeing a few patterns that seem to be haunting many of us today.

 
 

With the previous generation this message of humility seems to often have been handed down with a tablespoon of shame. This idea that you aren't that special. You must prove yourself; you must be perfect even.

What I see in my office with clients today are people trying to figure out what to do with this sense of unworthiness that this tablespoon of shame has left them with. This sense of never being enough. This idea that unless I am perfect, unless I prove myself, I am unworthy of love and belonging; because, I am not that special.

With the newer generations and the message that we are all really special, still taught with a tablespoon of shame as it is directly tied to self worth, I see clients who are feeling extremely lost.

So scared to make a decision, maybe even scared of the work required of whatever decision they finally make. The fear of the responsibility because if they do make a mistake then they are handed the message, with that tablespoon of shame, that they are no longer special at all.

Or the other side, the side of always having to be the best; to have the ultimate college application or resume. That perfectionist, only born out of that tablespoon of shame, accomplished list rather than a soul or person. Because, I am only special because of what I can do or what I have accomplished.

I am finding that they too are very lost. Lost in finding their authentic truth. Lost in being able to trust themselves. Lost in knowing who they really want to be, especially outside of their accomplishments.

All three groups, at least what I see in my office on a daily basis, are left with this sense of never being enough and yet this sense of having to be everything. And, this damn tablespoon of shame that seems to haunt them relentlessly. Making it all tied to their sense of love, belonging and worthiness.

We are all worthy. We are all lovable. We all belong.

And, we are all worthy of love and belonging.

However, I think, this tablespoon of shame, leaves many of us never believing the above statements.

Technically we are supposed to get this sense of love and belonging from our family of origin but sometimes they just don't have it to give, maybe because they were never taught or shown it or because life has just been that difficult. Hopefully then we get it from our social and peer groups or even school or work settings.

For me, with where my life is, my tablespoon of shame is typically delivered from our culture and, unfortunately, even from some loved ones.

It is delivered in those messages that try to dim my light and shame my story.

The complete mis-education and misunderstanding of infertility.

The invalidation of the lifelong costs and losses of infertility.

The judgments on me for not choosing adoption and accepting a childfree but childfull life.

The denial of my story because it is too difficult or uncomfortable to hear.

No matter the tablespoon of shame in our lives, this sense of love and belonging can still be felt by all of us. It is in all of the daily practices we must choose in order to find this for ourselves; to find it within ourselves. Those daily practices of connection, compassion, brave vulnerability and self care. For me, it has been the work that I have learned from Brené Brown's research combined with everything I have learned working in this field for the last 14 years.

It is recovery.

It is living the wholehearted life. It is practicing happy to be happy. It is being authentic. It is being brave. It is being vulnerable.

It is in owning it all.

No matter which group we may identify with above, I think our answer through it to our happier and healthier selves is in our practice, fight and work in our own recoveries in life.

It is in owning all the parts of our stories.

It is in leaving out that tablespoon of shame in our recipe for an ever upward life.

*To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

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