Are They Thinking It Too?

A mini post about something that, of course, caught me off guard and has been bugging me a bit.

Do the mothers think of us non-mothers in a group conversation?

A few weeks ago I attended the biggest convention of my life; 7000 people big.Which means I met a lot of incredible people and I had to give my elevator speech of who I am many times over.

There is always that part...the part where you share about your family and my response is one not many people identify with, "No, we don't have kids, we tried but can't have them."

Sometimes the conversation ends there, sometimes they try to fix my pain and offer the usual quick fix of adoption and other times they lovingly want to know more.

But then as the weekend goes on and I as get to know these incredible women and am having so much fun the conversation inevitably turns to their kids and being mothers.

And I am left without the experience to contribute and completely in my head.

Sometimes I wonder, do they ever stop and think of us?

Do they ever have that moment of

Poor Justine, we're just talking about our kids and she's over there and she can't have them.

Or do they never have that thought and I am just personalizing all of it way too much?

But, I know I am not the only one out there who has felt this way. So my question, for our recovery, is what do we do with this?

I think our job is to make sure to stay engaged. If we disengage from the conversation completely we lose connection. And, we already feel lonely enough as women without children in our society. So we must engage and look for that moment to contribute to the conversation or maybe even change the subject.

 
 

Or maybe one day, we can brave enough to just call it out and just state the awkwardness that we are feeling, and maybe they are too.

What I know for sure is that I will continue this work in rising ever upward to always be engaged in my life, even when I am feeling that sense of not fitting in. Especially because, most likely, it is in my head and only my perception that is causing that feeling.

And that, is completely changeable and in my control.

I'd love to hear what your experiences have been. How do you handle this part of the infertility and childfull journey? What about all you mothers out there, what are your experiences?

Not Allowing Comparison to Steal Connection

I have been actively having to fight off the monsters of scarcity and comparison lately. In The Daring Way™ work, based off the research of Brené Brown, we talk about how scarcity and comparison always have seats in the arena. When we live our lives wholehearted and we choose to show up, be seen and live brave™, scarcity and comparison will always be lingering.

Scarcity: The idea that there is not enough to go around or that feeling that we will never be _________________ (pretty, thin, happy, rich, etc.) enough.

Comparison: Comparing our lives and our journey to the person next to us.

For years, I have told my clients that comparison is never really an accurate lens to view our truth through. When we really think about it our life is simply not comparable. No one has, nor will anyone ever, walk this earth that is exactly like us; never the same genes, the same life experience, never ever again.

How is that even close to comparable?

And, yet the world we live in teaches, preaches and pushes comparison as the only way to know that we are okay and doing okay.

Scarcity and comparison hit me hard last week after I had the honor of speaking with two authors I greatly admire. First, I connected with Pamela Tsigdinos, author of Silent Sorority and Finally Heard. Pamela is doing incredible work in the culture of infertility. I felt myself taking a deep breath after reading Finally Heard while saying to myself, "Yes, I must connect with her." While talking with Pamela she mentioned several names of other women in the not only survivor of infertility club but also in the childfree not by choice club; including Tracey.

I immediately googled Tracey  and knew I had to reach out to her. We scheduled to talk the very next day!

But, the comparison had already begun. I was both intimidated and jealous of how many endorsement quotes Tracey had for her book The Next Happy, let alone that she was backed by a big publisher.

My conversation with Tracey flowed so easily. It honestly was like talking to not only a fellow warrior, but also a true friend and colleague. Our stories are eerily parallel; from our career paths to what our books are about. I am thankful to have found these women, the women I feel more of a fitting in with, the survivors who infertility treatments did not work for.

The survivor who is living the childfree not by choice life, or what I call the childfull parent life.

The survivor who is demanding a change in our infertility community.

The survivor who knows these lifelong losses all too well.

And yet, very quickly that inner critic voice came in beating me into the dark with scarcity and comparison.

Ever Upward will never get big enough, you don't know the right people, no one will ever take the chance on you.

The big publisher will never notice this little book.

She already has the success, there is just not enough to go around.

You're not good enough.

You will always be in this 'nose to the grind stone, working your ass off in 3 jobs, never getting the big break, never being able to afford help' part of this entrepreneurship.

Scarcity and comparison settled in so much, that I was actually saying out loud, "She's a real published author," which did not go over well with Chad at all.

What I know, and what I trust, is that these messages are not my truth. I simply refuse to allow them to be. I also refuse to allow scarcity and comparison to keep me stuck in fear and therefore rip away the potential of what this could be; a brilliant piece to the ever upward puzzle.

 
 

A lot of this puzzle I create myself.

Ever Upward is a good book that is helping many people and is very much needed in this world. It will succeed, as it already is and it will continue to grow as it deserves.

There is plenty to go around. This will happen for me and Ever Upward, as it already is helping so many people. I am good enough. My work and my belief in myself will make it all happen.

And most of all, it is in my voice and my light, which has never existed before nor ever will exist again, and that is nothing short of a miracle.

But, most of all, this is my truth and it is brilliant and I wouldn't be honoring myself or happy if I wasn't writing, shouting, changing the world and connecting with others.

And so, I will thank my inner critic voice for trying to protect me, make me work hard, etc. and simply say thank you but no thank you (as I am learning in Tara Mohr's Playing Big).

I will hold on to what I know is my inner truth and light, and to these new and incredible relationships I am so thankful for and excited to see where they lead us.

Simply, I will not allow scarcity and comparison to steal away amazing connection.

Because I choose this wholehearted life; the life and the work of rising ever upward.

~~~

Ever Upward is selling, the reviews are positive...so what now? If you haven't left a review on Amazon, it would help a ton and mean so much to me! And, the biggest help is sharing about Ever Upward on your social media! What is your favorite quote? Where is your favorite reading spot? What have you implemented from Chapter 4-Choosing Change? Upload a post and a picture and tag me and Ever Upward for a chance to win an Ever Upwardjournal for FREE! Links: EU Facebook, Instagram (@jlbf4), Twitter (@JustineFroelker.

I Want More: Can We Define a New Tribe?

The invisibility of infertility is part of my normal. As I have written, I never expected to feel invisible during my own community’s awareness week though. Couple that with this piece by Lisa over at Life Without Baby and reading Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos's latest e-book Finally Heard (which I HIGHLY recommend) and it all has me thinking  and feeling quite a bit.

Is the infertility community no longer my tribe?

Do I no longer belong there?

When I think about some of the people I am closest too in the community, even they may not fit in our tribe much longer as many of them are pregnant after their infertility struggles (which is technically what we all want as our get out of this tribe ticket). They may actually get shoved out of the tribe which doesn't feel all that different than not be acknowledged.

Am I holding onto something that doesn't even want me any longer?

I get it, some really struggle with my story. My story does not include successful treatments and ends without children. I think it is safe to assume my story makes our community sad and scared.

Why am I holding on?

I'm not ready. Especially as a therapist working with people in the throes of the infertility journey, I am not ready to be left behind yet. Or, is it that I am not ready to move on yet?

But more than that, I'm not done. My advocacy and impact hasn't yet been felt enough for me to walk away without regret.

Do I care too much?

Is change even possible?

I want more. I want more as a survivor of the infertility journey. And, I want more for those still fighting the battle because I see the devastation on a daily basis in my private practice.

I simply want more, and as an advocate I will fight until I get it.

I want us to demand more from our infertility clinics; to be more than just their paychecks, to demand more mental health support and actual resources and to demand acknowledgment that sometimes we must stop treatments to save ourselves.

I want us to demand more from our culture; to help others understand that making a family is not always simple and hardly easy for many of us, to demand more fertility compassion and to practice more empathy than sympathy with one another.

I want us to demand more for and from ourselves; I want more than what we are giving ourselves permission for in the infertility journey. I want us to be more than our quest to become parents. I want us to trust that sometimes never giving up is the actually unhealthiest thing we are doing; we must practice hope balanced with active acceptance. I want us to know that we can write our own happy ending and it doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s.

I want to help instill these messages into my infertility community for many reasons.

  • Because I am a helper. I am most myself when educating, helping and practicing my spiritual gift of mercy.
  • Because I think these permissions could actually help our treatments be more successful and in the least help us not be completely destroyed by the journey.
  • Because I want us all to have the glory of being the happy, healthiest and most engaged versions of ourselves in this life.

And so, I want us to define our new tribe.

One that supports one another through empathy and trusts that there is room for all of us to belong. That if we are actually in this together we can change the unhealthy messages that surround infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery. And even though we may be in completely different places along the journey, we all can identify with what lies underneath this battle; the lifelong losses of what we had dreamed about and hoped for.

I am not ready to walk away from my infertility tribe but I also know and feel that it is not the healthiest place for me any longer. And sure, maybe I am simply in denial of my limbo land but I don't think so. I think we all need this new tribe, we need these messages to change and we need to fight for ourselves; to rise ever upward.

Who's with me?

 
Defining a new tribe; together in the
Defining a new tribe; together in the
 

Permissions for Mother's and Father's Day

If I have learned anything throughout my own infertility journey and recovery I have learned that we are all parents. But most likely, we will be the men and women who feel invisible these months as Mother’s and Father’s Day are upon us again. This will be my third Mother’s Day since ending our infertility journey without the desired result of children. This Mother's Day, I will not be woken up at the crack of dawn by my little ones surprising me with handmade cards and pancakes in bed. I will not get a bouquet of dandelions picked from the yard. I will not be acknowledged by the majority of people in my life as today being any different than any other day.

My previous Mother’s Day mornings were not that much unlike every other day. I was woken early by Gertie's growling tummy, Gracie's cold nose and Bosco's gentle snoring. I spent the day with my furry children and my husband, not unlike any other regular Sunday but all the while knowing that Mother's Day will be bittersweet for me the rest of my life.

This Mother’s Day my husband, Chad, and I are skipping town for a long weekend trip to spend time together in the beauty of nature (and also a spa of course). My goal is to stay off social media and I will definitely be staying away from children friendly activities because this year I want to really take care of myself; honoring all the complicated gray of the infertility and loss journey.

I will spend the day allowing myself to feel the anger at how unfair it can feel that I won't ever get the joy of my children making this day all about me. I will spend my day allowing myself to feel the sadness at the lifelong costs and losses of infertility. I will spend the day at peace with my recovery and my work in accepting a childfull life. I will spend the day happy with my enough moments, my struggles and my light.

I will spend the day thinking of those three tiny souls in heaven never meant to bloom here.

 
 

And, I will honor myself this day because I am a mother to many.

I will remind myself, as I want to remind all the mothers and fathers out there, to take care of ourselves, especially this Mother’s and Father’s Day. Make sure you receive care, from your loved ones and from yourself, because it is only through filling ourselves up that we can truly give and care for others.

Never to forget the fathers of course, I would like to pass along a message you simply cannot escape from when it comes to me, no matter what version of a father you are.

Talk about it.

Ask for help.

Break your silence.

And, if it counts for anything, I give you all permission to not have to be the ever strong husband.

I wish I had been able to communicate this more clearly to Chad as we were going through our own infertility journey. To be able to assure him that he didn't always have to be the ever strong man, never showing too much emotion and being stoically strong while I lost my sanity.

Even though it may be scary at first for us to see this authentic vulnerability from men, to actually see behind the armor of a man's strength, is truly what we want and need from our partners. And, even though this is counter intuitive to how you have been raised and what our culture says, I believe this authentic vulnerability from men is what will make marriages and each of us happier and healthier versions of ourselves.

Especially as you are fighting through infertility and loss and even more so after, no matter your ending.

I hope you get through these days together, turning towards one another and honoring the feelings of all the feels. I am assuming time helps this day get easier eventually, in the meantime do the work, speak your story and rise ever upward.

~~~

This post is a combination of two older posts submitted to the incredible Share Newsletter this month. Don't forget when you purchase Ever Upward through our online store, $5 of the purchase price goes to support Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support.

You Are Not Alone, Please Speak Your Way Out of the Darkness

To feel alone when surrounded by many is quite possibly the worst kind of lonely. There are millions of us who struggle to make our families. The statistics are enough to take our breath away:

  • 1 in 8 couples will struggle to conceive.
  • 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in loss.
  • 1 in 160 babies will be born still.

We are never alone in this journey, the numbers simply prove otherwise.

And, yet most of us fight all by ourselves, with our voices silenced and shame stealing our light.

This can be the darkness of infertility.

I entered into the infertility world never trying to get pregnant myself due to medical issues of my own. I entered into the infertility world as a mental health therapist who was already pretty open about my own struggles in life. And it is with these two differences, that I entered the infertility world as someone kind of on the outside or at least that is what it felt like a lot of the time.

After the infertility part of my journey I am a woman proven wrong. I am the furthest from alone in this journey as I am surrounded by my fellow warriors. Technically my infertility journey has ended without the desired result of children (I know those words are scary to read), and yet my journey is far from over. As us survivors know, this journey truly lasts a lifetime.

It is only through really using my voice and sharing my story that my chosen family has grown full of my fellow warriors. Through my work in Ever Upward (the book and the blog) I have met some of the most amazing people. People that, even though I may never meet in person, I can truly call my friends, and even family.

It has been this family who sees me, knows me and loves me even though my story scares them because it didn't turn out how we all hope ours will. It has been this family who has been one of the most helpful pieces of my forever healing journey.  It has been this family that supports my voice, my mission and my ever upward.

It is this family, along with my loved ones and His grace, that make up the monarch that graces the cover of Ever Upward.

A journey never alone. A journey not broken but coming together whole. A journey rising ever upward.

 
 

Speaking is our way out of the darkness.

Your voice does not have to be publishing the book or the huge public blog, it just has to be your voice, especially to your loved ones and to some of the people in your daily life. This is how you will thrive and not just survive the heart breaking and soul crushing journey that infertility can be.

Infertility can make us doubt the very core of who we are. It can make us doubt and question our faith, our bodies and our relationships.

This is the darkness of infertility, the darkest of dark.

It literally has the potential to destroy us.

But only if we allow it. And, I promise if you walk into this work you may actually find your light in this incredibly, damn near impossible, journey. I also promise it is worth it, no matter how you define your happy ending.

But I beg, please don't stand in the dark all alone and silent.

The more we speak the more we heal.

The more we speak the more our light shines again.

And, the more we speak the more compassion and understanding we will receive.

When we speak we are never alone.

When we speak we have one another.

When we speak we walk alongside one another leading each other out of the darkness always rising ever upward.

~~~

For more information on what infertility exactly is click here.

Learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week here.

Moving Through Not Fitting In

Many of my closest friends have not had to think about their fertility much. They began trying, they conceived, had relatively easy pregnancies and deliveries and, best of all, have allowed me to be a part of their growing families. Then there are my friends who have struggled in making their families. They know the two week waits, the lifelong losses and heartaches and the financial and emotional consequences that seem to last a lifetime. But even still, they were able to have the children; the traditional happy ending.

Then there is me.

Sometimes that sense of being different than every other woman in the room can feel like it is literally taking my breath away. The sense of not fitting in can feel especially difficult when it catches me off guard and is during a time that I am so grateful for.

Chad and I spent the weekend out in Vegas for our goddaughter, McKinley’s 2nd birthday. We love spending this time with my friend Casey and her family, as we are so thankful to be a part of McKinley’s life. She quite literally is the brightest ray of sunshine and fills my heart and soul up so much, I am so blessed that she is one of our chosen children.

And yet there I was at her 2nd birthday party where everyone other woman there had at least one child or one on the way, feeling like I was the last kid called to join the team. Watching Mac play with all her friends was so much fun but not knowing many of the other guests very well left me observing from the sidelines; which as a therapist, I'll admit, is honestly one of my favorite things to do.

But then it settled in, that nagging you are very noticeably different than all these women. You do not have anything to contribute to these conversations.

And I struggled.

Fuck.

It bothered me.

It bothered me way more than I wanted it to or expected it to.

I soon realized, I also did not have my usual back up. When I am around mothers who know me well I do tend to be pulled into the motherly conversations most simply because of what I do for a living. I realized this weekend that the fact that I am a therapist, and that it is so much of who I am and not just what I do, has been a saving grace in this lifelong recovery from infertility and living a childfulllife. It is a saving grace because my professional opinion is often asked and the parenting I do with my clients is often recognized. That and I have really amazing friends who respect my opinion and love me well.

What I think I am learning now is that I need to believe in this part of my parenthood as much as my closest friends do. I need to believe in it enough to show myself and others that I too fit in, even at the 2 year old birthday party with all the other mothers.

 
 

Because I have a lot to contribute.

Because I do belong.

Because I am a parent.

So much of this lifelong recovery of thriving after infertility is our own work. I cannot say how long that twinge of feeling like I don't fit in will last, maybe forever. But, I do need to acknowledge that it is up to me to trust that I always belong and to believe in my own worthiness as a parent in this world.

~~~~

I have 26 days to reach the Thunderclap campaign goal. Just a few clicks and Thunderclap does all the work for you on April 7th.

I am also just over halfway there to my goal of launching with 50 Amazon reviews. Just click the Kindle version of the book in order to leave your own review of Ever Upward.

Film: One More Shot

Showing support for my friend Maya and her husband Noah and their new film One More Shot. Please consider watching the trailer and financially backing this important film. Together we can educate more people about what it really takes to make a family today. And, hopefully I can figure out how to get out to LA to be a part of the film so the childfull families are represented ;).
~~~~
In 2010, my husband Noah and I set out to make a baby. By 2012 we were completely baffled that what was supposed to be the most basic human process wasn’t going to work for us. I was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve at 32, and we were  basically told we would need to think outside the box in order to create a family.
2012 was also the year we picked up a camera. Noah is a TV producer and I am a clinical social worker, and between his desire to document to tell a story and my strong sense of advocacy, we set out to create a short film about our journey to parenthood. We felt strongly that there shouldn’t be shame or stigma attached to the medical diagnosis of infertility, and we were open to sharing parts of ourselves to help normalize this condition that over 7.3 million Americans face.
But by 2013, we had filmed much more than would fit into a short film. Perhaps we were naive to think that our first IVF cycle would just work. Perhaps we ignorant about the success rates of IUIs for someone with compromised ovarian functioning. Then we were stunned when my sister donated eggs to us, and that too didn’t work.
Somewhere along the way, we decided to start interviewing others who also had to think outside the box to conceive, and our short film began to morph into a feature length documentary about infertility, our journey to parenthood, and making modern families/redefining what family means. It became a quest for our baby as well as an exploration of how people cope with the pain of loss and how they resolve their infertility crisis. We learned that there are several options, though most of them are difficult choices to make. We also learned a lot about determination, flexibility, hope, and love. And we learned how to be open to wherever our path might lead us.
In 2014, I discovered embryo donation and found a good match for us in another state. Noah and I just had a feeling. We packed up the meds and the camera and got on a plane, and in July 2014 I had a frozen embryo transfer. Spoiler alert, it worked. I’m currently 37 weeks pregnant with a baby girl, and our other baby, our film, is nearly completely shot.
Our baby is due in March, which it’s also the month we’ve chosen to fundraise for our film through Indiegogo, so that we can cover post-production costs. We are hoping to come full circle with our journey and to help give a voice to the often silent infertility community.
~~~~
Still needing about half of the Thunderclap campaign supported. Please help by pledging a post!

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.

~~~~

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.

 
the-greatest-gift-of-my-life.png
 

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.

Out of the Ashes

One week shy of 9 months after my dad's life changing fall off a ladder, my family has faced another life threatening and forever life changing tragedy. I have spent the last week along side Chad's family in Denver on another of the scariest roller coasters of my life. You can read more about my sister in law's journey here, and please send all the prayers, light, love and strength you can, as we all have a long road ahead.

Preparation in fight and faith.

There is no doubt that my dad's accident prepared me for this journey. I knew what kind of support my family would need because it was the support that I lacked myself during dad's accident. So I bossed; making people sleep, eat and take breaks. I counseled; providing the space to vent, talk and cry. I helped; starting the Caring Bridge site and simply just being me. And, I walked through it with my continually growing faith; allowing my in laws to give themselves permission to beg and question God for their daughter's life while also trusting Him and their faith. As my friend Kelly told me, I think I may have a calling as a chaplain in my future.

I may never get to know why this year has been both the best and hardest year of Chad and I's lives; a job promotion for Chad and launching Ever Upward for me, and yet we have also experienced these two family medical emergencies, that were literally life or death.

 
 

What I do know is that I felt different through this emergency, I felt my faith more than I ever have. I also witnessed too many miracles to ignore the fact that He does have a plan for us. And, even if in this moment I am not sure I like, or even want to accept, His plan, I still know that it is and will be okay.

Because out of these ashes He will bring beauty.

I trust this more than I ever have in my life. I trust this because of my journey out of my ashes; two back surgeries and a year in a body cast, the lifelong losses of infertility, three lost babies and the rock bottom of my life. I believe, especially with having faith in something, that we can fight for and find our beauty out of the ashes.

This is ever upward.

There are many things I do not know. I do not know when my sister in law will get a new heart. I do not know how difficult this road will be for all of us. I do not know if Ever Upward will ever get the big break I so hope it does. And, I do not know when the next trauma, loss or tragedy will strike me or my family.

However, there are many things I do know. I know that we will be okay no matter what. I know that one day I will get the understanding of the why I so desire, even if it is just on the other side of eternity. I know that if we continue to give ourselves permission to talk about it, embrace it, practice recovery from it and own it all, we can all find the beauty we all so deserve no matter what we face.

This is the work of faith.

This is the work of life.

This is the work of finding and moving ever upward.

~~~~

Please feel free to share!

If you want to read more of Justine's writing make sure to purchase your copy of Ever Upward today and find her on The Huffington Posthere.

This post lined with Amateur Nester's Link-Up.

Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 3

 
 

Part One here. Part Two here.

What do we need instead?

Question Three of the Fertility Compassion Survey:

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

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

Don't ask

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

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

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

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

Ask with compassion

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

Simply, more love.

Ask with kindness, empathy and compassion;

I am so sorry for your loss.

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

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

That sucks, you would be awesome parents.

I am sorry this is so hard.

Did you always want three kids?

And, stop assuming; practice tolerance;

Not all of our paths are the same.

Adoption is not the answer for us all.

Please don't make light of it.

Sometimes just listening and being quiet.

The script of words

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

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

Do you plan to have children?

Do you mind sharing about your family?

Tell me about yourself.

What are your thoughts on ______________?

A simple, How are you?

What makes you happy when it comes family?

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

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

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

~~~~

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

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

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

And, sometimes this is just life.

Which means we all can get it.

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

We all can move ever upward.

~~~~

Ever Upward available now!

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

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

Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 2

Part One here.

Our response to sympathy versus empathy

 
 

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

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

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

Question Two on the Fertility Compassion Survey:

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

The difference between fear and love; despair and hope

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

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

The educational truth

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

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

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

Stranger/Friend/Family: Do you have kids?

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

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

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

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

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

We lose our light

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

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

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

To speak our truth

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~

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

Housekeeping

Ever Upward available now!

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

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

The Hard Work (and Art) of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a common theme in my office. Forgiveness of ourselves.

And, forgiveness of our loved ones.

Much like the art of letting go, forgiveness can be one of life's trickiest bitches.

We must learn to forgive

I believe the people hurting the most on this earth are the ones who are holding onto to things that simply cannot be changed; past hurts, betrayals and disappointments. Especially the ones committed by our loved ones against us. The ones we really don't have control over.

When we hold onto these past hurts they very easily eat us from the inside out and don't move us to being who we are truly meant to be.

When we hold onto these past hurts we live our lives from fear and not love.

When we hold onto these past hurts we are the only ones holding ourselves back from moving forward.

The art of forgiveness

As Desmond Tutu writes, "Forgiveness opens the door to peace between people and opens the space for peace within each person. The victim cannot have peace without forgiving..."

As Matthew B. James writes, "Flow love to the other person. Release the hurt, retain the learning."

The hard work of forgiveness

And, as I wrote to one of my friends in a text message,

"You work on forgiving her for yourself, for your own well being and sanity. Not because she deserves it or because she will change.

And, you work on loving the parts of her that you do appreciate and continually work on accepting her limitations (practicing loving compassion).

It's sucks, it's hard and feels impossible.

But, that's what I'm continuously working on with the forgiveness of my past hurts.

For myself.

And you attempt to move forward with an open heart but with a nice privacy fence of boundaries not a brick wall. Because that isn't who we are or who we want to be.

Move forward with a protected heart with boundaries and not a guarded heart with brick walls. It may look the same from the outside but your intentions on the inside are very different."

 
 

We forgive to find peace.

We forgive to live from a place of love and not fear.

We forgive for ourselves.

We forgive now because there may never be anything that can be done to make up for the hurt. And, it definitely cannot be taken back or erased. But, holding onto it and withholding forgiveness only keeps us stuck in the hurt, reliving it every single day.

As with just about everything I work with my clients on, write about and practice myself, it is much easier said than done.

Simple but not easy.

I am figuring out this life is more of an art.

An art of faith. An art of practice. An art of forgiveness. An art of hard work. An art of letting go. An art of love. An art of acceptance. An art of redefining. An art of courage.

An art of ever upward.

Housekeeping:

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

Kickstarter for Ever Upward Book Trailer has only 7 days to go, every dollar helps!

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

You Don't Have to be Ever Strong

The infertility world is very much focused on women; in the treatments, in the education and in breaking the silence. However, the statistics are growing that men's factor infertility could be the case in one third to one half of the 1 in 8 (sometimes stated 1 in 6 depending on the resource) couples going through infertility. And regardless of the numbers or the cause of a couples' infertility, there are still two people in that relationship suffering through one of the most difficult journeys in life. So, on this Father's Day weekend I would like to pass along a message you simply cannot escape from when it comes to me. Especially to all of you fathers, no matter what version of father you are.

Talk about it.

Ask for help.

Break your silence.

 
 

And, if it counts for anything, I give you all permission to not have to be the ever strong husband.

I wish I had been able to communicate this more clearly to Chad as we were going through our own infertility journey. To be able to assure him that he didn't always have to be the ever strong man, never showing too much emotion and being stoically strong while I lost my shit.

Even though it may be scary at first for us to see this authentic vulnerability from men, to actually see behind the armor of a man's strength, it is truly what we want and need from our partners. And, even though this is counter intuitive to how you have been raised and what our culture says, I believe this authentic vulnerability from men is what will make marriages and each of us happier and healthier versions of ourselves.

Especially as you are fighting through infertility and even more so after, no matter your ending.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

Because, just as all women are some version of a mother, please give yourself permission to feel the same as a father, especially this weekend.

Not Just Another Birth Story: A Letter to Abigail

Had our IVF worked with our surrogate Michelle, I would have gotten to be in the delivery room to see our babies be born. But that was never my path to experience. I sincerely thought the only births I would ever see would be the ones in that terrible 5th grade sex education class we all had to take and the sensationalized ones shown on television and in the movies. So, when my oldest friend, my true witness of 30 years, asked me to be one of her delivery coaches when she delivered her first baby I cried with tears of honor and joy.

My friend who has seen me through my darkest of times and literally helped me through life in a body cast when we were much to young to handle such difficulties.

My friend who also knows the pain and losses of infertility.

My chosen family who I love so dearly.

Last week my friend gave birth to her daughter and I had the honor in helping her through her difficult delivery and being a witness as their family grew by one beautiful baby girl.

It is with much excitement and love that I (and her parents of course) welcome Abigail to the world! And with a full heart, I write her these words to hopefully last her a lifetime.

Dear Abigail,

Your mom and I have been through 30 years of friendship. We have been through things that really no two friends should ever have to see within a friendship. Your mom helped me through some of the hardest times of my life. I am sure we will one day share with you the stories of how she used to care for me as my nurse as I suffered through two back surgeries and lived in a body cast. She loves telling the stories of her helping me go to the bathroom, as I will admit they are pretty hysterical.

And on the day you blessed us all by coming into this world, I helped your mom through your very difficult and scary delivery. So, I now have my own stories to tell of things I simply can never unsee.

And yet, it was one of the most magical days of my life, as I know it was for your mom and dad.

Abbie, your mom and dad fought so hard to bring you here. Through three years they fought through frustrations, waiting games, anxieties, medical procedures, terrible side effects, misunderstanding from loved ones and the public and, especially, their fears; all to find you.

Your mom and dad continued this amazing fight through their difficult pregnancy and on the day of your mom's labor and delivery, their fight only continued.

Scared of my own limitations, fears and queasiness I pushed through to allow my anxiousness to become excitement and I fought alongside your mom and dad. I fought for them and I fought for you.

I was so proud and honored to be there supporting, helping and distracting them throughout your mom's labor.

But mostly, I was so proud and honored to simply witness them in their fight. Your mom's diligence in containing her anxiety and fears for your safety. Your dad's advocacy for you and your mom's care and safety. And, especially their ownership in how you came to be whenever any doctor or nurse asked about you.

Simply, profoundly and wholeheartedly, I am just so proud of them.

 
 

We all worked together as a team to bring you into this world, your mom definitely doing the hardest work of all. And at 4:40 pm you finally graced your mom and dad with the joy they've been fighting and hoping for for three long years; your peaceful and perfect face, your dark hair and your healthy cry brought tears of joy to all of us.

Throughout your mom's labor, of almost two full days, your mom and dad lied to me about your name, even though I asked them a million times (as you will get to know I never give up easily). Finally, the morning after your birth, when your mom was feeling better, they gave me the best surprise of my life, your name. I was truly surprised and completely honored to learn your name was Abigail Justine.

It is with a heart full of love and honor that these are my promises to you, Abigail Justine, my namesake:

I promise to always do my very best to be that person your parents believed in and loved enough to name you after.

I promise to always be here for your mom and dad, for whatever they may need.

I promise to always be here for you, no matter what.

I promise to always be your soft landing spot but to also always guide and push you when needed.

I promise to love all of you, always accepting you and honoring you; with me you will always be seen, known and loved.

Because being there with your parents throughout their journey to conceive you and being able to be present for your entrance into this world is my ultimate enough moment.

Because you, Abigail Justine, are my ultimate ever upward.

With much love,

Your Aunt Justine

 
 

*This post linked to Amateur Nester's Tuesday Link Up.

Celebrating To Embrace Jealousy

The commercials have started airing to remind us all to get the perfect gift for some of the hardest working people on earth; mothers. I will assume I don't have to go into exactly why Mother's Day tends to be difficult for us women who are childfree whether by choice, chance or circumstance. And, rest assured, you are safe to assume I have a post scheduled for Mother's Day anyway ;). As a woman who can't have children, seeing these commercials or hearing my loved one's Mother's Day plans is some of the, thankfully few and far between, times I feel my jealously come up. Admittedly, it is scary and difficult to even type that sentence...

Throughout my work of recovery I have come to understand jealously a little differently. It first started at the Emerging Women conference last October in Boulder when I saw an interview with Tami Simon and Alanis Morissette. Tami interviewed Alanis about the book she is writing and about her work with Relationships First. One of the points she spoke about was what she thinks the difference between jealousy and envy is. She said that jealousy is about connection; that when we are jealous of someone or something it is about self improvement, we want it too. But when we are envious of something we not only want it for ourselves but we want to take it away from the other person, making it not about connection but disconnection. She used a really simple example of her hair. She said something to the effect that she knew many of us in the audience were jealous of how great her hair looked (it was the shiniest most beautiful head of hair I've ever seen). She said that some of us were probably jealous of it (for me, she was completely saw my green accurately). She said we just wanted some of the hair gods to shine on us too. So her suggestion was to go out and buy the pomade she used to make it look that gorgeous. She then explained that if we were envious of her hair it would be more about chopping it off her head for ourselves so that not even she could have the luxury of this beautiful mane.

This definition makes sense to me. And, by this definition, I am jealous that the majority of women get to be mothers and I don't, but I am not envious. I am sure of this because it is one of the best parts of my life, and of my recovery, to see my loved ones be mothers.

And yet, I will admit feeling this jealousy doesn't necessarily feel good either. Through my recovery I have found that there are times I need to allow myself to feel sorry for myself, to feel that jealousy. To ask the impossible questions of why didn't I get to be a mom? Why does she? To feel that jealousy consume me, especially around the holidays or the first days of school or any other popular put your kids on your social media wall day. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing these pictures and posts and it isn't uncommon that I am showing your adorable children to my friends and family but I would be lying if I didn't admit that when I only have dog pictures to post, even though they are literally the cutest pups ever, my green eyed jealousy monster definitely rears it's ugly head.

But if I allow these thoughts and feelings to overtake my light my recovery suffers. For me the only way through this jealousy, to embrace and truly own it, has been through celebrating. I didn't know I was celebrating until a client of mine told me about one of her church small groups where they talked about celebrating as the cure to jealousy.

 
 

That's exactly what I do, I cure my jealousy through celebrating the very things I so badly want for myself in others. I surround myself with my chosen children because through this celebration my jealousy wanes. I ask to be as involved as possible in my friends' parenting and in their childrens' lives because through this celebration my jealousy loses some of it's negative power.

This concept is not easy, but it is very simple.

And, for me, it works. Celebrating through my jealousy provides me with what life is all about, connection. Sitting in jealousy doesn't feel good and celebrating others' happy feels pretty amazing, simple but not an easy choice but a choice nonetheless. Besides, I know that my mom friends can sometimes have some jealousy of what my childfree life provides me.

If we aren't careful we can all get tripped up on wanting what we don't have and staying stuck in jealousy. And while, I will always suffer the lifelong losses and costs of infertility and my childfree life, I am also learning that I have some amazing things to be thankful for only because of this very bittersweet journey I have been on.

I don't want to be angry or envious, so I will allow myself to sit with jealousy but just for a bit. Then I will take that breath, find my gratitude and celebrate through to embrace it because only then do I honor my ever upward.

My True Witness of 30 Years

 
 

We've known each other since we were four years old. She can tell you every single memory of our lives; what we were wearing, who was there, what was said and the craziness that ensued.

She probably knows me the best, as she as known me the longest. But, in reality, she probably knows me the best because she has witnessed my deepest lows and stood by me through finding myself again.

She is my childhood friend who has seen me through my darkest of times, literally helping me bathe and go to the bathroom while in a body cast.

She is my faithful friend as she let me go when I chose to go to college out of state.

She is my adventurous friend who moved to the big city with me after college.

She is my humble and forgiving friend as we survived a terrible falling out.

She is my family as we have survived tragedy together.

She is my fellow warrior in fighting for her family and understanding the difficulties of infertility.

We've survived distance of all kinds to only come back together because of our own individual struggles.

The unspoken shame. The impossible decisions. The heart stealing and soul crushing losses. The life long costs of IVF.

Only to strengthen this lifelong friendship.

And, soon we will enter another chapter of our friendship when she becomes a mother for the first time in early June. When she asked me to be in the delivery room to coach her, along with her husband, there were only tears of joy as I realized I would be there for that magical moment to see one of our chosen children take her first breath.

kelly-group-as-kids-01.jpg

It has been an honor to walk beside her through this journey of life. I am immensely thankful for our bumpy path as it has prepared us for the brutal survival of our own battles with infertility. And it is truly with a full heart that I look forward to this next chapter of seeing her become a loving, and grateful, mother.

I guess there really is only one thing to say to her.

Thank you... for being a true witness of me, for always seeing, knowing and loving me.

And, thank you for allowing me to be along for your ever upward.

Chosen Children

A picture mail text of Lyla's drawing of us.

 
 

Snail mail of Joycelyn's drawing of the dogs.

A picture mail text of Lane with his "Justine socks" on.

 
 

A voice mail from the boys begging us to come play Just Dance.

My favorite picture of the boys cuddling with the three dogs watching cartoons.

A birthday card from McKinley.

The moms in my life will never know how much the small gesture of letting me know their children are thinking of me mean to me; as they mean the world.

I will forever spend my energy making sure these children know I love them and I am here for them and more than anything I want, and really need, to be part of their lives.

As, these are our chosen children.

The children we have the honor of being godparents to. The children we have the privilege of being their guardians. The children we get to see grow up. The children who ask to see us. The children who love us. The children we love more.

Or maybe, it's really that they are the children who have chosen us.

Surviving the losses of IVF and accepting a childfree life to redefine family for us has meant we figure out what it means to still have children in our lives. It means living my truth as a woman who wanted, and desperately, tried to have my own children. It means having the courage to say adoption isn't for us. And yet, it is also making sure my heart is not closed off to all the light and love that family and children can bring to my life, even if it comes with the bittersweet sadness that they aren't my own.

It means traveling to Vegas for McKinley's birthdays.

It means going to Noah's piano recitals.

It means sending happy birthday and happy valentine's videos of the dogs singing to all of the kids.

It means having a toy room in my house.

It means having the pool for everyone to enjoy all summer long.

It means watching the boys play the Wii for hours.

It means hosting chosen family every spring break and playing St. Louis tourist.

It means embracing my sadness that I will never get to parent in the traditional sense, in order to make room for the endless, ever upward light that all of these families and kids bring to my life every single day.

I do it because the alternative is too dark. I do it because it is my journey. I do it because I have fought for my recovery. I do it because it is ever upward.

And, because we have all chosen each other.

 
 

Even More Than Family: The Power of Connection

Sitting back home in cold, but thank God sunny, Iowa helping my family through a life changing injury and scare I am overwhelmed by the sense of connection and love that has been demonstrated to us in the last four days. Monday my sister called in a panic, our dad had had an accident but she didn't know any information; I was out of town visiting friends in Vegas, my sister lives in Florida and my parents are back home in Iowa. We both were literally stuck on opposite sides of the country with only the phone calls from my mom back home in the chaos of the hospital in Iowa.

Living everyone's biggest nightmare, especially in how powerless I think we all felt.

We both started making phone calls for help to family, friends and neighbors. We took to social media both for sending out updates but most importantly for seeking out thoughts, prayers, love and strength.

 
img_20140313_142949.jpg
 

Ask and it shall be delivered.

We are so overwhelmed by and grateful for the love and strength that has been delivered to us over the last four days; every message, every email and text, every voicemail, every visit and every prayer. Not only has the support been amazing for us but we have no doubt it has been part of the miracle of dad's healing.

He has a long road of healing and follow up appointments ahead all but things look good for a full recovery. And sitting here, writing and updating the blog as he rests I am filled with love, hope and healing. Writing Ever Upward has brought me so much in connection with others. Experiencing this tragic scare this week has only solidified how much power connection has. Connection to family, connection to friends, and connection to strangers all across the world. This is what life is about, both during the amazingly beautiful times and the tragically powerless times.

Because, only through this love and connection can we all heal and find our ever upward.

Conceiving Our Chosen Family

 
 

Sandwiched in the third row seat, between 11 year old Nathan and 5 year old Lyla, on our way to Monster Jam and Disney on Ice, respectively, she catches me off guard with her 5 year old curious love. “You’re like our family, but not our family, but still family,” she says while looking up at me with her big blue eyes.

“That is why we say you are our chosen family,” I try to explain.

Her big blue eyes focus in on me with a confused tender smirk as she tries to figure out what that exactly means in her 5 year old brain.

Nathan, her big brother, interjects trying to explain how we all came into each other’s lives in a way she can understand. “Justine can’t have babies, so Mommy was going to carry their baby for them. But it didn’t work, and we got Tipton instead but they are still our family.”

Bright blue eyes glazed over, she leans in closer to me and we have completely lost her. I reassure her that sometimes we aren’t related to our family like she is to her brothers. She didn’t get to choose Nathan or Tipton to be her family, but we all got to choose each other as family.

5 year old brain satisfied for now.

We set forth to conceive our own children, with Michelle’s help, or at least the help of her healthy body (and uterus). However, neither Chad and I, nor Ben and Michelle, could have ever imagined the destined family that would eventually be the result of our IVF journey.

They have been in our lives for 3 years, and yet it feels like we have known each other forever. We all began our journey with the hope of babies for Chad and I when Michelle answered my ad on a surrogacy website. We did two transfers, 3 embryos, never to get pregnant. And now, we continue our journey with us learning to accept a childfree life and the unexpected expansion of Ben and Michelle’s family with their new son Tipton.

It isn’t exactly what we all had hoped for.

It isn’t exactly what we all had expected.

Hell, it isn’t what we paid thousands of dollars and put our bodies through synthetic hormonal hell for.

It’s better.

Sometimes bittersweet.

But always better.

And, without a doubt, exactly as it is supposed be, as I've been able to consider it pure joy.

When I look into Michelle’s eyes and I hear her voice, I am reminded of that powerful moment in the operating room during the first transfer. We looked into each other’s eyes all gowned up with her on the table ready to become the home to our babies for the next 40 weeks. Tears of complete fear with unbridled joy filled both of our eyes, and in that 30 seconds of life, we held each other and hoped and loved with every cell of our bodies, hearts and souls.

Never could we have imagined what was ahead for us. Never could we have imagined the ups and the downs we’ve survived through together. Never could we have imagined we would have the story we have, or the one that has yet to be written.

And never could I have imagined I would find myself, my home and my destined chosen family all from a woman I met online.

In her, I have found my ever upward family.

 
 

My Full of Love, Laughter and Light Twins

I feel intense, heart growing, soul expanding, unconditional joyful love...

every time I enter a room and their nub tails wag with anticipation before they are invited to greet me.

every time she cuddles her head on my neck.

every time she tilts her head in her understanding of my human words.

every time she bats at Bosco begging him to chase her.

every time she barrel rolls across the floor.

every time I hear racing up and down the halls.

every time I see them jump in the snow.

every good morning dog pile...on my head.

every time they chase each other in the back yard.

every game of hide and seek and pounce on each other.

every loving growl and whine.

every time...anything.

On April 16th, 2012 we got the news that our dream of having children was over. Michelle, our surrogate, wasn’t pregnant, again. The second transfer had not worked. We had prepped ourselves for this 30 second phone call, and the words, “I’m sorry, she isn’t pregnant”, for we had already heard these words the December before.

In December they were breath stealing and crushing, the saddest disbelief feeling I have ever experienced.

This second time, was hauntingly bittersweet.

Our journey of IVF was over, and it was both devastating and freeing; no more shots, no more pain, no more waiting, no more loans, no more soul crushing heartbreak. Time to move forward to letting go of this dream and grasping onto a new one, feeling the grief and loss and working on the acceptance of this new definition... of everything.

The first step? Adopting our version of twins.

And today, two of the brightest lights in my life turn 2 years old!

We had always known we wanted to expand our furry family, especially since our first fur baby, Maddie, was not doing well. But we had never thought we would adopt 2 puppies, at the same time. But for one of the first times in the crazy painful journey, we jumped into a decision that some may have thought of as insane. But my dad said it best, when I told him we were actually going to adopt both of the puppies he said, "You guys are grieving, take both of them home, you deserve some happiness!"

I'm not recommending everyone go out and rescue puppies after suffering major loss, trauma or stress. And you can say dogs are not the same as kids, but I assure you my heart feels just as powerful about my furry babies as you do about your children.

Gertie and Gracie, my full of light and laughter, version of twins have been a huge part of saving my life.

Of helping me to save my own life...

Unending love.

Accepting true joy.

Pushing through fear.

Laughing every single day.

Of finding my ever upward.