Making Good on My Promise

I promised a post to close out National Infertility Awareness Week today, especially since I ended up speaking at the 1st Gateway to Parenthood here in St. Louis. But, I'm exhausted. This week was more than I could have ever imagined.

More work and more magic.

I am still in complete awe of the shattered silence we came together to speak to the world this week.

And so, I hope you'll count this as my post for the day. I promise to write all about the conference today throughout this coming week. There were some incredible moments, rest assured I have plenty of words to share with you about it.

For tonight, I'm off to church and bed very early to only sleep in tomorrow...because I can and I deserve it. :)

Please know I felt your love and prayers wrap around me today as I spoke my truth, honored my babies and shared my ever upward with our fellow warriors.

In ever upward light and love, Justine

 
 

Let Us Be Seen

  I've spent hours cultivating, cropping, downloading and searching for the photos shared in my #MoreThan1in8 project. I've seen your smiling faces over and over throughout these last few weeks. I've read your brave words along with those beautiful pictures as something took root inside of me.

A family.

A family I never wanted. A family no one ever wants. A family we wouldn't ever be without again.

Most of us will never meet in person. Many of us will struggle with one another's happy endings to the infertility journey. Some of us may even leave the family.

Still, we will be family. Family who have survived the awful depths of infertility. Family, who I hope, will now choose to thrive through and after the journey, especially by sharing our stories and asking to be seen.

Because we deserve to.

Because we must.

~~~

Part 3 of my #MoreThan1in8 campaign for National Infertility Awareness Week is here!

Let us be seen.

 
 

The Surprises of Our Rally

 
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For the last three weeks my inbox, social media platforms and the Ever Upward Facebook page have received the brave words and the beautiful pictures of almost 300 families breaking the silence of infertility. With every notification my heart skips a beat.

With every word I read my body washes over with goosebumps.

With every smiling face I know that together we are changing the world.

I've tried hashtags before, I've run campaigns before and I have asked for help and participation before but none ever to huge success, at least in our social media's realm of viral success. So, I honestly had absolutely no expectations for this project.

Hopes?

Of course, I hoped we could go viral.

Have we succeeded?

Perhaps not in our internet crazed, fast paced, instant gratification and millions of shares and views definition of viral. But let's be honest, this project didn't include a puppy video or adorable babies giggling or toddlers saying hilarious things.

But did we succeed in the power of banding together to rise ever upward and seek our own freedom through and after infertility?

Hell yes!

What I was not prepared for, well besides the amount of work and wishing I could afford that assistant, were several surprises along the way.

 
 

The pang of my own longing. Lots of pictures of families with kids, babies, bellies and successful treatments ignited my forever longing right alongside my happiness. To continue to have the support and participation of people whose infertility treatments (or adoptions) have worked out for has been amazing. Plus, I've done the work and know my rise is the muck of my longing joy.

The gratitude of all participation. People still in the trenches, adoption stories, IVF success stories, no IVF treatents, donor stories, surrogacy, childfree not by choice, etc. I got submissions from every version of the infertility journey. And again, I am reminded that no matter how different our journey is, the feelings, the lifelong costs and the joy found through it are very much the same.

The worry of rap sheets and unhealthy messages. So many numbers were shared. So many tries and years and heartbreaks. One of my strong messages is that we must be more than our numbers (hence #MoreThan1in8) and that sometimes it is the healthiest thing to accept what sucks and choose to redefine. The therapist/advocate in me winced at times reading everyone's infertility rap sheets and so many 'never give up' messages.

The power of thriving. The rap sheets were almost always followed by what I was seeking in the project: How are you thriving through and after infertility? People shared their souls, their tools, their love, their fight and so much more. They shared how they are more themselves through this brutal and amazing journey.

The fear of not belonging. The "successful" families almost always prefaced their submission with an almost apology. Since they got the kids, they felt like they weren't sure they still belonged to the project. Which if you read my work, you know I think this journey lasts a lifetime no matter what your happy ending from it.

The surprise of who did and who did not participate. For their own health and happiness some of my closest blogging friends did not participate, or even share, the project. While I am disappointed by this, I completely get and support them doing what they need to do to be okay. But this is a reminder for those of us in the infertility community, we must support one another from a place of compassion and empathy no matter how different our stories may be or how different they end up. On the other side, many people came out of the infertility closet for the first time because of this project, people I never expected. And that, well, is one of the biggest reasons I work so hard on the healthy messages of the Ever Upward advocacy to begin with.

The awe of community. I never could have had this much participation without the help of my fellow warriors. I am in complete awe of this community, of the support we are capable of providing to one another and of the power we can have when we speak our truth and support one another through it, in it and thereafter.

Finally, the sadness of what I lost to get here. In my own therapy session last week my ass got totally therapized when my therapist Shellie said, "But how do you feel? I need you to pause and feel what this work means to you, feel how you got here. You are such an advocate and a doer but you need to take a breath and pause."

Of course, my eyes filled with tears. Tears of gratitude and joy and tears of longing and sadness.

The power of the determined and passionate advocate I am will never be great enough to overpower my grief and the longing and wonder I have for my three babies.

There still are, and probably forever will be, thoughts like,

Why not me?

and

It's not fair.

I will forever give myself permission for the anger, bitterness and sadness that lead me to ask those questions. I will also forever take the next breath and allow a tiny shift to make room for the joy, trust and gratitude.

God chose me to be their mother. He gave me my three. I suppose you could say He also took them away. But they were never mine to begin with, just as I belong to Him, they were always His. I only hoped to borrow them for a while, to parent with them by my side instead of from afar.

But, I trust He has my story.

He also gave me the choice to find my place in it.

I choose to redefine and help people through the infertility journey and thereafter. I choose to make sure the healthier messages become our truth.

As this work is my triumph over tragedy, in this work I honor my babies.

I choose motherhood. I choose breaking the silence.

I am a mother rising ever upward.

~~~

Thank you for reading, and especially, for participating in #MoreThan1in8. Make sure to follow the blog and the Ever Upward Facebook page for the surprises I have coming out next week using your amazing stories and beautiful faces throughout the week for National Infertility Awareness Week.

What Infertility Did to Me

When these words were shared as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project I knew I needed more from Meaghan over at My Beautiful Crazy.

The motherhood dream hasn’t happened (and may not), but it isn’t the only one I’ve got; isn’t the one that makes me more valuable, more useful or more ME.

Today I am happy to share with you one of her a posts I think embodies rising Ever Upward.

~~~

It…

hurt me.

scared me.

threatened me.

scarred me.

broke my heart.

tore at my spirit.

uncovered my limits.

forced me to dig deep.

helped me understand.

guided me to find strength.

restored my compassion.

showed my courage.

inspired grace.

encouraged joy.

It made me…more ME.

I’m coming to believe the healed scars from our struggles become the most beautiful, interesting parts of our spirit. Some of the things we brave, endure and survive are awful and they make us feel awful (understandably so), but we can twist it…if we want to. We can allow them to make us better, more useful and freer than we have ever been.

 
Meaghan
Meaghan
 

~~~

I will be accepting submissions for the #MoreThan1in8 project through this weekend. Please share your story, show your face and end the silence of infertility.

When we speak, we thrive.

The Magic Answer

I don't think there is any better way to honor ourselves, our story and our babies than to speak our truth and tell the world. And so, I am honored to share Jana's story with you today as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project.. I met Jana through my publisher for Ever Upward, Morgan James Publishing. It did not take long into our conversation for us to learn that we are fellow warriors in this battle of infertility. Our stories very different and yet so much the same, especially in the lifelong consequences of infertility and loss. Through my advocacy work the last few years a special place has grown in my heart for those  struggling with secondary infertility. Jana's brave voice  and story are very important in our community. Make sure you check out her blog, Jana Says.

~~~

The Magic Answer

When I was a kid, I knew three things for sure: I was going to be either a writer or a lawyer, I was going to live in Washington DC, and I was going to have 2 kids.

None of those happened.

And while I can reconcile the first two, the last, well, I struggle with that.

A lot.

It’s a hard thing to accept when you make a concrete plan for your life and it doesn’t turn out that way. Especially not something as emotional as having kids. Because no one who wants kids grows up, or enters childbearing years, thinking they won’t be able to have them.

It’s a huge kick in the face when it turns out that way, though.

At least it was for me.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do have one child. She’s 9. Every day, I feel blessed and honored that I get to be her mom (even on the days I wish she still took 3 hour naps). And when I was pregnant with her, I never thought she’d be an only child. I figured that since it was so easy to get pregnant the first time, it’d be just as easy to do it again when we felt ready.

Except it wasn’t.

It took 7 years to get pregnant again. And then I miscarried roughly 2 weeks after I found out (in fact, today, April 15 was the one year anniversary of my miscarriage).  And then there were the unsuccessful IUI treatments that followed that summer. And we won’t even talk about adoption because for my family, it’s not an option and also, it’s not necessarily the solution.

I spent a good part of last year wondering why I was being punished and not allowed to have another baby. And all the questions started. What did I do wrong? Am I not a good enough mother to the one I have? Did I do something awful I don’t know about and this is karma coming to get me? Is my body a failure? Am I a failure?

Dammit if I didn’t want answers. I don’t know how many hours of sleep I lost or how many productive days flew out the window searching for answers that, deep down, I knew would never come.

Until one day, they did. And I might not like the answer but it’s all I’ve got and it’s what I’ve learned to live with.

What is the magical answer?

“That’s just how it is.”

That’s just how it is. Vague yet specific. Helpful yet not helpful at all. It does nothing but does everything. It lets me hurt yet lets me heal. Because I’ll never truly know why I miscarried or why the IUI treatments didn’t work or why my body won’t let me be pregnant again. My husband can’t tell me why. Doctors can’t tell me why. God can’t tell me why.

There is no why.

There’s only acceptance.

“That’s just how it is.”

And while I don’t like having to accept my infertility, I know it’s something I have to do. Because without accepting it, I’ll never be able to move on.

Moving on doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. It doesn’t mean I don’t mourn what I’ve lost. But it gives me permission to own my feelings, whatever they may be. It gives me permission to always feel that my family is incomplete. It gives me permission to stop blaming myself every day. It gives me permission to forgive myself losing the pregnancy and not being able to have another one.

 
Jana
Jana
 

It gives me permission to be content with what I’ve been given.

While I’ll always feel the void left by my miscarriage and unsuccessful IUI treatments, I’m grateful for what those babies did for me. They’ve made me a stronger person, they’ve made me a better mother to the child I have with me, and they’ve given me new perspective on life. I appreciate the small and mundane more than I did before. I appreciate what I do have in a way I didn’t think possible.

That’s their legacy.

By sharing my story, that’s their legacy, too.

And for those who don’t understand, well.

That’s just how it is.

Stepping Out From Behind the Computer Screen

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was 1 in 100.  

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

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

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

 
Sondra
Sondra
 

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

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

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

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

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

I am one in eight.

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

Silent Sorority

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

Ever Upward 

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

#MoreThan1in8

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

here

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

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

Because together, we are #MoreThan1in8.

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pamela
Pamela

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

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

~~~

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

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

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!

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Email: everupwardbook@gmail.com