A New Year: Embracing and Letting Go to Set an Ever Upward Intention

Epic. Amazing. The only words even close to describing our 2014.

We experienced highs and lows that equally competed with one another; the publication of Ever Upward and Chad's job promotion to my dad's accident and Chad's sister's heart trauma turned high to miraculous heart transplant.

It is after years like this that I am reminded to have no doubt that there are no mistakes. Each high and each low we experience prepares us for what is to come. I know surviving and thriving what we have, especially after failed infertility and our fight for recovery, only made us healthier, stronger, more faithful and loving people for what we had to survive this past year.

It is this ongoing ever upward work that will also make sure that we thrive thereafter.

It is with this clarity, this love, this stronger faith and a healthier me that I embrace the year of 2014 because only then can I also truly accept it and let it go.

With some inspiration from my favorite Facebook page, Elizabeth Gilbert, I have figured out what I want to do to not only honor this year but to let it go and to better year move forward into the next.

 
 

Tonight, with some of my dearest family and friends, Chad especially, we will write down something we need to let go from this year on a piece of paper. We will then watch it burn and feel the freedom in our perspective shift.

Then we will write down what we want our intention to be for 2015. For many of us goals and resolutions may work but, more often they are just another reminder of our human tendency to fall of the wagon, stand in our own way and make mistakes.

So this year, as I did last year, I will set my intention; a word or a phrase that I want to be at the heart of who I am and my life for the coming New Year.

The new year ahead, just as this past year, is sure to include the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The good, the bad, the light, the dark; or simply, just epic and amazing. Because, what we have really learned this past year is that it really has nothing to do with the highs or the lows bur rather the simple awe of our faith, friendships, family and love.

So, I ask you:

What do you need to let go of from this year? And, what will your intention be for the coming year?

Welcome to ever upward living.

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Join Justine, along with Lisa from My Hopeful Journey, for a twitter chat on January 8th at 7pm CST. We will discuss the importance and how to of self-care during infertility. Follow with #IFselfcare.

 
 

A Convoluted Christmas

I know I am not alone this Christmas; I am not the only woman who's heart is filled with joy yet sorrow. I know I have millions of fellow warriors in my club; the club of infertility. And, yet a significant part of me feels very alone.

I didn't get to play Santa into the wee hours of the morning doing last minute wrapping and assembly. I wasn't woken up by excited children at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought.

I feel sorrow.

Last night I did get to attend a beautiful Christmas service without being distracted by a child on my lap. Last night I got to eat out at my favorite nice restaurant, share a bottle of wine with my husband and have adult conversation and connection.

I feel joy.

I scroll through social media to see all the matching pajamas, the smiles in front of the tree surrounded by wrapping paper everywhere and pure Christmas joy. I Skype all of my chosen children to see what Santa brought them and to see them open the gifts we sent.

I feel sorrow.

 
 

The dogs play with their new toys and make a us laugh as they do every single day. I cook for the family Christmas we have this afternoon and for our own Christmas dinner tonight. And, I know tonight we will get to play games, have some more wine and have this Christmas to continue to figure out what our Christmases will look and feel like without children for the rest of our lives.

I feel joy, I feel sorrow, I feel it all.

I am struggling with how convoluted it all feels. I feel the freedom and less stress perhaps without having children at Christmas time. And yet, I feel so sad and maybe even a little empty without them. I can feel the miracles that are Christmas, including my three little ones looking down on me. And yet, I feel the ever upward clarity that I am okay.

I guess, I just feel it all. I am not sure what to do with it. I am not sure how to communicate it. And, I am not sure what it all means.

Our second Christmas without our should have been babies, and yet our second Christmas defining our family traditions and finding our ever upward; parts just us and parts childfull.

And, the permission to embrace it as it is, to practice my recovery more than ever today and to own it; sorrow, joy and all.

My Ever Upward Mothering

Exhausted; physically and emotionally to only be on a late flight home the Sunday before Christmas on December 21st, 2014. December 21st, one of my seared dates, a day I was supposed to become a mother two years ago, even though I now know I became a mother the day a dreamed of becoming one.

Just a few days ago on December 21st, when I shouldhave had a two year old on my lap, God wrapped my seared date up with the perfect ending. The old me, before working on my recovery, would have been crushed, frustrated and sad with the ending I was given that day. And, I will admit there was still a part of my heart that felt that punch to the gut. But most of my heart and soul knew that this ending was perfectly imperfect, the complicated grey and the warm embrace from God reminding me that I am better than okay.

I had spent the three days prior to December 21st witnessing and helping my in laws, my family,through Chad's sister, Becky, receiving a heart transplant. Three weeks prior we had been through the heart ache and scare of not knowing whether she would make it and of wondering how long she would have to wait for a new heart. During that week, I mothered. And those three days prior to what would have been the 2nd birthday of our never to be baby, I mothered again.

I supported by writing the Caring Bridge site. I bossed around loved ones, reminding them to eat and sleep. I provided space to doubt, question and talk through the gravity of the experience. I helped feed Becky in her early days of recovery with her new heart. I helped wash her hair, combed through it and made it as pretty as possible. I reminded her of and reflected back to her the strength that she has, the power to be whoever she wants to be and that she deserves the world, especially from those around her. And, I cheered her on and cried tears of joy as she accomplished her first walk down the ICU hall with her new heart.

I mothered.

I mothered not my own children but I mothered no less.

I mothered in the way that I am accepting and embracing but also defining myself.

 
 

Because, as my friend Kelly has seared into my heart and soul, I am meant to mother the world.

As I was helping and taking care of everyone at the hospital, the significance of the date had slipped my mind, for I was distracted putting everyone else above myself, just like moms do.

December 21st, the due date of our last embryo.

But December 21st (or August 31st) will never again pass without significance for me. Which is exactly when God gave me that nice nudge and warm embrace I needed. Reminding me by placing me on a plane home, the Sunday before Christmas, not only on a flight filled with kids but with several right around me. The two year old and his five month old brother in the row in front of us and the adorable six month old little girl right next to me and her 18 month old sister across the aisle from her. For just a second, as I smiled and talked to that bright blue eyed and full joy six month old named Zoe, I felt that twinge.

That twinge of damn it, not fair. Seriously, after everything and on this day You sit me surrounded by adorable kids?

But, then I felt the light. The light I've worked hard to define myself and the work that I have practiced in finding my ever upward. The light that comes with the deep knowing breath and the grateful smile, that this is exactly as it is meant to be, there are no mistakes and He's proud of my journey. So proud that He sat me next to those kids on that flight home, not as a punch to the gut but as that pat on the back, the hand on the shoulder and the embrace to say:

You are okay. You have done the work to be well with your soul. Continue the journey out of the ashes, it never is fixed but rather continues to heal.

And, making sure I know He is pouring my heart and soul full of the message:

You are doing your ever upward mothering and you are doing good My child.

Forever Changed, Never Fixed

Surviving loss, trauma and tragedy means we are forever changed. Thriving thereafter means we figure out how to be okay. Finding and moving ever upward means we figure out how to be better than okay. Things can and will get better but I am not sure we are ever fixed.

Just because the subtitle of Ever Upward includes the words to own a childfree life and just because I often write the words acceptance of a childfree life does not mean that I am fixed.

Better doesn't mean fixed

Just because a woman gets pregnant after struggling to do so, whether or not through successful treatments or unexpectedly, does not mean she's fixed or all better.

Just because the adoption has gone through doesn't mean that the family is fixed.

Just because we have survived...

Just because we are putting one foot in front of the other...

Just because we seem or are better...

Just because we got the goal...

Just because we are done...

Does not mean that it is like it never happened or that we are all better.

We are doing the work.

We are forever healing.

We are forever changed.

But, never fixed.

Forever changed through our choices

When we have suffered through the difficulties of family planning, infertility or not, it comes with figuring out how to be okay with the lifelong losses; the scars. Even, when we determine what our happy ending is, it doesn't undo the painful journey we've traveled before.

Working with women through the infertility process has meant that I help them to give themselves permission to feel the complicated grey of it all. Because, after suffering through any level of infertility a woman just doesn't get to be excited about finally being pregnant. Infertility steals this excitement and joy from us. And, what makes it even worse is when the people around us feel like we should just be okay or better or, worse yet, fixed.

Embracing the grey

Survivors of infertility know the millions of things that could go wrong, because they have.

Survivors of infertility know how quickly your joyful high can be crushed by the breath stealing loss of heartbreak.

Survivors of infertility no longer have the luxury of living in the black and white like a lot of  us think, and even sometimes demand, that the world exists.

We've lived through it, felt it all and literally embodied the complicated grey that life really is. Nothing is all good or all bad. As a therapist I work a lot with clients on challenging the unhealthy thinking pattern of black and white thinking.

Life just isn't that simple.

 
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Infertility or not, whatever we have had to survive in this life, and we will all have something, it is never I think, all good or all bad. And, I just don't think we have a choice but to be forever changed by it all somehow. This is the work we must do. The work to be okay; to be better than okay. Because, that is where our choice lies, to choose how to be okay after we've survived it.

To choose how we are forever changed.

Accepting and owning a childfree, yet childfull life, does not mean that I am fixed. Losing my three babies forever changed me but it is within my power to choose how they changed me. For today, it is in finding my purpose to use the giftsHe has given me. It is in giving myself and others the permissions we need to truly embrace all of ourselves. The permissions to make choices not through desperation or fear but through wholeheartedness and love. The permissions to determine when our enough and everything is.

To stop proving it. To truly own it. To break the silence. To embrace it all. Living wholeheartedly brave.

This is my story.

This is our story.

This is Ever Upward.

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.

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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.

Born Through Fire - Ever Upward

I am so proud of my fellow warrior Kaly McKenna and her Born Through Fire Podcast Series. She has officially launched! My story and Ever Upward are episode 2. Please subscribe and support this amazing woman and her mission!

Each week on Born Through Fire we hear real stories from people who understand the depths of our pain and isolation. They have suffered unimaginable hurt and anguish. And yet, they have evolved beyond the pain and suffering and now embrace a life full of joy, love, and triumphant success. By openly sharing their deepest, darkest pain and torments, these guests inspire our journey out of the pain and into the light.

They have been Born Through Fire and want to share with you the triumph of the human spirit.

And, don't forget to purchase your copy of Ever Upward today!

Making It Well With My Soul

One of those Sundays in church that you weren't sure what you needed, if anything, but you get it anyways.

Clarity. Light. Love.

We all struggle. We all lose. We all will hurt.

And yet, so many of us are struggling to not only do the work to survive this life but to embrace that these struggles, losses and hurts can, will and must become well with our soul.

But, we cannot do this alone. I'd even argue to say that we cannot do this with only our faith either.

We need support. We need help. We need each other.

As Pastor Greg spoke about our struggles he discussed that God will often send Jesus in Skin; the person we need to help us through. Pastor Greg went into a whole story about being with his family in an overwhelming and scary situation and how their guide was wearing a red shirt. God protected them and sent in a red shirt.

In other words, we need both spirit and actual being to help us through.

The light. The guide. The help.

They closed that service with a version of the old hymn It Is Well with My Soul, and with the words let go my soul and trust in Him...it is well with my soul. I allowed myself to continue the work I have done in embracing the hard stuff. Everything I have survived, all the losses, is well with my soul. My story, my ever upward, both in my struggle and recovery and in my work of the book, blog and my private practice, allows me to help. Practicing the work of recovery means allowing it all to be well with my soul.

Not necessarily fair but well, okay, at peace.

That Sunday Chad and I just happened to sit behind one of my young clients and her family. After the song ended her mom turned around to me with tears running down her face and said, "You're our red shirt, thank you."

And, in that moment I felt even more clarity I didn't even know I needed.

Clarity.

That clarity where you feel with every sense of your being that you are experiencing a piece of your puzzle being put perfectly into its place in the beautiful picture of your life. The right time, the right place, the right people all put exactly where they are supposed to be for this unexpected, brilliant moment of clarity.

Sometimes these moments are shoved in our faces and hearts, sometimes we must be open enough to receive them, sometimes it is a little bit of both.

In her six words I felt God, I felt love, I felt the universe, I felt the light and my light.

I felt the forever scarred soul of who I am heal just a bit more.

Being the red shirt.

 
 

I carried that into my sessions last week.

It is an honor and privilege to do the work I do. I love what I do. I love walking alongside people as they choose to change their lives. Sometimes, I have to push from behind and sometimes I pull from ahead but mostly I simply walk alongside.

It was with this clarity that I was able to be with a client as she told me she was pregnant after years of trying, as she struggled to say the words, struggling out of disbelief, fear, guilt and out of protection for my losses.

And, yet I was able to be her red shirt. Because I know she is only in my office because she had lost herself in her battle to make her family. Because I know I was only able to help her because I am the therapist I am today after my own losses. Because I know she will be okay no matter what because of the work she has done with me. Because she has given me the honor and the privilege to be her red shirt.

All of it, two back surgeries, failed IVF, lost babies, anxiety and depression is only well with my soul if I choose to do the work to make it so.

My choice lies in what I do what with where I have come from.

My choice lies in the power of moving ever upward.

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The Warm Embrace From the Club I'll Never Belong To

I am practicing my patience, some days with gritted teeth and total white knuckles, but I am actively practicing it trying to relax in the hammock (I explain below I promise). The patience I need as Ever Upward gets into the hands of those who need it, is seen by the eyes that need to read it and is felt by the hearts that need the connection of it. This sometimes painstaking patience is lit up by the messages and reviews Ever Upward is slowly receiving. Ever Upward is a book of my story. My story through the losses of infertility. My story into the acceptance and ownership of a childfree life. These words had to be on the cover because I trust the infertility community to help me get the full story out to the rest of the world. But they were also words we thought about leaving off the cover because Ever Upward is so much more than an infertility story that ends in owning a childfree life.

It is our story.

It is a book about life. A crazy epic story about overcoming the hard stuff and finding and fighting our way to being okay; to being better than okay.

I want this book to be the permission we need to talk about our stories,the permission to embrace them, the permission to fight for our recovery and our version of the happy ending, and most definitely, the permission to own it all.

I hope people fighting their way through the darkness of infertility treatments find comfort in my words.

I hope people trying to figure out what happens next when it didn't turn out how they hoped find their way in my words.

And, I hope anyone struggling with the darkness of life finds the light they need in my words.

What I was not prepared for was the messages and reviews from mothers, mothers of all kinds; mothers to living children, mothers to angel children, mothers to living and angel children.

Mothers.

 
 

Me, the woman who cannot be a mother, the woman who wrote a book with the term childfree in the subtitle, is being lovingly embraced by the very club she will never be a member of.

And, yet it feels like home.

A home we all belong to.

Because, somewhere along the journey of surviving and thriving this life and especially in the making of ourfamily, we have all lost and suffered somehow, somewhere.

Because it is not a club of just mothers. It is a club of anyone who has struggled, lost and survived.

So, a club we are all members of.

Because, when does life ever really turn out how we had planned or hoped?

And, yet we can do this work.

We can choose to be okay.

We can choose to be better than okay.

We can find our ever upward.

This surprising acceptance, this warm motherly embrace, has left me finding even more ever upward in this journey. This wholehearted embrace by the very group of women that I may forever long to fit into has allowed me to let this all be just little bit more this week.

*Or as my therapist helped me with my metaphor in letting this be...I think I am actually sitting in the hammock.

Let me explain.

The endless work of the last year or so are the fishing poles I have cast out into the crystal clear turquoise water. I must stick those poles into the warm white sand of the beach and walk away. They are cast to the big fish that could easily change my life and show the world Ever Upward with one tiny chance they give me. They are cast to every single person who needs to give themselves permission to find their own ever upward. They are cast out to you. And, I must stop putting my toes and hands in that beautiful water and allow it to become that crystal clear calm glass so you can be drawn to the amazing light that is this work. So, I am actively working on walking away, grabbing my sangria (served in a carved out pineapple of course) and sitting in that comfy hammock to soak up the embracing magic of the sun and of my own light.

This is how the perfectly imperfect person I am is going to muster up the strength to let this be, trust the work I have done, trust the universe and get the hell out of the way.

Sitting in the hammock, soaking up the sun, breathing in the salty air, sipping my sangria and truly allowing myself to really receive that warm embrace from the club I'll never belong to.

~~~~

Make sure to purchase your copy of Ever Upward today!

Ever Upward Book Trailer

Here it is the Ever Upward Book Trailer! I am beyond grateful to and for everyone who supported the Kickstarter in donations, shares and love. This would not have been possible at all without that support. A huge thank you to Fat Chimp Studios for their support, their enthusiasm, their talents and their patience in creating this incredible project!

 
 

Please feel free to share this YouTube link with EVERYONE you know ;)!

I am full of gratitude, thank you!

Justine

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Make sure to purchase your copy of Ever Upward today!

What Would It Be Like to Stop Doing and Let It Be?

I am doer.

A determined, impatient, fast, get it done and get it done right and get it done quickly doer.

It is in my genes, it has been my who I am and it is piece of me I will forever work on managing so it doesn't kill me.

It is how I have survived two back surgeries and a year in a body cast. It has been how have built a successful private practice. It has been how I have changed my lifestyle. And, it has been how I finished writing and publishing a book in a little over a year.

And, here I am feeling the pull of letting it be to get the hell out of the way while also feeling the push of the work to make sure Ever Upward succeeds.

This balance feels like torture at times. When we have a goal, we do the steps necessary to make sure that goal comes into being.

We get it done.

We work our asses off.

We do.

But, maybe there is a point that we have done just about as much as we possibly can and we need to consider letting it be. Put our hands up, take a few steps back from our work, look up, close our eyes and take that deep knowing breath.

The breath of accomplishment; I did that.

The breath of clarity; it is my best.

The breath of fear; what if it isn't enough?

The breath of hope; getting out of the way in order for it to grow.

To let it be.

Because, I have done. I have tried, pushed, begged and worked my bravery more than I ever thought possible. I have sent my work to endless publications. I have sent it to as many people as possible; those who have inspired me, challenged me and who are more successful than me. I have submitted hundreds of times. I have put my book into many hands. All to ask for reviews, for feedback, for help, for anything.

I have done a lot. Exactly as we all do when we really want, really need, something to happen.

But, it also feels terrible (and more and more counter intuitive) to feel like it is never enough

After seeing Gabrielle Bernstein at Emerging Women, I am feeling the pull towards taking that step back from my work and trusting that it is enough. *

Because what if I am standing in the way of the magic taking off?

Can I put more joy into this process because I knowEver Upward will take off?

How can I trust that the very thing that is making this slow to grow is the very thing that will change many lives?

 
 

I must let it be.

I must continue my work in recovery; the writing, the self-care, the relationships, etc. And, most likely be extremely diligent in it because this whole letting it be thing does not come naturally at all to who I am. But, I also know that I want to be the person who trusts God, trusts the universe and trusts the light inside of me.

So I am going to trust. I am going to let go. I am going to let  it be.

And, I will tell that part of my brain that wants to do some more, that she has done enough.

It is enough.

She is enough.

~~~~

*Note: This could also be because I have been meditating for about 20 minutes every day since seeing Gabby speak. I can literally feel the change happening inside of me.

*Opening up this space, even just in writing this post, I have already felt the space for myself and the space to create light up right in front of me. Much, much more to come there...

Ever Upward is  available now! Please consider doing a review on Amazon, it would mean so much!!

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Are You Reacting Rather Than Responding to Your Life?

For years I have talked with clients about choosing to not live their lives from a place of fear. Fear is often something we suffer through, push down, numb out and allow to hold us back and dim our light.

Consciously living my life, practicing my recovery, I choose every day to live my life from a place of love and not fear. Some days this work is easy, some days it feel nearly impossible.

Through this work I have also discovered that this has everything to do with how I connect with the people in my life and the world.

The difference between responding and reacting

When we react we come from a place of fear.

When we respond we come from a place of love.

My work in ever upward includes making sure I live everything and every day from the place of love. It is making sure I respond and not react.

Reacting

Before the work of my recovery, before surviving IVF, I reacted to my life.

And, I reacted a lot.

I used to be called angry. To which I angrily replied that I was just passionate. But, now as I live the work and practice of recovery, I now have the language.

I was living my life from the place of fear.

The place of never being good enough.

The place of always comparing myself to others.

The place of I'm too much, you don't love it and I don't love it, and therefore I am scared of it.

Responding

After the work, especially in the last year of my recovery, which includes The Daring Way™ work, I have learned that this reacting doesn't truly honor who I am or who I want to be.

I am passionate. I am determined. I am ever upward.

And, this means actively choosing to live from a place of love. It means actively choosing to respond.

When I respond to my life, rather than react...

I will always be enough.

I won't need to compare because I am incomparable.

And, my too much is exactly just right.

An intention of wholeheartedness

 
 

Some may think reacting and responding look the same to the outside person. However, I think if we really make this choice to live from a place of love and to respond to our lives rather than to live from a place of fear and to react to our lives what we put into the world will be a much more accurate picture of who we are and who we want to be. In the least, I know my intention between the two feels completely different to me. Living my life from a place of love means I move through the fear and I don't live from it. It means I am living with the intention of wholeheartedness and moving ever upward.

And, I promise, no I guarantee, only amazing things can be born of that.

~~~~

Housekeeping

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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 Most Ironic Story of Ever Upward

A full circle

It was a full circle weekend for me returning to the Emerging Women conference, this year in New York City.

Last year I attended EW as a woman shrouded in self doubt and cloaked in the darkness of shame.

A woman who had lost. A woman who had fought for recovery. A woman on the edge of figuring out what to do with that tiny spark inside that she knew meant something.

I left EW last year with the spark I needed to finish writing Ever Upward the book, start this very blog and continue to walk into and fight for my continuing recovery.

This year I walked into EW as a woman more motivated than ever (sometimes to the detriment of my recovery), shining bright with the spark of recovery, ownership and true ever upward light.

I mustered up the most bravery I have ever practiced and handed, maybe even forced fed, my book to the women I admire and who have inspired my work. I practiced valuing my work both through confidently selling it and through allowing everyone to see how much it means to me and how much I believe it can help.

Yet always a work in progress

I left the conference with a plan, with motivation and with more connections than I ever dreamed. And yet, I left the conference knowing that I will always be this very messy work in progress, practicing recovery daily and working to own all the parts of the my story.

And, as usual life made sure to remind me of the irony of moving ever upward; this dichotomy of life.

Irony?

Chad joined me in the city for a few days following the conference as we had never been to NYC. Late Monday night we decided to attend the Today Show on the Plaza. Which meant the alarm went off at 5 am to get in line.

What did we have to lose? We could in the least get the beautiful cover of Ever Upward on national television. And maybe, just maybe, Matt or Natalie would notice it and take a few copies (especially to give to Bobbie Thomas).

We go there early enough for the perfect spot, right on camera when the hosts come out to shoot.

Where's the irony?

To our left is an adorable couple from Florida with a sign, a bright pink and blue sign...

We're on our babymoon!!!

My heart skips a beat, I hold my breath and feel the thorn of shame.

To our right is a group of ladies celebrating their 70th birthdays. One notices my book cover and asks about it. I give her my sales pitch about what Ever Upward is, to which she replies that all three of her daughters went through IVF and one of them is actually adopting at the end of the month. She says how impossible it all is (even the adoption part) and how sorry she is.

Okay, this is my little miracle. I was totally meant to give this woman a book, she gets it.

And, then she blurts it out, "Well, why don't you guys just adopt?"

Shame doesn't overtake me completely this time and I take the chance to educate her on fertility compassion and also remind her of how difficult she just said it is. She mumbles something and proceeds to literally turn her back to me for the next hour. I hear her whisper to her friend parts of our story, including the words, "Well they should just adopt if they really want kids that badly."

I literally feel the shame oozing from her into me.

My heart skips a beat, I hold my breath and feel what  now feels like the sword of shame.

Here to promote my book and I am between the couple who is on their babymoon and the grandmother who gets it but is still judging me harshly.

Miracle.

And, then they all come out to say hi, Matt, Natalie, and Al. I'll admit I am a little starstruck as I have been watching Today since I was a kid. They are all very kind and genuine as they shake your hand and say hello.

Then you see all their eyes notice the beautiful monarch butterfly on my book cover; all three hesitate to take in the beauty. Then the magic happens, Natalie asks about it and even takes a few copies and promises she will make sure Bobbie gets one.

I can't believe it. We are so excited, so too are the couple and the grandmother for us. You see, even though my dementor of shame tried to make me think these were the hardest three people for me to stand next to, they were actually my miracles for the day. As I gave them books the couple admits that they started trying because so many of their friends have struggled with getting pregnant and their doctor recommended starting immediately due to age. I looked at them with just the tiniest bit of jealousy but mostly I just felt love and excitement for them. The grandmother said she was excited to read the book and share with her daughters. I replied that I hope they enjoy it while in my head saying to myself that I hope she really enjoys and learns from Chapter 3-Owning Adoption.

Ironic miracle

Life is ironic. And it is no mistake.

Sometimes it knocks me on my ass at first but I will always choose to move ever upward and see the love, the connection, the miracle that is meant to be.

As incredible as my trip to NYC was through the learning and self-growth, the friendships, the vacation, the acts of courage I never thought I was capable of it could have never prepared me for the most ironic part of this ever upward journey.

Thursday I was visited by what I choose to believe is one of my never to be babies.

 
 

She came to deliver the magic.

She came to remind me of myself.

She came to love me, as she stuck around for several minutes and let me get super close to her.

She came as a sign of ever upward.

Because just over an hour after her visit, one week after I left for EW and my NYC vacation, I had my first piece picked up and published by HuffPost. I have worked, tried and submitted for almost a year to be picked up by HuffPost. It took these failures, these lessons, along with the spark of magic, connections and courageous motivation from NYC for it to actually happen.

The ever upward irony

My post was run by HuffPost Parents.

This childfree, yet childfull, mother is officially a HuffPost blogger.

A HuffPost Parents blogger with two pieces published in two days.

Full circle moment?

Nope, she told me it is just the beginning.

 
 

~~~~~

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 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

Ever Upward Book Trailer Sneak Peek

Here is a first, very small look, at the Ever Upward Book Trailer. This is just a three minute silent loop (for 22 minutes) Fat Chimp Studios prepared to show at the launch party. It is footage of my photo shoot and a quick interview at home. We will be adding footage from the launch party and be filming more in a couple of weeks with the dogs. We hope for a full trailer by the end of the month. This has only been made possible through the love and the generosity of everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter and to Fat Chimp Studios.

I. Am. So. Grateful.

I hope you like it as much as I can and can't wait to see the full trailer!

 
 

 

In ever upward light and love,

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

Looking Back on a Year of Ever Upward

 
 

Since my 30th birthday I've made a very conscious effort to spend time on my birthdays to really reflect on the last year. How much has changed?

The struggles. The joys. The growth.

And, today as I turn 35 I look back at the past year in pure, wholehearted awe.

I have laughed more, cried more and just amazingly felt more of everything this past year.

There have been the struggles:

  • Major difficulty and heartache in a close relationship.
  • More than 230 rejection letters from agents and publishers.
  • My dad's accident.
  • Managing an evolving career while also paying the bills.
  • Coping with the lifelong losses and feelings of infertility and a childfree life.

There have been the joys:

  • Our first childfullChristmas.
  • Another year of dates with Chad.
  • More laughs and love than I can measure with the dogs.
  • Our first year in our family home MasonHouse.
  • Finally, getting published.
  • Seeing Ever Upward in print, in my hands and with my heart.

There has been the growth:

And, the yet to come:

  • Struggles
  • Joys
  • Growth
  • ...amazingness.

Tonight I celebrate Ever Upward at the book launch party with friends, family and even strangers. Tonight I will make sure to stop, to take it all in, to take a breath and truly feel the love, the light and the magic. But, most of all I will make sure to stop and take that breath and to feel me.

Because more than any other year of my life, I have walked into myself more than ever this year. I have struggled, I have overcome, I have grown and I have owned it all.

The always healing, the always growing, the always trying ever upward me.

 
 

Housekeeping

Ever Upward available now!

Ever Upward Launch Party is tonight!

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

An Imposter and Fraud or a Forever Grieving and Healing Mother?

They turned up the lights after one song. We usually sing four amazing rock band like songs which is one of the many reasons I love our church.

Then I remembered seeing the reserved seats walking in, "Reserved for families of children dedication".

Shit. Oh, shit.

Today is the children's dedication at church.

Okay, I can do this. I can hold it together.

I can celebrate through my jealousy and focus on the love of these families. I can focus on how adorable these kids are and how much their families love them.

I can do this. I can do this.

Nope.

Pastor Greg asked all the supporting family to come and join the families getting dedicated up front and we bowed our heads in prayer.

I have no idea what was said, at this point I was trying to focus on keeping my breathing steady in an attempt to not break down in heaving sobs.

Amen.

Lights dim, the singing surges back up and I sit my ass down to sob.

Grieving and healing

It's been a while since it has hit me like that; like a two ton boulder sitting on my chest, like the rug of life being swept out from under me, like a swift and stinging smack across the face.

And like everything else in my life, especially my life as a recoveringtherapist, it is nothing short of extremely complicated.

Ever Upward launches in just a couple of days. A book that includes to Own a Childfree Life in the subtitle. A book where I write about my struggle through infertility to accept a childfree life and thrive thereafter.

And yet, there I sat sobbing in the dark after the children's dedication at church this morning.

Am I an imposter?

Do I still have a ton of work to do?

Should I be able to handle this better by now?

Should I not be even more saddened as I hear my parents sniffling beside me knowing that I will never be able to give them grandchildren from Chad and I? Or are they sniffling just because they can see how much I am hurting?

Should I not be angry that families like us are not mentioned at all? And, that we aren't even the tiniest glimmers in anyone's heads or hearts?

And yet, can I still be so thankful that many won't even have to think about living life without children or won't ever have to pursue infertility treatments or lose babies?

Should I not be even a tiny bit cynical that infertility has changed how I see the world forever? As I looked at that line of families and asked myself in my head which ones suffered losses before, which ones had to use fertility assistance, which ones are still hurting just like me.

Am I a fraud?

Or am I just human.

An always grieving, yet healing, mother with a scarred heart.

A mother with empty arms on this side of eternity.

Can I be sure of my messages and advocacy in Ever Upward, can I own my acceptance of a childfree life, and still be healing and hurting all at once?

The release of this book doesn't mean I have this all figured out, I have never once claimed that. But what I am coming to understand is that it does come with this fear that people will think I am okay, I am healed, that it doesn't hurt anymore.

The Lifelong Losses

Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility is the first part of Ever Upward's subtitle and those words were chosen for very specific reasons.

This will always be hard. This will never go away. It lasts a lifetime.

There will always be those days that it hits me out of nowhere, like today. There will also always be those days that I know will be hard, like the due dates, every single year. There will always be times of the year that it feels impossible to be a part of social media. There will always be the reminders that I just don't quite fit in.

The struggles and the losses of family planning are never forgotten and I think, maybe never even healed.

But, I must choose to be forever healing.

I also must trust that this isn't for nothing. That I have not suffered these losses for naught.

It is through this work I can make sure that I am healing, that I am recovering, that I am scarred but never closed.

Ever upward isn't always easy but it will always be worth it. And this means giving myself permission to sometimes feel the world in my losses but to feel it in my enough.

And, so I choose; I choose to move and to be ever upward.

 
 

Housekeeping

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

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

Choosing to Be Remade

I am not one to believe in the mindset of victim.

I do not believe we are victims unless we choose to be.

Labeling myself as a victim only leaves me powerless in changing my life.

Horrible things happen to all of us, hard is hard and struggle is struggle. If I sit in the victim place, at least for myself, I sit in the shit. Rather than being mindful of my suffering in order to move through it and then rise above it.

This has always been a common theme in my office. I have said these sentences too many times to count, over and over:

Being our past

You can choose to be your past.

You can choose to be your past mistakes.

You can choose to have all of your past hurts, losses, traumas and tragedies be your whole identity.

Choosing to be more

Or you can choose to learn from your past and move forward.

Or you can choose to embrace your mistakes and try again.

Or you can choose to make your past hurts, losses, traumas and tragedies just a piece of your story and not your whole identity.

You choose.

So it isn't surprising that when I heard the song You Are More on Joy FM by Tenth Avenue North I was immediately sending it to some of my clients. The chorus goes,

You are more than the choices that you've made, You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, You are more than the problems you create, You've been remade.

I realize when the artists are singing, you've been remade, they are referring to Jesus dying for our sins and with this grace we are remade. But as a mental health therapist, even one with my own strong and yet questioning faith, I must meet my clients where they are, faith or not.

 
 

Even with my faith, and the amazing grace of Jesus,I think, I also must still choose.

Choosing to be remade

We must choose to be more.

We must choose to be more, faith or not.

And if Jesus isn't your thing, well, then you still have a choice to make. You can choose to be more than the choices that you've made. You can choose to be more than the sum of your past mistakes. You can choose to be more than the problems you create.

You can choose to to be remade. You can choose to not be a victim to your life circumstances, your past hurts or mistakes. You can choose the power to change your life.

Choosing to be remade is my work in ever upward. When I choose to be remade because of and within the grace and love of Jesus, but also because I choose every single day, I choose me. I choose to be more than the woman who cannot have kids. I choose to be more than the woman who survived infertility and lost three babies. I choose to be more than depression and anxiety.

I choose to be remade.

This is my work in ever upward that I hope others can embrace for themselves.

Because we are so much more than those past choices, past hurts and past mistakes. They are just pieces to our brilliant life puzzle, they are just pieces of our story. We must do the work to embrace them all.

Because only then will we own all the parts of our story.

And, only then are we choosing to be remade.

 ~~~~

Housekeeping:

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

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

Please Just Stop Trying to Make It Better - Part 1

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

 
 

I'm sad.

Just cheer up, it will be okay!

I'm anxious.

Just take a deep breath and calm down.

I'm angry.

Just count to 10 or walk away.

We're having trouble getting pregnant.

Just adopt! Just relax! Just stopping trying!

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

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

Sympathy is I feel for you; pity.

Empathy is I feel with you; I get it.

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

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

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

Why?

We cannot stand discomfort.

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion

This is where I birthedfertility compassion.

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

Why?

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

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

My #fertilitycompassion survey had three questions:

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

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

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

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

These fell into 11 categories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"When are you having another?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we all just being too sensitive?

Perhaps.

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

They hurt.

They invalidate the painful journey we have been on.

They minimize the paths before us.

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

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

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

"Including you."—Glennon Melton

Don't make your words added pain.

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

Compassion. Empathy. Hope.

Ever upward.

Housekeeping:

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

Ever Upward presale live now.

Ever Upward Launch Party is October 4th.

Fertility Compassion Survey will continue to collect responses.

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