Perhaps, He Walked It First

Five years ago this time we were in our first, and what we thought would be our only, two week wait. I only did the math because Facebook reminded me via the On This Day reminder the other day, as five years ago I posted a vague post about the two week wait.

Then I posted nothing else about it... It seems my brave-speak-the-truth advocacy did not develop until after our journey ended and fought my way out of my fetal position to rise from the ashes.


Five years ago I remember we went home to Iowa for Christmas showing off black and white pictures of bubble globs to all our family. Those globs being our eight celled embryo babies.

The babies we never got to meet. We were positive it had worked.  It had to work, as it was our only chance.

That only chance was crushed with a one minute phone call followed by me trying not to throw up in the trash can and Chad literally holding his tears in as I lost my shit.

We took the loan out the next day for another try. That one didn't work either.

And as my life would have it, four years ago today, our last embryo was to be born. Had that last round of IVF worked, we would have a four year old today.

Oh yea, and it is the damn holidays.

That is some timing, no wonder I struggle in December. I am haunted by dates that will be forever seared into my heart and soul.

Dates that are sad and dates that made me a mother.

Once again, I am reminded by a decent smack upside the head, as He often likes to work with me, of my own work. The work to embrace the complicated gray, and to choose the joy within this sadness, as there is always room for both.

In the midst of many desperate-on-my-knee prayers this week, I had the realization and the reminder of how strongly we can feel two "opposing" emotions at the same time.

  • I am forever longing and sad and also grateful for the mother He made me, even if they aren't here with me, longing joy.
  • I love my life and how much I have worked to thrive after loss and I miss my three more than words can say, grateful guilt.

This is the hard ass work of walking in the freeing truth of the complicated gray.

And, the more I think of it and learn, we are nowhere near the first to walk this walk. Perhaps, we had a model who did it best a long, long time ago.

Jesus longed and loved. He angered and loved. He grieved and loved. He struggled and He trusted His Father,

...not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42

And yes, I am that kind of Christian, I just said ass and quoted Jesus all within a few lines.

He knows me. He sees me. He understands me.

This faith and truth does not make the complicated gray easier to feel and muster through. It does, however, ground me and help me to stand my sacred truth. That even though I shake my fist at Him on some days because the story He has written for me hurts like hell, makes me sad and feels unfair, I know and trust that He's got this, that He knows me (and best) and that He has my ending.

My only job is to emulate His love, walk in my truth and to choose joy.

Because when I do that, I honor my three and myself.

And, that my friends, is the best thing any mother can do for herself and her children.

My Facebook status last night...
My Facebook status last night...

End note: After working on this piece I met a friend for dinner and shopping at the mall. Of course, I was sat at a table looking head on into the long line of families waiting to see Santa. I chose joy, sure it was in chips, salsa and wine but joy still.

They See Us

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

I can't even go to church.

Written in a social media post,

I can't go to the baby shower.

Shared in a blog post,

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

From my own mouth,

They are everywhere.

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

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

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

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

But, this isn't the saddest part.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Chances are the answer is yes.

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

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

And the Soul Felt It's Worth

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

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

December is kicking my ass this year.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep complicated gray breath.

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

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

These are my truths.

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

A Bare Tree and an Aching Heart

"You ready?" my parents asked me. "I have to get a picture of the glasswing butterfly first," I replied. "Chad saw it a few minutes ago."

The butterfly aviary is one we are familiar with as we visit it every single year we go to Branson. In fact it was a year ago that I met Julie who then sent me information on the glasswing butterfly after reading my blog.

The glasswing ,well and the monarch, are my mascots. Spirit animals? Whatever, their existence helps me to survive my own.

The air is cooler than normal in the aviary and not as humid as it usually is, which also means the butterflies are not as active that day. We had already had a huge surprise when we first got there when I spotted my coloring journal Taking Flight. I had completely forgotten they sold it there in the gift shop.

I love butterfly houses but I also knew I needed pictures to use for this very blog, so it was both work and pleasure, the always delicate balance of my life. I had all but forgotten about the glasswing until Chad finally spotted it a few minutes prior.

Every single time I would get close enough for a shot her transparent wings and tiny body would become a blurred flit in the air challenging our eyes to keep track of her. Her frantic movement reminded me of my life these last several weeks. I have been busy, busier than I have ever been. Yet, I have also tried to stop referring to it as busy because that can become such an excuse for so many of us. I am too busy, has become like nails on a chalkboard for me

It is a fact, we are all busy. Life will never get unbusy.

We must, I think, choose our busy.

Much like the crazed glasswing butterfly, most days I feel like a crazed flit in the air that no one can catch.

There was a difference though, this butterfly lived in a home decked in Christmas joy of music and decorations. I, on the other hand, have yet to put up a single snowman or glitter garland. Christmas is less than 20 days away and I don't have one bit of Christmas jolly in my house. My excuse has been my crazed business and being out of town so much.

Or so I thought.

Then yesterday on a gray and chilly St. Louis morning God stopped me in my tracks. As my gigantic-never-gets-all-the-way-done to-do list ran through my head I caught a glimpse of movement in the backyard. At first it was only the whites of their tails that caught my eye against our tree line that has gone mostly brown already.

Three deer standing in a row.


My three.

They all stop to look at me in their statue-like grace as I step onto a chair to get a better view of them through our back windows. I find myself taking a deep breath; a paused, deep breath in spite of my looming to-do list and every passing minute that nothing is getting crossed off of it.

My chosen busy lately has been a ton of amazing travel, continuing to see a full-time case load of clients (including doing more Rising Strong intensives, which I love), working on the second book proposal and building my Plexus team.

It is all stuff I absolutely love and wholeheartedly believe in.

It is on top of that chair seeing God's not so gentle reminder of my three, that I realize I have also been busy because I am passing through another damn holiday and looming due date without my three.

We are "supposed" to have four year olds this Christmas. Four year olds in their matching Christmas jammies giggling with magical excitement as they leave a note, cookies and milk for Santa and sprinkle glitter on our front yard for the reindeer.


Instead, I tortured our three little dogs with their own Christmas jammies for this year's holiday card.

I got the shot of the glasswing butterfly, because I am one determined woman running three businesses with the frenzied grace like a glasswing butterfly.

I still haven't crossed everything off that damn to-do list, and probably never will. I will keep on in this wholehearted hustle knowing I am always enough (or at least telling myself that).

With God's gentle, for now reminder, I will stop and feel the forever longing joy. I know better than to think I can busy myself enough to forget about the grief of my life.

They would have been four. I miss them and wonder always. I am thankful and I am sad.

The holidays only make all of the above more palpable, no matter how long that to-do list is.

Be still my child, He must constantly remind me of.

As I finish up this piece, I sit with my three little jammie-less dogs flanked on both sides of me, our noses filled with the slightest scent of pine.

You see, God, also gave me Chad. Last night after my dinner out with friends I walked into the house to see an oddly shaped, delicious smelling and plain as day Christmas tree. "You said you wanted a real one," Chad said with love in his eyes.

My eyes filled with tears, "I did."

He looks back at me with confusion, as to him it is only a tree and a nice gesture for his wife.


To me it is a tree that reminds me that my house is missing a few four year olds to help me decorate it, and so it is also one more thing on that never ending to do list.

I am finding you never quite know how grief will hit you year to year, especially with the holidays or special dates. What I do know is that we cannot busy ourselves enough to forget about it.

It is a huge part of us, and always will be. I am honored and grateful to be their mother, all within my forever longing for them.

So I guess the question really is: How long will the tree stay bare?

Not as long as my heart will ache.

A Community of Never Enough Mothers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to continue reading over at HuffPost.


The Bounce House

A germ infested warehouse filled with bigger-than-life rainbow colored bounce houses, and we have the place to ourselves!  Stomach-dropping fun for every child, a place of refuge for their tired parents, and a place of nightmares for most infertile couples. But not for us.  We worked our way out of the nightmare to be the exception.

Some call us “childless.” Some even say we will never know true love.

My heart, full of a mother’s love, albeit longing love, begs to differ.

The soft structures breathe an undercurrent hum behind the happy squeals of the only two other children who are already there. Baby Ben is sleeping in his car seat.  McKinley kicks off her Crocs, my husband Chad unties his shoes, and I unzip my boots, racing to see whose stocking feet can hit the bright red vinyl floor of the bounce house first. We both run after McKinley as she hurls her tiny, not-quite-three-year-old self into the soft structure.

“Wait for us!” I yell, already immersed in breathless excitement.

All I can hear are her giggles. I fall into the sides a few times before I have my bearings, but quickly, because McKinley is attempting to scale a wall that is way too big for her.

Her smile and laughter burst brighter than the colored world we are stumbling in. She flings her body in complete abandonment, jumping so high that our faces cramp from smiling so much. For an hour we trail behind her, playing, helping her up the ladders, so she can climb walls that are too big for her tiny arms and legs.

“Hold onto the straps so you can pull yourself up,” I say.

“Come on, McKinley. You can do it!” Chad says looking down at her from the top.

“Okay,” she assures me with a nod of her tiny head, grabbing the strap.

This small teaching lights a spark under her as she races up the ladder at double the speed. My knees ache as I try to catch up to her.

All three of us perch precariously at the top of a slide that is much bigger than I anticipated, as McKinley shouts, “Race!”

My stomach drops at the steepness of the slide and a laugh escapes my smile so loud I even startle myself.

“Again, again!” McKinley shouts.

“Okay!” I shout back in a high pitched goofy voice, much to her delight.

“Myself,” she states back, brimming with threenager attitude.

This time I wait for her at the bottom, my arms open for her. Her blonde hair sticks straight up as she catches wind on the way down, her face shining with unbridled joy like only a toddler’s can.

My thirty-six year old back is telling me I need a break, so I go over to the bench where my friend Casey is holding Ben. I take Ben out of her arms with a smile silently saying to her, thank you for letting me love your children, my chosen children.

At only eleven weeks old, he has the new baby smell that fills my nose with maternal love. His eyes light up and he cracks a huge smile imitating back to me my joy. I nuzzle him, smile at him and feel his warmth in my arms, making sure to soak in every scent, smile and snuggle that I can.

Casey asks, “Want me to take him back so you can go and play again?”

“I’m good for now,” I say.

“Need a little break, huh?” Casey asks, as if to say, we are getting so old aren’t we?

She assumes my body needs a break but it’s my heart that needs one most. I glance back at Chad picking up McKinley to help her make a shot in the basketball bounce house. They are both giggling and jumping everywhere. The thought creeps in ever-so-slightly, just like it usually does.

He would have been a great dad.

God, I wanted them so badly.

Two back surgeries and a year in a body cast annihilated the first rendition of our parental dreams. A couple of failed rounds of  In Vitro Fertilization with a gestational surrogate, tens of thousands of dollars and three lost babies later we ended our journey without the desired, hoped for, dreamed of and paid for outcome of our own children.

Instead, all we have left of them is a black and white picture of their eight cell embryo beings.

In our world’s most accepted definition of the word “parent,” we will never meet the criteria. I will never birth a child and we are not adopting one.

But childless we are not. We are childfull parents, birthing a rare kind of parenthood. We must seek out, ask for and remain open enough to receive the gift of being involved in our friends’ children’s lives, our chosen children. This love will be our legacy, left not in biological children we raise but in our chosen children’s lives.

My mind wanders to a scene not long ago when two sisters walked into our home with the bright eyes of children who know they are getting an awesome gift. Hannah, the oldest, handed me a handwritten note with my name spelled wrong, yet phonetically right, that read, “Thank you for the costumes Justiene.”

“Can we try them on now?” she asked.

The house was filled with the familiar smells of Thanksgiving dinner, our first with our new friends and their three daughters. “Let’s eat first, then we will have the most awesome fashion show ever,” I said.

After lunch, we all rushed to the basement. Hannah and her younger sister Maya squealed with excitement at the site of the huge trunk filled with a lifetime of my dance costumes.  “We can have all of them?” Hannah asked.

“You can! But only if we make up dances and have a recital when I come over to play.”

“Thank you,” they both said without being prompted by their mom.

“You’re welcome,” I said.

I helped the girls try on all the costumes for the next hour, tap shoes, tiaras, tutus and all. I looked at their mom Izzy with gratitude, Thank you for letting me love your daughters.

All while thinking, God, I hope we’re always allowed to be such active parts of our chosen children’s lives.

“How old is he?” a very blonde mother asks, interrupting my thoughts. I notice quickly she is playing on her phone while her two kids run and bounce away.

I give myself permission to think the first thought that comes as the woman who can’t have kids, Play with your kids, lady. You get to have them.

I know all-too-well how little time and care most mothers provide for themselves, especially as a mental health therapist. Most of my work with mothers consists of teaching them how to take better care of themselves, so they don’t end back up in my office in their fifties lost and completely empty. I quickly practice my empathy and think, I’m so glad moms have places like this to entertain their kids a bit so they can get the occasional break.

“Eleven weeks,” I smile and reply to her question.

“Oh my gosh, you look aaaamaaazing!” she exclaims.

“Oh no, he isn’t mine. We’re in town visiting.”  I point to Casey and say, “That’s his mom, my friend Casey.”

“Oh, well, you look great too!”

We all exchange obligatory smiles and I walk away before she can ask me where my own kids are.

Shit, Justine, don’t get sad. Breathe! Stay present.

Standing with Ben in my arms, I shift my focus back to Chad and McKinley bouncing away, as I allow the sadness to well up inside of me. Some days it comes in waves like this, waves of sadness triggered by thoughts like, It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Other days it is the longing for my three children who never took a breath of this earth’s fresh air.

Always, I acknowledge the thoughts and the feelings, giving myself permission to feel them all.

I am simply too afraid not to, because then it is like they never existed, and they are our children. Even if the only thing we have left of them, besides our longing hearts and changed lives is a picture from our infertility clinic.

I fight to take a breath and look down at Ben. He is a true miracle in my life. I take another breath, deeper and more knowing, and look back at Chad and McKinley jumping like crazy in the bounce house together. With yet another deeper breath, a space begins to open up within me, allowing the sadness to move just enough to grant space for another choice.

I am so grateful.

I am grateful for this life.

I am grateful we were given our never-to-be babies. I am grateful we were chosen as their parents if only to love them from afar.

Because they are what we have.

And, don’t we love what we get at the end of the day?


Those three babies, who I never got to meet, made me a mother; a mother who loves endlessly and who loves well.

A love with lifelong wonder of who they would have been and who we could have been as parents. A loss, I must choose, every damn day, in how it defines me for the rest of my life. Because who I become because of them is how I choose to honor them.

McKinley runs full force past me into another bounce house as Chad takes the baby from me. “Go play for a while,” he says as he kisses the top of my head.

“Thank you,” I reply allowing him, and only him, to see my eyes glistening with the slightest of tears. I run to catch McKinley headed up the ladder to the big slide. We reach the top together, Chad waiting at the bottom for us holding one of our many chosen children. I feel the pull of my forever longing and my gratitude, all at the same time. We make eye contact to silently say to one another, It is okay. We are okay. And, this is amazing still.

I hold McKinley’s hand tight, throw my head back, let laughter explode from my gut and fill my soul, as we slide down together one more time.


I wrote this piece over 8 months ago, in fact baby Ben just turned one year old! After working with my friend Laura Munson editing it and submitting it to well over 20 platforms and magazines, I decided I had been rejected and waited enough. Because I love this piece and I love these children. So I brought my bounce house home to Ever Upward, where it has belonged the whole time.

3 Years, 302 Posts

3 years. 302 posts. Over 126,000 views and 65,000 visitors

Too many words to count.

Lots of tears.

Many triumphs.

Broken silence.



Lives healing.

More friendships than I ever could have dreamed.

A women completely changed; f

rom scared, desperate and broken to


, tenacious and rising.

A world changing with every spoken truth, one written word at a time.

To stop proving it. To truly own it.

butterflies breaking out cleaner copy (2)
butterflies breaking out cleaner copy (2)

To break the silence. To embrace it all.

Living wholeheartedly brave.

Honoring the longing joy.

To awaken to live in color.

This is my story. This is our story.

This is ever upward.

Thank you.

Cash Made Dreams: When Making a Baby is More About Filling Pockets Than Filling Homes

You know how much I believe in the healthy messages in and after the infertility journey; my messages like loss is loss, enoughs and everything, more than our numbers and the complicated gray. My advocacy work continues to struggle to get much footing, it seems the world continues to struggle with the story that didn't end with 2.5 kids.

Yet, I will keep writing, filming and shouting; speaking the unspoken and giving ears to the earless.

While I fight this battle, my friend and fellow warrior who fights like hell, Pamela Tsigdinos of Silent Sorority fights the battle of holding infertility clinics responsible for their level of patient care. Today, I had to share her newest piece, The Cash Cow in 'Fertility' Medicine, as it definitely resonated with me.

"The only paper at the ASRM event to discuss the infertility patient experience in the U.S. reveals only 29.4% of 499 surveyed agreed their nurse mentioned resources for emotional support. That’s truly disturbing given the level of distress raised earlier (Research reveals that distress from a cancer or infertility diagnosis is equivalent, however, cancer survivors have better emotional outcomes)."


For us, it wasn't until our second round where we only retrieved 1 egg that our doctor finally said the words (without any emotion in his voice or eye contact for that matter), "I am, of course, recommending another round, but I understand that sometimes people don't have the finances for it."

That 1 egg never became the healthy child in our arms. We also never had any follow up from our clinic besides a letter almost two months after we ended our journey without a baby saying they would always be there if we wanted to try again (read: $$$).


It is okay to stop. It is okay to stop putting cash in their pockets but most importantly it is okay to stop before it destroys everything good about you, your relationship and your finances.

It is also okay to keep going, only you know what your enoughs and everything is. However, you must also get counseling. This journey is simply too hard to survive, let alone thrive, without help and staying silent.

I also think and see, if you get help and you speak your truth, it could actually work more.

By God, I will get these messages to mainstream media, and especially, to the infertility clinics. Mostly because, the work I do in my office with clients going through the infertility journey and after is both the best and toughest work of my entire career.

Weirdly enough, it is also some of the easiest. Easy only in when we give ourselves permission to speak our truth and to walk into the muck of the complicated gray, life does truly awaken in color. The color and power to create our rainbow life, with or without the baby.

It is in this work, that I know without a shadow of a doubt that I was made the mother I was to help, to love, to speak and to help you do the same.

The Grief of What Could Have Been

For the past four weeks 14 incredible women have shared their stories and their babies as part of the Footprints Blog Tour in honor National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. To read all their amazing posts please click here. Today I am proud to share mine.

Please join us tomorrow night, October 15th, at 7pm in the Wave of Light in honor of all the babies gone too soon. And, please share this video far and wide, in it the stigma will be shattered, our hearts healed a bit more and our babies honored.


To the Invisible Mom Crying in Church

I work on my phone on the twenty minute drive to church. There are two months a year I am very busy as an infertility and loss thriver and advocate: April (National Infertility Awareness Month) and October (National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month). I feel the car slow and glance up to notice the string of cars with brake lights illuminated for as far as we can see. Pumpkin patch.

Damn pumpkin patch (at least for this woman who can't have babies).

It is that time of year that every week on our way to church we will pass the biggest and most popular pumpkin patch in St. Louis. I will look to my right every single week for about six weeks and see the orange pumpkins of every size with children crawling all over them while their parents try to get the annual picture.

A reminder, again, that I will never have that experience with my own children.

This Sunday is different though as I work on finding and saving pictures about pregnancy and infant loss on my phone to share each day of the month. It is different because of what I know is waiting for me in the service this week in church. I sigh and look over at Chad just as the traffic begins to pick back up to normal pace,

This is literally an infertile woman's road of hell. Passing the pumpkin patch full of kids at a slow pace as if to rub it in even more while on the way to child dedication day at your church.

He half laughs with a sigh. I know he both gets it and doesn't.

We walk into the enormous auditorium just as the first song plays. This is late for us, we are usually here early and have our butts planted in our front row center seats at least ten minutes before the service starts. I knew this week I would not want to be in those seats.

Front row center to the dream that will never be thank you.

The usher sees us trying to find a seat and motions us to our right, I immediately notice the chairs are marked "family section". I shake my head and feel my heart rate rise as I make eye contact with Chad. The usher motions again to the same section. I start to feel the panic rise inside of me, Seriously God?

I look at Chad and try to get him to hear me when I say,

I am not sitting in the family section on child dedication day.

He makes the connection and follows me as I bolt to the opposite side of the auditorium and we finally find seats in the upper part of the auditorium.

The music swells and we are taken to church, just like every Sunday. After one song the lights come up and I see the families being led to the front of the stage with their babies.

Here we go.

Chad puts his hand on my leg and I clasped my hands tightly together as if the pressure will keep the tears in this year. My own grief is a tiny bit subdued this year because we have two sets of friends at the front with their adorable daughters. I am able to focus on them for the most part which means my own longing awakens inside of me just a bit.

Until I see her.

I can only see her orange shirt, her dark hair pulled into a ponytail and how tightly her husband is holding her. Her husband's arm is wrapped around her and I know it is serving multiple purposes, to both hold her up and in and love her. She wipes tears from her face the entire ten minutes that our pastor talks about us as a congregation supporting and loving these families and these children in their walk with Christ.

My own tears escape the rims of my eyes to fall onto my cheeks. Chad puts his arm around me for only a second knowing that if he lingers too long I will lose it myself.

The music swells up. I see her take a deep breath just as her husband's fingers interlace with hers behind her back.

She wipes more tears.

I wipe my own.

I see her.

I am her.

I only wish there had been an open seat next to her because I would have gone down to sit beside her and grab her hand while we both allowed tears to flow down our cheeks.

Last year at child dedication I was overcome by breath stealing sobs. So much so, I had to sit down in the dark during the song to try to calm myself.

The thoughts and feelings that go through a woman struggling with any version of the infertility or loss story during a child dedication runs the gamut:

Why them and not me?

Will I ever be a mother?

I will never be up there.

I am supposed to be up there this year.

I wonder if those twins are from IVF?

They seem older, I bet they had to do treatments.

My parents will never get to experience this joy.

God, have you forgotten me? 

They would have been four this year.

Why do they never mention couples like us...

I am a mother too...

This year right after the dedication they played Christ is Enough.

As a believer I know this and trust it.

As a forever longing mom, my aching heart can sometimes doubt it.

My breath catches as we sing:

Through every storm

My soul will sing...

The cross before me

The world behind me

More than ever these words are true for me.

They are true and I still long for my babies.

I wonder.

I love.

I weep.

I love even harder and more.

It is with this forever scarred and always healing soul and my heart full of longing joy that I want to say to the invisible mom crying in church,

You are not alone. Even though it feels as if you are invisible, like no one remembers us or cares enough to see us, you are not invisible.

I see you. I know you. I am you. We are a mothers too.


Creating the Rainbow


A quick post of the latest happenings in this life of ever upward; the life of creating my rainbow... A piece I am super proud of (I bought a skirt for it and everything). I submitted it for months. I was rejected from many. All to finally find a home over at Rebelle Society! Please click here to read one of my favorite pieces I've ever written.

My 2nd YouVersion Bible app reading plan was published last week. I will have another one coming out next week on hope. Please click here to see my self-care reading plan.

Finally, I hope you are following along with the Footprints blog tour as we gear up for National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month in October. There are been some incredible stories shared, and we are only halfway through!

As always, thank you for your support, your shares and your love. I can feel it in this journey, and for that I am so grateful.


A Story the World Isn't Ready For

I sit at the dining room table. The slightest glimmer of the rising sun brightening the sky outside the floor to ceiling window as I take the first drink of my yummy, albeit nutritious, breakfast smoothie. My usual songs of rising playing and my coloring journal in front of me. Oftentimes my morning writing turns into written prayers, as if talking to Him helps to clear my head while also making it all the more real. The work I am doing. The words I am speaking. The fight I am fighting.

I know He is listening, and yet I often have to remind myself I am not alone in this.

When suddenly I am surprised by the words I am writing, my own words, in the chosen color of pink for today,

Why Lord did you write this story for me if you aren't going to give people the ears and hearts to hear it?

As soon as I see the sentence, the prayer, it does not take but a half breath for the next sentence to come out of my hand,


Give ears to the earless.

I close my eyes as a exasperated breath escapes my lips, damn it.

Yep, I curse, even when I talk to Him. He knows I am thinking it anyways. And, guess what? He loves me anyway.

Please God, help me to find a way to do this. I pray for clarity, creativity and courage to create the openness...

Perception may be that I am uber successful, the emails I get each week thanking me for my work and also asking to take me to lunch to learn from me speak to this. And yet, most days I feel as if I am jumping up and down, waving my arms desperately and screaming, "Does anyone see me? Can anyone hear?"

I have come to realize I am in the business of the invisible unspoken; I speak my life into a world of people who don't want to hear my story, in fact some of them actively deny it.

Let's just start with therapy. The stigma is changing as people begin to not only admit but boast that they see a great therapist and you should too. Yet, mental illness is widely misunderstood by both the general public and I am finding even more so by the medical community; let alone, that happiness is a choice and takes intentional daily work. I am a therapist. People love my resources, my education and inspiration. Yet, they struggle, and sometimes even refuse, to do the damn work themselves.

Then we've got my side gig in network marketing with a supplement company that I am very proud of, whose products have changed my life and an industry I love more and more each day. The misconceptions on network marketing and supplementation are endless. People question my motives, products and the industry daily. When all I am trying to do is help myself and others find freedom in their health and finances. Rather, than open up to a different way, what I think is a better way, many choose to stay in their known misery (not much unlike my daily work as a therapist).

Finally, my purpose and calling here on earth; my motherhood, although most won't call it that. My story scares most people, I am the epitome of life not turning out how you planned, hoped, dreamed or paid for. I am the worst case scenario: tried to have kids, paid a lot of money to have kids and ended the journey without them.

I am childless and a mother.


I am the case who lowers the infertility clinics statistics because I did not get the baby and I am the therapist who is helping women thrive through and after this journey no matter what they get. Because despite what the media and the average clinic wants you to believe, not all of us end up with babies; yet there are many versions of the happy ending, I promise.

I am the infertility community's black sheep and one of the hardest working advocates for anyone no matter where they are in the journey. I know my narrative scares the shit out of most and yet it is my scary story, the permission to speak the unspoken and to say enough that helps so many thrive no matter what they get in life.

I am the general society's unacknowledged unsuccess story and a change maker, even if only on the tiniest of scales. People want the story of someone who never gave up and got the traditional happy ending. When in reality those stories are actually few and far between because none of us get out of this life without having to redefine something and choosing to thrive thereafter. My truth is about thriving when life did not turn out, and despite what is shared in the media, or even in my own community, I have one hell of a happy ending. I fight for it, create it and receive it every day.

I was made the mother I am to teach and model it for you.

Now sitting on my orange couch flanked by three little dogs, I take a sip of my steaming decaf coffee. I set the timer on my phone for five minutes for my creative writing which begins as a continuation of my earlier written prayers. My handwriting slows down and clears up after I write again, why give me this story if no one is ready to hear it?

Because, my child, it is not about you, it is about them. It is about Me. Therefore go out and love like Me. Walking in the grace and the mess of truth in love and the complicated gray. I promise, you were made for such a time as this and they are listening.

Footprints Blog Tour: Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness

Join me and 14 other bloggers from around the country as we lead up to October 15th, 2016 with our Footprints Blog Tour. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

On the morning of October 15th, 2016 I will join thousands of fellow bereaved parents to walk in honor of our babies at the National Share Walk of Remembrance in St. Charles, Missouri. Later that evening, at 7 pm, all around the world candles will be lit in honor of our lost babies as part of the Wave of Light.

This year I am partnering with Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support to create a virtual Wave of Light through our social media outlets.

To help us raise awareness of pregnancy and infant loss join me the next several weeks for a blog tour. Read my fellow warriors stories of loss, courage, hope, healing and honor. Let us come together to educate the world on pregnancy and infant loss and therefore build compassion for our continued healing.

We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We'd especially love to see your own Walk of Remembrance and Wave of Light pictures on your social media outlets, please use the following hashtags: #ShareWalk2016, #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness, #WaveofLight.

Together we will #shatterthestigma.

Don't miss the HUGE sale on Ever Upward this month too! Click here


Post links will be published once blogs are posted.


A Blessing Made Manifest

"Is there a park nearby so we can get your last interview?" Ann the director of Don't Talk About the Baby asked. "Yep, super close," I replied.


It was Saturday night and we were both exhausted. We started filming my morning routine at sunrise and were approaching hour 14 of filming. We had spent the last two days filming no less than 12 hours.


We reached the park and stepped into the thick damp air of St. Louis summer. Of course there was a playground at the park. Of course there was a little girl's birthday party. Of course there were butterfly balloons at the party.

Of course.

I write this on August 31st.

It is August 31st again.


It comes every year.

They would be four this year.

Four years ago this day felt crushing. Four years ago that playground with a birthday party and butterfly balloons would have sent tears down my cheeks. Instead, I stood there while being filmed for a project that I wholeheartedly believe in and am honored to be a part of, taking it all in and giving myself permission to feel it.


The joy. The sadness. The pride. The longing.

The blessing and the manifestation.

It took me about a year to dig my way out of the darkness that was left after our failed infertility journey. A year of working with my therapist, building and wrestling with my faith, truly taking care of myself and re-engaging in my marriage. A year of owning all the parts of my story, speaking them, honoring my truth and my babies by creating this happy, healthy and magnificent version of myself.

Since then, all five of these years, I have spent working my ass off on making sure the infertility journey, hell life, does not leave us all empty shells of who we once were. Helping others to give themselves permission to feel it all, all at the the same time; to feel the clarity and healing of the complicated gray. Writing and speaking the often ignored and rejected words of truth, the words to our freedom to ask for what we want and need and to have the courage to speak our truth always.

To shine the light of thriving out of the darkness to create our own second chances.

"I need you in every interview, this film is focusing a lot on you," Ann directed me last week at the beginning of our three days of filming.

"Oh, I didn't realize," I replied.

I shook my head as if to clear the confusion. The confusion that after four years of rejection after rejection, being called terrible names on HuffPost, a couple negative reviews, being ignored by even some of my closest friends and family, money spent, the hardest and best work of my life for no pay, this was finally happening.

My truth and story, my healthy, albeit controversial, messages are the focus of a feature length documentary on infertility and pregnancy loss. This was everything I had been working for.

There was no time to let it soak in, we had a movie to make, which I quickly learned was not for the weary.

Long hours, bug bites, lots of sweat, more wardrobe changes than you can imagine, pauses for planes and thunder and growling tummies all further complicated by my shock, disbelief, overwhelming gratitude and relief that all of my work was paying off.

For three days straight for 12 to 15 hours a day I was filmed while interviewing my friends, family and clients. We discussed the heartache of infertility and pregnancy loss. We spoke our truths. We rallied the healthy messages of shattering the stigma and talking about our babies.

It is only now a few days later and two mornings of letting myself sleep in that the fog and exhaustion of filming has lifted a bit. I've written some and processed the amazingness this all is, only to realize it is one of our due dates today.

They would be four this year. And, this year I miss them, love them and wonder even more than the first three.

I am also more thankful for them than ever. They've helped make me who I am; a mother to many and a mother of second chances. It is because of them I am changing the world. I honor them with broken silence, hand holds in the power of me too, by embodying the warriorship of fighting for and creating a happy life in this world; a world without them and yet so much of them. 


They would be proud.

They are my biggest blessings.

My life, a blessing through and because of them, is also a manifestation. A manifestation of my work and of my choices to embrace all the parts of my story and to always speak.

God made me the mother I am to do this work, to help others and to change the world.

I have done the work to create this incredible life and to be open enough to receive it. I have believed it was possible and that I am worthy of it. I have had the tenacity of every mother who loves and honors her children always.

It is a blessing made manifest.

And, it is only the beginning.

***All photos by Ann Zamudio, Director of Don't Talk About the Baby

It's Not, Just Have a Baby 

A piece many may struggle to read, which is exactly why I wrote it and submitted it to HuffPost! Enjoy!  ~~~

Four years out from ending our own infertility journey and the difficult decisions of the infertility journey are still part of my daily life.

In full disclosure, we ended our journey without the intended, hoped for, dreamed of and paid for ending of happy, healthy babies in our arms.

Professionally, I have been working with clients through and after the infertility journey for the last three of those four years; had to work out my own stuff first.

Throughout these three years I have worked with women in every place of the infertility and loss journey; years of trying, all levels of treatments, miscarriages, stillbirth, secondary infertility and everything in between. I, especially, have found a true gift in walking alongside someone during the pregnancy after the infertility and loss struggle.

I have also been honored with witnessing and guiding my clients through some of the toughest moral, ethical and relational decisions of their lives.

Because making a baby in 2016 is not simple for over 7 million of us.

It is those tough moral and ethical issues no one ever really thinks about when they embark on the infertility journey that, I think, have great potential to destroy us.Click here to continue reading. 

11 Easy Ways to Calm the F Down

I’m tired all the time.I am not sleeping well.

I worry so much.

I just want to be happier.

I feel like my life is passing me by.

All comments I hear from almost every single client who has ever had the courage to walk into my therapy office. These are also comments I hear from just about all of my friends and family on a regular basis.

As a true educator and mental health therapist I have a usual first recommendation for just about every single client and my loved ones: self-care.

So much of our lives will be improved by working on self-care, however most of us are not choosing to make the time to practice it daily. Self-care that includes a morning and nighttime routine, exercise, proper nutrition, supplementation, water intake, meditation and true talk therapy, especially talking about shame and fear must be practiced daily.

We cannot give from an empty well.

Practicing self-care fills up our well.

The biggest eye rolls and groans I ever get?

That, of course, would be whenever I mention the word meditation.

Despite the growing research and popularity of meditation it, unfortunately, is still far from a household name, let alone a daily practice.

The biggest complaints about meditation being:

I don’t have time to meditate!

I can’t get my brain to shut off!

I don’t know how!

My responses to these complaints, right after, “I know, it can feel so hard!” are:

Meditating will actually help you to feel like you have more time and energy!

It is really more about focusing and freeing your mind than shutting it off!

There are so many ways to try!

I practice what I teach and have meditated more days than not the last four years despite being wired as someone who will never be naturally meditative and calm.

As my new acupuncturist asked me a few weeks ago, “Do you consider yourself pretty Type A?”

To which my response was a scoffing and owning, “Um, yes!”

“You’re pretty intense aren’t you?” he asked.

“I am. I like it. I’ve learned to manage it and I don’t want you to take it away,” I proudly stated back.

Type A, intense or passionate, no matter how you describe it, it is one of my best qualities.

It can also be the quality that kills me if I am not careful.

Our strengths can become our weaknesses, and so I’ve learned to manage my intensity with my self-care practices, and especially with my mediation practices. The most helpful way I have stuck with my meditations is to have a toolbox of different ways and resources to meditate.

Because I have chosen to find some way to meditate most days, my sleep, mood, presence, immunity and happiness are all much improved!

Here are some of my favorite resources to get you started as well, give me five to ten minutes every day for the next 21 days using one of these techniques:

  1. Color in an adult coloring book. I love Johanna Basford.
  2. Use an app like: HeadSpace (my personal favorite), OMG I Can Meditate, Calm, Mindvalley Academy 6 Phase Meditation (my new favorite) or Oprah and Deepak’s app.
  3. Watch a candle flame.
  4. Use an scented essential oil, rub it on your hands and wrists and sit quietly, when you get distracted smell your wrists and refocus your mind.
  5. Listen to the same instrumental song every single day. Breathe by Stanton Lanier is my favorite.
  6. Search a guided meditation on YouTube.
  7. Use a mantra. For example: I am calm or I am loved or Love (in breath), Peace (out breath). Repeat it over and over.
  8. Chanting like from Gabby Bernstein’s YouTube channel.
  9. Try acupuncture.
  10. Count your breaths, inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3, exhale 4 and so on. Only count to 10 then start back at 1. Repeat for ten minutes
  11. A real time feedback tool, my favorite is Muse. Muse provides you with nature sounds for feedback, such as birds chirping when you are in the calm state.

So sit your @ss down and try one of these meditations for ten minutes every single day.

Challenge accepted?

I bet you feel a difference for the better, and if you don’t let me know.

But, I’ll probably tell you to try again with a different tool.

It is all about being open to new things and finding what works for you.

Go out my intense, passionate, Type A warriors and find the glory of calm.


The only affiliate link above is Muse. By purchasing Muse through this link you get 15% off the purchase price and I make a small commission. All the other links are simply because I love their work and have found them helpful in my journey.

***Contains Amazon Affliliate links.


The three of you would have turned four this year. Four.

The year of becoming little people. The terrible language barriers and potty training of the 2's out of the way and the dramatics of the 3's in our past.


The years I have spent wondering of you every day, feeling you always and wandering this earth with pieces of my soul tethered to heaven.

I've been told to write a letter to you a few times and for quite some time. But, it wasn't until I asked one of my warrior mamas to write her babies a letter in hopes of her finding some clarity and healing, even within the uncertain darkness of infertility, that I realized you deserved and I need my words.

I could write of how much I miss you and yet feel like I never had you. The weeks of synthetic hormones to retrieve you, the five days to only hear about your growth in a phone call from the infertility clinic and the gut wrenching two weeks of praying and hoping you would stick in her warm uterus. All to end in a one minute phone call with the words, "She's not pregnant." Years of trying, tens of thousands of dollars spent and lifelong dreams crushed in a phone call telling me our relationship was over before I even got to meet you.

I was not a mother.

And, I believed that for a long while.

It was dark, there were tears, a lot of anger and a sense of self that disappeared behind never being seen.

I could write of all my wonderings. Would you have had my freckles or your dad's blonde curls? Would you have been spunky like me or stoic like him? Would I have handled the poop and he the puke? What books would have been your favorite in your nighttime routine? What kind of grandparents would they have been? I could fill the biggest library on earth with my wonderings of the last four years, let alone of the lifetime of wonderings ahead of me.

I am a mother.

I worry, I wonder, I question, I doubt, I love.

Even if only from afar.

I could write how forgotten you and my motherhood are most days. No one speaks of you, some even say you don't count. Many aren't sure what to ask me or how to relate to me; a childless mother, I am often the only one everywhere I go.

The invisible mother.

The one without the happy ending.

Yet, only through you have I fought for, found and created my own happy ending of thriving.

What I hope you know is how loved and wanted you are and were.

I hope I make you proud.

I hope every day you are honored in my work, my words, and especially, my love.

I have learned God gifted you to me, even if only for a whisper of time, as you were always His to begin with. I am blessed He chose me as your mother, it is the best gift I have ever received.


In the lifelong absence and the daily presence of you, I have found me.

It is because of you I notice every sunset and sunrise, see beauty in pain, feel with my whole being, believe in the unseen, give more than I ever have, seek the unknown, laugh with childlike wonder, walk with curiosity and have more gratitude for it all than ever before.

It is because of you I love harder and better.


I love you always.


Thank you, my loves.


A Review and Resource: The Two Week Wait Challenge

I met with fellow blogger and author Lindsay Fischer last week for lunch. Two hours later I walked away with a new friend, the knowing of a fellow warrior and a comrade in the trenches of being an author and blogger. In other words, I think I may have just met my best friend...even if she doesn't realize it yet.

We exchanged our books, including Lindsay's soon to be released The Two Week Wait Challenge: A Sassy Girl's Guide to Surviving the TWW. I was excited to read this little guide for the arduous TWW that I see so many clients through, and survived myself a couple of times.

I loved it and have added it to the Ever Upward Resource page. Please see my review below that I will also be posting to Amazon once the book officially comes out.



As a survivor of a couple TWWs myself and a therapist helping countless clients through the process of TTC, infertility and loss I found Lindsay’s survival guide to be a truth salve to my soul. This guide is refreshing, engaging and full of helpful ideas and resources. Lindsay is sharing what I have been teaching my clients for years and so much of what I am finding helpful in guiding women through the TTC, infertility and loss journey. The tools she shares are part of how we will all thrive and not only survive this  journey. Lindsay’s humor makes you feel like you have a nonjudgmental best friend by your side through the arduous wait of the days leading up to testing. Her daily challenges and assignments provide a easy and tangible framework for the reader to wrap both their heads, hearts and hands around in order to prevent being completely consumed by worry, anxiety, anger and anything else that pops up in the clomid crazy train of infertility treatments.  I highly recommend this book to anyone going through the TTC journey, no matter where they are in it. This guide combined with speaking your story and seeking help will help you to define your own happy ending, no matter what you get from the journey. Lindsay and her work are great examples of the Ever Upward life.

Momscast Podcast

I knew a few months ago when I was interviewed by Mel of Momscast I knew it was my best interview to date. To get words like great vulnerability, humor and wisdom to describe my messages from some of my fellow bloggers and friends is the sparkle on top.  I'm so proud of this interview and excited to share some of my new messages. Please share far and wide. Thanks so much! 

Click here to listen

Penned Musing: A Lot

Today's writing prompt felt like it needed to be shared. What if you stopped asking permission to be yourself and stopped apologizing for who that person is?


Chin up. Chill out. Calm down. You're so intense. Don't be so dramatic.

The messages from life, society and sometimes, even people I love.

Sometimes meant to shame, other times meant for love.

I am a lot.

And, I love all of her.

I feel. I love. I fight.


I am everything of wholehearted.

Fully and completely sincere. Enthusiastic. Energetic. Hearty. Earnest.

I am pure energy. I am whole love.

I love loud. I live full. I am mighty.

I am a lot.