Six to Seen

Today marks what would have been the 6th birthday of our our third - six years of healing, of wonder, and most of all, of honor. 

This grief journey never gets easier, it simply gets different, and this year is no exception. 

Most years, especially since it is the holidays, it is easy for me to believe the lie that I'm invisible. In fact, that is the single most used word to describe my new book from readers,

Thank you for putting into words and giving me the words to describe how I'm feeling, invisible.

For the first time in six years, I don't feel this, and not because I feel seen, rather because I don't need to be, at least not in that way anymore. 

For the first time I am beginning to feel the peace settle into my soul right beside my forever wonder and yearning of who they would have been, and of who I would have been as their mother. 

And, with a breath, I am realizing that this mother I am here on earth without them is pretty amazing and completely enough, even in, and perhaps most especially, in their absence. 

Because they were never mine to begin with, they were His.

And, because they brought me to Him. 

Instead of sitting in that lie of feeling invisible today I chose to be invisible sitting in a Starbucks. 

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I had $33 in Starbucks gift cards from speaking engagements, and admittedly I only get Starbucks at airports because I much prefer my Three Story Coffee at home. After I bought my black coffee I told the barista to use the remaining money for everyone else behind me until it was gone. Then, I asked her not to tell them who bought their coffee. I'll admit, my heart yearned for her to ask why, so I could say, "This is in honor and remembrance of my three, they would have been six this year".

And then I sat and watched. I watched people receive a gift, a gift as simple as free coffee, not believing they deserved it. I watched people pay it forward. I watched people look around and try to figure out who bought their morning cup of happy. One man, whether he saw me do it or the barista told him, stopped on his way out, smiled and thanked me. 

The card didn't last long and the experience was relatively uneventful, until of course I opened my Bible to John 1...

Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity. And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom— the Light that darkness could not diminish! John 1:4‭-‬5 TPT

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Perhaps, today a simple cup of free coffee made someone feel seen. I know for me it helped remind me that I don't have to be seen by the world because I am always seen by my loving Father. 

Our three, they made me a mother. 

He chose me, bursting through my gloom, in the gift of them. 

I am a happy and grateful mother. 

~~~

The Complicated Gray now available here or signed copies in the store.

Our Three and a Bag of Frozen Peas

"How do you feel?" I asked as I drove him home from the doctor's office.

"Fine, it's numb right now," he replied.

The ever-stoic Chad with the ever-rumbling Justine; thank God we both choose to do the work to be complementary in our differences.

"That's good," I replied. "Are you sad at all?"

He looked at me with love in his eyes, with what I assume is that part of him that knows I want more from him, for him to feel even just a smidge of what I am feeling and in the way I am feeling it.

As I have learned through the years, he simply feels it all very differently than me.

"I mean, it's done." I continued. "I know it was done before, but this is for sure and permanent, we aren't having kids. Our genes will never live on."

"I suppose we can always reverse it if we want," he joked back. “You remembered to get frozen peas, right?”

***

Chad and I are 6 years out of our failed infertility journey - a journey that included tens of thousands of dollars, even more tears, countless injections, a surrogate, and three lost babies.

In the last six years, we have advocated for the infertility and loss community, published books, created our legacy and our happy, and I finally chose Jesus back.

It has been six years of fighting for, creating, and receiving this incredible life, of doing the work to make it all a gift.

We love our childless-not-by-choice life and we will always have lifelong wonders and grief.

Still, I was so over using condoms as a 39-year-old woman, preventing something that had the smallest hell-freezing-over chance of ever happening. As a woman, I had been the one responsible for birth control for much of my life, even if it was only to help my cycle or clear up my skin.  Still, I had to take the pill or endure the IUD, for years!  Plus, there is nothing like pumping your body full of synthetic hormones to try to have a baby that makes you want to never have synthetic hormones in your body ever again.

Hence, a vasectomy for a couple who can't have kids.

Should be simple, right?

Except, a decision, one as permanent as this, is the kind of thing that triggers that lifelong grief.

Then, on top of that bubbled up pain, we often judge it - it feels dumb and frustrating.

Damn it, I am sad.

It’s complicated.

This complicated gray of acceptance and love of this life with the lifelong sadness is the thing that many people have difficulty understanding when they stand across from me and my pain.

Simple: You’re sad. Fix it and figure out how to have the baby.

I get this a lot still, even 6 years out, especially in the faith community.

“Just adopt.”

“I am praying for a miracle baby for you guys.”

“Just try another round.”

When we stand across from someone and their pain, many of us will have the undeniable urge to take away that pain or fix it with what we think are simple solutions. We do this out of both love and our fear of vulnerability, because, the thought of feeling the sadness with someone is something that is often too scary.

This complicated gray of acceptance and love of this life with lifelong sadness is much easier, albeit not comfortable, to understand when you sit beside me with my pain.

Complicated: loving my childless-not-by-choice life and the forever yearning.

Because the thing is, I don’t want a baby now.

I want my three babies who would be six this year.

I want those babies.

So we made a decision to prevent pregnancy once and for all.

It is freeing and shitty.

It is exciting and sad.

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It is another reminder that this journey will never leave us.

It is The And.

I am a forever grieving mother and a woman who chooses to do the work to see the gifts in everything.

So, I speak this truth because then I honor my three, I glorify Him, and I serve the world.

And, as always, I ask you to simply sit beside me and not across from me.

Right this minute though, feeling the yearning for my three, I gotta grab Chad a fresh bag of frozen peas.

Fertility Bridge: Flipping the Script is On Us

Whenever I get included in anything infertility and loss awareness wise there are three parts of my brain that fire:

  1. Ego – Duh, my story needs to be a part of this.

  2. Shame – Who do you think you are? You shouldn’t even be included, no one wants to hear or is ready for your story and message.

  3. Gratitude – Thank you so much for including me and remembering my scary story is more common than people think or want to admit.

My name is Justine Froelker, and I am the infertility advocate whose story scares the bejeezus out of most in our community.

A recap:

We tried IVF due to my history of back surgeries and body casts in high school.

We lost three babies.

The money was gone.

Our hearts were broken.

We stopped treatments before we got the babies.

We are not choosing adoption.

We are accepting a childless not by choice, or as I like to call it, a childfull, life.

I am a forever grieving mother who chooses to do the work to see the gifts in everything.

I am happy and sad…you can watch my TEDx talk on that.

I am happier than I ever was before failed IVF because I choose every day to honor my three, and myself, in the work of happy. I realized the infertility journey had left me a shell of who I once was without the ability to ever go back to her, or even the desire to go back to her. I have fought for, created, and received this incredible life, a life that didn’t turn out how I hoped, dreamed or planned.

Infertility is not who I am. A woman without her children here on earth is not who I am.

Continue reading over at Fertility Bridge here.

The Extra of the Infertility Journey

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The friendships. A wholehearted truth. Renewed dreams. My reclaimed life.

Just a few of the extras of my infertility journey, none of the above a consolation prize of my hard story and three lost babies, rather gifts that I have fought for, created, and received.

My friendship with Kaeleigh, of Unpregnant Chicken, is one of those extras. Last week my friend, who I only met through the community of infertility and loss and this big awesome world of blogging and social media, released her first book. I am so excited to support her by being a part of this amazing blog tour and offering a giveaway! To be entered to win your own copy of Extra! simply comment on this post. I will draw a winner on February 15th, 2018. I am so proud of this project and it's offer to families who need a little extra to find their way to their version of the complete family portrait.

Make sure to follow along on this blog tour and check out Christine's post from Friday and Victoria's which is coming tomorrow!