I am not sure I have ever been so scared for a piece to be published… Here we go! I am practicing my badass bravery even though I feel like I may vomit. Thank you also to my amazing friend over at Bent Not Broken for her editing help on this one!
We hear it growing up and even more as adults: never give up, good things come to those who wait and work hard for your dreams.
Then one day you walk out of a florescent lit doctor’s office as a shell of your former self after receiving life changing news because now you must pick up the pieces of what you thought your life would be.
She received the diagnosis several years ago.
Click here to continue reading over at HuffPost.
Gracie is plastered against my leg, our usual morning position on the bright orange couch in the sun soaked living room
My steaming coffee beside me alongside my stack of morning books and journals.
She’s up against my leg providing the warm reminder of just one of the ways I am a mother.
Her sister stretched out to the warmth of her as close to me as possible while also still touching her sister; a requirement of sorts.
A reminder of the possible, yet never to be twins of ours. They would have been four this year, that ever present due date just two weeks away.
I still can’t believe how much time has passed; how much has changed and yet how much remains the same.
The grief has morphed so much, yet the longing as strong as ever.
The darkness lit up by what has become the happy and healthy version of myself; my redefined, thriving life.
The darkness there, always, as my children aren’t here. Yet, the light that is me – in Him, through Him and because of Him, makes the darkness bearable.
The light is there; in, within and around.
I only must stretch to reach the warmth.
It has been weeks since I wrote this, yet all the feels in it are still all too familiar and haunting my heart.
I know it has been awhile since I last posted my friends. I am asking for and hoping for some grace as I work to finish my second book, The Complicated Gray. I am writing away to get it into my editor’s hands no later than March 1st with a publication goal of August or September.
Until then, I will try my best to share here once in a while. Thank you for your support, prayers and love. I very much appreciate you all.
***Background image from http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2012/02/break-out-of-prison/.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 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.