I am not a mother.

I wanted to be a mother.

I fought very hard to be a mother.

I paid a lot of money and put my body (and my surrogate’s body) through synthetic hormonal hell to be a mother.

But, I am not a mother.

At least in the common definition of mother.

And yet, here I am, a fan of Glennon, her Momastery blog and her book Carry On, Warrior, contributing to her Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project… but I am not a mother.

Talk about messy and scared to death.

But I choose beautiful and courage instead.

Messy, Beautiful Warrior

My story could be considered epically sad and tremendously messy. But, I like to think of it as beautifully flawed and filled with ever upward light and love, and every piece of my life puzzle in this Messy, Beautiful life is proof that I am a Warrior. Because, it is messy and beautiful to live our lives authentically brave, and so, everyday I choose to live as a Messy, Beautiful Warrior.

Being a warrior means living all the parts of my story fully, wholeheartedly and brazenly authentically courageous.

It means never shying away from the most asked question of every woman my age, “How many children do you have?”, and answering it in my own honest way.

“We tried, we tried really hard, but we can’t have kids.”

It means never allowing shame to steal my story when I am asked the inevitable second most asked question, “Well, why don’t you just adopt?”

“We know adoption is not our path. We’ve been through a lot, financially and emotionally, with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), surrogacy and losing three babies already. We have decided to accept a childfree life.”

Owning My Story

I will not apologize if my answer makes you uncomfortable. I will not allow your need to fix or take away my pain to silence my story. I will not let shame, self- or societal-induced, steal my light.

So I will educate. I will write and speak my story, owning my shame, every day of my life. I will live it because it is the only way to honor myself. I will live it because it is the only way the landscape of infertility will change. I will live it because we all have our epically Messy, Beautiful journeys. Because hard is hard and maybe, just maybe, openly owning my story will make you just uncomfortable enough to open your eyes and heart to someone else’s story and therefore lead you to some compassion and understanding.

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My family at our family home (not pictured…all my chosen children)

In short, my life and the stories I write in Ever Upward are the epitome of Messy, Beautiful. They are about what happens when we don’t get what we so desperately wanted and hoped for. What happens when we don’t get what we thought we deserved?

Ever Upward

Ever Upward is about letting go of what isn’t and embracing a new purpose.

Every day I live and write about my Messy, Beautiful.

Every day I live and write about the epic stumbles followed by every purposeful rise.

The following may look like a mess of words to some, but to me they are my Messy, Beautiful story told through some of the titles of my writings…

Where Do I Belong?

Searching through Our Soul’s Way Through Invisible Sufferings, where I must speak my Fear In Owning My Truth where I am Taking Off the Armor of My “Choice”. Because, only then will Shame Die a Little Bit More.

Learning the hard lessons of seeing the limitations of others as they become Our Fellow Warriors, True Friends, Limited Supporters and Incapables. And then, continually asking the question, Can Our Incapables in the Stands Become Our Warriors in the Arena? As I am constantly figuring out The Frankenstein Walk of Feeling Left Behind.

To make sure Shamed Silence is Broken, I must work on Embracing It to Truly Let It Go and fighting for and finding my Resilient Dreams. Where I must learn The Paradox of Letting Go. Maintaining the balance between my need to Wallow, But Just For a Bit, Then Stop Sitting in the Shit to learn the lesson that it is Worth Every Raindrop and Thunder Strike.

Pushing back My Dementors of Shame and Self Doubt to Reach Through the Keyhole of Your Closet. Because only then will I be able to help others learn to Tread or Float. As I have done in Conceiving Our Chosen Family, which is Never a Consolation Prize and always leaves me Filled with Awe.

Pushing Through Fear to Accept Joy, Hell, to Fight For It has meant loving my Chosen Children. It has meant taking My First Step Out of Rock Bottom to Start My Walk on the Moon and looking for the Lights in the Tunnel to Thrive and Not Just Survive.

And trusting that through this battle I will find my Faith in Something. And that this faith will help me fight The Gravity of Relapse especially in Making Room for the Light.

Because I know, I am a Mother, a Mother to My Magic.

My messy is the random anger and bitterness that can over take me at times. My messy is the underlying sadness that comes and goes because I didn’t get what I wanted or hoped for. My messy is that in every traditional sense of a woman my age, I won’t ever really fit in because I am not a mother. My messy is owning my struggle in my recovery. My messy is the risk I am taking in asking to be considered part of this project and, better yet, my courage to own my shame in my childless status.

But, I choose beautiful in my ever upward mess.

My beautiful is surviving failed IVF and surrogacy. My beautiful is accepting and redefining my childfree life. My beautiful is finding my chosen family within the love of our surrogate family especially with their unexpected pregnancy after our failed IVF tries. My beautiful is finding my role in the lives of all our chosen children. My beautiful is having the patience to find my faith again. My beautiful is owning my story, for the world to see, in order to break the silence of infertility but more importantly in claiming my ongoing recovery. My beautiful is knowing that I am a mother in more ways than most are open to considering. My beautiful is in trusting my gut wrenching ironic path to my ever upward light in being a childfree mother.

As, my beautiful is living my light, authentically brave, mess and all, no matter what. Because life in recovery is always a Messy, Beautiful ever upward journey.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

67 thoughts on “The Childfree Mother-My Messy Beautiful

  1. Holli says:

    “My beautiful is knowing that I am a mother in more ways than most are open to considering.” Amen. To “mother” – to me – is an expansive and inclusive term. We can all choose to serve as a mother to one another…whether there is biology and/or love that connects us – you seem to embody this so beautifully.
    Thank you so much for sharing this and helping to break the silence of infertility. ❤

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Holli, thank you for taking the time to read mine and for the understanding. So amazing to have stumbled upon your blog through momastery!

      Like

  2. ana74x says:

    So beautiful, moving, and touching. But one thought kept coming to me as I read this, and that is that you ARE a mother. I once read an interview with Ashley Judd in which she said that despite not having children of her own, she mothered many others. And that sounds like the kind of person you are too. Being a mother is to be strong, loving, forgiving, patient, caring, tested, and flawed. You sound like all of these things. X.

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Thank you for getting it, for seeing me. I am learning through my recovery that I am definitely a mother and parent. As my friend, Kelly, once told me my audience just gets to bigger than if I were to have had the blessing of my own children.

      Like

  3. junebugmo1949 says:

    I totally understand the “uncomfortable-ness” of being asked how many children you have. For the longest time, I said none (and still do, depending on the audience). But many times I’ll answer that I had 1 which I lost to adoption, or gave up for adoption. You ARE a mother to many!

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Thank you Patrice! I know you so get it! We both deserve to own our stories!

      Like

  4. Jessica says:

    Beautifully written!! And beautiful photos 🙂 You are an inspiration!

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Thank you so much for the read and comment! So happy you found some light in this.

      Like

  5. sherryd32148 says:

    I’ve written this comment about three times because why I want to say doesn’t seem to translate on the page…so I’m trying again.

    Why is it anyone’s business why you do or do not have children? Why do we, as a society, think we need to know all the personal details of the other humans with which we share the planet. Who we love, what we eat, whether or not we have children are all lifestyle choices and nobody’s damn business but our own! I am always astonished at the questions some people will ask and the things on which they feel the need to pass judgement .

    And I’m even more astonished when it’s someone who loves us.

    Lovely post and lovely blog.

    Sherry

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Thank you Sherry! It can be disheartening at times. I think we ask for a lot of reasons, some good and some not so good; curiosity, love, just plain nosey and maybe sometimes just seeking mutual understanding. I am in a much better place than I was 2 years, even 1 year ago. For me, I find people ask in those ways for a few reasons. They just don’t know any better (in which I educate). They know I’d be great mom, so they try to fix it for me (in which I educate and also ask them to honor my feelings). Or, they just want to take away the pain, the sadness (my story isn’t depressing, maybe sad, because within that sadness I’ve found this other path). Hope that makes sense. Thank you so much for the read and the comment, I really appreciate it! Justine

      Like

  6. Chastity says:

    This is an absolutely beautiful post, Justine! I admire you for the struggles you’ve gone through and your choice to share it with the world.
    I can completely relate to this quote from your post, “My messy is the random anger and bitterness that can over take me at times.” There are days where my anger can scare me and I’m often haunted by the bitterness that appears out of nowhere. In reality we are all fighting our own battles and it doesn’t matter if we are childless or have a large family. I love Glennon for asking us all to share our messiness because we can relate to one another, even if on the outside it seems like we have nothing in common.
    I hope you have a great week and do something to celebrate you!

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Thank you so much Chastity! You are so right in that we all have our own battles, hard is just hard! Thank you for the read and comment, it really means a lot. I am in utter awe at how much this project as brought to me in just this first day!

      Like

  7. Hannah says:

    Thank you for sharing. This was written brutifully! It can be rare on Momastery to hear from someone who isn’t the “traditional” mother.
    We struggled through five years of infertility, clomid, three miscarriages, gonadotropin injections, and one HELL of a pregnancy before we finally got the ending we wanted. But that journey was strewn with all kinds of Messy. We now face the fact that we may only ever have one child (even trying for another risks my life), and in my church society (which is most of the society we have) that is simply not done. “When will you have another?” is asked all.the.time. I hate the explaining part, especially when you have to give a nice, calm, respectful answer when sometimes you want to throttle the well-meaning person and yell, “You have NO idea! Who do you think you are? Do you KNOW what I’ve been through? How dare you?” Yeah – I’ve got those emotional outbursts, too.
    I can tell in your words that you’ve found inspiration to help your healing in some of the same places I did. Glennon’s writing, Brene Brown, Ash Beckham’s Tedx talk about Coming out of the Closet. You are so, so, so right. As Ash put it: “Hard is not relative; hard is hard.” And YET, somehow, SHARING our hard things, our messy, beautiful selves, makes it all a little better, makes life a little more beautiful.
    I love your writing. I love that you are recovering. I love that you identify it as a process, not an event. Just… thank you.
    -Hannah
    http://www.wildtofu,blogspot.com

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Hannah, I am overwhelmed by your words…thank you! And I’m so sorry that you have to feel any of the pain and frustration I do, I can’t imagine how hurtful it can feel when people are unable to validate the loss you may feel about possibly not being able to have a second child. It is so difficult for others to understand how complicated this whole thing is, whether or not you get to have children or you don’t or you don’t get to have as many as you had dreamed for or if you had to use IVF or infertility to get there (which is a loss in of itself) or the mixed feelings one may feel for wanting more. So complicated!!! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! Sending you ever upward light and love! Justine

      Like

  8. Lisa Solar says:

    Beautiful. I’m drawing a circle around us. Warriors.

    Be Well,
    Lisa

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Lisa, Thank you! Justine

      Like

  9. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It makes me so sad that people can be so intrusive and hurtful and clueless. You are beautiful. Much love to you!

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Amy, Thank you so much for your kind words, I know you are one of my “I get its”. Much love, Justine

      Like

  10. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. It is important for us all to remember that everyone has their own struggles and invisble scars. What is right for one is not right for all. I hope that your essay can inspire us to think before tossing around seemingly innocent questions/comments.

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Lisa, Thank you so much, you’re right, we all have our invisible scars… Thanks for the read and comment! Justine

      Like

  11. denaakridge says:

    Justine, I am so glad you clicked on my blog so I could find you here! I hear hope coming through your words and am so inspired by your bravery and choices. There is just something beautiful about a person owning and living their story and truth.
    I know the cycle of infertility and pregnancy loss and I honor your pain, and connect with so many of the feelings you write about.
    I hope you keep writing, I will keep reading!

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Oh I’m so glad to have connected! Thank you Momastery! Thank you so much for your encouraging words! I too, will keep reading. With ever upward love, Justine

      Like

  12. “I will not apologize if my answer makes you uncomfortable. I will not allow your need to fix or take away my pain to silence my story. I will not let shame, self- or societal-induced, steal my light.”
    In awe of your strength!

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Thank you so much for the read and comment. It’s taken me a lot of work and recovery to get here, pretty sure it is a lifelong journey and practice but one I am embracing. Thanks again! Justine

      Like

  13. amandauher says:

    So honest and brave!! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Thank you for the read and comment! So glad we connected through Momastery!

      Like

  14. So beautifully written and expressed. Keep telling your story and not caring if it makes others uncomfortable and don’t find yourself tied up in what others may see as the definition of “mother” – I think you are, a hundred times over.

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Oh my, reading your words seriously just helped my anxious belly calm and my heart warm, thank you so much for the read, comment and encouragement! ❤

      Like

  15. Nay Soriano says:

    I love your beautiful and your messy. You are a mother. I promise. Maybe not in the mainstream conventional way like everyone else…but you know what that makes you? Fricken unique and wonderful. That’s motherhood right there. Happy to have found you.

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Nay, Thank you so much for the read and comment! I hear your words, know they are true and promise myself to work my recovery to not let shame take them from me! Justine

      Like

  16. Thank you so much for the bravery it took to share your story. These kind of losses never really leave us, grieving us in ways some may never understand. I see a little girl in a store, and sometimes it chokes me up, even though I have a tribe of beautiful boys, because my daughter is not with me.

    We are mothers in ways invisible and irreplaceable and significant. Every child who comes across our paths is our child, too, because we mamas were never meant to do this child-raising on our own.

    Thank you for your beautiful words. Ever upward!

    Like

    1. jlbf4 says:

      Rachel,

      Thank you so much for the read and comment! And your words meant so much to me, you are right I am in ways that are invisible and irreplaceable and significant… Thank you so much, this really helped me to feel my light! Justine

      Like

  17. Michelle says:

    Justine, thank you for sharing your vulnerability and strength. So many women in my life are my “mothers” even if they have no biological or adopted children. Power to you for choosing beauty and rising (love the title of your blog!). I also experienced the painful journey of infertility, and our story ended differently–with very unexpected triplets–but with similar probing and unintentionally painful questions from strangers and family alike. Thank you for keeping this issue open so that others can try to understand. Love and light to you!

    Like

    1. Michelle,

      Thank you so much for the read and your kind words of understanding and encouragement. I think the best part of writing my story through Ever Upward is connecting with so many different women, our stories are so different but the same, it has changed my life so much! Thank you! Love, Justine

      Like

  18. Came across your blog today as a result of you coming across mine. Your words are beautiful, touching and real. I look forward to journeying through your blog and getting to know you in a way. 🙂

    Thank you for writing about a subject that touches the hearts of so many women (and often their partners).

    ❤ Elizabetcetera

    Like

    1. Same to you! So glad I stumbled upon yours! I hope you like ever upward! Justine

      Like

  19. domain says:

    Excellent article. I definitely love this site. Keep it up!

    Like

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