I sat at a table surrounded by five other women I’ve known for years but hadn’t seen in quite some time. There was wine being shared, except by the few who were pregnant, and a basket of forbidden (well to me) gluten with hand whipped butter being passed around the table.

I took a long sip of my red wine before taking the warm bread and smothering the butter onto it before taking a bite into a version of heaven to me.

I had come in with no expectations, yet was prepared to struggle a bit that night with a few pregnant bellies and the only one at the table who is not a traditional mother. But it had been some time since I had seen everyone and even though it was not kids I had to share about I still have an interesting life to share.

There was laughter, baby tips and birth stories.

There was not one single inquiry for me.

Not one.

I feel invisible a lot, especially marketing a book about infertility and loss. I feel invisible in our society a lot as the woman who can’t have kids, where many times I am quite literally the only one every where I go.

Never have I felt more invisible than at that dinner table despite being surrounded by old friends. I breathed deep, engaged in the conversation and clasped my hands beneath the tablecloth harder and harder as if the pressure between my hands kept the tears from pouring down my face.

By the time I got home I was inconsolable.

I texted one of my other mom friends,

Thank you for seeing me, for always doing your best to make sure I don’t feel invisible as the only one without kids. You have no idea how much that helps me survive this world.

Chad tried his best to console me as I tried to contain myself, he said,

You can cry.

He could tell I felt stupid and frustrated but there was no holding in these kinds of sobs,

It’s not fair, you hardly ever have to deal with this.

He forced me into a hug and said,

You’re right, guys don’t talk about their kids nonstop.

He held me tighter and between sobs I managed to get out,

I will have to deal with this for the rest of my life.

As a therapist, hell as a human, I work hard to make sure every single person I am around feels seen, known and loved in my presence. Thriving after infertility without my own children has only strengthened this quality of mine.

Because I feel invisible almost all of the time.

It’s been some time since that dinner, the work I have done the last several years helps me to know that this sense of being invisible is not my truth. It also helped going into National Infertility Awareness Week and my #MoreThan1in8 project and connecting with so many of my fellow warriors. But, it was scary knowing the dreaded Mother’s Day was just around the corner.

The day of what feels like true disappearance from this world for a woman like me.

But this year, Mother’s Day was different, for a couple of reasons.

  1. I reclaimed the day by giving myself permission to celebrate it myself.
  2. I felt more seen and loved well through it than ever before.

I received cards in the mail, texts and gifts from friends and more Facebook messages than I ever imagined. Many of these things coming from people who I never even realized were watching my journey at all, let alone cared about it.

I was a mother seen.

Because I speak my truth and own my story, sometimes to the dismay, disapproval and discernment of others, there is no choice but to know I exist.

I know my story is sad, I know it makes you uncomfortable and I know some wish I’d just stop already.

What I know now, several years into thriving, is that your denial, or perception, of my story does not change my truth.

I am seen. I am known. I am loved.

I am helping.

I am helping because I will make sure you feel seen, known and loved too.

Your denial of my story doesnot changemy truth.I am seen.I am known.I am loved.I matter too.

~~~

Ask Me Friday! (1)Keep an eye on my social media outlets for Q & A Fridays, starting this week!

Instagram: @jlbf4

Twitter: @JustineFroelker

Facebook: www.facebook.com/everupwardblog

21 thoughts on “Seeing Me

  1. gsmwc02 says:

    Your story is sad at times but it has a happy ending and is inspiringv

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This has happened to me too many times over the years. I have been the only one without a child and felt truly invisible to my traditional mom friends. Yes, it was all they talked about and I had nothing to add. I actually missed a get together recently because I knew how it would make me feel. Thank you Justine, your words matter and you are helping so many. Xo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, I think it is okay for us to say we’re just not going to do that to ourselves anymore. Sucks. Thank you so much for your comment!!!! J

      Liked by 1 person

  3. BnB says:

    This…..makes me want to give you a big hug and cry with you. I’ve been at those dinners. I know the invisible feeling. It’s all sorts of hard.

    But you are seen. You are heard. You are loved. By many. And you are a role model for so many (me included).

    So glad you reclaimed Mother’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know you completely get it! Thank you my friend, gosh I wish we lived closer!!!! Were you able to reclaim a bit of Mother’s Day? J

      Like

      1. BnB says:

        I wish that we lived closer too! We could cause a lot of trouble together…errrr….have responsible, adult-like fun.

        Mother’s Day was about survival again this year. But I made it and won’t need to think about it again for another year. I texted my mom to wish her a happy mother’s day, something I couldn’t do last year. So that’s progress.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That is progress, and some days are simply survival. J

        Like

  4. I have only found your writing in the last couple of weeks but I can really relate to your experiences. Thank you for sharing

    Like

    1. I am so glad you found my words and I hope they continue to help, even if only knowing that you are’t alone in any of this. Thank you for reading and commenting! Justine

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Margy says:

    Justine it’s crazy to me, reading this post today. Just two weeks ago I went on a girls’ weekend with five longtime, dear friends. As a mutual interest (not children) brought us together so many years ago, I never thought that I would be faced with a weekend of discussions about everyone’s children (I being the only non-mother in the group). I was wrong. Probably 80% of the conversations that went on throughout the weekend revolved around their children. I felt so invisible, as I had nothing to contribute to most conversations. I felt so alone. I had to remove myself from the room at one point, as it all became so overwhelming to me. And you know what? No one even noticed I was gone. When I returned the conversation was still going and it appeared as if no one realized I had been missing or why. And now this weekend, I’m traveling across the country to meet up with six other ladies I met through the donor egg process. I being the only one who never had success. I am terrified of how this weekend is going to go. I fear a repeat performance of my invisibility. As much as I have come to terms with being childless, I hate that this is going to happen to me repeatedly for the rest of my life. I wonder if it will ever get easier.

    Like

    1. Margy,

      I am glad you stumbled upon this piece, even if only to know you are not alone. Its weird I wrote this piece for people like us, but I got several messages from moms who were very much effected by my story. Hoping it opens some eyes and changes things for people. That is what this is all about for me at least, well and my own healing. I hope this weekend is better for you, I will be sending prayers and love you way. Thank you for reading and for courageously sharing your words here. Much love, Justine

      Like

  6. I have so often been there…. recently I started just removing myself from the conversation for fear I’m gonna blurt something out I shouldnt. My husband feels so bad and can’t understand why at every social gathering we attend, the ladies, 95% of the time have some kind of pregnancy/labor/delivery stories to exchange…but I am starting to realize it is their ‘identity’ –which has made me look at myself a bit harder too.. really what is MY identity and why are so many people today so caught up in the whirlwind of ‘having the perfect lil life’?! And also my heart & now my actions are starting to be able to see and reach out to others that r invisible in other areas of life… I recently started sharing my story publicly, so hoping that with time I will also be able to say with you, It’s Different now.

    Like

    1. Sharing our stories is on the most important parts of not only surviving but thriving through and after this journey. And I think it is a huge part that will help us define ourselves and not be defined by our losses and what has happened to us. This is so difficult to navigate is what I am learning. Thank you so much for reading and sharing! Justine

      Like

  7. Justine – I meant to comment sooner. I totally felt you on this one. Especially on the feeling this for the rest of your life lament……that reality used to feel so overwhelming to me too. I’m encouraged that I’m slowly coming to a place of a bit more acceptance of this (slowly and a bit being the key words here!).

    Glad your M-day journey is growing into something that honors YOU.

    Sarah

    Like

  8. Mali says:

    I’m really sorry you had such an experience. I have a blog post on invisibility brewing at the moment. Reading this might kick it further along!

    Interestingly, I can relate to this most recently through a dinner I had with friends, the first time I had seen them since my mother died, although they had both sent condolences via email. My friend – who lives overseas – had just visited her elderly parents. I asked after them, and we chatted, and I commiserated. It became clear to me that my mother’s passing wasn’t going to be mentioned. So I mentioned it. When it seemed appropriate, I talked about her. I suspect their reticence – and maybe the reticence of your friends – is due to a fear of our emotions, fear of saying the wrong thing, so saying nothing at all. Our societies are so terrible at dealing with grief and loss. But their fear is no longer my fear, so I will speak about my mother. And I will also speak about not having children, even if it will make others uncomfortable.

    I couldn’t do it initially – and by initially I mean in the first few years, when the tears would have threatened. So I certainly couldn’t have done it at your dinner, at your stage of healing. But now, years later, if a discussion about children or parenting or society sparks a thought or begs a response or opposing view from the woman with no kids, then I feel confident enough to speak up. It’s a small thing, but I like to feel I do it for us all.

    Like

    1. I totally agree. Thank you!

      Like

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