If you seek a life lived more authentically… 

If shame keeps you from living and loving fully…

If you want to build shame resilience and courage practices…

If you want to learn how to live more bravely in the arenas of your life…

 If you simply want to learn how to live, love, parent and lead more wholeheartedly and with deep courage…

The Daring Way™ and Rising Strong™ work is for you.

Join me on tour this summer,

full details at www.daringinstl.com.

The bubble gum pink iridescent ribbons stick out of the overhead bin as if there is a tiny Disney princess taking a nap up there.

I stare at the delicate ribbons, the prized possession of a little girl from what was probably her first visit to the happiest place on earth.

I take a deep breath, a breath filled with the complicated gray of sadness and gratitude, as a tear makes its way down my face.

5 years ago, 3 years ago, hell just seven weeks ago those ribbons would have brought me to a different kind of cry.

This day, though, they are tears of trust, freedom, and appreciation of how life is, not how I try to will it to be.

Chad and I are on our flight home from Orlando as I write this. We just spent the last three days at Disney World and Universal surrounded by damsels, princes, and heroes. A vacation we purchased at the Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Angel Ball last year. And, a trip that also happened to fall during National Infertility Week because it’s timing with my best friend’s wedding in Florida was too good not to schedule together.

The Justine I was, post failed fertility treatments would have never been able to make this trip, she was too destroyed by bitter and anger, comparison and shame to go to the happiest place on earth filled with thousands of reminders of the life she would never have. It has not been until very recently that I have realized how much work I still had to do to truly thrive after infertility.

Instead, I was present this trip and allowed myself to experience things in a way I haven’t before. I didn’t overly judge any parents out of a broken and incomplete heart ravaged by our missing three or hold on to ignorant comments made by people who aren’t touched by the devastation of infertility. Being at Disney without children, trust me, were there comments.

I noticed the shift in my reaction after a comment at the end of our very first day at Disney. We sat our tired bodies on the hard comfort of the tram bench across from a couple and their devastated four year daughter who was hysterically shouting, “But I don’t want to leave yet!”

They tried to reason with her, assuring her they had a great dinner surprise for her for her birthday, undoubtedly dinner with a princess or Mickey himself. But, she would not take this peace offering and only shouted and cried louder, “But I don’t want to leave yet!”

This is when her dad noticed my “My 1st visit” button and said, “Enjoy this magical time, you know, before you come back here with kids.”

Chad and I simply smiled and I joked back, “You guys are such jerks making her leave the park for a birthday surprise.”

No need for my advocate heart to educate him that not everyone will get to bring their children to Disney, hell, some of us don’t get to have them at all, he is already down for the count as the biggest asshole parent ever, at least in the eyes of his devastated four year old.

Instead, I took a breath and said to myself, Jesus help me.

I feel.

The uneventfulness, infertility-wise, of our trip culminated on our last day at Universal. Our morning started as we walked past a “book shop” called Embryo Books Booksellers and Publishers. I looked at Chad, “Wonder if they would have given me a publishing contract?”

I snapped this picture feeling the tiniest of tugs in my heart as I allowed it to pass choosing instead sad and joy in the exact same moment because as uncomfortable as the complicated gray is, I am finding my wholehearted home in it.

I release.

We spent the day moving quickly through just about every ride line as we people watched and I stared in awe of the creativity that is Universal often exclaiming, “I mean the attention to detail, the creativity, it is so amazing!”

Line after line the Universal employee would ask, “How many?”

“Two.”

Only two.

Nope, you can’t see my three.

Only I can feel them.

And, no less than ten times at Universal that day we were told to go to three.

“Line three.”

“Row three.”

“Three.”

Finally after the third time, Chad and I looked at one another, knowing this never was a coincidence, as if God was reminding us,

He’s got them, we will see them again and they will always be a part of you.

We are more than two.

I receive.

The bitter, the anger and the pain-filled grief almost completely gone, which I’ll admit kind of scares me. Well, the shame and scarcity part of me, the part of me that can feel so invisible a lot of the time, saying, then they never mattered.

What I know now is that this is actually the exact opposite, they matter more than ever, just in a much different way than I’ve ever allowed them to and than society may ever, especially if I stopped doing this work.

I advocate for healthier messages in the infertility journey, even though at times it feels as if I am the only one saying them and that no one will ever listen.

I advocate for women like me who end this journey without children holding their hands, because I know I am not the only one, I get messages every single day from my fellow warriors.

I advocate for myself because this life, my story, is hard and beautiful…and incredible.

This is life, a complicated gray of struggle and triumph, a really freaking beautiful triumph if we do the work.

So I will write, I will speak and I will keep helping and creating because the shining of my own complicated gray triumph can push, walk alongside and guide you into your own.

My story is not tragic.

My story is not one to be pitied, and it does not lack hope because it didn’t turn out how I, and you and society, hoped, dreamed and planned.

I am not a victim.

My story is not one to be admired either.

I am not a hero.

My story is a rising a rising out of the ashes and into the awakened and colorful life of the complicated gray.

I am the author.

A couple hours into the flight and those bubble gum pink iridescent ribbons still flutter in the stale cabin
air of the plane, no one has rescued the princess and they don’t need to.

She has already rescued herself.

~~~

For the last five weeks 24 other incredible fellow warriors have shared their stories as part of my Ever Upward Blog Tour for the launch of my second book, The Mother of Second Chances, and National Infertility Awareness Week. Yesterday my friend Julie shared her incredible story.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for their bravery and their support. The relationships I have made only because of the infertility journey are relationships I will be forever thankful for. Please make sure to read and share all of their posts here.

Absolutely love this piece and am so grateful ❤

My Beautiful Crazy

Today I am dedicating my blog to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker’s latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward, released on April 17th. Justine’s first book (also Ever Upward) felt like a permission slip to walk through infertility my way; it made me feel like I was completely in charge rather than a prisoner to my circumstances– the distinction saved my spirit and my sanity.

On  this incredible blog tour, 25 amazing women have and will share their stories of infertility and loss, because together we can shatter the stigma. Yesterday Kim shared her story over at Salt In The Womb and tomorrow we will hear from Sarah at Our Unexpected Journey. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide.

~~~~~~~~~~

So…I have a confession to make. Awareness weeks and chain posts aren’t really…

View original post 821 more words

Tomorrow I release The Mother of Second Chances, based on this very blog. She is technically my fourth book, although the last two in some ways I hardly count. Taking Flight, my coloring journal, I published for my own creative joy. And my ebook, Lessons in Ever Upward, I released out of the desperate hustle that is slowly, and with effort, leaving my life; leaving only because I am allowing it to.

For the last six weeks I have been working with a new coach, and for the last six weeks I have been doing assignments that have challenged me, pushed me, made me frustrated, made my body feel weird in ways I’ve never experienced, and of course, there have been tears. All to only give away to a clarity and peace I have been longing for for most all of my life.

I began my work with Cassandra after seriously considering quitting all of this; no more writing, no more advocacy, no more hustling to get this noticed, no more trying to help.

It had begun to drain me. To only feed the scarcity message I already get most days in our world, especially as a woman who cannot have children.

I am not enough.

I called Cassandra because God put her Facebook post in front of my eyes after my heart was finally willing to receive it. I was realizing I had come to a stand still in my own therapy work and that my desperation in this work was turning into bitterness.

And so, six weeks ago I started looking myself in the mirror for five minutes every morning and five minutes every night saying my affirmations (I am a good student and always do my assignments). I started reading and listening to books that are a wee bit out there for me but have nuggets of truth and light that I wanted and needed to hear. I have written down my biggest fears and focused on them as things to create rather than be squashed by. I have told myself over and over that I can trust and accept the process of life and that when shit hits the fan I choose to find the good within it.

And within these last six weeks, really only the beginning of our journey so far, everything has changed.

I am less reactive.

I am going back on my own work to say, that yes, peace is actually possible.

My faith has grown.

And for real, like no joke look-you-in-the-eye-with-a-joy-that-you-can-feel-taste-and-smell, I am actually trusting, letting go and surrendering.

None of this was without much convincing. But it did not take me long to learn and to agree with Cassandra that if I did not change my relationship with my pain, to let go of it, to change how I do this work and to trust and know that I am enough no matter what, that I would never ever help the people I truly could. And, I would continue to be stuck in the dark of never enough.

I knew with all my heart, that quitting would only mean a life with regret. And, to be honest, my fear of this regret mixed with what can be a bitter pain-filled grief from a life without kids was too much for me to risk.

I have not been through what I have for a life like that.

My work with Cassandra has only proven that more.

One of the books she has had me listen to is Caroline Myss’ Advanced Energy Anatomy, I’ve listened no less than 4 times in the last several weeks already (I speed up my Audible because, well, this is the life of an entrepreneur). Through this  book I am learning that it is my child and victim archetype at work when I torture myself with,

Why me?

Why did this happen?

This is not fair!!! How could You do this?

I’ve especially listened to Chapter 8 where Caroline talks about Jesus as the ultimate example of surrender and therefore co-creation with God. It is also here in this chapter she talks about Helen Keller and states,

…in accepting what happens to you, in accepting it, not as a disability but as some form of directive, some form of purpose…

Lightening strike clarity.

I am done.

Done with the how could this happen to me? Done with the victim mentality that this is unfair. Done with insisting for an answer as to how and why this could happen. Done holding onto this as a disability.

This whole time I thought I had let this go, that I had redefined my own happy ending, hell it is the subtitle of my bestselling book Ever Upward. But, what I have learned in the last six short weeks is that I needed to change my relationship and the meaning I attach to my pain.

I am done because if I don’t release it fully the only thing in the stranglehold of my pain is my very own happiness, truth, joy and power.

I am not a tragic story; back surgeries, a year in a body cast, failed IVF and life without my children, none of it tragic.

And, I will no longer allow anyone else to project that travesty onto me.

None of it was tragic then and it is definitely not tragic now.

Hard? Yes.

Sad? Still and always will be.

Exactly as it was meant? Absolutely.

A brilliant and amazing gift of this incredible life? More than I ever dreamed.

Surrendering to and accepting this allows me to receive the gifts within it and to co-create all the goodness within and from it because my God’s got this, and because I am worthy of it.

All this, and yes I’m wordy but you know this by now, to say,

I am done.

I am different.

Five years ago today we got the phone call that would end our infertility journey without the hoped for, dreamed of, planned for and paid for babies.

It is no coincidence that this five year anniversary falls on Easter, the day my Lord and Savior was resurrected giving those of us who receive His gift of grace a new life.

Five years later I am finally ready to receive this new life in the way He always meant for me.

Five years later I am resurrected myself.

Five years later I wonder who they would be and I am grateful for who I have become only because of them.

Five years later I am letting go, giving them back as they were always His to begin with, and receiving a new life.

This is truly rising ever upward.

And so, tomorrow I let go of The Mother of Second Chances.

She is beautiful, she is flawed, she is exactly as she is meant to be.

She is a gift.

She is me.

Rewriting Ever Upward, burying the bitter and anger to allow the peace and joy to grow.

I’m done. I’m different.

Our three.

I absolutely LOVE today’s piece by my new friend Kristy over at TTC a Taxon Baby. This is why I keep doing this work, because broken silence heals.

I’m Stuck in a Life I Didn’t Plan

I love living by the ocean!  There’s just something about breathing in the salty air, with your toes in the sand and looking out at the waves rolling in that will bring a sense of peace and calming over your whole body. I find myself sitting in the sand and staring out at the ocean a lot more lately, needing that calming feeling I’m so desperately trying to hold on to. During my latest TWW (two week wait), a little over a month ago, I found myself here again just thinking about everything and focusing on staying calm.  I sat there trying to read my book but found my mind wandering. Thinking about my life and how it didn’t go according to my plan. I always knew I wanted to have kids one day, but I kept changing my mind on exactly how many. Never in a million years did it ever cross my mind that I wouldn’t be able to have any.  You see, unfortunately, infertility treatments never worked on me.

Click here to keep reading.

Today’s post for the Ever Upward Blog Tour is from my new friend Erica Stepteau, author of Unstoppable Tenacity. Check her out, she is amazing!!!

~~~

Today I am sharing my In Vitro Fertilization story dedicated to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker’s latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward releasing on April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma.

Yesterday Heather shared her story and Monday we will hear from Kristy at TTC a Taxon Baby. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward.

PERMISSION TO FEEL

In 2013 my husband (Joshua) and I decided to give In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) a try in hopes of achieving the dream of becoming parents. For those who don’t know much about IVF; it is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus. It is a very long strenuous 6-8-week process of daily needles, vaginal ultrasounds, and raging hormones.

Five percent of couples with fertility issues seek out IVF. With top chances of IVF success have per-cycle success rates of 40% or higher. During a regular cycle, there is a 15-20% chance to conceive naturally in any month for any couple. Our Fertility specialist shared with us before proceeding with IVF and after our 2nd miscarriage that we had a 2% chance of getting pregnant on our own. Hearing such a small number as a chance to become parents was devastating for us. We honestly thought going with IVF would be the answer to solve our uncertainty, frustrations, and void in our hearts.

I remember us being so excited to get started with IVF because we had just celebrated our 10 year   Anniversary/Renewal of Vows ceremony and just knew this was our year! We had thoughts that since we originally married in a courthouse, that maybe we didn’t consecrate our marriage effectively in 2003 and God was waiting on us to do it the “right” way before blessing us with a child. When you have tried to achieve a dream for this long, you start creating all types of thoughts and philosophies to the mix to provide deeper understanding to be at peace. As humans, we tend to have to KNOW it all and know WHY something is happening to actually embrace it. Can you relate?

For the first time in our whole marriage we shared with everyone that we were trying to conceive. Before starting the process, we got our friends involved and co-workers. For 10 years, we kept it to ourselves and mourned with BFNs (Big Fat Negative Pregnancy tests) in secret. So, this time around we thought if we shared with others this will automatically manifest the babies we desperately desired. We thought it would rally up prayers, high vibes, and good goo-goo to provide a chance for others to witness a miracle unfold with their human eye.

We just knew it was going to happen this time around, we felt it in our deep core and was so assured God will not let us down since we were being so transparent and open. Everyone was so beyond excited for us and cheering for success. Every day we would have conversations with others about us having twins and how life would be so different and even MORE meaningful.

I began to pin every picture on Pinterest of women pregnant with twins. We even started to pick out nursery colors and themes because we were obsessed with the idea of becoming parents.  All of the pics are still on my iPad to this day and when I accidently come across them I feel all the joy and excitement I had at that time to obtain a dream I have been waiting on for over a decade.

As we begin the process, our IVF team assured us we were on track and everything was looking great. No one could tell us there was 100% chance of success, but after doing our baseline biomarkers: hormone levels, ovaries and sperm analysis they felt confident we would be parents as well. Our physician even stated the results we had so far was practically “text book” and this provided to the team even more assurance that this will work for us.

At this time, I was very active and working out with a cool team during lunch hour at a medical device company in Highland Heights, OH. I decided to stop all running which hubby and I did almost every evening in the Metro Parks and the intense Shaun T (Insanity) workout. Instead, I started meditative Yoga. I was really thinking that my high intense physical activity could prevent pregnancy and the success of the IVF process. I didn’t want to take a chance since this procedure was close to $25,000 plus the cost of all the injectable medications.

After using contraceptives for approximately 2 weeks to suppress ovarian production we begin the 4-week process of IVF with the crazy daily fertility injections. I remember being so freaked out by putting a needle in my belly. Joshua had to help a lot with this because I would freeze up and start shaking. Around day 5 I started to feel a bit moody and irritated, and the following week I was having all types of meltdowns about food, work, and the feeling of overwhelm. I had to take a leave of absence from work to finish off the IVF process because how crazy I was feeling.

I remember going into the doctor office starting day 5 of cycle every day for blood work and pelvic ultrasounds. They poked me so much that I began to have bruises on both forearms and I was afraid that I looked like a drug addict. I had to wear long sleeve shirts (thankfully it was still a bit chilly in Ohio) to hid the bruises.  And those internal pelvic ultrasounds were so annoying, but I know they had to constantly check how the ovaries were doing during the process. For 7 days, I almost got use to walking in the office getting poked with a needle 2-3 times then jumping on the table and spread my legs open for internal ultrasound.

As we begin to get closer to egg retrieval day the technician stated that one of my ovaries were the size of a golf ball. I already looked 5 months pregnant and was beginning to have cramping and very uncomfortable pelvic pain. I believe at this time we had 15-18 follicles (eggs) to use to proceed with process.

Egg retrieval day came. We prayed so hard the night of, we ask God to have his way. At this point of the process I was so bruised and beat up, sore, tired, aggravated, and uncertain on the next steps. As they prepped me for surgery Joshua held my hand and we locked eyes. We didn’t say much because we both were very nervous and scared. They grabbed my husband and had him exit room so that they can collect sperm to seal the deal after retrieving my eggs.

I was placed under powerful anesthesia and a needle was passed through the top of my vagina under ultrasound guidance to get to the ovary and follicles. The fluid in the follicles was aspirated through the needed and the eggs detach from the follicle wall and were sucked out of the ovary.

When they completed the 30min surgery, they were able to create 8 embryos. Those were our 8 babies in production. Now the waiting game began to see which 2 embryos do they transfer to my uterus. This waiting game can be up to 5 days. We went home and I was still in excruciating pain. I went from pain at a level of 6 on the scale of 1-10 to like a 20 in a matter of one hour. Joshua rushed me to emergency. We explained to them that I just had an egg retrieval surgery. They did an external ultrasound and found that my right ovary ruptured. So yeah, the pain at the rate of 20 made complete sense at that time. I was in so much pain all I did was sleep, they gave me some low dose meds since I was anticipating to put my “babies” in the oven within a few days. We went home the next morning and I was feeling much better.

When we returned home, we were glued to the phone awaiting information about our “babies”. The nurse called the first thing that morning and said 3 of them started to dissipate and were not valuable to place in uterus. We started to get sad, but had a very small amount of hope for the other 5.  The next day the nurse called again and said 2 more dissolved and then the next day after that she explain we had no more. Our IVF failed. We were crushed because we told everybody and their mama that we will be parents this time. We thought the vulnerability would be the key and sharing our story will solidify our dream. I questioned God on this decision and outcome.

We were very lost on how to move forward at this time. I took another week off work on FMLA because I was so depressed and humiliated. I was disappointed in myself thinking maybe I ate something wrong, didn’t relax enough, or missed a step with injections.  I also felt horrible that my hubby had to endure all the mood swings, nagging, and errands to accommodate me along the journey without providing to him a very special gift of a child. I was worried about how hubby felt.

He was so sad and there was a lot of silence for a few days in the house. He went to work and came home, I cooked, we ate and that was it. Neither one of us wanted to talk about it. Our phones were blowing up. Everyone wanted to send their condolences, we received flowers in the mail, encouraging text messages, and when I returned to work my team even had a card for me.

After a few days, I allowed myself to actually feel the pain and allowed a few to witness the pain and know that I was struggling to keep my faith and sanity.

What I learned from this particular situation is that it’s important to give yourself permission to feel. Since this incident, I have been able to share my journey towards fertility a bit more with ease and flow. We are currently still on our journey towards fertility and just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. We still have hope to be parents one day, sharing has allowed me to heal some deep wounds associated with this journey. Not that every layer is healed, but I am better off allowing myself to feel the pain instead of hoarding it and allowing it to kill me internally.

It’s something liberating about allowing yourself to feel, don’t numb emotions or play like everything is ok. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Find a confidant who is willing to be present NOT just provide guidance or their input. Remember you can’t specifically numb these feelings without numbing joy in your life at the same time. So, cry, yell, scream, and grieve when you have to then get back up with confidence and assurance that it will be ok.

If you are grieving or experiencing a painful moment in your life right now, give these tips below a try. It will for sure help you embrace your journey a bit more and heal from within while you still keep the faith alive on the outside!

  • Journal thoughts about a time you needed to “feel” instead of masking emotions. As you reflect back, allow yourself to scream, yell, cry, or grieve when necessary.
  • How have you lost your tolerance of vulnerability? You cannot selectively numb sections of vulnerability because by default you will numb your joy. The best ways to embrace vulnerability is to have gratitude for all your blessings and give yourself permission to feel.
  • What masks are you wearing? In what ways, will you start removing them? What is your biggest fear of exposing yourself?
%d bloggers like this: