Rising Ever Upward

Today’s guest post, by Justine Brooks Froelker, is another example that there are all kinds of ways to find success after infertility. Thanks, Justine, for sharing your story!

Rising Ever Upward
by Justine Brooks Froelker

My alarm goes off at 4:14 am. I am one of those people, it must be set on a 4. Just one of my things I suppose. Admit it, you have at least one of those too.

I do the affirmations of my morning routine despite it being so early and my early flight looming. I figure I can read and meditate on the plane. My eyes feel heavy and my stomach is already growling, both quickly combining in me becoming one hangry person.

“You got everything?” my husband Chad asks as I am sitting on the floor getting as many puppy cuddles as I can before I leave for 5 nights on this first leg of the my tour.

“I think so,” I reply as tears fill my eyes.

4 am alarm.

Hungry.

Goodbyes.

A dream full of risk and knowing realized.

All making for me feeling all the feels.

I have been in the mental health field for 18 years, the last 10 of those spent in private practice. Just a few weeks ago, I all but closed my practice to head out on tour to 8 cities nationwide over the next two months offering my Rising Ever Upward workshops and intensives based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher.

I have been a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (CWDF) for over 3 and half years, meaning I am one of only about 1500 CDWFs worldwide who are trained and allowed to do Dr. Brown’s curriculum. For the first two years of the work I guided my individual clients through the curriculum. For the last year I have held small group intensives in my office. And now, I am taking the work on the road in what many would call the biggest risk of my career. Risk or not, to me, it is my calling and an obedience to my truth, God’s plan, and the power of this work.

It is also only the beginning.

Justine Brooks Froelker

The work of Brené Brown is all about living, loving, leading and parenting in an authentic, brave, and wholehearted way. In other words, it is the engaged life we all yearn for but aren’t quite sure where to start. This work saved me five years ago after my own failed infertility journey of tens of thousands of dollars spent, three lost babies, and an ending no one wants, dreams of, plans or paid for. This work has given me the language and the skills to dig my way out of a darkness I never thought I’d see the light of day from. This work lives in me, has settled into my bones, and is in every cell – modeling it and teaching it to others is an honor, privilege, and something I simply cannot not do, especially in and for the infertility community.

Most of all though, this work is in honor of my story and of my three.

Last week, I kicked my tour off in St. Louis, and already, the ripples of people showing up, being seen, and living brave are changing the world. See for yourself in Michelle’s testimony:

IF you’ve ever struggled with feeling stuck, or on the cusp of something good or even great, but unable to take the next step, unsure of how to muster the courage to move forward;

IF you’ve struggled with shame or been frozen in place because of fear of what others will think, or fear of failure, or fear of rejection;

IF you’ve let your past define your present or limit your belief in your future;

IF you’ve ever played a tape in your head that says, “I’m not good enough, thin enough, smart enough, young enough, strong enough.

IF you want a new story for your life and you’d like to be the author of that story;

Then Justine Froelker’s Rising Strong Workshop is for you. It’s life-changing, transformative – the real deal.

Like millions of people, I’ve read Brene Brown’s work and listened to her renowned Ted Talks on shame, fear, courage, vulnerability and living a whole-hearted life. And each time I did, I thought: I would love a blueprint to implement those ideas and that research into my life. And then I quickly went back to my old ways of thinking

In this workshop, Justine takes Brene’s work and helps you apply it through a process that you can implement immediately to your own life, and then apply it over and over again. You literally write a new story.

Within days of finishing the workshop, I stepped out of my comfort zone and took action on my novel in progress. I pushed through the fear of what others will think and pulled the trigger on some things that will help me bring it to fruition. And I’ve implemented some simple (not easy, but simple) daily actions that are already changing how I interact with friends and family.

Those self-limiting tapes, that crap playing in my head, keeping me from chasing my dreams with all I’ve got and limiting my connection with others? They’re not completely silenced (yet), but now I know where the damn mute button is. 

~Michelle C.

If you are ready to live more wholeheartedly, love more deeply, be more engaged in your relationships, and more brave in your business, come see me on tour this summer, I still have 5 cities left.

And, make sure to follow at www.daringinstl.com and www.facebook.com/justinebfroelker for future St. Louis dates.

The Anchor

The Anchor
Jenny Cooke Malstrom
Poetry

Hope –

Like an anchor, they say.

Appointments. Blood tests. Ultrasounds.

Hope.

Steadfast.

Onward. Scheduling, timing, dosing.

Retrieve.

Retrieve,

Retrieve.

Transfer.

 

The anchor –

The symbol of hope.

How quickly the tides change.

Smooth seas begin to churn.

Rough, stormy red waters.

Saltwater tears; drowning.

This

anchor

feels

like

a

sinking

ship.

The waters darken, swirl, rage.

The waves crash, night after night.

Swells of tears.

 

A new day.

The sea calms.

Hope.

Still waters.

Steadfast.

Onward. Scheduling, timing, dosing, transferring, monitoring.

The anchor –

And still we hope.

A note from Jenny – We came through our diagnosis in an indirect manner, through learning about our family health history. Confirming a rare male-factor diagnosis of congenital absence of the vas deferens, we also learned of a female-factor uterine septum issue. It took over a year after our diagnosis to find providers we trusted and make a plan forward.

 

 

In the span of one calendar year, we endured:

  • A hysteroscopic surgery
  • Three rounds of IVF which included:
    • A failed IVF egg retrieval
    • A successful retrieval, using ICSI, freezing all
    • Another successful egg retrieval, using ICSI, culturing all
  • Successful fresh transfer of one embryo
  • Miscarriage at 6 weeks

 I love the symbol of the anchor, but have often thought about the paradoxical nature of it. How can something so heavy, so cumbersome, also signify something so light and enduring?

This work reflects my thoughts on our journey thus far.

 

Finding My Inner Warrior

Today’s guest post is from Taylin Beechey. Taylin says, “I found your website and found the idea of sharing pieces of our stories from our infertility experiences to be a beautiful idea. Along my journey I have kept a lot of writing about my experience as a young woman having been born with a rare birth defect leaving me unable to conceive with out IVF treatment. Four years later, I am pregant and I would love nothing more then the opportunity to share my story in hopes that someone, somewhere will find comfort in knowing they are understood, That they are not alone. I have attached my story in hopes you could read it. Thank you so very much in advance.”

So, we’re sharing Taylin’s story with you today.

Finding My Inner Warrior Through Infertility

Taylin Beechey

It took me a long time to decide if this was a story I ever wanted to share or not. For me, sharing wonderful beautiful things in my life has always been easy and I am sure it makes many assume I am a completely open book. Sharing the hard stuff though…that’s my real struggle.

The stuff that leads you to that dark place that we don’t like to talk about. For me, it’s mostly because of how uncomfortable it might make someone else feel. What if they don’t know what to say? What if they feel awkward around me after? No… I better keep it locked up to myself.

Taylin and her husband, Josh, in 2015. Photo by Devon C. Photography

That was then, this is now!!! I have come to realize that although there WILL always be people who it makes uncomfortable, maybe there will be one woman, one man, one couple that feels understood in a way that I didn’t. For me, that’s worth it.

There are some moments in life that we will always remember as vividly as the second they happened. For me this will always be the moment I was told I wouldn’t have children. Well the exact words were… “You have a rare birth defect and if you where my daughter and had XXXXX amount thousands of dollars I would do IVF today! Otherwise it would be advisable that you explore other means of starting a family.” Divine intervention must have taken over as I will never really understand how I even made it home that day. That 45 minute drive from my clinic is one I have no recollection of.

I can say for my 28 years I’ve lived and learned through my fair share of pain. I lost a parent, I’ve loved people who struggle with addiction, dealt with my fair share of mean girls, had more than enough heartbreak to last a lifetime.  Nothing on this planet has rocked me like those words coming out of the doctor’s mouth. The loss of a dream of a child you haven’t even met yet is a pain I cannot express to you on paper. It’s your whole life’s dreams wrapped up and tossed in a waste basket. A million thoughts go through your mind as a woman.

Wasn’t I born to do this? Am I not good enough to be a mother?
Is this punishment for something wrong I have done?
Maybe I could be that childless lady, the one with the really nice white furniture instead!
Why me? Why us? Will my husband still love me?

It is a spiral of thoughts, questions, and blame.  Trust me when I tell you that the level of CRAZY, we women are capable of, would scare most men ha ha. Nowhere else in life would a person be expected to experience this amount of pain and hide it. We mourn death, we rally around victims of disasters, we start interventions and support groups for addiction.  Infertility though, it’s in its own category. One that makes us feel we should be quiet. God forbid we make someone else uncomfortable due to our sadness.

Perhaps we keep it so quiet because the response to our pain can be so hurtful. I have lost count of the number of times I was told to stay calm. “STAY CALM IT WILL HAPPEN.”  CALM YOU SAY? How about I fire you from your job, rob your home, kick your car. “Now just stay calm.” How does it feel for you? Light or heavy? Those are all replaceable things. This child that I will never have and am mourning is NOT REPLACEABLE!!!!  So NO I will not be calm!

In fact, if your reading this do yourself a favor and be the complete opposite of calm. YELL! THROW A PILLOW AT THE WALL. USE A COUPLE OF WORDS YOUR MOTHER WILL DISAPPROVE OF! HA, HA, but really it’s true because I’ll tell you this pain, it’s deep and the only way to survive it is to let it all OUT! When you say this to us it’s actually insulting, and trust me when I say I know you meant it with so much love. I really do, and I’m thankful that you care enough to say anything at all. It’s not helpful though and it truly isn’t kind.

Taylin with her friend, Melissa Holman, at the cottage. Taylin says of Melissa, “My rock. A friend who spent weekly teas with me and was there for the years of finding out I was unable to have children and through all of my infertility treatments & later success.”

We don’t share our pain because we would hate to have it dampen your joy. We worry that maybe next week you won’t invite us to that baby shower, or Johnny’s first birthday. This also is not helpful. I do understand the logic and there were days when being near a child’s birthday would have done me in, but let me make that call. As there were also hundreds of days that my friends’ and family’s children were all that kept me going. I would look into their big glassy eyes and think, “I’m not giving up because this face is so worth everything I will have to do to get there.” So if you’re looking to do me a favor, do this. Let me hug your child a little longer, let me hold their hands when we all cross the street. Let me feel the magic that is a child who looks at you like you’re the coolest person they have ever met. I was blessed in this category by my friends and family who allowed me to love the hell out of their babies. I know you know who you are and am I soooo thankful. Your children saved me in ways I can never thank them for.

1 in 8 couples will experience infertility issues. This means someone you know right now is struggling. So please be kind don’t ask the newly married couple when they’re having babies. Don’t ask the partner who already has children if their spouse is the issue. Do not tell your friends how amazing it is that you just decided to try for the first time ever on Friday and BOOM had a positive test the following Monday. But do tell us your pregnant. Trust me, behind the pain we are so joyfully happy for you.

Do show us how much you love your children. it gives us something to keep fighting for. And, do as my friends did… hug me on bad days and celebrate with me when my day finally comes.

Infertility is a long and mostly dark road full of financial stress, needles upon needles upon needles, ultrasounds, and more doctors’ appointments than I can count. Sleepless nights of worry and prayer, tears, and breaks to catch your breath.

There is no right way to grieve a child that will never be. To mourn. To struggle and to face getting through each day. All I can say is feel every wave, the ones that have you unable to breath and the ones that allow you to float for a little while.

I don’t have the answer for why this is happening to you. I only know that the person who comes out on the other side will be the most bad-ass version of yourself you have ever seen. I know this because my biggest struggle as a mother came before my child had even been born.

You have a warrior inside of you that will blow your mind. I have done things in the past three years I would have never believed possible.  My husband and step-daughter look at me some days like I may be Wonder Woman and then I stop and think, “Hell, I kind of am!!”

Taylin, center, with husband Josh and step-daughter, Claudia.

I am 1 in 8. A soon-to-be mother, an IVF Warrior, a woman who will never be willing to take no for an answer. I’m surrounded by some bad-ass women and a wise step-daughter, a loving husband and some strong men, supportive family and one talented fertility doctor. And let’s not forget those above me, clearly sending down some love from the heavens!

I pray that if the moment ever comes and you’re in that doctor’s chair, that you know it’s ok to be weak. It’s ok to be scared. But, mostly importantly, it’s ok to let people in. This is where we find out what our relationships are really made of. At the end of your journey you’re going to want the people standing next to you to be the ones who weathered the storm with you. I have found my people through this pain and I have found some real beauty in this world along the way.

xox
Taylin

What IF?

Today, we’re sharing another piece from SEA-ART-HEAL: The ART of Infertility in Seattle. A huge thanks to Barrie Arliss and Dan Lane for submitting this piece and allowing us to keep it for our permanent collection! #artheals

What IF?
Barrie Arliss (with Dan Lane as illustrator)
graphic novel

A page from “What IF” – A graphic novel by Barrie Arliss, illustrated by Dan Lane.

1.5 years of every hippie method possible, I successfully got pregnant with one IUI. He’s perfect, and now almost 4 years old. We thought trying for a sibling would be as easy as doing that IUI…and we were wrong. I’ve heard so many stories from friends or on TV or through doctors how eventually—either with time or the right amount of persistence with treatments, I’d get this magical baby we wanted. But we never did.

2 years, 3 failed IUIs, countless cancelled cycles, 1 retrieval, 1 really horrible allergic reaction, and 3 failed IVFs later all I had at the end was 1 miscarriage. I never thought I would come out of this with nothing. After all the money and hoping and acupuncture and cutting back on running and eating more liver and so on and so forth, I thought that science would win. I hadn’t heard of the stories where people aren’t successful. Where no surprise baby suddenly happens after a year of ending treatments. No one seemed to talk about those. So the next year I did some major self care, and this graphic novel has been my outlet for healing. I may never get over the fact that we don’t have the family we dreamed of, but we’re moving on and creating this book for others who might be going through what we went through is helping.

These two pages of What IF, the graphic novel, depict the first time I had to give myself a shot of hormones for my 1st upcoming transfer. My husband wasn’t around that evening, and I thought I could do it–because I’m strong and independent and all the typical feminist stuff…but there I was, in the kitchen completely frozen with fear. If you can relate, I’m sorry and also, hugs!

Loss

Sadly, many of us have had friendships strained, or lost, as a result of our infertility. These secondary losses can be incredibly tough.

We received an art submission for our exhibit, SEA-ART-HEAL: The ART of Infertility in Seattle, that directly deals with this kind of loss. We’re sharing it in today’s post.

Have you lost a friendship as the result of your infertility? What was that experience like for you? Perhaps you would find it helpful to express those emotions through creating a piece of art, like this artist (who wishes to remain anonymous) did. If you do, we’d love for you to share it with us!

Loss
Anonymous
dress, paint

It is March. I have been bleeding more days this year than not.
My best friend, who gave me this dress, had unprotected sex
one time and got pregnant. When I also was pregnant, I could roll
my eyes at that. When I was not pregnant anymore I was
NOT OK.
I miscarried a baby that cost me thousands of dollars to get pregnant with.
“Two days ago I cried to (husband) and told him I hope I fucking miscarried so that you’d take me back.”
STOP (insert more abusive bullshit).
JUST STOP.

I lost my baby but I also lost my best friend.

Loss by Anonymous. dress, paint

 

 

7 Things Infertility Has Taught Me

This summer marks a milestone for my husband and me. We will be celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary. For those reading this, you may say “seven years is a milestone, since when?” I get that. But for some reason, in the back of head, I have marked 7 years of marriage with the 1950s Marilyn Monroe film “The Seven Year Itch.” I’m not completely sure why, but for me, approaching seven years of marriage is significant because of this film. As I reflect on this some more, especially as July 24th – our wedding anniversary – approaches, it dawned on me that most of year seven’s significance can be attributed to infertility.

A photo of the two of us on our wedding day back in 2010.

I know that itch. That itch to walk out. Give up. Say ‘”forget this”, maybe I could have a different life — a different family with a different partner. Luckily, that didn’t happen. But I remember vivid nights where Kevin and I sat in bed asking ourselves “where do we go from here?” That lurk of infertility has certainly forced us to define and, even, fight for our relationship to go forward. Seven years and still no kid. Seven years and still that lurking question – is this our family? Or should we keep fighting for a child of our own.

To be frank, we haven’t been able to honestly answer that question yet. More time, more soul searching is needed. Will we live childfree? Can we live childfree and be happy? Perhaps. But still the question – “what would it be like to be a parent with you?” – lurks in our marriage.

Despite the uncertainty, I have come to the realization that I have actually learned a lot. Here are seven things infertility has taught me:

#7 Patience. I grew up with a timeline and goals in mind. For example, right before I turned 13, my parents asked me if I wanted a bike for my birthday. My immediate answer, without hesitation, was: “No, save the money. I’ll be 16 in 3 years and I want a car.” As entitled as that now sounds, that was me. I knew what I wanted and when. So, when Kevin and I got married – we both knew that we wanted a family. But when we started having trouble conceiving, and eventually learned we were infertile, it was complete and utter shock to the system. I didn’t know how to process it. I didn’t know how life couldn’t work on my schedule. Patience, I eventually had to learn. To this day, I am still learning that skill. Seven years – I’ve learned that life simply cannot be planned. Better to embrace its craziness than try to control what can’t be controlled.

#6 Pain. I don’t show pain well or much. Growing up as the oldest of a large family, I always felt some unknown pressure to be strong, to be tough, to not show sadness or grief. But when my aunt suddenly died when I was 20, I began to realize the need to grieve. Kevin and I were together at this point. After the funeral and all of the ceremonies, I vividly remember breaking down in his arms. We were alone, and I was finally safe to grieve. During that moment, I learned how safe I felt to have a partner to confide in. I learned how relieved I could feel to just cry. This lesson has carried with me as I have had to confront infertility. The feeling of safety, of being able to be vulnerable with Kevin, would come into play again and again. Pain shouldn’t be ignored. Sometimes it needs to be felt. With tears comes healing.

#5 Laughter. Despite all of the pain and sadness that comes with infertility, I have had to learn to not just laugh at some of the moments I encounter but also embrace laughter as a cheap form of therapy. There have been moments when I have shared in laughter with a support group friend’s experience at the fertility clinic. Laughing at moments only we – the IF community can understand. There have also been moments of laughter lately when I get my period. While in the past, I used to cry. I now have recently started laughing at the slightest appearance of blood. Of course, I think to myself, I’m not pregnant. My god- why would I be?! These moments of laughter aren’t well recognized by those who don’t experience the daily – yearly- grind of not being able to “just get knocked up” but finding friends who “get it” have become an invaluable part of this journey. Laughter has helped keep my sanity.

#4 Humility. While I live with infertility, I also study it. Infertility is not just my life, it is my job. Studying infertility rhetorically, reviewing the studies and articles that circulate in the academic and scholarly world, I’ve become appalled at how infertility as an experience is described as a “woman’s deep primal desire to get pregnant by any means” to fertility treatment and adoption practices described as “a lottery in which women will nearly cut each other’s throats just to become a mother”. These types of descriptions do not describe me nor the hundreds of other infertile women that I have met along my journey. This work, both as a profession and as a part of my life, has taught me that infertility is a real human experience. It is not well understood nor well represented. These past six years, getting my PhD on infertility rhetorics, has only reinforced the need to bring the humility back to infertility.

#3 Appreciation. While my infertility journey has undoubtedly left me in a limbo-esque state, I have learned to appreciate the little things. I have learned to appreciate when a friend of mine tries to tell me that she is pregnant or trying to get pregnant. While it may not come across in the best or most appropriate manner, I appreciate the effort they went through in at least trying to be sensitive to my needs. I appreciate the texts I get from my sister on Mother’s Day. While she is not a mother, she tells me that she is thinking of me on this day and knows it is hard. I appreciate the endless wagging tails and licks that my dogs give me every time that I open my front door. “Mom is home,” those manners demonstrate. Most of all, I appreciate the childlike sense of imagination I get to embrace on a daily basis. More of that in #2…

#2 Imagination. Okay, let’s be real. When you are first diagnosed with infertility, you do not think “oh this is the perfect time to reimagine my life.” NO. Most of us are crying, sobbing with our partners, cursing out the world, wondering what the hell we did to deserve this. But then time comes. And with time, comes lessons and learning. And with me, a sense to embrace imagination. I admit, my case is not the most typical. When I diagnosed at 24, I wasn’t like “Oh, let’s beat this. Let’s do anything it takes to get pregnant.” I needed time. Time to process what infertility meant, what infertility meant to me, what infertility meant to my partner, what infertility meant to us as a couple. And so, we took time. And are still taking time. But with time, we have allowed ourselves to play and reimagine what we want from life. We have considered if we want to adopt, if we want to use a donor embryo, or if we want to be a couple that lives childfree. And while we are still in the process of imaging different versions of our life, I have learned to embrace imagination. It has allowed me to connect to a childlike state that I may not get to know with my own child, but am reminded that I can still be personally connected to.

#1 Love your partner. Finally, and perhaps above all else, infertility these past seven years has taught me how to love my partner. And I mean love. Infertility has required me to ask “Is this relationship all worth it?” infertility has asked me to question what I am worth fighting for. Infertility has asked me to learn patience – not just for my own needs but how to be patient with what my partner may need. Infertility has taught me how to rekindle a sex life that, let’s be frank, gets screwed over (no pun intended) after being diagnosed with IF. Infertility has taught me that despite it all – kids or no kids – we walk this path together, we find laughter where we can, we cry when we want to cry, we appreciate that we have each other, we recognize that we are sometimes just human – not perfect, we imagine what type of life we now want to have and most of all – we love each other through it all

A photo of ourselves from a 2016 we both participated in. Weddings always make us think back to how far we have come because infertility. How about yourself?

That’s what 7 years of IF have taught me, what are some things you have learned in your journey?

 

Beautiful Pain

We love getting mail! A few months ago we received a letter from Kristen Fields, who wrote, “I was so inspired by your project that I ended up writing a poem this afternoon about my struggle with infertility this year. It was so therapeutic and I think will be a lot easier to share with friends and family because it’s a more wholistic way of expressing all of the complicated emotions this journey holds. So thank you for existing and showing up in my Google search, because it has seriously restored something inside me and made me feel less alone, and like I could contribute somehow! Please let me know if I can/ how to submit my poem. Thank you! Kristen”

We invited Kristen to submit her poem via one of our artwork submission forms, and she did. So, today we are happy to share Kristen’s poem with you. We hope that it will make you feel less alone, and that you will be inspired to contact us and share your own poetry and artwork with us.

Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your poetry!

Four Seasons in Japan by Masakazu Matsumoto

BEAUTIFUL PAIN

“Behind every beautiful thing there is some kind of pain.”
– Bob Dylan

There was some kind of pain
In Fall, our favorite season,
Unashamedly reveling in all that was still unshattered.
Making plans with closed eyes and open hearts
Naïve to the coming winter with long nights and a cold sun
Who bites at the things which we expose.
Attending appointments, sitting naked on a table,
Left waiting. Cold. Shivering. Bitten.

There was some kind of pain in Spring
With hope sown in new creation.
Earth poured out her showers
And let out roars from Heaven
Which fell echoed against the walls of this hollow room.
The rainbows dawdled behind rainclouds
But the colored beams always seemed to fade.
Surrounded by new and flourishing blooms,
Our tilled and nourished soil remained
Caked underneath our fingernails,
And in empty tear-soaked patches behind white picket fences.

There’s pain, I fear, in the
Summer’s sun with its warm and inviting glow
That shines of hope, a brighter outcome.
But I find myself after these three seasons lost
Burrowing,
To hold myself safe from getting pulled out into the tide.
Afraid to be crashed back onto the shore again,
Rejected by the Sea.
And then to face yet again our Brutus, Fall,
Whose cooler months might be the severest of them all.

__________________________________________________________

But it’s beautiful, you see,
To be surrounded by seasons,
To fall deeply in love with little souls you’ve never seen,
To think up their names and habits and traits and dreams
To peek inside the room that will hold their things
And pray that God would just give them to me…

——-

A note from Kristen,

“I wrote this in the wake of yet another negative pregnancy test. After being diagnosed with PCOS in the midst of us TTC our first baby, every month and every season has been harder than the last as the fear of the unknown, frustration with the wait, and multiplying insecurities grow with each negative test. I chose to write this poem the day I found out about this organization, as I wanted to be able to be a part of something bigger and hopefully resonate with other women going through these same beautifully painful seasons since this whole process can seem so lonely and isolating– that they might know they are not alone and find hope in the beauty that surrounds the pain.”