By Justine Brooks Froelker, LPC, CDWF
Battling through IVF and learning to accept a childfree life means we are faced, sometimes daily, with uncomfortable social situations and questions about our motherhood status and how we got here. It also means the wounds of infertility, especially in the beginning when things are completely raw, continue to be open, gaping wounds. And at times, it can feel like society callously pours salt into us over and over.
Infertility, IVF, pregnancy loss and childfree acceptance are some of the most shamed words in our lexicon. The blogging universe has helped move us past this shame in many ways; however we have a long way to go in my opinion. My blog, Ever Upward, is my story; completely honest, completely open and without much shame…anymore at least.
Owning my story, completely and out loud, for the world to read has changed my life. My healing journey continues to improve and I am making connections with so many people all over the world. However, I completely understand and get that this is not how most of us going through infertility and childfree acceptance feel. However, I would like to offer a permission for all of us.
If you aren’t ready for that baby shower, politely decline. If your friend only talks about her brand new baby or her kids, respectfully ask her about something else in her life or bravely ask her to stop. Or simply greatly limit your time with her. Only you know what you are ready for with wherever you are in your journey. Give yourself permission to ask for what you want and need and to set boundaries. And do it without apology, especially to yourself.
As I write, I am headed home from my certification training with The Daring Way™ based on the research of Brené Brown. Through my work in the last 5 days I have learned more about my shame surrounding my IVF journey. Of course the misunderstandings and judgments that society and others have surrounding infertility can make shame envelope me so quickly that I completely shrink. But, through my work I also learned that at times I shut myself down in telling my full story because I know it is difficult for others to hear. Not only do they not want to discuss shamed infertility but they also don’t want to have to feel how sad my story is. Or how much they wish I could be a mother because they know I’d be a great mother. I find that I quiet myself and don’t share because I shield myself from feeling shame by people pleasing and caretaking, not wanting someone I care about to feel any pain, let alone my pain.
But, I also silence myself because I really don’t want their fucking sympathy.
I hopefully yearn for their empathy, and one day their understanding.
In the light filled spirit that has washed over me after learning the curriculum of The Daring Way™ I am filled with courage and hope. I will no longer shy away from my story, ever. I will practice my shame resilience. I will stop making apologies to society, to my friends and family, but most of all to myself.
So without any apology:
I am Justine.
I tried IVF two times with a gestational surrogate, and for us two times is enough and one more time than we really could afford both financially and emotionally.
I can’t have kids.
I tried very hard to be a mother.
I paid a lot of money to be a mother.
And, I put my body (and my surrogate’s body) through hormonal hell to have a baby.
But they were never my babies to love here on earth.
I know that adoption isn’t for me.
And so I work, sometimes every minute of every day, to accept my childfree life and to let go of my childlessness.
And I will no longer silence myself because my story is sad or scary for anyone, as I will no longer allow shame to steal my true self.
Because, this is my ever upward.
Justine Brooks Froelker is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (based on the research of Brené Brown) with a private practice in St. Louis, Missouri (www.jbftherapyandcoaching.com). In February 2011, she and her husband began their journey in the world of IVF. 2 rounds of IVF with a gestational surrogate, 2 transfers, 3 babies never to be born and learning to accept a childfree life later, Ever Upward was conceived.