Flanked by my three little dogs, I’ve been trying to figure out how to begin, let alone write, this blog.
Then the announcement came, and I knew.
The announcement I think we all expected and many dreaded.
I text and Marco Polo my mom-friends to check on them, as they just found out school is closed for the remainder of the school year.
They aren’t okay. They are scared, they are freaked out, they are tired, and they are feeling like there is no way they can possibly keep going, to keep being “all the things to everyone all of the time” and survive this with any sanity. Let alone their greatest fear of somehow screwing up their kids “even more” through and because of this.
My specialty as a friend?
I hold space for them. I see them. I reflect their truth back to them. I remind them they don’t have to be, and actually can’t be, all things to everyone all of the time. And, most of all, I love them where they are.
Because vulnerability, empathy, and courage are my superpowers. They are also how I make a living – I’ve been a therapist in some capacity for over twenty years, and now teach courage as a speaker and corporate trainer.
I also happen to be their friend who can’t have kids.
My husband and I tried to make our family through infertility treatments and gestational surrogacy. We lost three babies. Our money was gone, and our hearts were broken beyond what we thought was reparable. So we stopped. We do not feel called to adoption, plus, you know the whole money piece doesn’t make it the easiest option. And for a little extra education, adoption is not necessarily the next step and definitely not a fix for infertility. So we stopped. We stopped before we got the hoped for, prayed for, and paid for result of babies in our arms.
That was eight years ago.
And still, I wonder who they would have been.
The struggle to write this post is real. I’m not a mom in the traditional sense of the word, and this is a mom blog. Plus, there’s the whole weird, crazy, and nearly impossible COVID season we are experiencing.
Still, it is National Infertility Awareness Week. And the statistics of infertility mean this affects someone you know, pandemic or not. One in eight couples struggles to conceive, one in four pregnancies end in a loss, and one in 160 pregnancies end with a child born still. For some of us, we make the nearly impossible decision to end our journey childless not by choice. Amid a pandemic, where profound disappointment, and therefore grief, is being felt by many if not most of us, remember those of us who live lives inside those statistics. Remember those of us who have struggled and lost, and those who have had treatments canceled because of this virus.
We aren’t okay, either.
You wonder how you are going to get through this weird and terrible season stuck at home with your kids.
I wonder what it would be like to go through it with our would have been seven-year-olds.
Both are hard. Both feel impossible. Both just suck.
One isn’t better or worse, easier or harder; they are just different.
Throughout the years of teaching courage and of reclaiming my motherhood, what I know for sure, is that when we choose to show up, make space to love people where they are, and sit beside one another, most especially in the suck, we don’t have to be so alone in it.
Hard is just hard.
And, this season, and what has basically turned into a six-month-long summer, is really freaking hard, for you and for me.
You trying to survive with everyone home, and me missing my three and all of my mom-friends. Both of us doing it for far longer than we ever thought or wanted.
So, let us schedule a Zoom coffee or wine date… my vote is wine!
Because then we can sit with our perspective sucks together, though separate.
We can sit together as moms who aren’t okay right now. Because, although right now, we may be limited in connection, we are never limited in our motherhood and presence.
Justine is a Licensed Professional Counselor. For nearly seven years, Justine has been certified in the work of Dr. Brené Brown. She has over 20 years of experience in traditional mental health and personal growth. Justine is the author of three best-selling books and was also honored to do TEDx Talks at TEDxUMDearborn and TEDxLaSierraUniversity. Currently, she travels nationally delivering keynotes, workshops, and training on topics such as leadership, courage, resilience, and much more. Justine lives in St. Louis with her husband Chad, their three dogs, and for four months of the year hundreds of monarch butterflies.