Trying to conceive

Flipping the Script is On Us

By Justine Froelker

Whenever I get included in anything infertility and loss awareness wise there are three parts of my brain that fire:

  1. Ego – Duh, my story needs to be a part of this.

  2. Shame – Who do you think you are? You shouldn’t even be included, no one wants to hear or is ready for your story and message.

  3. Gratitude – Thank you so much for including me and remembering my scary story is more common than people think or want to admit.

My name is Justine Froelker, and I am the infertility advocate whose story scares the bejeezus out of most in our community.

A recap:

We tried IVF due to my history of back surgeries and body casts in high school.

We lost three babies.

The money was gone.

Our hearts were broken.

We stopped treatments before we got the babies.

We are not choosing adoption.

We are accepting a childless not by choice, or as I like to call it, a childfull, life.

I am a forever grieving mother who chooses to do the work to see the gifts in everything.

I am happy and sad…you can watch my TEDx talk on that.

I am happier than I ever was before failed IVF because I choose every day to honor my three, and myself, in the work of happy. I realized the infertility journey had left me a shell of who I once was without the ability to ever go back to her, or even the desire to go back to her. I have fought for, created, and received this incredible life, a life that didn’t turn out how I hoped, dreamed or planned.

Infertility is not who I am. A woman without her children here on earth is not who I am.

These are part of my story. At the end of the day, we will all have our traumas, losses, and tragedies, none of us get out of this life unscathed, sure as hell not the infertility and loss journey. The day we speak more of these truths, and speak the shame that is inherent in this community is the day we free ourselves and flip the script for our loved ones and society to better understand us.

If we want more compassion and empathy from our lawmakers, doctors, and loved ones when it comes to the infertility and loss journey, we must better ask for what we want and need. Asking for what we want and need means we must speak our stories with authentic vulnerability and rewrite our shame.

As a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (trained by Dr. Brené Brown), I teach, talk, and model shame resilience and vulnerable living and loving every single day. Shame defined by Brené is the deeply painful feeling of being flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. I don’t know about you, but my body not being able to do what I thought, and what society thinks, it is supposed to be able to do in getting pregnant and birthing a baby easily made me feel not enough and unworthy.

This isn’t fair.

I deserve this.

Am I being punished?

Is anyone else struggling with this?

Why is this happening to me?

When we own this shame, speak our truth, and ask for what we want and need, we are more likely to get the empathy and compassion we so desperately need and deserve from the people in our lives. For someone to sit with us in our pain, and simply say, “This freaking sucks. I am here,” rather than, “Why don’t you just adopt or just relax…” requires us to get vulnerable first. Healing only takes place in connection, and connection requires vulnerability.

Flipping the script is on us.

Is this scary work?

Yes.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely.

We have a taste of this within our own community if we can stay out of comparison, which is a whole other blog post… When you let your loved ones into your truth, give them the words, ask for what you want and need, you are way more likely to get it. Now, they will mess up and sometimes they won’t have it to give because we are all flawed human beings.

But you asked.

You owned your truth.

You honored your story.

Which means it can’t own you anymore.

Hi, I am Justine Froelker.

I mother more mothers than I can count, and my three in heaven.

I am a mother.

Full of grit and grace, Justine Froelker uses her fiery passion, the occasional curse word, and her witty humor to share her vulnerability and truth to light up the world. Justine is an advocate for speaking about shame and learning to thrive when life doesn't turn out how you hoped, dreamed, or even planned that it would. Justine is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator with over 18 years of experience (based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown). She is the author of her best-selling books, Ever Upward and The Mother of Second Chances.  Justine currently lives in Saint Louis with her husband, Chad, and their three dogs. She enjoys her childfull life by spending time with friends and family, practicing creative self-care, laughing (many times at herself) and building butterfly gardens on her acre of land, which has made her an accidental butterfly farmer.

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The Natural Route

By Caroline Harries

My husband, Colby, and I received our infertility diagnosis 6 years ago, in April of 2012. As most couples who have been diagnosed with infertility would understand and agree, we were completely caught off guard. You get married and you have kids, right? Well for 1 in 8 couples this is not the case and we happen to fall into that statistic. This diagnosis came quickly and although we were so thankful to find out what we were up against sooner, rather than later, it was still devastating. What we thought was just routine tests before we started our family, turned out to be much different as we were diagnosed with both female and male fertility.

What we found out in those first few months of trying to start our family was that I had lots of irregular hormones and a tumor on my pituitary gland and Colby was diagnosed with azoospermia, which is the fancy word for no sperm. Despite the diagnosis given, our journey has been different from many in that we have decided not to pursue medical intervention, but take a more natural route. Even though doctors told us the only chance we have to get pregnant is by in vitro fertilization, we are still on the path for believing for a supernatural miracle. We have received a lot of push back for this decision, but are thankful for the peace and freedom along the way. We have used our time of waiting to focus on our marriage and enjoy the things we love to do, like travel all over the world, spend time with our nieces and nephews and compete in triathlons and 5K's. Even though infertility brings many apart, for us and our journey, it has brought us closer together. We decided from the beginning that it was no ones fault; not my husbands and not mine, but that we are in this together. We are very open with each other about our journey and we agree that there is no one to blame. We truly view our wait as a learning experience and we are grateful for everything we have learned along the way.

In addition to the blessings that have come from our wait in our marriage, there have been so many other blessings as well. A year into our diagnosis I started a support group for women desiring to be mothers called Moms in the Making. It's been such an honor to serve and celebrate others as we wait for our own miracle. I'm so thankful to connect with women from all over the world through the online community, in-person support groups, an annual conference and a virtual group.

I want to encourage you that no matter what route you choose, whether it's to pursue medical intervention or to choose a more natural route, make sure to keep your marriage a priority. Advocate for you and your husband and do what is best for the two of you, not what is best for the doctors or those around you. I also encourage you to share your story or find an online or local support group. Whatever your story looks like or how long you have been waiting, know that there is every reason to have hope! Know that you are not alone! Know that there are other couples all over the world who understand the struggle and who are willing to join you in cheering you along in the pain.

Caroline Harries has a heart for those who are waiting on breakthrough from the Lord. Her unwavering faith is evident as she believes for her own miracle of children. She delights in encouraging women through her internationally followed blog and book, In Due Time, as well as her ministry to those desiring to become mothers, Moms in the Making. Caroline loves traveling the world with her husband and stays active by competing in triathlons. She holds a degree in finance and marketing from Baylor University in Texas, where she and her husband live. {Let's Connect} Facebook • Instagram • Bloglovin • Pinterest •Google + • Twitter

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Caroline Harries has a heart for those who are waiting on breakthrough from the Lord. Her unwavering faith is evident as she believes for her own miracle of children. She delights in encouraging women through her internationally followed blog and book, In Due Time, as well as her ministry to those desiring to become mothers, Moms in the Making. Caroline loves traveling the world with her husband and stays active by competing in triathlons. She holds a degree in finance and marketing from Baylor University in Texas, where she and her husband live. {Let's Connect} Facebook • Instagram • Bloglovin • Pinterest •Google + • Twitter

I Didn't See THAT Coming! One Woman's Struggle with Infertility and How it Changed Her Life

By Lyneda Lincoln

How did I get here?! I have NO idea how I got here!

As a little girl dreaming about the life I aspired to have – a high powered career, a doting husband, two beautiful children – it never crossed my mind that I might not be able to have one of those things. From a young age I was told that if I wanted something, I just had to work hard enough, and it could be mine; something about the world being my oyster – you know the saying. So, that’s what I did. I worked hard. I was dedicated. I crushed high school. I sailed through college. I landed an amazing job with a Fortune 100 company right out of college at the ripe age of 22. And finally, that sexy guy that I had kept on my arm for the past four years - my best friend turned love of my life - finally asked me to marry him! I was getting everything I ever wanted. But, why shouldn’t I? I followed the recipe of life that had been handed to me – I worked hard and maintained focus. For that, I deserved everything I ever wanted. Crack that oyster open y’all! I want my pearl!!

My husband and I had decided before we got married that we wanted to spend the first two years of our marriage just enjoying each other and settling into adult life. After that, we’d start the next part of our journey together and have that first child we had been fantasizing about. It was the perfect plan. But, this was the first time I would find that life doesn’t always quite go as planned. A year after we got married, I was unwillingly saddled with this burdensome feeling that I wanted to be a mother sooner. As exciting as the prospect of being a mother was, I was a bit annoyed that my mind and my heart didn’t get the memo that I needed another year of blissful married life before I started thinking about children. I tried to push the feeling aside, but pregnant bellies popped up everywhere and babies had these cute, googly eyes that caused my heart to palpitate uncontrollably. The baby aisles suddenly had this alarming power to pull me towards them and then it happened… the mirror whispered to me to look down at my hand cupping my belly and picture that oyster pearl finally cradled within my grasp in the form of tiny hands and toes. I told my husband about how I was feeling. He was kind hesitant because he didn’t want the pressure of trying yet. But, he was willing to let me stop my birth control pills and with an, “if it happens it happens” attitude, he began toying with the idea of a surprise pregnancy that would whisk him into fatherhood. So, Christmas 2013 was an exciting time because we had it in our minds that within the next few months we would make the exciting announcement that Baby Lincoln was on the way!

Oh… but its 6 months later and we haven’t even seen a shadow of a line on any of those little pesky tests that we had stocked up on. What was going on?? Well, duh! I wasn’t following the recipe. I was expecting it to just happen without any hard work. No worries – challenge accepted!!! I began rigorous research – I found articles, books, Facebook support groups. I downloaded more apps for tracking my cycles to compare against the My Calendar app I had already been using. I started my Rainbow Lite Prenatal Vitamins. I purchased Wondfo OPKs. I booked a pre-conception check-up appointment for myself and my husband. By this time my husband also felt we should be more pro-active and start actively trying to conceive so we just knew that the pre-conception check-up would give us the ammo we needed to make this baby. Much to my surprise, because we were only 24 years old at the time and too young to be worried about fertility issues, the pre-conception visit consisted of a standard physical and a metaphorical pat on the head with a, “have fun!” on the way out the door.

Christmas 2014 had now come and gone. Still no baby. How could this be?? I clearly wasn’t working hard enough… I wasn’t praying hard enough. Time to add in monitoring my Basal Body Temperature and get down on those knees a bit more so my Heavenly Father could hear me better. But despite my hard work, my heart was still in shambles as with each month Aunt Flo showed up like clockwork. By early 2015 I was tired of waiting around. Friends and family had been telling me to stop stressing and just let it happen. Our doctors had told us it just takes time and that we are young so there was nothing to worry about. Yet, each month, someone else was making a pregnancy announcement or posting photos of their new baby and here I was with an empty womb. My oyster shell was closing… and fast. I was in despair. The emotional toll began to affect me physically as well in many ways. My husband didn’t know how to console me. Aside from dealing with what I presumed to be an undiagnosed fertility issue, I was also trying to cope with grief and loss of several family members. By June 2015 I had a more positive outlook on life and decided to go in for fertility testing. Once again, we were told that we were too young to be worried about fertility issue, but I was persistent.

After fertility testing with our local doctor, we were diagnosed with severe Male Factor Infertility and were hesitantly advised that we had a 1% chance of ever being able to conceive naturally. So, a referral was made to a local fertility clinic and urologist who would help us going forward. After a few months, my husband was prescribed Clomid to start his treatment, but before we could get the prescription filled, we found out that we were miraculously pregnant!! At 8 weeks, my OB had trouble believing we were pregnant and asked that she be able to check via ultrasound before my dad and my husband came back into the room to prevent any harsh surprises. But, sure enough our little pearl was there - strong and healthy.

I went on to have a perfect pregnancy filled with awe and a blissful unmedicated home water birth where we met our precious baby girl. However, I never lost sight of the fact that we were one of the few lucky ones. Most go on to do years of treatment and endure IVF before they ever get to meet their long-awaited miracle(s).

Being a spiritual person, I believe that everything happens for a reason and at the perfect time. But, I also can’t help but feel as though we may have had our miracle that much sooner had our medical professionals not been so blinded by our age. Infertility doesn’t just happen to those in their mid-30’s and 40’s. We were a stable, otherwise healthy married African American couple in our mid-20s who had an explainable fertility issue that could have been addressed early on during our pre-conception checkup and could have saved us a lot of heartache, time, and money.

Although our infertility journey was admittedly long and painful (longer than some, shorter than others), it did make me more appreciative of the privilege it is to be a mother. My husband and I spend every day extremely thankful for our daughter and we cherish every small moment with her. But, what I didn’t anticipate was that the feelings of infertility don’t just go away after you “beat it”. You look around at the other women who are still standing in the mirror cupping an empty womb. Their pain continues. You watch women complain about how easy it is for them to get pregnant with children they don’t want. You get angry. In my case, you change your life plans and decide that you don’t need two children – one is good enough – because you don’t want to experience the pain and longing all over again. So, then what DOES come after infertility?

In our case, I realized that our burden could be used as someone else’s blessing. I wasn’t ready to give up the fight against infertility just yet. From this, I made the decision that I was going to become a surrogate to help other couples complete their forever family. My husband was completely supportive, and we went through the laborious process of screening, testing, matching, fertility medications, and embryo transfer. It gave me the chance to understand all we could have gone through, so I could appreciate my blessing that much more. It also gave me the chance to meet a beautiful couple in their mid-40s who is now eagerly awaiting their fraternal boy/girl twins from our first successful FET in December 2017 after years of their own infertility struggle which included failed transfers, pregnancy loss, and financial sacrifice. This journey has presented its own set of challenges but is equally rewarding and fulfilling for me knowing that I did my part to help eliminate the fertility struggles of another couple.

I honestly can’t say how I go here – how I became this 28-year-old mama discussing and spreading awareness about infertility. But, I am so honored to be a part of this movement and to have been given a platform to tell my story. I hope as you’ve read through some of these stories this week, you gain a better understanding of the struggles about infertility and how it can affect just about anyone around you. I hope you choose to speak out and do your part to bring more awareness to this topic so that people don’t have to continue suffering alone… It really can happen to anyone.

Lyneda is a 28-year-old aspiring entrepreneur and mama of one. Several years ago, in the midst of her pain, she took to Instagram as a way to express her frustrations of eagerly awaiting a child and to find other women who might be experiencing the same thing. Since then, she has continued the unfiltered documentation her life on her Instagram profile @WeAreTheLincolns in the hope to spread awareness about infertility, motherhood, and surrogacy. In between Instagram blog posts, Lyneda enjoys reading, working her new endeavor as a home-based travel agent, and spending time with her family.

Our Story of Infertility

By Owen Davis

My name is Owen and I am so excited to share my story with you guys today. I am a part time orthopedic Physician Assistant and a full-time mommy. I still get butterflies when I call myself a mom… I will never get used to hearing that and I will never take it for granted. Unless you have personally struggled with infertility, you probably have no idea that this week is National Infertility Awareness Week. A week dedicated to bringing awareness to a topic that is under discussed and over prevalent. I'm sharing our story in hopes of removing the stigma surrounding infertility and to help at least one person feel less alone.

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Our infertility story began when we were just dating when a doctor delivered the heartbreaking news that it would be hard for us to get pregnant naturally in the future. At that point we knew we would one day get married and want babies so we decided to proceed with surgery, knowing that it may or may not help our chances. These are some scary decisions to make for your future when you are just dating. After surgery it was just a waiting game... we wouldn't know whether it was successful until we started trying to conceive. Fast forward about 4 years. We were married and it was (finally!) time to start trying to get pregnant.

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This is where God stepped in, as He always does. I was in PA school and I chose to do one of my elective clinical rotations in infertility medicine. Ever since our infertility journey began it had become so intriguing to me both medically and personally. I told the reproductive endocrinologist I worked with all about our story and asked his personal opinion. He told me that we should go back to our previous doctor for more testing since we had not successfully gotten pregnant yet. So back to the doctor we went where more tests were done which showed that 1) the surgery had not worked and 2) they were concerned my husband may have a benign brain tumor that could also be affecting fertility. An MRI was done which did, in fact, show that he has a benign brain tumor also affecting fertility. With all of these factors, they told us our only option was IVF.

We were referred to UNC Fertility where we met our absolutely amazing doctor for a consultation and more testing and he agreed that IVF was our only option. That was a really low point in my life. I was overwhelmed, ashamed, heartbroken, scared and lonely. I decided that I could either keep it a secret from everyone or I could bravely share our story with the world which is what we decided to do. I am not a sharer by nature so this was a huge leap of faith for me! But I knew that if I stepped out of my comfort zone I could bring awareness to infertility and break the stigma behind it. I prayed that I could help at least one woman not feel so alone by sharing our journey.

Now it was go time! From there we began shots in preparation for egg retrieval. Egg retrieval went amazing and we got 44 eggs, 28 of which became healthy, day 5 embryos! This was such amazing news and a huge relief. I then suffered from ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) so our fresh embryo transfer was canceled while my body recovered. Six weeks later I was feeling great and ready to proceed with a frozen embryo transfer! We started medications again and on June 24, 2016 we transferred one grade 4AA embryo. It was the most amazing experience watching it on the screen and I will never forget my doctor saying, "You should be cautiously optimistic!"

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Five days later I did what any Type-A person would and peed on a stick... there was no way I could wait 4 more days for my blood test. A faint line appeared immediately and I was in shock! The rest of my pregnancy flew by and at 37 weeks I delivered our perfect baby girl via urgent C-section after 50 hours of labor.

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Struggling with infertility was a huge blessing in disguise. While I would never wish it on my worst enemy, it taught me so much about myself and about life in general. The three things that infertility has taught me are:

1) Never ask someone when they are going to have kids. You don't know what they may be going through. They could be going through IVF, IUI, just had a miscarriage, been trying for years unsuccessfully, you name it. Everyone's story is different and 1 in 8 people are struggling to get pregnant. Words can hurt so badly when you are in the midst of infertility heartbreak. Think before asking someone such personal information.

2) Ask how she is doing. If someone you know has shared that they are going through infertility, always say something. I was so hurt by the things that people didn't say when we were struggling. Some of the people I am closest to never said a word to me about it. I know that they felt uncomfortable and at a loss for what to say, but I will never forget feeling so alone and forgotten by some of my closest friends. Even if you don't know what to say, a simple "I'm thinking about you and praying for you" goes such a long way.

3) Never take a single moment for granted. I am one of the lucky ones who got my miracle baby on this side of Heaven. Not everyone is that lucky and I will never take that for granted. Even the most boring, mundane days with her are the best days ever. At least once a day I think to myself, "I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now". Infertility has made me so much more patient and grateful. Our battle with infertility wasn't easy but the fact that it resulted in our baby girl made it so worth it. I would take every injection, procedure, tears and heartache all over again to be her mommy.

Owen lives with her husband and their 14-month-old baby girl in eastern North Carolina. She is a beach bum at heart and loves a good cup of coffee and cold glass of prosecco. She began blogging in 2014 to document their lives as she navigated PA school, marriage, and traveling. She quickly realized that she would be doing the world a disservice if she wasn’t transparent about their struggles with infertility and their journey through IVF which led to their miracle baby. 

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