By: Justine Froelker
I am a 41-year-old woman who doesn’t have kids, the most common question I get everywhere I go? “How many kids do you have?”
Because I am a speaker of the unspoken, my response is always, “We tried really hard to have kids, lost three babies, and work hard to find other ways to parent in this world.”
“Oh you poor things, I just can’t imagine…”
“Why don’t you just adopt…”
“You never know…”
“I’ll pray for a baby…”
“Everything happens for a reason…”
The quick quips to what I used to call my hard story.
It’s been nine years since we ended our infertility journey with empty arms, with the money gone and our hearts broken we chose the nearly impossible choice, to learn to parent our three from afar and reclaim and redefine our lives.
It’s been nine National Infertility Awareness Weeks for me as a once survivor of the infertility and loss journey.
This isn’t a hard story though, and spending all those years calling it that never served me, or my community, and didn’t honor my three babies.
It is a big story.
A big story that cannot, and will not, be silenced by the quick fixes of society.
As more silence is broken and more of us share our struggles to make our families, including those babies we will never get to see grow up, we will be faced by these quick quip bandaids that people mean well by and yet still hurt and sting us.
These quick quips, the offerings to our big stories, please know, they are meant with love, and sometimes, curiosity, and most especially with the discomfort of, ‘oh my gosh, I don’t know what to say, so I will just say something simple and easy.’
In other words, not many of us like feeling our feelings, let alone those feelings that come with struggling with infertility and loss. So we try to quick-fix the pain away, convincing ourselves that these are powerful words and make everyone feel better.
These quick fixes are not courageous, and they only make us both feel even more alone.
Remember, I am a 41-year-old woman who can’t have kids. I am also always the only one everywhere I go. I already feel alone.
What if instead, you grabbed your courage to say what will feel like the least powerful words in the world, like, “This sucks, and is so hard. Will you tellm me about your story and your family? Can I come sit with you?”
These are the words of seeing someone.
Of sitting with them with their pain.
These words are vulnerable, validating, and loving.
They are the words of connection.
And, healing will only take place in connection.
Because the thing is, I don’t need you to pray for a baby or offer me an empty hope. I want those three babies, the ones that would have turned eight this year.
I also don’t need you to convince me that everything happens for a reason, I especially didn’t need that in the deep dark hole of grief, and considering that grief lasts a lifetime, those words still are not helpful, even if I know them, trust them, and see it in my daily life.
These words are cheap and only lead me to feeling more invisible in this world.
And, don’t for one second think that you have to know my exact journey, having experienced it yourself to know what it feels like. We are human. Most of us, thank God, feel feelings. Most of us also know sadness, grief, and anger, you know these feelings. Have the courage to feel them with me, sit beside me, and let go of the simple answers.
Let us never forget the other side to this connection though, we must speak our truth.
Unless we speak the unspoken, unless we share our journey and our children with the world, we risk believing the biggest lie of this journey, that we are alone.
When we speak the unspoken, we serve our big story and honor our babies, we also forge forward in connection and therefore our healing.
This National Infertility Awareness Week may more silence be broken, more empathy and compassion be born, and our courage create healing big stories that change the world.
* I recently went viral on TikTok about how we really need empathy, you can watch here.
About Justine Froelker
Justine is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She has over 20 years of experience in traditional mental health and personal development. Justine has been certified in the work of Dr. Brené Brown for seven years. Justine is the author of seven best-selling books and was also honored to do TEDx Talks at TEDxUMDearborn and TEDxLaSierraUniversity. She travels nationally and presents virtually to global audiences delivering keynotes, workshops, and trainings on topics such as leadership, courage, resilience, mental health, preventing burnout, and courageous and curious conversation, especially surrounding such topics as diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Justine lives in St. Louis with her husband Chad, their two dogs and for four months of the year hundreds of monarch butterflies.