And still, I parent every single day. I make sure to, otherwise I fear I would be swallowed whole by my losses.
Finding other ways to parent, when traditional parenthood has not worked out for you, means birthing a new perspective; birthing a new self.
This is my daily work in recovery and in finding my ever upward.
For those of us who have had to make the impossible choice to end our pursuit of motherhood, birthing a new self is imperative to surviving the journey. We have had to make the impossible choice to preserve our finances, our relationships and ourselves. We have had to choose to let go of a dream.
Better yet, to redefine our dream and define our own happy ending.
I believe this means we must birth a new self, which with work, can become our best self.
This is my work in my recovery; the work I have had no choice but to do if I did not want to be changed for the worse after surviving infertility and loss.
My recovery has meant sharing my story with the world to break the silence that surrounds infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery.
My recovery has meant practicing my wholehearted self-care; filling myself up, choosing my perspective and rising ever upward.
My recovery has meant learning to mother myself, especially in doing the work of birthing my best self.
And, my recovery has also meant opening myself up enough to redefine parenting, even after the hurt of loss. Doing the work to make sure my soul does not scar over completely; and allowing myself to take the risk in giving birth to my first book. The process of writing, publishing and marketing a book about a topic that many people struggle with was very much like preparing for parenthood and giving birth.
I have found many other ways to mother such as re-parenting my clients in my mental health private practice, loving my dogs and especially being as involved as possible in the lives of all of the children in my life, or as I call them, our chosen children.
This is living a good life; choosing to nurture the mother in me always, even if it is not in how I always dreamed.
In this mothering, in finding other ways to parent, I allow my best self to emerge.
Much like the battle the caterpillar goes through to emerge the beautiful butterfly.
I never could have expected the mothering that has come from me in taking care of monarch caterpillars, especially as this journey happened very unexpectedly.
On July 4th, I witnessed the sheer miracle of a monarch laying eggs in my butterfly garden. After doing much research I brought in many of the larvae to rear in captivity. Monarchs are very endangered and bringing them in protects them from the elements.
In the last several weeks I have mothered these incredible creatures. I have cleaned their habitat, cleaning up endless amounts of caterpillar poop. One of my friends validating my motherhood in saying, “You know you are mom when you cleaning up tons of poop and it doesn’t phase you at all!”
These caterpillars have fulfilled much of what a child does for a mother, even if only for a few weeks. I have loved them, been amazed by them, been exhausted by their care and needs and talked them through the arduous process of growing and eventually forming their chrysalis.
I have mothered them.
People who know and love me know how much the monarch butterfly means to me, she does grace the cover of my first book, Ever Upward. The journey of the monarch symbolizing so much about our own struggles in life, so much about my journey through failed infertility and finding myself thereafter.
However, there are simply no words powerful enough to express how much raising these caterpillars has meant to the mother in me.
And much like the mother about to give birth, I am anxiously awaiting the day they emerge beautiful monarch butterflies. I am feeling all the feels as I am scared something could go wrong, I am proud of their journey, I am excited to see their beauty and I am sure I will be full of joy and a bit of sadness when I release them into the wild.
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. She is the author of her book and blog, Ever Upward, and an infertility advocate for breaking the shamed silence of infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery. She also writes for St. Louis Health & Wellness magazine and appears regularly on the mid-day television show Great Day St. Louis. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
We want to hear your uplifting, inspiring, funny, or touching story about your experience as a mother. Please visit our Storytellers page for more information on how to be published on the Good Mother Project blog.