The first defining part of my life story is one that makes people curious and sometimes left in awe.
I had two back surgeries in high school and was in a body cast for a year of my life.
I survived and overcame.
This makes people feel good and they want to know more; they want to know me.
Skip to 20 years later, and to the most defining part of my life, and it is one that makes people sad and scares the hell out of them.
Infertility treatments did not work for us and we are choosing a childfree not by choice life.
I survived and actively work to overcome and thrive each day.
This makes people sad and uncomfortable.
It also makes me feel as if people are completely blind to me, like I am invisible and sometimes don't matter, otherwise known as shame.
I easily admit that I may take this all too personally especially considering I am working hard in the trenches to change the conversations surrounding infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery.
This shame also hit me at my own book signing this past weekend.
A woman realized my book is about infertility and her first question, as it typically is, was if it worked.
I without any shame replied, "It did not. My book is about that journey and how I changed my life after the trauma."
I am used to the usual response I get; the pity quick fix such as, "Well, why don't you just adopt?" In which case, I typically choose to educate.
But this time, I was met with the blankest stare mixed with a bit of sadness. She replied, while putting her hand on her beautiful daughter's head, "I am so glad it did for us, I just don't know how I could go on or who I'd be if it hadn't."
Me too on some days lady, me too.
I make small talk with her daughter, asking her if she is excited for school to start and they move on with their day.
Leaving me feeling small, dismissed and invisible.
Now I will own these emotions, they are mine.
But good God, this is the shame that is brought on when your story is not the norm, scares the shit out of most people and is beyond too sad for them to even try to be vulnerable enough to meet you in it.
And this is my life.
It is also a huge motivation as to why I keep writing and keep fighting to change the conversations surrounding infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery, because I know I am not the only one.
This shame also came up for me when I was excited to see another celebrity happily announce their pregnancy but also bravely speak about their struggles to conceive. I was full of hope and excited to read a fellow warriors' voice; we need all the silence broken* we can get on infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery.
That is until, I read this line, "I share our story because it's a happy & hopeful one."
And again, my shame lens says to me, "Your story is not happy and hopeful, that is why no one cares and no one ever will."
No one cares.
You don't matter.
Brené Brown defines shame as: as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging -- something we've experienced, done or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
Some shame is utter shame but I think some of our shame is through our personal shame lens.
We all can have this shame lens; the lens we see the world through and the lens we filter ourselves through that shame has built.
I think this lens makes us see and experience through shame. Shame around parts of our story. Shame about who we have been or what we have been through. Shame about mistakes or choices that others may not understand.
For me this is the shame that steals my light and soul, especially when it comes to the parts of my story that makes many people really uncomfortable.
I know my story is hard. I know it makes you sad, and maybe even angry.
And, it makes you really uncomfortable.
And yet, I won't go away.
Because I do matter.
Because my story is helping others.
Because I define my own happy ending.
I know it may be difficult for you to see how my story could also be "happy and hopeful," even without my own children, but I promise it is.
Keep reading, you'll see it.
*A huge congratulations and thank you to Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla, see here how we must change our language from miscarriage to pregnancy loss. Also, thank you so much to Sam and Nia for breaking this silence, especially in their time of grief and loss. I am sending you love and prayers of gratitude and healing.