|  Blog Post   |  Breaking the Shackles of Shame and Fear Because I Think I Can Help 

Breaking the Shackles of Shame and Fear Because I Think I Can Help 

The light blinded out the shame. The light shined so brightly that I found another piece of my clarity.

My light sparked just a bit more brilliantly.

All ignited by two simple conversations with my 8 year old nephew.

Dogs aren’t kids?

Earlier in our visit my nephew heard me call the dogs my babies. To which he replied, “They are kind of like your babies since you can’t have babies.” I honestly am unsure as to how much or what he has been told about our journey through infertility or why his Aunt Justine and Uncle Chad don’t have kids.

I said to him that yes he was right. I can’t have babies so Gertie, Gracie and Bosco are my babies. And, in his amazingly loving 8 year old way he replied, “Well, you will have to get more of them because they just don’t live as long as us real kids.”

I laughed, a true laugh because he is funny and I love him.

I also laughed, an uncomfortable laugh, as I know how true that is.

Because, sometimes, our babies never even take a breath of this earth’s fresh air.

A book that can help

Later in our visit my nephew discovered that I had written a book. He asked what the book was about and if it was a series like the Harry Potter series he loves so much. To which I said I plan to write several books but not a series like Harry Potter. His dad also reminded him that there are no wizards in my books.

When I told him my book is about what his Uncle Chad and I had gone through to have our own babies his response surprised me. He stated, very matter of factly, “Oh so it’s just a book for our family to read then.”

Even then, a very innocent question from my nephew triggered the shame. For a second, I felt myself doubt, question and dim my light some.

That inner critical voice of my shame:

We didn’t lose enough.

No one cares.

We didn’t try enough.

Who am I to try to help others?

I am not good enough.

I am not enough.

But, just for a second did I allow shame to take over before I practiced my resilience and spoke my story.

Instead, I took that moment to let him see my soul and the world through my heart, because, again, I honestly don’t know what he has been told about our journey. I said, “Well there are lots of people who go through hard stuff like what we did to have a family.”

“Millions in fact.”

I said that I think, and hope, my story could actually help some of those people.

By this point his 8 year old attention span was kaput and we moved on.

The power of shame

The power of the shame that surrounds our infertility, miscarriage and pregnancy and infant loss stories is overwhelming.

Even if just for a second, mine was even triggered by the childlike wonder of my nephew.


But, even that innocent wonder brought on the dementor of my shame; the shackles that drown me.

I have done, and continue to do, great work surrounding my shame around my story. I have had to compose the elevator speech on what Ever Upwardis about. I have had to compose the marketing blurb also. But to explain to an 8 year old what Ever Upward is, was nothing I was prepared for.

He made me stop and think, why is Ever Upward so important?

To which the light brightly blinded my shame and broke those shackles.

Because I think I can help.

Because I hope I can help.

Because I can’t not try.

Doing this work of recovery does not mean that shame isn’t always lurking in the background to steal my light. It simply means I must practice my shame resilience when needed by speaking it and owning it.

Shame and fear

I felt it again the other night when I had my first sheer panic about the book coming out. The oh shit people could actually read this book. The oh shit I will have people who really hate it, criticize it and judge it….hate me, criticize me and judge me. The oh shit I might even upset some people I love. 

And, then I remember to look to the important seats in my world; the people who love me, see me and know me.

And, that this is who I choose to be in this world. I want to live my life with wholehearted courage and owning it all.


Because, that is ever upward.

To stop proving it. To truly own it. To fight for it. To break the silence. To embrace it all. Always living wholeheartedly brave.

This is my story. This is our story.

*To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life available October 1st at www.everupward.org.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine


Justine is a Licensed Professional Counselor with more than 25 years of experience in traditional mental health and personal and professional development. Justine has been certified in the work of Dr. Brené Brown for ten years. Justine is the author of eleven books, including five Amazon bestsellers covering subjects such as infertility, faith, and grief. She has been honored to do two TEDx Talks, The Permission of the And and The Donut Effect. She travels nationally and presents virtually to global audiences delivering keynotes, workshops, retreats, and trainings on topics such as leadership, courage, resilience, mental health, preventing and coping with burnout, and courageous and curious conversation, especially in creating cultures of belonging and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Justine lives in St. Louis with her husband Chad, their three dogs, and for four months of the year hundreds of monarch and swallowtail butterflies.

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