Choosing Courage Over Comparison When TTC

Thanks to social media we have insight into so many other infertility stories. This can sometimes feel good and other times lead us to compare in unhealthy ways. In this piece, Justine Froelker shares some thoughts that can help you choose courage over comparison.

The journey to making our family, most especially when it is difficult, comes with this gift of community, now so more than ever, especially with social media and hashtags.

Yet, the lies of shame, for many of us, make us feel as if we are alone in the journey many days.

Shame: the deeply painful feeling we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging (based on the work of Dr. Brené Brown).

The greatest weapon shame has against us in this battle?

Comparison.

She only tried for a year.

She only spent this much money.

I didn’t even try IVF.

She never even experienced a pregnancy.

I was only a couple months along.

Her insurance covers it.

They only spent $50,000.

Or whatever our wired for comfort brains tell us to make us feel better.

Whether it is from the side of “She has it harder so my hard doesn’t matter” or the side of “I have it harder so her hard doesn’t matter.”

Where did it become a competition for the worst? When did we want to be competing in the pain Olympics? How does this help us in, through, and after the infertility and loss journey?

When I keep quiet because I believe the lie that your hard is harder than mine…or when I speak over your hard because I deem mine is harder…how do we ever stand a chance of getting through this brutal, and yes, I would argue, beautiful journey? Let alone getting through it okay, or even better than okay.

I ended my journey to make our family through gestational surrogacy eight years ago after tens of thousands of dollars spent and three lost babies. Our hearts were broken and the money we were lucky enough to come up with was gone, so we stopped.

We stopped the pursuit of a dream before it destroyed everything good about us and knowingly trusting that it would never be able to deliver more than it had stolen.

For far too long I didn’t speak up because I didn’t think my hard was hard enough. For far too long I didn’t serve the infertility and loss community, one I never wanted to be a part of and one I cannot imagine living without, because I didn’t think my hard was hard enough. For far too long, I held on to the hurt, trauma, loss, and tragedy, so much that I blocked my own healing because I didn’t think my hard was hard enough.

Here’s the thing though, healing will never take place in disconnection. Healing only takes place in connection.

When we compare our hard shit, we only sit even more alone in the shit.

And, I don’t know about you but the lonely of infertility and loss is already lonely enough.

For me, I am already really alone.

I am a forty-year-old woman who can’t have kids. I am almost always the only one everywhere I go.

What if instead, we sat beside one another?

What if instead, we fought the urge and our wired for comfort brain to compare our hard stuff and instead said this sucks so bad?

What if instead we didn’t compete for the worst hard trophy and saw each other as we are…mothers?

If we are going to choose courageous community over the comfort of comparison we must start with ourselves.


As a therapist by trade turned speaker and corporate trainer, I get to teach courage every day. And what I know for sure is that our community needs more courage. We need it because courage will help us receive our healing. The healing we are more than worthy of.

So the next time you feel that angst – you know the racing thoughts or buzzing in your head and the racing or pounding heart and the churning in your belly  – that angst when you feel your body is totally hooked by emotion after you read that post, that comment, that announcement, that bio full of numbers and acronyms, join me in the work of courage.

Feel the angst.

Name it.

Speak it.

Pause.

Know that now, in the midst of completely triggered angst, is not the time to comment, have a tough conversation, etc. In other words, we aren’t fit for human consumption when our emotions are owning our voice.

Breathe.

Breathe again.

Get that thinking (and rational) brain back on track from shame shit storm spiral of emotion.

And ask:

What is this bringing up for me? What is this really about? What is the story I am making up?

Then get that emotional aka a little crazy story out of your head and remind yourself of your truth.

Need a reminder?

You are enough. You are loved. This is hard. Your pain matters. You matter more. You will be okay.

Our hard is just really damn hard in the infertility and loss community.

Can you imagine the tidal waves of courage if we choose courage over comparison?

May we choose to sit beside one another without comparison.

May we receive our healing together.

Justine is a Licensed Professional Counselor. For over seven years Justine has been certified in the work of Dr. Brené Brown. She has over 20 years of experience in traditional mental health and personal growth. Justine is the author of three best-selling books and was also honored to do TEDx Talks at TEDxUMDearborn and TEDxLaSierraUniversity. Currently, she travels nationally delivering keynotes, workshops, and trainings on topics such as leadership, courage, resilience, and much more. Justine lives in St. Louis with her husband Chad, their three dogs and for four months of the year hundreds of monarch butterflies.

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