Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Job

A couple weeks ago Jordan and I were soaking in a hotel hot tub under the stars in Jackson, WY. It was so soothing and made me forget my broken heart momentarily.

Soon we were joined by another couple (Larry and Val) and we easily fell into simple conversation about Jordan's job, living in Utah, Larry's vacation home in Mexico, Val's job as a massage therapist, and after awhile the conversation naturally came around to me. I had been quietly soaking up the warmth of the hot tub, only contributing to the conversation superficially, and letting Jordan do most of the talking (which is his absolute worst nightmare, but he seemed comfortable enough taking on that role for a night). Eventually Larry asked me "Julie, what do you do?"

Such a simple question, but one I could not easily answer. What do I do? I found myself instantly debating how much to tell this new hot tub acquaintance. Do I tell him I'm a mom? If I do will he ask about Jonah, and then do I tell him that he died? Will he want to know more about Jonah or will the conversation take an awkward silent turn? And then will I start crying in this hot tub? Then will I have to get out of the hot tub? I was sure that the "childless mother" answer would be more than this pleasant couple bargained for, with such a simple question. So I said something about being a business owner...preschool...art classes...blah blah blah.

Afterward I felt so sad. Being a mother to Jonah is the greatest job I have ever had. It is the title I am most proud of...my dream job. It is the hardest job I have ever had. I literally gave everything to the work of being a mother, my body, my sleep, my mind, my heart. It required me to stretch my capacity and develop new skills. I had days when I felt unqualified, incompetent, and sure I had missed some important training meetings. Despite all that I wanted to be a great mother. When I think of the other jobs I have had they all seem so unnecessary, so trivial. It felt like a betrayal to leave motherhood off my verbal resume, just to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

So last night, I found myself in a similar situation, with new acquaintances. The question came to me again "Julie, what do you do?" This time I felt the same hesitation, and a twinge of sympathy for the one who asked. I said "I am a mom, to a beautiful little boy, he died 6 weeks ago. So right now I don't know what I do, but I'm trying to figure it out."

As you can imagine I got astonished looks, and condolences, and then the group slowly dispersed into smaller more comfortable conversations...not knowing what to do or say. I can't blame them, I probably would have done the same. They were not prepared for my answer.

It was awkward, but I felt so peaceful. It felt honest. I would rather have hundreds of honest awkward moments, than one comfortable yet shallow conversation. I hope you feel the same. When we ask someone to tell us about themselves, to tell us who they are, are we really prepared for any answer, or will we only accept the expected?

I appreciate people who hear my honest answer and want to know about my heartache. I am amazed by people who are not afraid...who ask about Jonah, even people who ask how he died. I know most of these people have experienced their own grief. I would rather walk from a conversation crying, than feeling the numbness of not mentioning his name.

I have promised myself that I will continue to tell people about my heartache when they ask who I am, because it is a huge part of who I am right now. I hope that when I ask you a seemingly simple question about "how you are" or "what you do" you won't be afraid to tell me the truth.


  1. 1. This post is perfection, to me. What a perfect start to 2. - what I think is an incredibly brilliant idea: this blog. It probably helps that I've been doin' the blog circuit for a while already, so I'm already open to this as a platform...but your voice is going to be a treasured journey for many, I'm certain.

  2. LOVE IT. I think you'll find interesting what happened to me on Halloween night, quick version. A new beautiful family moved into our ward, and we knew they had two sons. My Dave helped them move in, and one of their boxes said "Oliver" on it. Dave came home excited, because the mom's name is Krista, too, and we have an Oliver, smile. So, on Halloween night at the ward party, I run up to her, completely taking her off guard and said, "Hey, Krista, so great! I have an Oliver, too! Which son is yours?" She stared at me, dumbfounded, eyes filled with tears, and said, "My son, Oliver, died." I was shocked, looking for her two boys, worried that one of them had died in the last few weeks and I didn't know?! Then she understood my confusion and explained that she gave birth to three gorgeous boys, the second one only living a few hours after birth. I just listened and held her, wanting to hear anything she had to say about her sweet baby.

    For what it's worth, it was a bonding moment for us, especially with a new acquaintance. I won't share her story with other sisters in the ward, feeling like that is her heartache to share and I well-meaningly stumbled upon it. But anytime I look at her, I think, "There goes a great mom of three little boys." I think that in knowledge absolutely worth knowing.

    You be who you are! Among other lovely descriptions, you're Jonah's mom. LOVE IT.

    (I know all this is none of my business. Hope it's okay that I shared.)

  3. Julie, you give your grief a voice. You may not think of it in this way, but it is a gift. Your words help heal the wounded heart.

  4. I go through this every day. I'm constantly battling with what is the right thing to say, especially to the question - so do you have any kids?

    It's hard and unfortunately for me - I haven't been able to say it without ugly sobs making the situation awkward no matter what.

    You're an excellent example of being strong and proud to say, "Yes my story is sad - but I am a mother no matter what".

  5. Thank you for sharing the pride and joy you feel for your sweet son Jonah. We too know these feelings all too well. In January, our perfectly healthy 19 month old little boy - Bennett - passed away in his sleep. Words can't describe the ache that we feel. But I know you know that.
    You will be in my prayers in the coming hours, days, weeks and months ahead. I know this is not a path I would have ever chosen but it is the hand I've been dealt. And I have determined to do it with honesty, grace and faith. Because the alternative ain't good and is - therefore - not an option.
    Love to you, sweet angel mother . . .

  6. I met a mom a month or so ago and we were talking about kids. She said she had four, but only three living, but she wouldn't forget the other boy. I appreciated her sharing that. I do think it is even more delicate when there aren't other children...not that it is any less of a loss, but I imagine it is different in ways that might change the interaction. If that makes any sense. I am glad you started your blog. ((((hugs))))

  7. Julie, your words are beautiful. Thank you so much for writing this blog and sharing your story and your strength with those of us around you who are not as strong. I'm so glad I know you, and I'm so grateful I got to be friends with Jonah for a little while.

    I think your words here are really profound. If we could all care for each other the way you describe the world would be an amazing place to live.

  8. I hope I can learn to be as brave as you.

  9. I don't know you, but your story has touched me in a way that I cant even describe. I am a mother of 4 under the age of 4 and find myself being frustrated and exhausted with motherhood. I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things I could do and who I could be if my kids were a bit older or I could just have a minute for myself...and then I read your blog. It changed me. After reading your story, (and wiping away many tears) I gathered my children and read to them. We played and laughed like I haven't done with them in awhile. I kissed them and appreciated everything they wanted to tell me. I felt alive again. I haven't felt alive for a long time. More importantly I felt purpose in being a mother. Just reading your words filled me with peace, love and a spirit that bore the most amazing testimony to me. I wish I could give back the gift you've given me. I'm greatful for you and your little boy. Your story is one of such sorrow but you are so strong. Your faith has changed me and I cant thank you enough.

    1. Thank you for this beautiful note. I am so grateful that you have shared your experience with me. Sometimes I wonder why I write this blog, and reading your words gave me new purpose.