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My Ever Upward Mothering

Exhausted; physically and emotionally to only be on a late flight home the Sunday before Christmas on December 21st, 2014. December 21st, one of my seared dates, a day I was supposed to become a mother two years ago, even though I now know I became a mother the day a dreamed of becoming one.

Just a few days ago on December 21st, when I shouldhave had a two year old on my lap, God wrapped my seared date up with the perfect ending. The old me, before working on my recovery, would have been crushed, frustrated and sad with the ending I was given that day. And, I will admit there was still a part of my heart that felt that punch to the gut. But most of my heart and soul knew that this ending was perfectly imperfect, the complicated grey and the warm embrace from God reminding me that I am better than okay.

I had spent the three days prior to December 21st witnessing and helping my in laws, my family,through Chad’s sister, Becky, receiving a heart transplant. Three weeks prior we had been through the heart ache and scare of not knowing whether she would make it and of wondering how long she would have to wait for a new heart. During that week, I mothered. And those three days prior to what would have been the 2nd birthday of our never to be baby, I mothered again.

I supported by writing the Caring Bridge site. I bossed around loved ones, reminding them to eat and sleep. I provided space to doubt, question and talk through the gravity of the experience. I helped feed Becky in her early days of recovery with her new heart. I helped wash her hair, combed through it and made it as pretty as possible. I reminded her of and reflected back to her the strength that she has, the power to be whoever she wants to be and that she deserves the world, especially from those around her. And, I cheered her on and cried tears of joy as she accomplished her first walk down the ICU hall with her new heart.

I mothered.

mothered not my own children but I mothered no less.

I mothered in the way that I am accepting and embracing but also defining myself.


Because, as my friend Kelly has seared into my heart and soul, I am meant to mother the world.

As I was helping and taking care of everyone at the hospital, the significance of the date had slipped my mind, for I was distracted putting everyone else above myself, just like moms do.

December 21st, the due date of our last embryo.

But December 21st (or August 31st) will never again pass without significance for me. Which is exactly when God gave me that nice nudge and warm embrace I needed. Reminding me by placing me on a plane home, the Sunday before Christmas, not only on a flight filled with kids but with several right around me. The two year old and his five month old brother in the row in front of us and the adorable six month old little girl right next to me and her 18 month old sister across the aisle from her. For just a second, as I smiled and talked to that bright blue eyed and full joy six month old named Zoe, I felt that twinge.

That twinge of damn it, not fairSeriously, after everything and on this day You sit me surrounded by adorable kids?

But, then I felt the light. The light I’ve worked hard to define myself and the work that I have practiced in finding my ever upward. The light that comes with the deep knowing breath and the grateful smile, that this is exactly as it is meant to be, there are no mistakes and He’s proud of my journey. So proud that He sat me next to those kids on that flight home, not as a punch to the gut but as that pat on the back, the hand on the shoulder and the embrace to say:

You are okay. You have done the work to be well with your soul. Continue the journey out of the ashes, it never is fixed but rather continues to heal.

And, making sure I know He is pouring my heart and soul full of the message:

You are doing your ever upward mothering and you are doing good My child.


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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