Dear Mama at the Pick N’ Save on a Tuesday evening:
I see you. You look haggard and pale like you just got out of the hospital or had one of the roughest days at home with that sweet newborn you have with you. You’re looking at things in the baby aisle but I can tell, nothing you’re looking at is registering in your brain. You have two significantly older, well dressed, and extremely well behaved kids with you who are patient and quiet as you stand there looking without really looking.
I don’t know your story. Perhaps this baby in the car seat was unexpected. Maybe the older children are from a previous relationship. Maybe none of these children are yours at all (although they look just like you). Maybe I’m wrong about everything and you are going through something else entirely. All I know is that when I saw you today, I wanted to hug you and tell you that despite what might be happening with you, you are loved by these kids as they patiently give you space. I had an urge to comfort you, an urge, I presume, that comes from the re-wiring in my brain that happened when my own children were born. You avoided eye contact with me, something I know I’ve done around strangers on the really, really bad days. You wanted to get what you needed and get out of there while at the same time, you lingered and stared blankly at diapers and bottles, prolonging your return to whatever you needed to go home to.
No one ever tells you that in addition to the hectic, sleepless, wondrous and hilarious things that happen during motherhood, there are some equally dark and painful days. Even while surrounded by your kids and loved ones, you can still feel alone. There are the days you contemplate, for one fleeting moment, of leaving those kids in that cart and walking away. Other days, your children are not the root of your suffering, but motherhood doesn’t leave much room for you to make it through your other battles with as much grace as you would like. Today, something was too much for you. You wanted to give up and lay it all down in the baby food section.
If you’re reading this, just know that I saw you and that I still see you in my mind. I prayed for you quietly while I checked out. I hugged my own children a little tighter tonight knowing that it’s not always cuddles and sunshine and I hoped that you did the same too. I hope someone is bringing you a warm drink and taking the baby for a while so you can rest. I hope the older children are helping you in the best way they can while you recover from this day. I pray you will wake up tomorrow morning and accept the gift of a new day. Lastly, I hope you don’t feel invisible because you’re not.
You were drowning today. You hoped to go unseen but I saw you. I only hope that was enough to bring you back to the surface where you will find that we too sometimes get tired of treading water.