On Clumsy Motherhood & Angels in Coffee Shops
You clamor in to the coffee shop, carrying your six-week-old baby in her infant car seat. It’s heavy, and you lose your balance as you struggle to open the door with your one free hand. Two men in suits look up from their table and watch.
You’ll later learn not to carry your baby around in that cumbersome car seat. But you don’t know that yet. You’re a brand new mom.
You’re carrying a diaper bag on your other shoulder and a novel is tucked under your arm. Your baby fusses as you wait in line to order your coffee. The men in suits shoot you a look.
You’re wearing yoga pants because it’s all you fit in right now. Your brittle, thin hair is pulled back. In about thirty minutes, your baby will need a drink of milk, so you will have to leave. You’ll later get very comfortable with breastfeeding in public, and before long you’ll pull down your shirt anywhere you need to. But not yet.
You rock your baby in the car seat as your iced coffee is prepared. Your name is called. Do you carry your baby with you to the drink counter, or do you take the eight – maybe nine – steps yourself and hope that nobody kidnaps her? You decide to take her out of the car seat, carry to the counter, grab your drink and return to your table. Your baby makes a few cranky newborn squeaks. The men in suits dart another look.
You wonder what you’re doing here.
But you know the answer, don’t you? You’re here because you are mourning the loss of independence for this perfect, tiny creature that needs you around the clock. You are here because the days at home are long, and you feel like you don’t love your baby as much as you tell people. You’re here because you think maybe reading a few pages of a novel might make you feel human again.
With your baby pressed against your chest, you open your book.
You read three pages. Your baby is fidgety and aggravated. It’s time for you to go.
Two women from a table nearby look at you, swap some words and then look at you again. You’re packing up your things when one of them approaches you.
Her face is weathered, but she is dressed sharp. She is a grandma probably, but not grandmotherly.
You’re embarrassed of your sloppy appearance, the way your belongings are sprawled on the floor all around you, the clumsy way in which you tried to manage holding your baby, your book and your coffee, the pitiful vibes you’re sending to the atmosphere.
“Good for you for getting out,” she says, smiling. “I know I don’t know you, but I’m proud of you.”
A year later, you remember these words vividly. That woman, whoever she is, helped you find your solid ground as a mother. She showed faith in you to rise to the challenges in your new season of life. She looked past the lonely, unwieldy new mother you were that day and recognized your fierce mother spirit within.
When you hear your friends talk about the absurd, cruel things people say to new mothers, you chime in with your stories. You have a few.
But you also know that this isn’t the whole truth. Sometimes strangers, as if delegated by the angels, say exactly what you need to hear in that very moment.
You know because you were there.
Photo by “Despite Straight Lines” via Flickr Creative Commons