I was in the middle of buckling up my toddler in her car seat, after picking up a few things I didn’t need at Target when I glanced up and noticed some movement in an old beat-up minivan parked next to me.
Through the passenger window, I watched a young woman, maybe in her twenties, also strapping a young child into a car seat. There were two children. The older child appeared to be around my daughter’s age, two or so, while the other was merely an infant, fresh from the delivery stork.
I continued to watch her despite sweat beginning to form above my brow, my forehead likely already a glistening mess.
She drew me in.
I finished buckling in my daughter and handed over her favorite lift-the-flap book before closing the door and making my way to the driver’s side.
I looked over again at the young woman.
She was struggling with the car seats.
Or, so I thought.
After I threw my purse on the passenger seat and turned on the AC, I sat there for a moment pondering.
Should I ask her if she needs help?
Should I step in?
She probably doesn’t need my help.
She’s going to think I’m a creeper.
Just mind your own business.
I sat there for a good minute, bantering inside my head before I was snapped back to reality with a knock on my window.
It was the young woman.
“I’m so sorry to bother you, but I noticed you pushing a little girl in a shopping cart earlier. I was just wondering if you had extra wipes at all with you. I left my diaper bag at home. I just need some wipes.”
Her eyes watered as she continued to speak.
“My daughter pooped through her clothes, and it’s everywhere. I’m afraid she’s going to put her hands in her mouth on our ride home. I have to do something.”
“No worries, I got it all,” I responded a little too eagerly as I jumped out of the car.
“I have wipes; I have a diaper, I have an extra set of clothes.”
I walked to the other side of my car, popped open the door, and grabbed the diaper bag, and two water bottles left in the backseat from my stepson’s football game the previous weekend.
As I walked to the woman’s van, I noticed she was already undressing her soiled daughter. I handed her some of the baby wipes and an extra diaper.
“I have a pair of shorts and a tank top she can have too. My daughter has almost grown out of them anyway.”
She looked up and smiled as she wiped off the little girl’s legs.
As she tended to the girl, I unhooked the car seat and placed it on the ground. With my bottled water and wipes, I began rinsing off the seat and wiping out the mess.
After a little bit of TLC, the seat was good to go. Well, I could launder it properly.
“Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would have done. This has just been one heck of a day. My husband is out of town for work. I got 3 hours of sleep last night. I just can’t do anything right today,” she said, shaking her head.
My heart sank.
I’d walked that road before.
I knew exactly how she felt.
Without hesitation, I hugged her.
In the middle of a packed Target parking lot, two young moms, who had met only minutes earlier, were in full embrace.
Then, I did something my heart told me to do.
I gave her my phone number and asked for hers.
I shared with her that I lived close by and had lots of toys, coffee, and a nice playground near my house.
“How old is your baby?” I asked.
“She’s a month old. She’s the reason my brain can’t function anymore,” she chuckled.
“Don’t worry; I completely get it.”
After swapping numbers, we agreed to meet up sometime in the future.
As she pulled out, she waved at me, and then we proceeded to drive off in opposite directions.
The whole ride home I was consumed with a flurry of thoughts.
How often do you get that urge to reach out to someone, but you convince yourself otherwise?
I don’t know her well enough.
It’s been too long.
She’s going to think I’m weird.
She doesn’t need me.
She won’t care if I don’t call.
You create a laundry list of excuses for why you shouldn’t connect.
But what if that person does need you?
What if that old friend you see on Facebook who just had a baby does need to hear from someone who understands?
Someone who cares.
What if the mom sitting alone on the park bench playing with her phone has anxiety and desperately wishes another mom would come over to her and say hello?
What if that mom standing right next to you in the checkout line is in a dark bout of depression and could use your smile and kindness?
Recently, I read that postpartum suicide is the second leading cause of death among new mothers.*
It broke my heart.
The day your newborn baby is placed in your arms is often the best moment of your life.
Despite those feelings in the delivery room, anxiety, stress, and depression can follow in the postpartum period. And without help, sometimes these feelings can turn tragic.
Mamas you see every day walking in the grocery store, playing with their children in the park, and sitting in the pews of your local church are struggling.
This mama standing right next to my car was struggling in a significant way, and here I was trying to convince myself that she didn’t need my help, when in fact, she needed my help and more.
Whether it’s a hug, words of encouragement, friendly conversation, or heck, a change of clothes and wipes, reach out when you see a fellow mama who looks like she may (or may not) need help.
It’s better to have the help and not need it than to need it and not have it.
As moms, we will always be stronger together.
We will always need the support of a village.
Don’t hesitate to be a part of another mom’s village.
Mama, that other Mom needs you, too.
Women experiencing suicidal thoughts should always seek help from a medical professional. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line provides free, 24-hour support. For help, text HOME to 741-741 for free.