There’s a meme I’ve seen going around. You may have seen it, too. It reads: “Women, let’s be as kind to each other as we are when we are drunk in bar bathrooms.” This is so full of truth it’s painful, but this sweetness extends beyond the “bar scene” days. Women are also unquestionably kind to one another when it comes to complimenting the appearance of a mother with a newborn.
Shortly after my youngest was born, when I felt bold and strong enough to venture from the cocoon of my home into the (relative) wild of a neighborhood coffee shop, I received such an honor. An ever so slightly older woman (let’s just say she coulda been my momma) observed me, my husband, and our tiny little squirming bundle, and after the obligatory cooing and ahhing (“She’s so cute! What’s her name?”) she looked directly in my face and said-
“You look WONDERFUL, hon. Wonderful.”
Our eyes locked. Silent sentiments were spoken. The sisterhood circle remained unbroken. My eyes brimmed over only a little bit as I squeaked out – “Thanks. Means a lot.” She nodded, I nodded. I’ll never see her again, but I love her.
My husband observed the exchange. “Uh, do you know her?”
“No”, I said, still keeping the tears at bay. “And she’s correct, isn’t she?” My spouse, who is very intelligent, agreed immediately.
“Yes, yes, of course. You look great. Yes. But why would she just tell you that?”
At face value, this isn’t a huge compliment. I’m not excessively vain, and to be quite honest, I didn’t look wonderful. My hair was clean, but not blown dry and was pulled up into a ponytail. I had managed a smattering of lipgloss and some eyeliner, but no one was mistaking me for Sofia Vergara. Still, it meant a lot to me, all the same.
I would imagine that any mother beginning her bleary-eyed, exhausted, foggy, blessed journey feels this way. It’s still diapers, and milk, and ohmygodisthatspitupalloverme?! Biological, adoptive, bottle feeding, breastfeeding, staying at home, working, I don’t care if you have a live-in nanny and 3 maids, your momma AND your Maw Maw.
Looking presentable enough to bring the garbage out is an accomplishment. Being told you look “wonderful?” Might as well be a proposal from Prince Harry.
So, that’s what I tried to convey to my husband. “She told me ‘I look good’ but it’s not actually about my appearance. It’s about support. It’s saying she’s proud of me for being up and about, and that she’s been there, and millions of other women have been before me, and will be after me.”
He smiled and rubbed my hand, no stranger to sleepless nights and emotions on full blast himself.
The moment was beautiful. Full, and complete, and just so happy.
Half a year later, with months of confusion and haziness behind us, and an upright, smiling baby in front of us, he observed another couple in the grocery store with a teeny tiny newborn. “Excuse me,” he approached them – “What an adorable baby. And my wife would want me to tell you-“ he said to the young mother, looking squarely at her face and not at her frame at all (for I have told you, my husband is very intelligent) “that you look GREAT.”