I sat in a heap on a maroon couch stained with formula and breast milk. One tiny infant sat at my feet in a blue bouncy seat, while I held the other at a cracked nipple with tears streaming down my face. I had no idea what time it was or even day of the week. My husband was traveling for business, and I was trying to care for two premature babies, one who couldn’t stay awake to eat, the other so tiny she looked more like a little girl’s play doll than a child. 

I could feel my heart beating faster as my little daughter refused to eat. My frustration ebbed as I felt the pain as she tried to latch on, the desperation to be finished so I could close my eyes for a mere second. Just as she started to nurse, her sister started to wail, and that was when the darkness started seeping into the life I had prayed to God to provide me for the last five years.

I was drowning in a sea of motherhood. Just when I thought I would sink into the abyss, a pair of hands reached down and lifted the tiny baby from my arms with strong hands etched with lines. She whispered in my ear, “Lay down for a little bit. I’ll take care of them.” And I watched my mom exit my living room with a baby in each arm. She saved me that day.

A few years later, I sat on the same stained couch with papers strewn from end-to-end and a computer on my lap. Already into the early morning hours, I read words over and over again regarding a controversial surgery my daughter could have to potentially correct a condition in her legs that impaired her walking. After talking to several medical professionals, the team was split with half recommending the procedure and half wanting to try other options. 

I was drowning in the fear of motherhood, of the fear of choosing what was best for my child. Just when I felt the doubt and guilt and anxiety consuming my existence, I heard a ding from my computer signifying I received a message. Another mother’s two hands typed a message to me: “I don’t know you or your situation, but I read your message asking about the surgery. No matter what you choose, it will be the right choice for your little girl and your family. Let me know if you need to talk.”

And with that simple message, those kind words, I could breathe again. Knowing another mother was in my corner, I started thinking clearly and found my resolve.

A few years after that, I sat alone in my dark bedroom listening to my kids playing outside. A freak illness left me bed-ridden for several months and the constant pain caused me to isolate myself. I worried about my three daughters who now rarely saw their mother and my husband who had to take on my load, and the tears started falling down my cheeks. 

It was then another mother’s hand pushed the doorbell of my home, delivering dinner for my family. Then another mother drove up to bring my daughter to soccer practice, and yet another delivered black pants for a concert at school. I know my kids missed me, but their needs were never forgotten. And when I recovered and the darkness of depression as a result of my illness almost swallowed me whole, the same mothers’ hands pulled me out. They texted and called and reached for me until I could find my footing again.

We think as mothers we are only here to care for our children, but sometimes it is only another mother’s hands that can save one drowning in the motherhood. 

It is in our hands as mothers to make others feel less alone, less isolated, less smothered. It’s in our hands to reach out, connect, and share our stories. It’s in our hands to help carry the load when another mother stumbles, it’s in our hands to pick up another mother’s child when she can’t pick her up herself.

Thanks to the mothers who have offered me a hand during this journey. Thank you for saving me from drowning in motherhood.


Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.