It was a beautiful day.
A day so beautiful that I hyped myself out of a depressive fog. Or at least, I was able to fake it.
It was a gorgeous fall day, and I knew my days of enjoying fresh air were numbered. I knew I had to get outside before winter arrived to veil us with darkness and cold.
I worked all day. It was not beautiful there. It was anxiety-provoking, stressful, and overwhelming.
But, the sun gently coaxed me to pause the thoughts in my mind to enjoy the hour between work and dinner.
I packed up the kids, dressing them in something cute for this rare outing. It felt harder than it needed to feel. There was a tantrum, something wasn’t how the 4-year-old needed it to be. But, I knew we had to get out there.
I was desperate for a moment of simple happiness.
I needed to see my kids smile and laugh. And I needed to smile and laugh right along with them.
My anxiety knew no limits. It followed me around to make each part of life a little bit harder than it needed to be. Being around people was especially triggering, but I knew I could hold it together for a little while. Just long enough for these precious tiny humans to feel joy.
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We drove to our favorite park. A beautiful wooden playground where you can feel the lake breeze.
I took a few deep breaths in the car before unbuckling my kids who were squealing with joy once they caught the glimpse of the playground from their car seats.
I tried my best to be in the moment.
Despite the halo of anxiety, I felt happiness
Then, the baby fell. It was one of the confusing accidents when you can’t figure out what happened exactly. I was right next to her—I really was. There are times when they’ve been faster than me or that I’ve been distracted by my phone, but this wasn’t one of those times. She still fell. And she was bleeding like I’ve never seen in either of my children or even myself. Her ruffled, baby-pink top was quickly turning burgundy as her older sister cried hysterically at the scene.
My brain swirled with a variety of thoughts and feelings.
Fear as I wondered if this baby was seriously injured.
Embarrassment while I assumed all these parents thought I was negligent.
Confusion about this happening.
Desperation while hoping to just disappear and transport home somehow.
But, I stayed calm. I knew I had to for them.
I started my strange walk of shame, walking over some wooden bridges and under the monkey bars while parents snuck their glances, some wearing looks of concern.
I could feel the judgment.
I then realized I didn’t even have baby wipes in my car. The least prepared mom at the playground, I’m sure. I was wiping my baby’s blood on my shirt as a woman came over.
Her face was kind as she asked, “What can I do? Can I help put your daughter in the car? Those face injuries bleed so much.”
I thanked her and gathered the courage to ask if she happened to have any wipes. I was embarrassed, but my shirt was burgundy now too.
She ran off and returned with a fresh pack. She told me to keep them and looked happy to have been able to help. Not in an obnoxious way, just in the good-human type of way.
I thank her again and after what seems like an eternity, I get the kids buckled and home.
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I ended up keeping those wipes in my car for months.
A small part of me kept them for their practical purposes, but mostly, I keep them as a reminder.
A reminder that I can handle it when things go wrong.
A reminder that happiness can be worth the risk.
A reminder that even when things feel hard, I can get through them.
But, most of all, a reminder that there are people out there to help.
A reminder that not everyone is judging.
A reminder that other moms have been there, too.
A reminder that I am not alone.
I wouldn’t recognize this mom if I saw her again, but I hope she knows what her kind gesture meant to me.