Inspiration Journal

To the Woman Who Saved Me From Drowning

To the Woman Who Saved Me From Drowning
Written by Aimee Niebuhr

We were traipsing through the library; I led the way with my baby held tightly in the sling, my shoulder aching under the weight of the book bag as I tried to carry it all. “I am always trying to carry it all,” I thought, tears threatening to fill my eyes again. My boys were in a single-file line directly behind me, the three-year-old marching proudly, peanut butter smeared across his cheek and a few, new paperbacks in his unwashed hands, and my six-year-old, dressed in mismatched clothing and wild hair, struggling to hold an enormous stack of science books, bringing up the caboose of our ragamuffin train.

As we weaved in-and-out of the tables filled with quiet adults, you caught my eye. I noticed the two girls on either side of you, the diligent way they wrote in their workbooks as you patiently guided and instructed. You appeared so calm and well put together, nothing at all like the disaster I had turned out to be.

A smile broke across your friendly face as your booming voice interrupted the library’s silence, “Just look at this little family right here! I love this sweet family! Everyone’s hands filled with books. You’re doing it right, mama. You’re doing this right.” I looked around for a brief moment, searching for the lovely family you were noticing, until I realized that the mama you were praising was me. Me. Disheveled, on the brink of collapse, me. Stunned, I managed a polite, “Thank you,” feeling oddly encompassed by your joy. It was soothing, like falling into the easy chair that sat in your grandparents’ living room for decades, before the house was sold that day. Like hugging someone you’ve desperately been missing, who has long since left this earthly world.

I almost requested that you take our photo, my hand instinctively flying toward the phone in my back pocket, because I needed some proof – a snapshot to see what it was that you could see. All week all I had seen was failure. Nothing was terribly wrong, but nothing at all felt right, either. And I was certain the wrongness was all because of me.


What you did not know on that day that your smile illuminated my weary soul was that I had dragged all of us to the library out of absolute desperation. You see, I am a mother occasionally washed adrift in sadness. It descends like a tidal wave of crushing despair. I do not know when the waters will rise, but when it hits me, it is all I can do to keep from drowning.

You did not know that my bag was filled with self-help books strong women have written, resolving that, if I was doomed to remain on a sinking ship, I might as well sink down under the words of those who have made it.

What you didn’t see was the guilt I was carrying, when you admired their little hands filled with books. You didn’t know that for days my children had sat in front Netflix; in three nights there had not been a single, bedtime book.

What you could not have imagined is that when we arrived at the library’s exit that morning, I had considered driving away. I didn’t know where I wanted to run to, but the anxiety in me told me to just get far, far away.

So when your eyes lit with joy at the sight of me, when your heart softened with love for my three, you had no idea that you were reminding me of the worth the world sees in me. You had no idea that our brief encounter would set me free.

Suddenly I remembered I was more than depression, greater than the hopelessness that sweeps over me. You saw me when I had forgotten my courage and grit, leading my children on, listlessly, and told me I was loveable, anyway.

It was only a brief minute in time that you came into my life before we checked our books and went on our way. Yet, you have stayed in my heart for days upon days; you were with me as I drove home and wept. I wept for people like you who see mamas like me and somehow know to send out a lifeboat. I wept for mamas like me who get caught in monsoons in their minds, and manage to keep air in their lungs. Because some days it is all I can do to keep breathing, but you reminded me that I always find my way up out of the floods.

I wish I could tell you thank you for the rescue you performed that day. How amazingly serendipitous this life is, that you, a stranger, were sent to show me the way.

About the author

Aimee Niebuhr

Aimee is a freelance writer and homeschooling, stay-at-home mom living in Austin, Texas. Her days are filled with the sweet chaos of raising three children, nurturing their love for learning and literature, and finding stolen moments to chase after her dreams. When the hustle gets hectic, (and let’s get real, it’s always hectic!) she turns to strong coffee, good chocolate and humor to make it through. You can find her inspiring women to stay centered in seeking their joy at and follow her journey to self-love at at


    • Exactly, Kim!! I was astonished by the encounter and knew for sure God was with us in that moment. Thank you so much for reading. <3

  • Beautiful beautiful beautiful, Aimee. I hear you and get you. I have definitely felt the same and I will never forget the lady at Target who once said exactly the right thing to me at exactly the right moment. ❤️

    • Yes, Christina!! I have had a handful of moments such as this and will forever remember them, as well. Isn’t it amazing, that God places people into our lives just when we most need their kindness? Thank you so much for reading, sweet friend.

    • Emily, I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to share with each other and find encouragment in each other’s stories. Thank you for reading, sweet friend.

    • Niki, I am so glad to hear the message of this story found you when you needed it. Thank you for reading! Have a beautiful day!

    • Isn’t it incredible, Shaunacey? These brief encounters that change the course of our day — or even our week. As always, I truly appreciate your support and you taking a moment to read my stories. <3

  • Aimee, you have such a beautiful way with words. We have never met, but I feel like your posts always speak to me and give me peace. Thank you for this wonderfully real and raw post.

    • Shahla, I am so grateful to have connected with you in this wide world of talented women who share their passions through their words. You are always encouraging and so uplifting. Thank you for continually supporting my efforts. <3

    • It really is incredible how people can enter into our lives for just a moment yet have such a profound impact. Thank you for reading, Naya. <3

  • This is such a sweet post, and a great reminder of why I try to make eye contact with or smile at as many people as I can during the day. You never know who needs a smile!
    xoxo, erin |

    • Erin, I love that you make it a point to smile and everyone you possibly can. What a ray of light you are bringing to the world! Thank you for reading. <3

  • This is so beautiful. How many of us moms need just a smile or a word of encouragement to help us through those hectic days? I have been the mom that you felt like on that day and I have also been the encourager. Kudos to those of us who lift each other up!

    • Anita, yes!! Something as simple as a kind word or smile from a stranger can be enough to brighten someone’s day. It doesn’t take much to reach out and be a light, does it? Thank you so much for reading!

  • This is so beautiful!! What a lovely moment that will forever be on your heart and one i am sure you will have the chance to shower another mama with love and affirmation as well. So so special!

    • Kathryn, it certainly is a moment that I will treasure, always. Isn’t it amazing how a simple moment of kindness have leave such a large imprint upon our hearts? Thank you so much for reading!

  • That is amazing. I’ve had my moments of despair where I’ve wanted to hide… at church.. yup with my toddler removing her shoes screaming at the top of her lungs ” mama I got to pee” my two middle ones wanting to complain to me while I am trying to get a grasp of my youngest and my oldest with a face of WHY am I hear.. and there I sit saying Lord I want to hear your words but HMM YEAH… and then the service is over and as I wait to exist I hear from a lady I’ve never meant saying Bless you and your beautiful children your doing a wonderful job. I want to turn and say hmm I KNOW you not talking to me or are you just feeling sorry for my crazy right about now.. but I can see the joy in her eyes and she REALLY means the words she is sending meaning and I just have to smile and say well OK then… and live to fight another day…BIG Hugs to you and the wonderful gift of that other mama as well.

    • Oh, Ellie, don’t we all have those moments of despair. Mothering can be so difficult, can’t it? Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. I am grateful that someone took a moment to bless you with kindness, too. Isn’t it amazing how a simple moment like the one you had in church can have a lasting effect upon us? Big hugs and blessings to you, too!

  • Such a beautiful post Aimee, have said it before but i love love your writing! Thanks for sharing, and especially today i can really relate to your library day… Wine time now that the little guy is finally asleep!

    • Tineke, you always bring a smile to me as you offer such genuine support. Thank YOU for reading! And how I hope that your Sunday evening improved and that this week is off to a good start for you.

    • Robert, thank you for reading. I absolutely agree that what we do — and how we treat others — defines our time here and the legacy we leave behind.

    • Thank you for reading, Suzanne! Although, I do apologize for the tears. So glad you found encouragment in this story — I know I found great encouragment in the moment. xo

  • Absolutely love this. Most moms have been there at one point or another, and it just goes to show how important a simple act of kindness can be. Thank you for sharing.

  • I love this post so much and it’s so poignant and well written. I’ve been there too and often lately. Sometimes life gets so pressing and tough and it takes one moment of kindness to pull us out of the depths of despair. I’m so thankful that someone was kind and thoughtful in a moment that you needed it so much.

  • I loved reading this post, and truth be told, I needed it today. We have a beautiful, loving blended family but as a mom and a step mom, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some tough days! Thank you for sharing! This really lifted my spirits!

  • Sharing today. This post was so beautiful, Aimee! I’m glad you put it on the Naptime Nation thread because I’m terrible at scheduling posts and I meant to put this up when you originally posted!