The mother in me heard a woman cry today.
I was at a lab getting my third blood draw of the day, and had just seen her in the waiting room. She'd looked 23, maybe 24. She was slight and sinewy, with blonde hair in a bun and anxious eyes. She had just been watching dog videos on her phone and had been sitting next to a woman with pursed lips, a stressed demeanor. It was her mother.
I sat, getting my arm swiped with alcohol, feeling thankful for the one test tube on the table, my baby actively kicking. I was in for a pregnancy glucose tolerance test, a three-hour test to see if I have gestational diabetes.
A shrill whimper suddenly came from the next room, and it sent a shock wave through me. It was the young woman. She started to cry fearfully, sounding like a child.
My limbs hesitated, eyes instinctively welled with tears. I looked at the phlebotomist.
"Is she OK? She must be really afraid of needles." I searched her face for concern.
"Mm hmm," she said, expressionless, and stuck the needle.
The woman sounded terrified. I wondered what must be going on in that room, how the mother was responding, what she must be feeling.
Your baby is always your baby.
I thought of my 3-year-old, the countless times I'd responded to her cries, had rushed to her because she was sick, because she'd had a bad dream, because she needed her Mama. Even now, her slightest sounds will wake me, shoot me upright in bed listening, breathless. Three years of sleep deprivation, plus a few scary-high fevers and stomach viruses, can do that to a parent.
After my test, I sat back in the waiting room, pretended to read when the woman and her mom rushed past me, escaped to the parking lot.
"She just needs some air," the mother called over her shoulder. I looked at them through the window.
The daughter was visibly shaking. I could hear her frenetic cries, watched her mom wrap her arm around her, direct her to the car. Then she came back in and walked quickly toward the exam rooms.
She returned minutes later.
"Is your daughter OK?" I asked.
She looked deflated. "No, she's not OK medically at all."
"I'm so sorry."
She paused, emotion building, then pursed her lips and left.
She was old enough to be my own mother, but in that moment I felt like we were just moms. Moms who worry about their kids. Moms who want to make everything all right, who want to soothe, who want to support and encourage. Moms who want to be present and strong, who want to give, who never press pause, who never stop.
I thought of my own daughter, how soon I'll be the mom of two daughters. How this will never cease, this mother in me. I will always see the world as a mama. I will always think as a mama. I will always see others as someone's child. I will always admire other moms, other dads, anyone who cares for another life.
To the mother of that child, the mother in me sees you, and you've got this. You are doing great. You are strong. You are brave. You are resilient. And you are never, ever alone.