Yes, once upon a time in my motherhood journey, I didn’t really know that being tired, not having shaved my legs, and being pooped on were not unique circumstances. Really. I had no mom friends. I didn’t read anything about moms. And, I was deaf to the complaints that those women called moms were airing about their lives on Oprah.
Now, however, I do know. I now can hear myself complaining and I hate that sound of my own voice.
But, I complain anyway.
Not about getting peed or having severe personal hygiene deficiencies, but about other things. I don’t have time for mom friends. I’m tired. I only wore a robe today. I’m lonely. I can’t live on a budget. My under eye circles are growing.
I once had a goal that this blog would not become my complaining pit, but, at times, it has. At times, I can’t force myself to write about a trip to the park with my daughter when there are “more pressing” matters, namely my unshaven legs.
Take yesterday, for instance. I had a wonderful post planned on my trouble with first trimester fatigue. I ditched that post, however. Not because being tired is in no way a unique circumstance of any pregnant mother on this planet, but because in traveling in the city by train yesterday evening from a outing with a friend, I crossed paths with a homeless, pregnant woman.
She wore a sign made of cardboard on her chest that read, “Pregnant and hungry. Please give food or money.” The friend who I walked with wore a $300 jacket with pretty red buttons and a tie around the waist. She didn’t believe her. “The things people will do for money,” she said in disdain.
I did, however, believe her. The sign she wore was stained and ragged. It was 5:30 pm in the afternoon so most of Washington, DC were leaving work and heading home. They ignored her. The fact that she was pregnant didn’t matter, it seemed. The string that held the sign in place was a very vivid red, the kind of red that you can’t miss from a mile away. Still, no one saw her. No one cared.
“How many months are you?” I asked hesitantly.
She looked up, surprised that anyone could see her, surprised that someone knew that she was real. “I believe I’m seven months. I haven’t been to the doctor to verify this, but I have other children and remember what seven months felt like.”
Like me, here was a pregnant woman, who was, at one point on another, tired, nasueous, emotional. At some point her hands and ankles had become swollen and thick.
While her belly was largely masked by the thick pieces of wool that protected her from the cool of that evening, I knew she was pregnant and I felt her story. I heard her voice.
She was pregnant, like me, but she was different. While I had the privilege of being home and choosing my meals, here she was begging for food, money, anything really. I had everything, but I didn’t care. I must not have cared, otherwise, why would I complain about being tired on a blog that I have the privilege to spend time doing lofty things like writing and thinking about things other than the basic necessities of my life.
I gave her the crumbled few dollars that I had buried in my purse, congratulated her on her pregnancy, and quickly boarded the red line train home.
As I sat in my seat, waiting for the train doors to chime indicating that the train was preparing to leave the platform, I watched her. While invisible to most, I saw her and she and her story were very real to me. The string on her neck was twisted a bit. Her head hung low. Her shoes revealed her ashen and made rugged toes and feet.
I didn’t know her, but in looking at her, I couldn’t fight the urge to imagine her life. She couldn’t have been any older than 35. Perhaps one day, she, like me, was married. I wondered about those other children that she said she had. Did they know that she was homeless?
When I got home, it was the emotions felt from her and her story that gave me reason to count my blessings, to celebrate the good and bad of my lived reality right now.
It could, after all, always be worse. Her story is connected to mine…to all of our stories….in a way that I can not deny. Some call that thing that defines the good that others have as “luck.” And, when someone loses that luck they are “down on their luck.” I’m convinced that it’s more complicated than that, however. It’s not luck that defines my ability to write this blog post while that woman (or any woman) begs for help via a sign on her chest, a sign that others with full bellies and homes to go home to read and ignore because they have the privilege, the authority to doubt her authenticity. It’s life.
I’m no better than her, but our lives may give that false impression. Where I am today may not be where I will be tomorrow, but I am, I continue to remind myself, still thankful, nonetheless, always thankful.