Earlier this week, if you had encountered me, you would have met a woman with downcast eyes, slumped shoulders and a smile that couldn’t quite make it to the surface. If you had bumped into me that day, you would not have recognized me. Usually my eyes happily meet each person I pass … there is always a smile just waiting to come out to brighten someone’s day. But that day, I couldn’t produce any of that. First impressions would have tagged me as unapproachable, maybe … sullen … irritated … disconnected … defiant.
Peeling back the layers, you would have found such a different story. You would realize that those downcast eyes were a form of protection – a way to keep the tears that threatened to overfill, at bay. You would have seen a deep exhaustion … weeks of not sleeping properly from the usual pregnancy hormones, from many hours relieving every moment she spent with her daughter who died less than a year ago – and desperate wishes that she didn’t have to repeat that heartache with her sweet little boy she is carrying, from physical pain so great that it never abates, even at night. (Another complication from a sweet baby who is breech and doesn’t have any fluid to relieve his weight off of her muscles and nerves).
Those slumped shoulders? That mother spent her afternoon choosing and ordering clothes to snuggle her sweet baby in. Not for the first months of her baby’s life. But for the moments that she will have him after birth and for his burial. The pressure of choosing just the right thick, fluffy blanket that would fill in an extremely tiny casket to enclose her baby in. The planning of what type of flowers she will need to order to put in his tiny burial grave. Of choosing the perfect yarn to make a tiny little hat to put on his head when he is born – so he will have something handmade by his Momma. Of realizing that, yet again, she doesn’t want to give up the clothing that touches his little body while he is alive, and so everything needs to be in duplicate so he will be comforted in life and she will gain small comfort in being able to touch his little clothes after he is gone. Those shoulders slumped a little lower with each process that happened that afternoon. Decisions that were almost too much to take.
The lack of smile – the corners of her mouth not itching to grin … the pain of feeling her sweet baby move – knowing that each little movement brings them one step closer to when they will need to say hello and goodbye in the same day. If time could just slow down, to cherish those moments … but if time could just speed up, to meet pain face to face. The confusion steals smiles.
I share the background of one of my recent days with you, not for sympathy, but to drive the point home that we never know who is behind the exterior we see. I am far from unapproachable … sullen … irritated … disconnected … defiant. Instead, I am an approachable, happy, laid back, very connected person who is going through one of the darkest valleys of my life. May we always treat those we meet as though the very best of a personality is buried beneath what we initially see. Everyone we meet is facing something we cannot comprehend. Treat with love. With compassion. With understanding. May we always remember this.
See the beauty in one another’s dawn.