Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I'm not sure if it's the city I live in but I see an abundance of very young mothers on a daily basis. Mothers passing their babe around like a fashion accessory with very little regard for their well being. Mothers pushing their child in a stroller through harsh winter elements when their child isn't appropriately dressed. Mothers feeding their infant McDonald's french fries. Witnessing such instances makes my heart hurt. So very much. Maybe it's a demographic thing, but "unfit" mothers seem to rampant here.

While at a mall on Saturday afternoon with Andrew and Ember, we came upon a mother (21ish) on a cell phone while her son (probably a year and a half old) cried a pain ridden, tired cry in his stroller. There were two security guards (no older than 21) squatting beside the the little guy telling him to calm down. I slowed our pace to watch the scene and tried to ascertain the problem hoping to offer help. The little boy was beat red and had been clearly crying for some time and looked faint. He was wearing a full snowsuit, mittens and winter boots on. My first thought - he's baking.

It's freezing cold outside, no question, but the mall was warm - heat pumping and throngs of eager holiday shoppers; Andrew, Ember and I were stripped out of our winter duds and walking in long sleeve shirts, still warm.

I couldn't help but approach the mom, boy and security guards: "Can I do anything to help?" The security guards looked up as if I was from outer space and said, "No, the paramedics are on their way." Up close, I was also able to overhear the mom on the phone with presumably, 9-1-1. She seemed wholly confused and was having a tough time understanding which mall exit the ambulance was going to arrive. She didn't look up to recognize my presence. They boy continued to cry and almost appeared semi-conscious. The security guards were prompting him to stay awake. Horribly, I wanted to strip him down - he looked so warm.

The whole scene was painful to watch.

On the verge of tears, I caught up to Andrew and Ember. I couldn't help but scoop Ember up out of the stroller, smooch her on the cheek and tell her 'I love you'. Moments later, the security guards ushered the mother and her son, to the nearest exit to where the ambulance was presumably waiting. Again, I heard, "Just stay awake. Keep your eyes open." The boy was still in the stroller.

I don't have all the details obviously, and I don't know what the circumstances were but I do know that the mother did not touch her son once that I saw. I would have been carrying my child crying to an ambulance. I would be assuring my babe that I loved him and offered him comfort. This mom did nothing of the sort and laughed like she was embarrassed while walking by.

That was nearly 72 hours ago and I still well up with tears thinking about it and worry about that boy, hoping all is well now.

Like I said, I have witnessed many a scene like that in this fair city. I'm not here to condemn young mothers as I know not all are ill equipped and I know older mothers don't have it all figured out either. We are all doing our best and we all have our share of trying moments where we don't have the answers or patience.

Driving home that afternoon, I couldn't help but talk about how disturbed I was and how my heart was breaking for that little boy. Looking back on similar scenes I've witnessed, I can't help but think about how poorly educated and informed the bulk of mothers in those situations appear. They appear to have very limited resources. They are often alone or part of a large social circle trying to live the life they would have before baby.

I think about how we are all allowed to leave the hospital after bringing a life into the world. There we are, battered by delivery, and armed with few brochures of what will happen to ourselves and baby in coming weeks, sent home to care for and raise a human being. Hell, my husband after his appendectomy received more news and direction at discharge than we did coming home with Ember.

My stepmother-in-law, Michelle, is a teaching aid, and often points out how Andrew and I are doing everything right: reading to Ember, encouraging communication and nurturing her. I laugh and say, it's such a no brainer. She sombrely replies, "You'd be surprised how many parents don't do anything like that."

Let me stress that I don't have it all figured out. Not even close. Some days are better than others. Some days I'm grateful for the reset button that is night time. I always take comfort in knowing that my girl is loved and for that she is richer. But for some mothers, who lack information and education, love isn't enough. They are alone in the hardest job on the planet without help or knowing where to turn. I think about that little boy and how hard he was working to communicate and no one was adequately listening or comforting him. I think about that mother and how confused she appeared and almost unmoved by the situation. My heart is heavy and I am haunted by it.


  1. Hmmm Sarah.
    Makes me think of a past job that I had. For 5 years (prior to children) I worked at a downtown drop in-centre for at-risk, transient and homeless youth. Young mother's were a large number of the youth that we supported. Not being a mother at the time, I supported them as best I could and knew how at the time. But really if you don't parent a child, you just don't know what it takes. When Kam was born, I can tell you that I spent countless nights rocking or nursing her back to sleep sobbing and thinking about all those young teen parents who had entered into parenthood so much younger than I did and my heart ached knowing that I likely didn't know half of what their experience as a mother was like, though I tried. I wept for all those babies and kids that I held and played with and was thankful that I saw them happy, but also worried about what home life was like for them. I wondered what became of them all?
    With that said, I also know that I worked with some amazing young mothers whose lives were transformed through motherhood. I have always said it and it applies here too - Babies change lives - and I saw some young mothers become strong independent women and gentle caregivers.
    Its hard not to care so much for children in distress. I think its instinctual to want to try to help.
    This story makes me want to go love up my sleeping babes right now!

  2. Kristin,
    I struggled with whether or not to write this story because I didn't want to generalize all young mothers. Talking to Andrew about it again tonight, I said I know everyone reacts differently in times of stress but that woman... Andrew said she looked more embarrassed than concerned.
    I have had the same thoughts as you - applauding young, single mothers thinking I would have NEVER been able to hack it. And how much more difficult the everyday must be.
    I hope you don't think me a horrible, judgmental bitch but my spidey senses were tingling like mad on Saturday. Something was amiss.
    Ember has been victim to many smooches and snuggles since with the hopes that I can right all the wrongs in the world.

  3. SPIDEY SENSES! One of my friends says that and I love it.
    No I don't think that way of you, I understand where you are coming from with this. I just wanted to highlight that I saw positive amongst all of the concern that I saw as well. ; ) No worries! ; )