“Mothers seem to just know things about each other. It is a gift we are given along with radar for finding lost left shoes and knowing when the tummy aches are real or just an excuse to get out of bed again.”
So goes a poignant quote from a recent Facebook post by Lauri Walker of Mama Needs a Nap. And it could not be more true.
Sometimes, we just know. It’s how mothers are made.
Eight years ago, when Walker’s last child was still a baby, she and a friend, a fellow mother, sat together in her living room and did what women do. What mothers do. They held each other up on a day when neither knew if they had the strength to do so on their own.
Walker’s post tells the story of her good friend Renee, who lost her adult son to drug addiction.
On the day she snapped the photo which now accompanies her post, Walker says that her friend’s heart was “aching for the boy she remembered, lost to a beast who showed no mercy.”
Walker was grieving, too, despite having a new healthy baby at home; because in the previous year, she’d lost a son of her own, at 17 weeks gestation.
“We were bound in the mutual pain of a mother who could not save the life of her child no matter how much she wanted to or how hard she tried,” she writes in her heartbreaking post.
In it, Walker talks a lot about the guilt that comes with losing a baby. Because if you wish your baby hadn’t died, then it means the new baby you have now wouldn’t be here. And “how does a mother yearn for one without wishing away the other in her arms?” she asks.
But one day, caught in the turmoil of guilt and grief and exhaustion — between a baby who wouldn’t sleep and the responsibilities of caring for her other kids — Walker’s friend Renee asked to stop by.
“I was at my worst. My most vulnerable,” Walker admits in her post. “But she came. She sat in my rocking chair and snuggled my son. As she rocked, we visited. She held him close and breathed in his baby smell and I saw her tears fall. I let myself sink into the comfort of her presence as I sank into the cushions of my couch. I didn’t sleep. I just appreciated her being there with me.”
Walker later realized that although she had gotten a much-needed break that afternoon, the visit had helped Renee, too.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I offered her comfort, as well,” writes Walker. “I reminded her that her son was so much more than the tragedy that had taken him. He was the baby she had carried, he was the toddler she had nurtured, and he was the young man whose smile she had adored. His memory lived forever in her heart. She could no more have stopped his addiction than I could have kept my own boy’s heart beating inside my body.”
And they sat there together, giving what the other needed — comfort, friendship, permission to grieve.
Walker tells Babble that it was important to Renee to have her son’s story be told in this post.
“She did not want the reason for his death to be a secret,” Walker says. “She wanted it out in the open for other parents who might be grieving their own children, or who might be going through the pain of trying to help their addicted child.”
In telling both of their stories, Walker says that she and Renee hope to be a village of support for other parents who are in pain, and who couldn’t keep their children alive, no matter how hard they tried.
“When you are going through a tragedy, whatever it is, the grief is so isolating and suffocating that you can’t breathe,” Walker shares. “Some feel they don’t have anyone to help them lighten their load, no one to lean on. Renee and I did that for each other that day, instinctively and without intention.”
In writing her post, Walker says she hopes others can find that same support.
“Even if they feel that they don’t have a physical person in their own life to connect with or lean on,” she says, “they can lean on us and our story and know they don’t stand alone in their pain.”
Lifting each other up. Letting each other grieve. Offering help, a break, comfort, or even just a hand. That’s what women do. That’s what mothers do.
Because we know.