This is a story about good intentions gone bad.
I just got home from a long weekend spent on Planet Mom. Thursday through Saturday I attended the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Convention in Orlando, Florida. I'm happy to report that all my travels went smoothly; I navigated the ordering of taxis, packing carry-ons, suffered the indignities of removing my belt in a public place (did NOT make me feel like a lady) and made it to my hotel.
What a thrill to spend three days at a resort with about 2,600 other mommies. Everywhere I walked, I felt I ran into a sister, a woman who "gets it," a person that would be my friend within five minutes if we sat down to talk. I picked up some valuable skills, and a little bit of a Texas drawl (met lots of nice gals from Wisconsin, too, but decided I like saying "y'all" and "Bless your little heaaaart" better than saying "bowt" for "boat."). Now I find myself looking at every woman I pass, and assuming she and I have lots in common. The moms in the airport I encountered might have wondered about me, the goofy stranger with the benevolent smile.
MOPS International's mission statement is "No Mom Alone." This is a mission close to my heart. I’ve never felt so alone as I did in the first six months when I was a mom, working part time from home, and feeling like not one of my relationships had been unaltered by this transition. When I walked into my first MOPS morning, I immediately felt at home. In my last six years in MOPS, I’ve seen our community of mothers help each other through everything from potty training and weaning to marital problems and major kids’ illnesses, to downright identity crises. I’ve stayed so long in this group and made it my ministry because of how much I believe that women need each other, especially in these formative years of our children’s lives.
I left Florida feeling downright inspired to help other moms find connection and community, both in my position as Coordinator of our church’s Friday MOPS morning and in my neighborhood. One woman in particular came to mind: a very pregnant woman I’ve seen walking her little dog around our complex. Last time I saw her was just before I left for Florida. I spoke to her for the first time, asking when her baby was due.
“Yesterday ,” she said with a groan, and then jumped up and down, trying to get that precious baby to drop!
This morning I saw her walking the dog again, looking distinctly smaller around the middle than she did last week. I rushed over, introduced myself, and got the vital stats (healthy baby girl, 8 pounds, 9 ounces). I decided to surprise her and her husband with dinner and homemade bread, remembering how hungry and tired I had been in those first few weeks.
So I made up a double batch of baked ziti with sausage and grilled vegetables, and handed it off to her surprised husband, who was dozing on the couch. Then I went home and fed same said meal to my family. Here’s where things go awry. An hour later, my husband came down with some serious indigestion. It would be a breach of our premarital agreement to go into details here. Suffice it to say, he felt bad enough that I thought I should warn my neighbors that my dinner might not be safe for consumption.
Girlfriend advice was critical here, so I made a phone call. After a forgivable interval of giggles, Friend said I better go over there, and realizing it was pride only that caused my uncertainty (pride is never a good motivation), I made the walk of shame across the cul-de-sac. Here I made the further blunder of opening the front screen door unexpectedly on a breastfeeding woman.
My neighbors were very gracious; they had eaten and enjoyed the meal, didn’t appear to be doubled up with stomach cramps, and were very grateful. Promising to return another day to retrieve my dishes, I smiled and sheepishly headed home.
The pastors at my church are speaking in a series called “That Was Awkward,” and last week it was loving your neighbors, even if it's socially awkward. I blame them for this situation. I wonder if they’d anticipated anything this embarrassing. But I have no regrets. Who knows, maybe this new mommy will show up at my MOPS group, and six years later be joking about this first awkward encounter with me, and how the stomach upset was worth all the comfort and companionship she eventually gleaned from our connection. In the meantime, please join me in a prayer for her and her husband’s digestive systems, and pray that I’ll continue to reach out to my sisters, even if I stumble along the way.