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I Love It When Strangers Stop Me to Talk About My Baby

Photograph by Amelia Kibbie

Yesterday I took my 9-month-old daughter to the park for the first time. I expected her to be too little to play on any of the equipment and to get sleepy when I took her on the bench swing. What I didn't expect was to strike up a conversation with a woman in a full burqa.

She asked me how old my daughter was and introduced me to her toddler. It was just a few moments, but it was a connection with someone of a culture that I don't understand enough about. We may have had completely different world views and backgrounds, but we were both moms.

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Motherhood is just … one of those things. You'll never fully understand it—the deep, unrelenting love, the pain, the fear, the joy, and the heartbreak—unless you've lived it. Despite what I've just said, based on encounters I've had with people of different races, ages and cultures instigated by the fact that we both have children with us, I've come to understand that motherhood is more about inclusion than exclusion.

Motherhood is a vein of precious ore that runs through the bedrock of our female foundation.

Motherhood is universal. Motherhood is belonging. Motherhood is a vein of precious ore that runs through the bedrock of our female foundation. I have discovered an affinity with women I would otherwise have nothing in common with through discussing motherhood, or simply knowing and acknowledging that they have children and so do I. Unfortunately, I think it's something that is often taken for granted.

For example, I recently came across quite a few reposts online of a woman who made signs for her twins' stroller with the answers to several questions she was often asked when out and about with her daughters. Even though she never actually left the house with the signs on the stroller, and claims she meant no harm, I think it struck a chord with a lot of people who feel uncomfortable engaging with strangers regarding their children. I have found the exact opposite. When I get my daughter Alyssa ready to go to the grocery store, I say, "Are you ready to be the star of the show?"

I have reveled in the connections I've made with strangers and women I know very well when talking about my daughter was the catalyst. One of the first times I got out of the house to run errands after my daughter was born, an elderly woman stopped me in the parking lot, tears in her eyes. "Don't let a second pass you by," she advised, "this time will go so fast. Promise me you'll cherish every moment." I promised her. And I keep my promises. It may seem like a Hallmark card, but it was stellar advice. I needed to hear it from someone who has lived a lifetime and knows what's really important.

Once I encountered a gray-bearded homeless man near a recycling center. He looked my daughter in the eye as we rolled past and said, "I wish I could trade places with you." We ended up talking for a while about my daughter's age, and how she was born early. He was a sweet person who genuinely delighted just being in my baby's presence. Here was a man I have to admit I would have physically avoided if he hadn't talked to me first. Every time I pass the can redemption center, I look for him. I haven't seen him since.

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The silhouette of a mother holding a baby is a symbol of universal love that connects many. I'm not a religious person, but I love looking at images of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus for that reason. Yes, the questions of "boy or girl?" Or "how old?" may get tedious, but I encourage you to engage with the identity of "mother"—it will enrich your already precious and breathtaking experience.

Photograph by: Amelia Kibbie

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