While shopping with the girls, I saw a brown recluse spider leave its safe home from underneath the sunglasses fixture and make its way toward the cart carrying Elizabeth. As I went to step on it, it started crawling up the side of the cart. With amazing calmness, I tried to swat it off. But I missed. And it crawled inside her car seat. Down underneath her.
Exit calm. Enter terror and Supermom adrenaline.
I removed Bess from that car seat faster than humanly possible. I am not sure how I even got her arms through those straps so quickly, as I was shouting to my mom that a brown recluse was in the seat. A nearby shopper ran up, grabbed a Kleenex from her purse, and killed the spider. Someone’s great-grandma. She reached right into the dark car seat bottom. Past the liner. And killed a spider for a complete stranger.
We live in Missouri. So I have killed more than my fair share of spiders. Many of them brown recluses and black widows. And I would have killed this one, too. But this brave woman did it for me. I was standing there holding a 7 pound baby who had no clue as to why she was being held so close. A baby who is always moved in gentle ways by caring hands was whipped out of her seat by a frantic mom. A mom who was now pretending to have everything together. A mom who hadn’t gotten to sleep until 5am, but was pushing through the newborn haze of fatigue to use a $10 coupon.
And the entire moment would have been over and passed, but the brave woman with the Kleenex suddenly realized what she had done…
“Oh my G*d! There was a spider on that baby! We killed the spider that tried to get that baby! She is so small! Oh G*d, we saved that small, poor baby from a spider! I killed that spider! Are you okay? That poor baby. You poor Mama. You must be scared to death. Just think what could have happened to your baby!”
And then I started crying in the middle of the accessories department. Because I was thinking of all the things that could have happened to Bess. All the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘could have beens’ and I wanted to just hold her forever. Four weeks old. I couldn’t stop crying. So everyone around us started crying, too. Half a dozen Supermoms. Strong women with grown children (and I am sure some babies born into Heaven). Each of those moms had a hundred of her own spider stories. And I wanted to hear each one. As we stood there with tears in our eyes looking at Lil Bess and her frightened face.
I remembered the story of my mom trying to get out of an upside down car as I was lying face-up in a puddle. I had been thrown from the car. Right through the open passenger window. Right out of my car seat. She couldn’t rescue her one-month-old at that moment, but it didn’t stop her from trying. And she has scars to prove it.
And I remembered all the times I had flown out of bed, running down the hall to Adelaide’s nursery, to rescue my choking daughter. Lifting her from her crib and flipping her face-down. “It’s okay, baby! Mommy’s here.” Doing the work of expelling something from her mouth. The cycle of choking and aspirating and rocking a scared baby back to sleep. The mother of a hypotonic baby knows this routine all too well. And sometimes that routine goes on the road with you. I remembered all the times I had to pull over and snatch a choking baby from her car seat.
I remembered so many other stories. Every mom has them and they are shared over the internet or coffee. My brief spider incident paled in comparison to some of those moments of Supermom Bravery. But all the moments matter. All the moms matter. Because moms jump in and do what needs to be done. Even for kids who are not their own. We are strong, even if we are scared. And our strength doesn’t mean that tears won’t be shed while we exchange hugs and sighs of relief with absolute strangers under fluorescent lights.
“Well, there are a lot of sunglasses here really cheap.”
And with those words, grandly pronounced by the spider-killing matriarch, we all returned to our shopping. Half a dozen women searching through three racks of clearance sunglasses. Laughing and chatting. None of us able to find anything that fit our face shapes or personalities. Because sunglasses come in round and studded and oval and tortoise and butterfly and classic and purple and chic. They are not one-size-fits-all. But they all serve a purpose.
And I stood there nursing Bess in the middle of the store and thinking about how moms are so different. Yet we are all the same. And I thanked God that great-grandmas carry Kleenex at all times.