"Grief teaches the steadiest minds to waver" -Sophocles

March 6, 2008

There is a story in our local news today that is sticking with me. Police were called to a home in Lewiston to a report of a woman attempting suicide. It turns out she had fallen asleep while her infant son was in the tub and the baby drowned.

I have so much empathy for this woman. I think I know the level of exhaustion that tempts you to lean your head back against the wall for a moment, or rest it on the edge of the cool, cool tub. Were I in her shoes I suspect that my first impulse, too, would be to try and end my life. It might seem preferable over living on in grief, guilt, and madness.

We are nearing 20 months in this journey (a drop of time in the bucket, I know), and what I have learned, more than anything is how American society is failing to provide the support mothers -- all mothers -- need. There is no community of support, except for what you build for yourself, and if you are far from your "people" (as my Grandmother called them) you're basically unsupported. I don't know if there is anything that can be done ... in some ways I know the Internet is making things a little better than they were five or ten years ago (at least a new mom can reach out to other people like her, if she has the access and the knowledge of how to find them). There is an interesting article in the current issue of The Atlantic which touches on the idea that "the suburbs" as a building concept is sort of on the decline, and walkable "lifestyle centers" (what you and I might call "communities") are now the new hotness in the housing market.

I find myself wondering if this trend, combined with the nostalgia that all us post-boomer and gen-x parents have for a time when children ran free and wild in packs in the streets, might in fact turn the tide a little bit, and that we might begin to recreate the idea of a true neighborhood where we cared about and looked after one another. Its an interesting dream.

On the other hand, I'm still not really interested in talking with my actual, physical neighbors (although we nod and wave and they brought over a nice gift when E was born). I just don't see having geography in common as having enough common ground to build a friendship over.

All of which is just a long way of saying "I don't know what the answer is". But I think a first step is to look around every day and see if you see someone who might need a visit, a moment, a phone call, a helping hand. Or a nap.