Earlier this week I was sitting at work when I saw a headline about a 49ers NFL football player who had played a game the night before just hours after his newborn had passed away due to complications. I read the article as tears streamed down my face. There were two pictures within the article, one of him after scoring a touchdown in that game – on his knees, chin to his chest. The other photo was the Instagram photo of his son’s tiny fingers resting in his hand, fingers tinier than the tip of a #2 pencil. My heart couldn’t help but break for him and his wife. I couldn’t help but imagine what it must feel like to prepare for a baby and the expansion of your family only to go home with a shattered heart. I cried on and off for at least an hour.

That night, I came across an emotional Facebook post by a mother who had just put her son on a DNR. He is three years old and had a lung transplant last year. She wrote they were preparing to say goodbye today, if he made it through the night. Her words accompanied a photo of her snuggled up next to him in his hospital bed. He looked like he was sleeping, tube going every which way, taped to his body here and there. His brown hair pulled back in a tiny man bun and a tube sticking out of his mouth, held in place by a piece of tape stuck across his top lip. I thought a million thoughts while my heart broke for her. I sobbed as I stared at the photo unable to do anything but imagine that child being one of my own, imagining her broken silhouette being that of my own. I couldn’t help but imagine the heartbreak and the hole. I couldn’t help but ache for her and her family. I cried for a long time, I couldn’t shake it. The idea of having to say goodbye to a child hits home with any parent.

And yesterday, I cried on and off for hours after seeing the video of Jimmy Fallon’s monologue his first night back after his mother’s death and the coincidental song Taylor Swift, his musical guest, sang. Jimmy opened the show with a story about how his mom used to squeeze is hand three times – ‘I love you’ – on their way to the store and how he’d squeeze her hand three times – ‘I love you, too’ – back. He told the audience how he had squeezed her hand three times, one last time before she passed away  last week as he unsuccessfully tried to hold back tears. As a mom, when I hear about people losing their parents, my heart breaks for them in a way it never would have before I had kids. In those moments it’s impossible not to feel the importance of my work or the weight of all the things I have yet to accomplish as a parent. It’s also impossible not to be overwhelmed with the fear of my kids living in a world without me or the sadness of them living a life I wouldn’t be able to share.

Already this week my heart has broken more than a handful of times for families I’ve never met and will probably never meet, and it’s only Wednesday. Next week, it will do it again. It’s a reoccurring pattern I’ve been unable to escape since joining this community, this community of moms.

As Thanksgiving approaches, there are a lot of things to be thankful for. But today, as I sit here with pruned cheeks, puffy eyes and a heart that can’t help but break with all of the moms and dads out there fighting for their babies and losing and leaving and healing, I am most thankful to be a mom amongst a community of moms whose hearts break collectively, whose tears pool simultaneously and whose arms outstretch involuntarily in hopes to help heal.

I’m so thankful to be part of this community unafraid to admit our associations aren’t glamorous, yet determined to prove they are crucial. I am thankful to be part of a community who can’t help but empathize and embrace. We might be a community marked by exhaustion, high emotion and foggy memory but we are a community of strong, dedicated women nonetheless. Parenthood is a journey full of surprises with very high highs and very low lows, it’s an all-consuming and never-ending obligation and, yet, we always seem to find a minute to ache, sob and kneel with moms we don’t even know when we hear their stories of pain and struggle.

We spend most of the year making light of how difficult our task is, bickering about the “right way” to do it, at times shaming each other on our choices but we should take this time of year to really look around and notice each other. Look for the mom lending a comforting smile as you and your tantrum-throwing child pass in the grocery store. Recognize the grandma who can’t help but sweet talk your fussy baby as you rush through the aisles of Target. Look for the moms offering their support on the struggling mom’s Facebook post. Look for the fellow moms sending their love to a heartbroken mom sharing her story beneath that instagram picture that brought you to tears. Look for the parents inspiring others to live fuller live in memory of their children. Look around at this community we are so lucky to call ours and take a minute to bask in the warmth of knowing you’ll never really be alone.

This year, I’m most grateful for this community of ordinary moms, tied together by our heartstrings and bonded by motherhood.

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