I went to the mall yesterday. I hate going to the mall. Truly, it's a twice a year torture trip. I usually get way over-stimulated and I usually buy too much mall food to keep my children fairly happy. Then there's that other thing, the thing Ann describes so well here. I don't much like to go out into the world like that at all: malls, conferences, crowded beaches, big parties. Ugh.

But this was necessity. My well-worn nursing bras just aren't getting the job done anymore and though I've delayed it for months weeks, it was time to remedy the situation. At the mall.

I made a crazy decision. I left my kids at home. Even Sarah. I admit I teared up just a little when I saw her snuggled up into the crook of Mary Beth's neck. I'm not very good at leaving my babies. But I couldn't bear the thought of dragging several people to the lingerie department and trying to get this job done with all that distraction. So, off I went.

It didn't take long at all to find what I needed. I endured the torture of the three way mirror. I just kept telling myself that my body has loved nine people into the world and nourished them each for two years or more. And I kept reminding myself that I've given up sugar and taken up exercising again, so it should just be a matter of weeks before I have my old body back. Not. I've been around this block a few times. I know that my old body will never return. Still the sugar fast and exercise binge can only be a good thing.

As I was checking out, I noticed two things. First, I noticed really good chocolate bars at the checkout. That struck me as odd. But then I remembered my moments with the mirror. My frustration with the reflection. Marketing genius! We all come out of there feeling irritable, at best. What woman wouldn't want chocolate?

I resisted. (Go me!)

And I turned my attention to a woman pushing a new baby in a stroller. She, too, had just left the dressing room. She looked like she wanted to cry. The baby was beginning to fuss, looking to nurse. I felt a little pang. Did my baby want to nurse, too? The woman looked to be about 6 weeks postpartum. (I can tell these things--I'm an experienced playground mom.) Sure, she had a little belly stilling telling her tale of childbirth, but even more telling were the various sizes and shades of Spanx hanging from the stroller handle. And the tears in her eyes.

I determined to have the courage to say something. I'm really working on overcoming my shyness to bless someone. Still, what do you say? "Hey, I know how you feel? It's hard to be all soft and fat-feeling and worry that someone is going to ask when you're due even though you've already delivered. Even harder when you have a special event coming up or something. I remember a wedding, five weeks after my fifth..."

No. Too many words.

So, I told her how cute her baby is. The tears started rolling. She said she had to go back to work next week and nothing fit. What do you say? "Oh, I know how you feel. I did that once, nearly 21 years ago. It was really torture. But we both survived. you can even pump and keep nursing. You'll be utterly exhausted, but it's a relatively short season in a lifetime."

No. Too many words.

I wondered if I should buy her a candy bar.

Instead, feeling the enormity of it all--dressing room, crying baby, looming launch back into the real world--I said, "I've had nine babies. Be good to yourself. Your babies will always think you're beautiful." Be good to yourself.

As I left the department, I was glad to have had the courage to say anything at all.  I had an overwhelming urge to go home and rock my baby all afternoon. Instead, I called home. Everyone was fine. Sarah was sleeping.

I bought myself a healthy lunch. I bought a new pair of pants, a size smaller than the last time, a size bigger than the goal. And I got a haircut.

When I walked into my house, Karoline about knocked me over with her hug.

"Mommy, your hair is so cute! You're as pretty as me!"

Some people are never shy about being encouraging.

Be good to yourself.

Your babies will always think you're beautiful.