Walking into the busy waiting room at royal north shore hospital today, I feel conscious of eyes turning to look at Mia and I. A small area with 9 busy specialist rooms and their numerous respective waiting patients. A quick survey and I head for the corner with the box of toys, some children's books, a water filter and rubbish bin. I head to the lone vacant seat, a little relieved I won't be compelled to make polite small chat and answer any questions about Mia.
I usually don't mind chatting and can often find myself over sharing with strangers but I already feel very conspicuous especially as there are no other rowdy children around to dispel the quietness. Everyone is probably just admiring my beautiful daughter I tell myself but at the same time I naturally avoid making too much eye contact and possibly sympathetic stares. I navigate our way across the space trying not to bump Mia's wheelchair into anyone, choose a story book and spin Mia around so her pink wheel chair is facing me ready to read our story together. We settle in until it is our turn.
A woman with long brown hair possibly in her late 40's rises from her chair and pushes her walking frame towards us. I look behind me to a narrow corridor thinking we might be blocking her way to the toilets. I realise she is heading straight for us. I look up at her thinking she is going to ask me how old Mia's is or about her condition but she leans over and as I wait for her question she gently holds my face and kisses me on the cheek.
I'm not sure if she says thank you or something similar, I am completely taken by surprise and feel something close to rage or indignation for less than a heartbeat before it melts away and then I don't know what or how I feel. Maybe grateful, possibly guilty, definitely surprised and most certainly very conspicuous in that room. She turns and makes her way back to her chair. I bow my head and cannot help but feel her kindness and gratitude and empathy. I feel humbled and grateful for my kiss, not enraged. She acknowledged Mia and I and that feels good.
I can't recall ever being kissed by a total stranger before. We don't say anything. Tears start down my cheeks and I ignore them and let them drop onto my printed pants. I don't want to have to wipe them away with my hands and I remember there aren't any tissues in my bag so it is pointless to rustle through it.
I return to occupying myself with Mia feeding, playing and holding her. Maybe everyone in the room is oblivious but I'd like to think they feel the acceptance, recognition and warmth we do from this stranger.
Our name is eventually called and as I walk into the doctors room I glance back and we wave and say our silent goodbye to each other.
Our uneventful doctor's appointment finishes and I wheel Mia back into the waiting room. The stranger has left.
It was an unusual encounter but her gesture was so brave and powerful. Sometimes words don't suffice.
Stories of our love, heartache and friendship. Written by a mother.