Mum brought to tears by kind gesture from waitress
"Us mummas gotta look out for each other."
They were the words that brought tears to mum Isabelle Ames' eyes - the message of support and solidarity coming at just the right moment.
In a post to her Instagram account, Ames shared that she was sitting in a restaurant with her 10-month-old baby, Charlotte, when her little one got hungry. The new mum proceeded to breastfeed her while "trying get at least one sip of my coffee" - a moment so many of us can relate to.
When her "active" bub had finished feeding, Ames described that her waitress came over with a gift - a pancake, she said, "from me to you". She also passed her a note, thanking Ames for breastfeeding there at the restaurant and sending her love and respect.
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"Instant tears," Ames wrote. "I gave this incredibly sweet stranger a hug and cried again."
The kind gesture and supportive message was precisely what Ames needed.
"For those of you who don't understand why this is meaningful," she wrote, "I will put it into perspective."
The Arizona mum shared that next to labour, breastfeeding is one of the hardest things she's ever done. "No-one prepares you for it, but everyone expects you to be excellent at it," she said.
And when it doesn't happen "straight away", she continued, you're left feeling like a complete failure.
For Ames, breastfeeding her daughter hasn't been an easy journey.
"After Charlotte was born, I could only pump and cry because I was so broken-hearted that I couldn't get her to latch," the mum explains of the first two weeks after her daughter's birth. And the next four weeks only brought further challenges. "I could only breastfeed with a nipple shield," she wrote. "It was better than pumping but still not the same."
It wasn't until Charlotte was six weeks old that she "latched for the first time," and Ames was able to successfully breastfeed. "I cried tears of relief and ecstatic joy," she said.
Breastfeeding, however, hasn't been the only challenge for the new mum.
"I haven't slept in days because she is sick," Ames wrote, describing herself as "beyond exhausted".
"Yesterday I got so frustrated I screamed 50 curse words into a pillow," she added, sharing that sometimes, that's simply what "mum life" looks like.
For the exhausted mum, when the waitress saw her there in the restaurant, when she said "thank you", she felt as though the stranger was there on her journey, "the whole time".
In her candid post, the mum also addressed a common fear, something many breastfeeding mums have likely felt at one time or another in their own breastfeeding journeys.
"So often, before I feed Charlotte in public I get a twinge of fear," Ames wrote, explaining that she often finds herself thinking, 'OK, this is the time. Someone is going to harass me. They are going to yell at me. Someone is going to tell me I can't do this here.'"
But not today: "Today I got love, respect and a free pancake. Thank you to my fellow mumma, Erica."
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Ames said that she was inspired to share her experience because it was so positive. "You oftentimes hear about mostly negative experiences related to breastfeeding in public," she said. "I had seen videos of women being harassed and it scared me at times and made me recognise that it could be a very real possibility for me one day."
And while she hasn't yet been harassed herself, the mum shared that she has been stared at "and some people seem annoyed" when she's breastfed her daughter in public. "I just ignore them and look down at my beautiful baby," she said.
For Ames, the encounter also highlighted an example of mothers helping other mothers, as well as support for breastfeeding, "both of which rarely receive enough encouragement".
The mum also hopes her post will encourage people to understand that being a parents hard at times, "whether you are the mother or father, whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding".
And that small displays of kindness make a big difference.
"Spread love and respect," she said. "It takes something so small, like a pancake, to make someone's day."