a note to all my mama friends

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, I met my friend, let’s call her Anne, for dinner at one of our favorite spots in Pittsburgh. Privately, I often think of Anne as my beautiful friend, not only because she’s physically gorgeous and not only because she cultivates a beautiful life, but because she has the biggest heart of nearly anyone I know – she is a beautiful person inside and out. After I had my daughter she was the first friend I spent time with outside of the house because she was willing to join me for breakfast in between my marathon nursing sessions. She is also one of the few friends I’ve really gotten a tad wild with in my thirties – a bus driver once threatening to abandon us miles from our homes because we were laughing too loudly after too many glasses of wine at dinner. Because she is so physically attractive and because she has financial resources a lot of people don’t, I know a handful of people whose jealousy has overridden their better selves, and they have failed to get to know her the way I have. The fact is I didn’t beginthinking of her as my beautiful friend – it is what she became to me over the many years we’ve spent time together.

So one late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots. I had squeezed a workout in as I am likely to do whenever Sam is home with the kids and our dinner plans don’t start until seven, and I was still squeezing chlorine from the pool out of my ponytail as I sat next to Anne at the bar. I leaned in to hug her and almost started to launch into some thought or idea I had had since last we met when she held up her hand.

“Before we get to all of that I just want to tell you – I’m fine now, totally fine – but I wanted you to know I had a miscarriage. I had a miscarriage, and I’m fine.”

I sat there, silenced. Stunned. How many times had I canceled our plans to meet, awash and overwhelmed as I was with my small children? Multiple times. I had canceled on my beautiful friend multiple times, for Evangeline’s earache, an unexpected business trip of Sam’s and who knows what other reasons. How long had she been waiting to tell me this? I felt horrified by my own actions (the earache had been treated easily with children’s Motrin, and I have a hardy list of qualified, wonderful babysitters) while terribly sad for Anne.

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots and she told me she had had a miscarriage and all I could think of was actions I hadn’t taken. Fortunately I retained the smallest amount of common sense and good will and didn’t start to apologize for my own inadequacies – instead, I listened to her. Her pregnancy had been ectopic, and dangerous. She was on the other side of it physically, but barely processing it emotionally, and we talked around and about it for a couple of hours. A few weeks later I came across a list of the top ten things to never say to someone who had a miscarriage (among them – miscarriages are so common! You just need to try again right away! and it happened for a reason. I had said at least half of the trite, unhelpful phrases to her and because we have a friendship like we do, I frantically texted her apologizing for the error, brought to light by the Huffington Post or Reddit or similar outfit.

I can’t remember exactly what she texted back, but it was along the lines of girl, please.

I have a lot of mama friends, all with varying availability and willingness to hang out in person. Those that work traditional office hours are generally the most willing to meet for lunch or even an evening out because they have systems in place to provide some flexibility, while my stay at home mama friends struggle sometimes because routine childcare isn’t a part of their life. With some of these women, our relationship is mainly conducted via text chains (and, I need to take a moment here to say I have a whole post coming about these text chains!), while others are conducted regularly and in person, over hectic brunches while we try and talk over our respective brood’s din. It doesn’t really matter – the support is there, never much farther away than the tips of my fingers. But my friends without kids? Well, I guess I understand why one of the chief complaints of those who don’t have children is that those who do tend to disappear. It’s so easy to continuously prioritize your young family over your valuable friendships – the needs of children are so immediate and physical. But that doesn’t mean the needs of your friends aren’t important – and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a good friend anymore, either. There are things happening with your friends – job loss (or new jobs to be celebrated) and aging parents and difficulty with spouses and to miss out on that is to miss out on their lives, and that is terrible.

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots. I almost canceled because who knows why but I didn’t, and that one small act of showing up has changed the way I approach my friendships. I show up, not just when it’s easy or convenient or affordable for me and my kids – no, I show up, sometimes with a spit-up stain on my dress I didn’t notice before or the echoes of my daughter’s temper tantrum, thrown solely because I was leaving her with her other parent, in my ears, and I be the person my friends deserve. The thing of it is – life is only going to grow more complex, with bigger and deeper issues to tackle – and I want to do it with friends like Anne by my side every step of the way.

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One thought on “a note to all my mama friends

  1. Showing up. Get that right, and you get most of it right. In 1979, after years of hoping for a child, I had a miscarriage. I also had a cousin who was in the hospital, dying of cancer, with whom I was never particularly close. But despite what she was going through, she called me to say how sorry she was, to validate my loss and my grief. She “showed up” for me when so many people, including my husband, did not. How wise you are to have learned from this experience. Your friend, Anne, is lucky to have you there.

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