The Gift of a Mom Friend
I have the summer off after a year of teaching. Perfect timing as I am due with my first baby the week back to school. Perhaps not so perfect timing as I endure the heat with a belly extending quick.
I am the first of my friends to be pregnant. It makes the pregnancy exciting in every way. Each get together is centered around the baby’s growth, how I feel, and all the plans for after. They are as involved as me (other than the actual carrying) and it brings me a sense of fullness. I’m not alone in this journey, they are all right here beside me, cheering me on and holding my hand.
Loneliness still envelops me. No one has gone before me to show me the way. No advice about sleepless nights have been handed out. No tips on feeding are readily available to give me a reality check. No one to tell me about mesh panties or peri-bottles. I am left to figure that all out on my own.
Those are the things friends talk about. Those are the things friends can warn you and help you and lead you through. Those friends are whom I lack completely. But there are times when you just don’t know what you don’t have.
Perhaps it was in my second week postpartum that I truly came to understand what I didn’t have, yet unknowingly what I would be filled up with entirely: Mom friends.
‘Suck-er , Suck -er, Suck -er’
My pump is talking to me as it sucks up the couple drops of milk from my almost empty breasts. The baby sleeps soundly in the other room, yet I am stuck awake for twenty more minutes in desperate hopes that the drips will somehow make enough ounces for her next feeding. I scroll aimlessly on my phone through various social media sites. Loneliness creeps into my heart like an unwanted guest making her home, waiting for me to tend to her needs through comparison, jealousy, and inadequacy. A tear forms as I see pictures of happy moms and babies, as I research and read articles about breastfeeding for twelve months, and as I see friends continuing to carry on with life as always. Yet, here I am. Two weeks postpartum, doing exactly what I had no expectations of. Milking myself like a cow, when there should have been a baby gently sucking, attached to me by the bond that I had been dreaming of.
‘Suck -er, suck -er, suck -er’
The tears roll as I scroll. Through blurry eyes, I see a message pop up. Three words. ‘Late night feeding?’ it said. I check who it is from and take a minute to recognize the name. Ashley. It had been years. Five to be exact. And even then, we were mere acquaintances at the time.
But she knew. How she knew, it is obvious. She too is in the midst of her own late night feeding.
Three words. That’s all it took. My heart felt a jolt of hope. Would she get it? Would she understand?
Of course. Of course, she would. Little did I know at the time, there is an army of mothers out there who get it. And surprisingly not because they too are pumping their breasts while their baby waits for a bottle.
No, in fact, this one particular mother never even heard the sound of the pump talking to her. Her sweet baby boy latched onto her bursting breasts within minutes of birth. He would never know what a bottle was.
Yet, she would get it.
She became my gateway into motherhood friendship.
‘Meet me at the “Early Years Centre” tomorrow morning?’
I wake up the next day to a toddler’s screams and a four-year-old’s demands. The baby hasn’t woken up yet but I am already walking towards the dark kitchen to prepare her bottle in preparation for a full day ahead. The kids are up at the crack of dawn but somehow I still find myself zipping around from one crisis to the next until we are out the door.
One little glimmer of hope is keeping me going on this chaotic Monday morning (other than my smiling kids’ faces of course). I will be seeing my best friend Ashley in only a few short hours.
One school drop off and coffee pick up later, the two littlest and I are enjoying the play place we know well. She walks into the door half an hour later with her two littlest and we spend the morning catching up non-stop (okay, actually with many stops due to constant interruptions of our four children) until the golden hour known as ‘we-must-leave-now-or-our-kids-will-never-nap’. It’s those few short hours that keep me going for the rest of the day and even much of the week. Until I meet with another mom friend or two.
Four and a half years later and Ashley is the constant and also the beginning.
Her three words, typed out so quickly in the dark, were three words that brought me into a realm of motherhood friendship. A level of friendship deeper than I had yet to experience.
Those three words were only the beginning of nights upon nights of chatting late. We met there on our rocking chairs in completely different cities, again and again. We shared poop stories and spit up stories. We comforted each other in the sleepless nights and we assured each other it would get better (has it though?). She let me rant about my feeding problems and listened with a heart so open.
Months later we met in person and yet we already had become the friends we knew we needed long ago.
It didn’t stop with her. She was just the beginning. She was the beginning of the beginnings of motherhood friendships. Her three words gave me the courage to reach out to others and the desire to start my village. Her three words gave me an understanding that this motherhood thing isn’t something we do alone. This had to be done with a mama village of friends surrounding me. She was the first and she wouldn’t be the last, but she would be the one most remembered.
Her three words changed my motherhood forever. A motherhood that wouldn’t continue to be done alone in the thrifted rocking chair with the sound of the pump attempting to bring me down with each nipple pull.
Her three words built the village for my own mama heart.
Beyond baby blankets (we got about twenty), the cutest newborn outfits, hand-me-down baby gear, and a plethora of books, I received the best gift. A gift from a friend, who wasn’t yet a friend, but would become the friend I always needed. The gift was simple. It took the quick movements of her thumbs across the screen, little effort needed. Perhaps it took courage for the enter button to be clicked. Or perhaps it was a swift thought that wasn’t considered twice. I could have been the fifth person she messaged that night, but for me, it was the greatest gift I had yet to receive.
The gift of a mom friend.