My good friend is moving away. As I come to terms with this idea, I reflect on all of it.
The only way to start is at the beginning. I was pregnant with my second child and I saw a post on social media asking other mothers for information on circumcision. This mother knew she was having a boy and she wanted the facts, nothing more. I had an inkling that my little butterball was also a boy but we didn’t know for sure. Out of the blue, I contacted her to see what she was learning.
From a need for information grew a friendship. She suggested we meet for a play date after we discovered that our firstborns were mere weeks apart in age and our baking babies would also be just weeks apart. Going to a complete stranger’s house after only talking online for a few weeks?!? Thanks for not being an ax murderer, Britani.
As my oldest boy dove head first into the land of Barbies, we got to know one another. As months passed and our baby boys were born (I knew it!), we connected over La Leche League meetings and late night woes. I bought a YMCA membership to join her in yoga class. We worked our post partum bodies back to strength, often groaning into downward dog as Wes the instructor let loose a devious chuckle.
That Halloween, we gathered our families over pizza and planned a route through the neighorhood for trick or treating. Britani pushed an umbrella stroller, but it wasn’t for any one of the dozen kids that circled us. It was for the homebrew pony keg. Guys, this was love. I knew then that we would be friends for life.
Little Grant was dressed as a bat and worn in a carrier. Little Judah was a dragon and worn the same. Seasoned Mamas knew how to pack it.
Our kids were growing up together, not unlike wolves. We met at the zoo, at each other’s houses, and learned from one another as our milk-fat babies popped teeth, and learned to crawl, then walk. They began to resemble toddlers instead of babies. The light was near!
One fateful day, I received a message that Britani was unexpectedly pregnant. She was angry, upset, overwhelmed. This wasn’t the plan. I felt for her with a tinge of jealousy, as we had just finished the three month wait on post-vasectomy clearance and knew our family was done growing. Parenting Grant was really challenging, parenting him AND Dane was a fence-builder.
It was merely days after our message exchange that we discovered Ryan’s vasectomy was unsuccessful. It was Britani who offered me her unused pregnancy strips. We quietly freaked out together while we waited. Pink lines. She was the first person who knew Reece was growing. She told her husband about their coming fourth baby and then I tearfully told mine.
Here we were together, in the camp of “WTF, Universe?!?” Yoga was necessary. I remember nothing of the conversation except an image of us standing in the parking lot near our cars, knowing they would morph to minivans. We had our mats rolled and slung over our shoulders. It was April.
The coming months as we planned to add a third child to our family, our family decided to move away from Omaha. Britani and I compared mental notes as we adjusted our lives to expand. I remember at one point asking her without fear of offending her “If you knew what a handful your second born was, how did you find the will to have another?” Both our second-borns were a special kind of something in their toddler years. So. much. screaming.
I watched her parent three, and I knew it would be okay for me, too. Our surprise babies would again be just weeks apart. Something was in the water. Maybe it was Yoga?
Our family moved. Their family moved. We bought a minivan, they bought a minivan. Here we were.
Halloween came and went. This year we wanted to get familiar with our new neighborhood so we stayed in town, pony keg aside.
Weeks later, our baby would die. In the turmoil of his birth, my dear friend knew to leave the love offerings with the nursing station, not bringing her pregnant self in to my sad room. We messaged often, approaching the tender topic of how I wanted to be told her baby was born. About a month later when her little one was born, I got a gentle message before a social media blast. A little boy. Just like ours.
In the moment of seeing his photo (which I requested), I heard the unmistakable thunderclap of our lives diverging into a forked road. I knew then in that moment: I was walking a road covered in brush and brambles. And I was barefoot. And I was alone in this new motherhood.
Our roads and our lives were forever different from this moment on. I had to walk this way, she that.
I began down the road, the thorns snagging my face, tangling my hair. There was something behind me, a creature of dark. I was unable to speed my pace. I was unarmed and I was bleeding. The thicket closed in, and I knew I would need to rest. I wailed into the branches overhead, feeling myself give up, my heart undeniably broken. I was alone. I sat down, my weary legs folding under me. The creature approached. From between the branches I saw a face. I heard a baby gurgle. My friend.
“What are you doing here? It’s dangerous.”
“I’m following you. Our roads have diverged, so I picked this one. I won’t forget Reece. I will always say his name. Also, I brought this stick because there is scary shit in this wood.”
My friend. My champion. Part-time protector, full-time friend. Sometimes walking ahead with the stick, beating away the branches, calming my social anxiety with the assurance that I can ask for what I need. My friend, who incorporated my healing tools into my everyday life and made it less weird.
I wasn’t judged.
I wasn’t questioned.
She walked with me, her new baby on her back, through the brambles and thorns.
Baby wearing mamas just know how to pack it.