Most mothers are challenged by healthy children who are ready to take on the world. We worry more about unplanned pregnancies than the possibility that pregnancy might not be in our future. The day-to-day stresses of mothering and trying to have a life wear on us. And then things are put into perspective by a friend who is not so blessed.
Unfortunately, I have several such friends. Friends who have struggled with infertility and abnormal pregnancies. Friends who have successfully made it through pregnancy but find themselves months later with a child whose development just doesn't seem normal. Friends who fill out hundreds of pages of forms to get their children the special education they need. Friends who put their careers on hold to take their children to hours of various forms of therapy every week. Friends who love their children dearly but cry every night about the hand they were dealt. I know I'm not alone. We all have these friends.
With Mothers' Day approaching, I am especially mindful of the great luck I have had in having a child who is brilliant and healthy and thriving with minimal work on anyone's part. Despite coming up on two, we are having an amazing, wonderful time. But I also realize the tinge of guilt I feel about this when I think about my friends who are not so fortunate. I am embarrassed to gripe about the normal everyday toddler stuff (number one on my list: the incessant babble) when I think about what my friends are facing every day. Working in a small community, I see this happen to my patients too; the scenario where one patient miscarries and her best friend, also a patient, has a completely uneventful pregnancy happens all he time. The new mother feels awkward about the miscarriage and doesn't know what to say to her best friend. It puts a wedge between them.
I know that in my own case, I am not the friend I wish I were. I feel awkward, not sure what to say or what to do. I know I can't fix the problem, and that makes me feel powerless. I am afraid to share anything that is going on in my own life because I don't want my friend to compare. I simply don't know what to do, so sometimes that means I just avoid contact.
What I do know is that real friends share in each other's joy and pain. We are thrilled when a friend's child succeeds; we feel sorrow when a friend's child struggles. And while we might feel a twinge of jealousy over one another's good luck, we never feel that the other's success is at our expense. The reality is that as parents, we are all working and struggling to keep up, and every child has his talents and limitations, and every woman needs her friends to keep her afloat.
My pledge this Mothers' Day is to be a better friend. I intend to stay mindful of the feelings of guilt that have kept me from providing the support my friends need. And when my need to gripe about my own life creeps in, I WILL gripe...because I am a friend in need as well, and we're all in it together.