She stood there with a neutral expression on her face, but her words and actions were defiant. I tried to tell her to stop, but she blatantly ignored me. As she handed me my three day old son, I wondered what had become of my compliant and agreeable friend?
“Already done,” she said when I insisted she was under no obligation to take care of me. “No, but really,” I argued, “this isn’t your issue.” It was a statement that she apparently found funny because her only response was laughter. As I fed my baby, I cringed at the pain in my stomach. I had forgotten how bad the newborn breastfeeding cramps were. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine my uterus shrinking with each contraction and taking my big postpartum belly with it. Somehow this made me feel like the pain was worth it. My friend touched my shoulder to get my attention and handed me the medicine the doctor had prescribed. I took the pills from her and wished my husband would come home even though I knew it was not possible.
It seemed cruel that my oldest would be sent to the ER with a serious lung infection just hours after my water broke. He was really sick. In fact he was the sickest he had ever been. My husband’s parents took great care of him, but he was scared and wanted his mommy and daddy. My husband stayed with me until our baby was born. He held him and cuddled him and got me all settled in. But, an hour after I gave birth my husband left me with our new baby and went across town to the children’s hospital to be with our oldest son. His infection was contagious and so my oldest could not come near his new baby brother until it cleared. Keeping them apart created some logistical challenges. In the end, my oldest went to stay with his grandparents and my husband commuted back and forth to his two sons.
This is where my friend entered the picture. I had been injured in the birth. As a consequence, I was in a lot of pain and not very mobile. She arrived at my house to visit the baby, just as my hubby was leaving to go see my other son. She had intended on staying a few hours, but two days later she was still there. She refused to leave until my husband and son could come home. I never asked her to stay and she never offered. She just never left.
“Seriously. Please stop doing the dishes and the laundry,” I told her, “I can do it later. I hate to make you do it.” She took my baby from me and carried him to the change table. “You are not making me,” she said flatly, “and no, I’m not going to stop. So deal with it.” I laughed and told her she was stubborn. Truthfully, I was really glad she was there. It would have been really hard on my own. I also knew that her presence allowed my husband to focus on my sick toddler without having to worry about me. When she was done changing the diaper my friend crawled into bed next to me with my baby cradled in her arms. I was exhausted and could feel myself drifting off. I fell asleep watching my son being cuddled by the woman he would one day call “Auntie.”
Almost four days after she arrived, my husband and I sat on my bed with our boys in between us. We helped our two and a half year old hold his new baby brother for the first time. Watching two little people instantly connect in what would become a life long bond was overwhelmingly beautiful and sweet. I smiled at my friend who was sitting on the end of my bed watching us for the first time, be a complete family. “Thanks for staying,” I said to her, “I hope some day I can repay you.” She smiled and leaned forward kissing my boys goodbye. “Don’t worry,” she said, “the boys have already paid me in snuggles.” Then, just as quietly as she came, she left.
So to you my dear friend, I’m not even sure what to say. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough, especially when this event was but one in more than a decade full of unconditional acts of friendship. It was neither the first nor the last time you stepped up without being asked to rescue me and help me through life’s unexpected and challenging circumstances.
As the years progressed and dystonia began to run my life, you stepped up over and over again to literally pick my boys up off the floor and be there for me when I most needed it. To this day I don’t ever remember once asking you for help. I don’t know how you always seem to know when I need you, but you do. I am immensely grateful for you.
But, as many struggles as you’ve witnessed, you’ve been there for the good too. You’ve helped me celebrate the happy times and bask in the joy of life’s triumphs. Sometimes I feel like calling you my friend just doesn’t seem right. You are so much more than just a friend. You have become family. My kids call you “Auntie” for a reason and I love that you are around for them just as you always have been for me. We are in very different places in life, but it doesn’t matter. That’s what I love about you. Your ability to be a friend transcends circumstance and distance and you always know how to be there for me even when I refuse to ask. You are truly remarkable and I am honoured to have you a part of my life, a part of my boys life and a part of my family. Thank you for all that you’ve done for me, for all that you do for me and for all that you will undoubtedly do in the future. You are truly the rarest of people.