It was the end of January and my twins were six weeks old. Although it took most of the morning to get the three of us dressed and fed, we finally made our way out the door. I was meeting my friend Catalina to go shopping at the outlet mall just one town over. She, too, had just entered into motherhood. Three weeks prior she had given birth to her first baby, a girl. We had enjoyed being pregnant alongside each other, and were now ready to enjoy our first mother/daughter outing. Admitting need for a change in scenery and a break in the monotonous schedule made way for this midweek adventure. Our time was limited, for reasons related to nursing and napping, so we hit the road running with high hopes of newfound freedom.
Visions of sipping my latte while listening to music filled my mind, but these longings never materialized. Both babies lost their pacifiers just minutes into the trip and the wailing was at full volume. I couldn’t reach them while still driving safely and it infuriated me. Their crying continued the entire drive and my own tears soon followed. Motherhood had my number.
At the mall, I threw the car into park and frantically searched for the pacifiers to mute the noise. After the babies were unloaded and clicked into the double-wide stroller, I found my friend. I pretended I was fine and didn’t talk about the agony I’d just endured. Instead of admitting need, I chose to withdraw and not be vulnerable. I casually pursued the aisles of the Carters outlet store for things I didn’t need, and acted like I had this motherhood gig under control.
Sadly, our trip was cut short. Two of the three babies needed to either be changed, napped, or fed. The effort to get out of the house that day did not turn out as hoped or planned.
Weeks later my friend invited me over for coffee. I showed up in my “soft” clothes and she greeted me with coffee in hand. “Motherhood looks good on you.” she said with eyebrows raised. In turn, I raised my eyebrows back, accompanied with a smirk. She was donning the same mother uniform as me.
We got the babies situated and began to relax. Our conversation turned to the shopping trip from the previous weeks. “I was not okay that day, “ My friend confessed. “On the car ride home I had a panic attack.” “What? Why didn’t you tell me?” I prodded.
We’d been friends for years and honesty was standard practice in our relationship. Motherhood, on the other hand was new territory for us. Apparently, it had impaired both of us enough that we weren’t bringing all our cards to the table. We weren’t admitting need in our friendship. We were barely surviving the transition into motherhood.
“I didn’t tell you I was having a hard time because I felt silly voicing struggle with one baby when you have two.” I thought back to the moment in the parking lot when I had decided not to be vulnerable and portray to my friend that I was fine, when in actuality, I wasn’t. On this day I told her the truth, though. About the crying and screaming, and how I lost it. “I should have told you” I said. “But I was embarrassed and felt like a failure. Admitting need is hard. I was distant because I was scared of falling apart again.” I offered up my apology while nestling my feet into the couch cushion beside my friend.
“Let’s not do that again.” She said. “Friends share what is real. Neither of us have time for pretending. The right choice is to stay away from Carters and opt for coffee and homemade scones instead. Even if we enjoy them with a side of tears!”
The clanking of our coffee mugs that day solidified a new way forward in friendship and motherhood. Admitting need helps to unpack the gift of friendship that gives value to survival.