The NaBloPoMo prompt for today asks if I would say I am my own best friend. Nah. I’m not very nice to me. Sure, I entertain myself. Yes, I am completely fine keeping my own company. Being alone doesn’t usually bother me – unless it’s late at night and the police helicopter is flying over, or I’ve just watched Walking Dead. I can totally go to lunch, breakfast, dinner, a movie, shopping, or coffee all by my lonesome and be good with it (as long as I have a book, or my smart phone, which I guess means I’m not really “alone.”) I do frequently talk to myself, although I don’t usually answer. I am my own boot camp instructor/cheerleader when I’m running or working out. But I’m not always good at picking myself back up. I don’t always believe in me or my abilities. I’m more quick to point out my faults and failures than my successes. I have a good, solid group of besties, near and far. I love them.
When something bad happens in your life, you’re often left wondering why. You may not get the answer to that question for years. Thirteen years ago last September, I gave birth to our oldest son 14 weeks (3 1/2 months) early. It was the first day of the third trimester of my pregnancy. Not good, right? He was so tiny at just 2 pounds, although that was considered almost huge for a 26-weeker. I had a life-threatening staph infection which was the ultimate ejection button for Big Man. I’d been in the hospital for sixteen days when he was born due to bleeding and contractions as the placenta pulled away from the uterine wall prematurely. Big Man gave the tiniest of cries just before the neonatologist in the delivery room intubated him. Shortly after he was taken away, that neonatologist came back to talk to us and let us know how our son was doing. He handed us two Polaroids of our precious baby, and told us we had a “feisty fighter” on our hands. Big Man was already trying to extubate himself.
I saw my son for the first time three hours later, just before he was going to be transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at a hospital ten minutes away. Desperately needing something in this situation be normal, I placed my pinkie finger in his ridiculously tiny hand. He grabbed on tight, and I thought, “Just like a normal baby….” I said hello, and then goodbye. They loaded him into the transport ambulance. I did not see him again for five days.
Big Man spent 93 days in the NICU. He was a total rock star, but our journey was not without its bumps, and Lord, but it was terrifying. He had a minor brain bleed. He had his own staph infection. He required blood transfusions. He would forget to breath, his heart rate would drop like a rock, and he would turn gray right before my eyes. He had eye exams, x-rays, hearing tests, ultrasounds. He was weighed daily. His feedings were measured and watched like a hawk. But finally, after three months in that NICU, just four days before his original due date, he came home on Christmas Day, We spent the next weeks, months, and years in follow-up care. I felt isolated. No one I knew had been through anything like this. No one I knew, except my husband, completely understood the road we were on. I made myself stop crying. I tamped down my fears and insecurities. I told myself to get over it.
When Big Man was three years old, I found out about the March of Dimes. I found out exactly how they had contributed to our son’s very survival. I vowed we would give back to this organization for life, because I could think of no other way big enough to say “Thank You” for our son’s life. In the process, Team Roo was formed, and I found this amazing online community of NICU families….There were other moms who knew exactly what I had been through, how I felt, what it all meant. They. Got. It. I finally had a safe place to let it all out. They let me know it was okay to grieve….yes, he was alive, but we had lost so much in the process….the dream of a perfect pregnancy, a perfect delivery, a perfect baby…all gone. And it was okay to be sad about that. Within weeks, that community was a vital part of every day life. Nine months later, I was given the opportunity to meet some of those women in person at the annual Volunteer Leadership Conference. I was a little fearful how online chats would convert in person. I had no reason to fear. Nine years later, some of my best friends come from that community. I text, Facebook, call, or email them daily. When I’m down, they pick me up, and vice verse. When one of us is going through something major, we rally around each other. We laugh, cry, vent, cheer. Once a year, we get to spend a long weekend together. There is little sleep, there are a lot of tears, there’s even more laughter, and a bazillion hugs.
These best friends get me, and they accept me anyways. They are always there for me, and I for them. Every morning, as soon as my phone goes off Do Not Disturb, the pinging of their texts starts. It makes me smile.
These are not the only friends I can count on this way. I have local friends who do the same. We lunch. We shop. We have barbeques. We travel together. We do book club. We celebrate. We cry. We eat, drink, and are merry.
So am I my own best friend? Sometimes, yes. But more often, no. I leave that to my besties. And I thank God for them every single day.