friendship, health, and searching for joy

*this is a long one, so please settle in and don’t give up!

I attended the shower I was dreading. It was definitely worth dreading.
We were there for 4 long hours. Very long hours.
On the brighter side there were no forced games to play or activities to pretend to be interested in. I am going to be thankful for the small things.
Let’s just wait and see if the illusive thank you card shows up in the mail.

While at this shower I was able to catch up with another friend from university. We hadn’t seen one another since Baby was born, and before that I think I was about 6 months pregnant. The terms of our relationship have changed over the years, as they do with most friends, but our relationship has really taken a turn in the wrong direction. I will use the term friend going forward but it is definitely used loosely. I am in the process of trying to figure out if these friendships are worth working at or if I should let them end naturally.

This friend, lets call her M, is an incredibly judgmental bitch which would make you think that we’d be the best of friends. Sadly that is not the case, she makes me look like an angel – hard to believe, I know, but she does. We were once quite close and enjoyed each others company – lots of dinner dates, phone calls, coffees, double dates with our significant others (her husband and whomever I was dating at the time). Things turned sour when I ended my relationship with my 6 year-long crappy boyfriend. He was a dick, it was inevitable. It wasn’t the end of the relationship that changed things – it was the fact that I was dating.

The Shower friend, lets call her N, and M passed a lot of judgement over the fact that I was single and dating. These girls were lucky to have found their mates when they were young. N had already called off one wedding (!) but had recently found the love of her life, and M had met her husband when she was 19. Lucky them.

I was still on my path to find Babe. We had found one another at 15 but ran in different circles as they say, and we still had months until we were to re-meet.

Anyway, fast forward to the BIG day when Babe and I married! It was an incredible day, not just our opinion but one shared by many. As it turns out the popular opinion was not shared by M or N. They made this clear AT the wedding, during the reception, at their table, where others could hear the two of them pick apart the wedding from ceremony, the decor, amazing food, and even my beautiful dress. I know that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but even I wait until I’ve left the building to share my opinion. My mother raised me right, I know that you bit your tongue until no one who could be offended could hear – and if they do then you deserve the wrath that they let loose. Or in these times you go online, start a blog, and let the world read your opinion by using code names and cover details to maintain some sort of privacy. πŸ˜‰

Anyway back to the Shower and M and I catching up…

We were talking work, babies, upcoming trips (hers not mine, obvi), home renos, the usual adult conversation topics. When talking babies she let me know that she feels that she is basically a mom as she spends so much time with her nieces, helping her sister out. I looked at her slightly puzzled as words were not forming in my head properly. It felt like I had a minor stroke – how could you basically be a mom when you’re an Aunt? I am an Aunt and it definitely does not feel the same way as being a mom. I would only know this now as I am a mom. She went on to say that she spends so much time with them that it’s the same so she’s like their mom. This is a woman who only recently has decided to have children after years of not wanting kids because she saw how much time and money they suck from your life. Interesting. Basically a mom.

I know that I’ve put my foot in my mouth a few times. Okay, more than a few times. A lot. Maybe so much so that I have started to pay attention to the creams I put on my feet to make sure I don’t gag when I open my mouth again. I know that when I didn’t have Babe or Baby that Dog was my world. Dog still is a huge part of my world and my love for Dog hasn’t changed one bit, despite being constantly told during my pregnancy that Dog will become a pet and no longer a love. I can wholeheartedly say that my love for Dog and feelings towards her have not changed one bit since Baby arrived, and are very similar to feeling like a mom. I may be ignorant to what M is talking about saying that her being an Aunt is the same as being a mom but I’m pretty sure that’s something you don’t say to someone who still claims to be hormonal* from giving birth 16 weeks ago a new mom. πŸ™‚

*this claim is to cover the fact that I am just super bitchy sometimes and it may be offensive to others so this is my way of making a great excuse to get out of any hurt I may unintentionally cause.

But seriously, basically a mom? Really?
Why can’t I let this go?! Is this the sign that this friendship isn’t worth saving?

Let’s look at this statement from someone who isn’t able to have kids and has adopted. Or someone who may have tried all avenues available to get pregnant and still hasn’t yet. Or someone who has only suffered miscarriages, or like a dear friend of mine had a perfect pregnancy and only to have their baby for 25 hours on earth. I am certain that I cannot imagine how I would feel in any of these situations so I am likely to not open my mouth and make statements that may be taken the wrong way.

But so we are clear you’re telling me that because you babysit from time to time that makes you a mom? Or close to being a mom? The sleepless nights? The constant worry and care? That first week when you leave the hospital and are so scared that you think security is going to follow you home? Or that one of the nurses is in the car behind you following closely? Wondering what the hell you’ve done at 4 in the morning when Baby is screaming and you’re lost at the reasons why – clean diaper, just fed & burped, why are you crying!?!??!

A little history…
A close friend was struggling to get pregnant and reached out to me for support. I was there 100%! I had received a book for Christmas from Babe’s eldest sister all about women and fertility. I suggested to my close friend that we do this together, explained to Babe the situation and suggested we give it the good ole’college try! He agreed. We tried. Once. It took. Unfortunately for my close friend, it didn’t work for her then but she is expecting & her baby is set to arrive in a few more weeks!! πŸ™‚

I spent 40 weeks and 3 days carrying my sweet Baby. I went through morning sickness for the first few weeks, insatiable hunger, fell asleep all the time, life was good! Then came the end of month 2, things took a funny turn. I became quite sick and spent hours in the bathroom each day, I was losing blood and wasn’t able to keep even the smallest amount of food or liquid down, I was dehydrated and knew that things were seriously wrong.

The fear of losing Baby was a reality and so incredibly scary I couldn’t breathe. Things got progressively worse as the months wore on. The team of doctors I was visiting each week were puzzled. I was hospitalized for 2 days (my hospital neighbour died the first night), a group of doctors discussed the need for a blood transfusion as my blood count was getting dangerously low, finally I was put on a high dose of steroids for the remainder of my pregnancy so that I could start eating again. I saw the inside of so many doctors offices & hospitals I should have been paid (as I went off work on sick leave), and I prayed everyday that my Baby would survive this. When M found out I was off work and the reasons why her response was “Lucky you!”. I’m pretty sure I didn’t feel lucky then, and I definitely don’t feel lucky now.

It was determined, after 5 months of the closest to hell I ever expect to get, that I have ulcerative colitis. Things settled down when I went off of work and I delivered a healthy and happy baby. I suffered another flare, as they say, before Christmas that lasted about 6 weeks. It was so different this time as I had Baby to take care of which made things a little more challenging. After another scope the specialist has suggested that I have my colon removed as the entire colon is affected. This isn’t an option for me right now, as doing so would affect my fertility and I would love to have another baby. Maybe 2.

What I will say is this carrying a baby doesn’t make you a mom, going through the struggles I went through doesn’t make you a mom either. That isn’t really part of my argument, it’s really just a sad excuse to share my story. Being a mom is so much more than pregnancy, than a delivery (45+ hours!), more than conception. There really isn’t a set list of things that make someone a mom, for everyone it’s different as every pregnancy is different, every person is different and every experience is different.

For me being a mom is about always putting the well-being of your child first, it’s about the sacrifices you make without knowing you’ve made them, it’s about going to bed SO excited to see their face the next day, it’s about the love in your heart that cannot be put to words, it’s the unconditional and pure love that you share. It’s about not caring about whatever bodily fluid of theirs gets on you, the growing pains that make them irritable but so cute in your eyes, hearing them cry and crying with them. It’s that love you cannot describe in words and why tears form in your eyes when they look at you and smile for the first time or when you hear their laugh for the first time. Listening to the monitor to make sure their breathing, and then going into their room to double-check.

In my opinion, if it isn’t clear yet, being an Aunt isn’t quite the same as being a mom. It’s wonderful and amazing, but motherhood…it’s the best gift you give yourself and one that only gets better. Until puberty hits, from what I’ve been told.

Then the Aunts of this world can take over…

The reality is that maybe I’m just looking for reasons to end this relationship as it’s become quite toxic. Friendships should be maintained lightly but really just left to their own devices. Friends should be supportive, fun-loving, and encouraging – they shouldn’t be vicious, self-serving, or belittling. I recall sitting at dinner with M & N and having them basically call me a slut when I had just started spending time with Babe. I honestly could not find a reason then, nor now, for that term being used. Regardless, I am not feeling great about this relationship anymore. So what do I do? Do I bring it up and discuss the concerns I have? Do I do nothing and let nature take it’s course? I just feel that I put a lot of effort into relationships that don’t bring me any joy. What is life without joy? Anyone out there have any advice?

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