On Friendship and Being There, Even When It’s Hard

I’ll never forget the day I met Becca. We were in Sunday School and we’d both arrived a little too early. She was sitting in a recliner by the window and the mid-morning sunlight was catching her hair. She had her hands wrapped around a warm mug of coffee and an oversized wooly sweater on. She looked artsy and interesting, though she had a quiet and unassuming demeanor. Yet, when she spoke, she was articulate and and captured the attention of everyone in the room. I had no way of knowing on that morning just how much she’d impact my life and how grateful I’d become for her friendship.

We saw each other only on Sunday mornings for about a year. Then, a few of us joined up and decided to start a small group together. We’d meet weekly for dinner and discussions. Our small little circle would hold each other accountable. We’d talk about our days, our co-workers, our futures, our questions and our families. We’d spill our souls freely, knowing it was a safe space. When Becca and her husband were both around 33, and I’d known her for about two years, she looked up sheepishly from her dinner one day and told our group they were expecting. She was glowing and rubbed her belly, revealing what none of us had thought to notice a tiny baby bump.

Over the next few months, I watched my sweet friend blossom. She’s always been a kind-hearted nester with a penchant for crafting. Yet, she really dove into that role as a new mom. She created a handmade paper mobile for her nursery, painted thick stripes in shades of gray on the walls, sewed and stuffed cartoon character pillows, and spent hours deciding on the right rocker for those long nights certain to be ahead.

Her son Henry was born, healthy and happy as a lark, in May. We brought her a box of fried chicken from our local shop and I hurried up the front steps to see her. She was in her pajamas as any new mom would be, but her smile was missing and her gaze was removed. I took her baby in my arms and rocked him in the nursery so she and her husband could eat in peace. I whispered how loved he was and how I couldn’t wait to watch him grow. Little did I know, in one year I’d be bringing his future little girlfriend into the world. My daughter was born the following June and they’ve been inseparable play buddies ever since.

Yet, though I could tell something wasn’t quite right with my friend, I didn’t think much of it. Research has proven that our bodies go through a slew of hormonal changes before, during and after pregnancy. I drove away thinking she might be having a difficult time adjusting to this new normal, but she was happy-hearted and generous with her love and perfect for this new role she was in. A few months went by and we only spoke intermittently, and our small group took a hiatus after so many of us announced we were starting families of our own. I checked in on Becca one day at home. She hugged me with tears in her eyes and thanked me for coming over. She spilled her story to me, of how difficult the newborn months had been. She shared her process of going on medication to help her combat her depression. She’d stopped them recently and was going through the withdrawal process as we spoke.

She said she’d found a great support group and an incredible therapist. She was finally crawling out of the cave she’d built around herself and her heart. She was looking forward to mornings and didn’t always feel like the world was going to crumble down on her anymore.

She was still her quiet self and I could tell a little cloud was still hanging over her, but my old friend was emerging. Her gaze met mine and her eyes shone as she talked about her boy, a crawling toddler by then.

That was four years ago. We just celebrated Henry’s fifth birthday party at our church picnic shelter. I brought my two kids and we all cut ate popsicles and played Pin the Tail on the Donkey until long into the evening. I got home and looked all around my own home. There are touches of Becca’s heart everywhere. She made me two paper mobiles, one for each of my babies. She sourced pieces of cloth that were special to me and created a rag rug for their shared nursery. She’s made for both of my children and this past spring, gifted my son with a handmade felt book so he can learn his ABCs.

Becca is one of the most giving and selfless people I know, and it pains me to know that she was dealing with so much grief and I couldn’t tell. Moving forward, I’m more intentional my friendship. I don’t just call her up when I’m bored, or when my daughter is begging to play with her son. When we meet, I don’t spend hours talking about myself and my world. Rather, I call her all the time just to check in. I ask her about her day, what’s on her mind and how her heart is. I don’t know for a fact that it’s making a huge difference, but I believe in my heart it is. I may have missed the signs in the beginning, but I’m determined to stay now. I owe it to my kind friend to do so. She’d do the same for me, and then some.