A friend forgave me once. It was about 3 years ago. I married her husband’s best friend and so by default we became friends. We visited a couple times a year and started sharing minor life experiences. We had instant connection, instant friendship chemistry. I considered myself so lucky to genuinely like my husband’s friend’s wife. There was a recognition that we could be real with each other. The honeymoon phase.
A couple years into this newfound friendship I had my 2nd daughter, it was a vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean). I’d done a ton of research and spent countless hours and tears changing my paradigm on what the birth experience was intended to be. I won! Vindication happened at 7:36 a.m. when I pushed a human little girl into existence and knelt over her. That high lasted for months, years.
Less than a year later my friend was pregnant as well. She too had suffered the injustices I had. So I called her in a panic, having heard through the husbands that she was considering a repeat surgery. Our friendship was still a shaky footbridge connecting two unexplored mountaintops. It was rarely traversed and only in good weather. It was uninformed, undefined. I reached through the phone and diplomatically made every case why my friend should follow in my footsteps. She agreed! She saw my logic. She saw the injustice. I passionately encouraged her, rattled off the numbers to boost her confidence; informed every misconception she knew she was being fed. Exhausted, she thanked me and we finished the call.
Months later she had her sweet son. Through the husbands, I heard it was a repeat cesarean. Completely confused I went to visit and celebrate her little babe and perhaps understand better what had happened. It must have been a necessary surgery because she knew better. That conversation didn’t really happen. Two moms and 5 kids running around can’t have a heart to heart. We hugged, I left, never to speak of it again. The footbridge lost a few planks. I was unsure about this perceived rejection of my advice. I was unsure what exactly was being rejected, an experience, or me.
Four children later, and perhaps 3 years ago, we went for one of our annual visits. The topic was long since forgotten. The foot bridge friendship handled holidays beautifully, a welcome high point in contrast to many perfunctory visits. Laughing at the craziness of life with someone who sees it from a similar angle relaxes you and lasts longer than the finest wine.
During the evening the mood shifted and we mentioned heart aches, things we were learning about ourselves, our marriages. We dared to speak ill of the husbands in hushed voices in case they came in from the deck. Then she said it. She brought up the births of her youngest two children, (the cesarean and a vbac) and talked about how healing they were. I stepped onto the foot bridge, shakily. I told her I was sorry for having been so overly zealous during that phone call so many years before.
And she forgave me. She told me it was ok, that she knew I didn’t mean to stress her. She knew I’d only tried to help. She said she knew now that she simply didn’t know what she didn’t know. I had grown some too. Having become a doula I’d learned that we all have a journey to walk and we can’t dictate another person’s learning path. I told her so. I told her that if I could do it over I would never have taxed her with my passion in that way.
She smiled. She laughed. She accepted my clumsiness and loved me anyway. She knew my intent and allowed that to be enough. She had never held a grudge. She opened up and let me see what her journey had looked like. She trusted me. She made it safe to err and therefore give me the freedom to be myself and never wonder if a misstep would lose her. She didn’t hesitate to state her case. She did not negate her own views. She found the connecting points of our different choices and didn’t allow the details to injure our friendship. She taught me that friendship meant talking through the awkward moments, not ignoring them.
The foot bridge was not only mended, it now had trusses, arches, and posts. This one is going to withstand whatever weight we cross with.