As a medical mama, my friendships are an enormous blessing. I have friends that are new and have come into my life since becoming the mom of a medically complex child, and I have many friends who knew me before this season of my life. I'm not sure if this is the case for all medical mamas, but the vast majority of my friends (whether they met me recently or years ago) are not mothers of children with medical complexities. This adds a unique learning curve to navigating and maintaining friendships - both for my friends and for myself.
As I transitioned into my role as a medical mama, my friends have been my steadfast companions. Their support during my moments of discomfort and joy has been invaluable. Throughout this journey, I've learned some valuable truths that help me communicate my needs to them while remaining a good friend in return.
So...from a medical mama to my dear friends...here are those truths:
1. I don't expect you to fully understand (nor do I desire you to).
There are aspects of our journey that have strengthened us as a family. They've broadened our perspectives and have made us better, more compassionate human beings. There are also aspects of our journey that are quite dark. In opening up to friends about these darker moments of our daily life, my goal is to never have them fully understand. Because in order for them to "get it," they'd have to walk this road themselves, and that's something I would never wish upon anyone. While I am grateful for the times I can be vulnerable with them, and while I am also grateful for the friendships I have with medical mamas who do "get it," I desperately want my friends who aren't walking this path to know that your listening ear and comforting presence is enough. There will be parts to this journey that you will never have to feel the way that I do...and I am so very grateful that you don't.
2. You don't need to compare hardships with me.
In fact, I would encourage you not to. My personal struggles do not disqualify yours. My frustrations, hardships, and experiences do not disqualify those of your own journey. You are allowed to have struggles, concerns, fears, and discomforts. And you are allowed to discuss those things with me without saying, "I know this doesn't compare to your situation, but..." You don't need to do that. Being a friend to you means hearing you and being there for you when you have your own hardships. You are allowed to have those, because you are human. Both of our experiences are valid.
3. I don't expect you to read my mind.
You are a human being. You're not Professor X or Dr. Jean Grey. I cannot expect you to read my mind or understand how I am feeling if I don't tell you.
4. I don't expect you to manage my triggers.
My triggers are mine to manage. Meaning that it is my responsibility to manage my own emotions and my responses to certain things that are triggering for me. While I do hope that as a friend you will give me the space to express or explain my triggers when I feel it is necessary, it is not your responsibility to manage my emotions. You do not need to walk on eggshells. You do not need to constantly dance around your words. I have my own healing to navigate and I take responsibility for that. I only ask that you be patient with me in the process.
5. I love being invited to things even if it's likely that I can't make it.
There will be many times that I won't be able to come to that party or that girls' night out or that trip to the beach. However, I love to be included and invited. Many times the only things we are "invited" to and pencil in the calendar are medical obligations. Please don't stop extending the invite. I may ask you to be flexible with an RSVP or if you can give me some time to find childcare. But just don't stop inviting. It helps me to still feel human.
6. Help where you can, but I understand that you have a life, too.
I don't expect you to always be available when I need help. I know that you have your own obligations and your own boundaries. If you let me know through words and actions that you are available to provide support and in what capacity, I'll have the confidence to reach out and ask for help in a way that meets my needs and respects your own.
7. I love spending time with you and your family.
There will be times in my journey in which it might be difficult for me to see the ways in which other families are living, growing, and experiencing the world. That is not yours to navigate. That is not your trauma to heal. That is mine. I want to celebrate your life and your family with you. If I'm experiencing a challenging period, I'll take the time I need to process that. But please know that being a friend to you, celebrating you, and walking through life with you as your friend is a blessing that I will never take for granted.
Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also. Colossians 3:12-13, NASB
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2, NASB
If you're a medical mama, and this resonated with you, or if it is something you feel that your friends would love to hear, feel free to comment below and share this post for others to see.