Fairweather friends

Fairweather friends
By Lisa Young

They say that friends come and go in our lives. We hope they’ll be there for the difficult times, but that isn’t always the case. This story is about a friendship that could not survive the birth of my child with special needs.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to tell my family and friends the great news. Everything seemed to be going well until I hit the 20-week mark. It was at this point that I found out that the pregnancy was not going to go as well as expected. Routine bloodwork showed that I had been exposed to parvovirus in my first trimester. This revelation resulted in emergency ultrasounds, more bloodwork and a referral to the High Risk Clinic at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto.

During this time, I found out that my best friend since high school was pregnant. This was something we'd both hoped for. We had dreamed of being off work together and having our children play together. While my friend’s pregnancy was ‘perfect,’ mine was full of stress. I became resentful of my friend’s complaints of being tired, heavy and sick with her ‘healthy’ baby. It was hard to hear this when I was just hoping my baby would make it until the 30-week gestation mark. I guess that’s when our friendship started to unravel.

My beautiful baby boy Tai (in photo above) was born by emergency C-section in February of 2004. I did not get to see him. I did not get to hold him. He was whisked away by the emergency team of doctors and nurses and put on a ventilator in preparation for surgery. We spent the next three months in the NICU at SickKids and were extremely well taken care of by the doctors and nurses. During this time, some friends and family came by to bring us food, meet Tai and give their support during what was an extremely trying time. All we needed was to know that people were around if we needed them.

My best friend never made it down to see us or meet Tai.

When we got home from the hospital, I spent the next few months in and out of doctors' offices for updates, check-ups and to resolve continuous problems with Tai. Gradually, over time, my friend gave up on me and our friendship dwindled away. I couldn’t spend my days at the playground like we had hoped and I barely had time to join playgroups we had planned to go to together. I had to cancel many playdates. Most of my maternity leave was spent in hospitals and doctors' offices.

Here is what I have learned:

1. Sometimes friends don’t know how to deal with situations like this. Instead of being supportive, they back away. That is their issue, not yours.

2. True friends will try to help. Embrace it, and say thank you.

3. It is okay to be selfish. My priority was my son, my husband and myself. I didn’t have the time or energy to handhold a friend, when what I needed most was to have my own hand held.

4. Understand and forgive. You can’t go back.

5. Try to be a good friend yourself.

After five years, I have reconnected with my lost friend and it is nice. We will never get back the deep friendship we once shared, but we can move forward and stay in each other’s lives on a smaller level.