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What Happened to My Friendships When I Became a Parent of a Child With Disabilities

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We’ve all had those friends. Maybe we’ve even been that friend (guilty). You know, the ones who were “OMG super excited” when you showed them a picture of your positive pregnancy test. The ones who were already calling themselves “auntie so-and-so” or “uncle what’s-his-face” before your fetus was the size of a plum. The ones who attended your baby showers and bought adorable outfits and loved your tiny human before they even met him/her.

And then, the baby is born. Where is “auntie so-and-so” and “uncle what’s-his-face” now?

Friendships fade, especially when major transitions are on the horizon. I know that now, but for the past four years, I’ve had so much pent up anger and sadness when it came to those I was once close to — the friends who seemingly disappeared after our son was born. Having a baby is hard and can be incredibly isolating in and of itself, let alone having a baby who, due to complications, ends up in the NICU. Generally speaking, I believe that people aren’t naturally equipped with the skills necessary to face that type of trauma, so rather than risk saying the wrong thing, people tend to say nothing at all. They back away slowly and watch your life unfold from afar, occasionally dropping a line to say, “Thinking about you!”

But, perhaps it’s unfair to assume our struggles with our son and the struggles we’ve faced since then directly correlate with fact that our pool of friends is exponentially smaller than it was five years ago. Priorities shift when you become parents — that bottle you’re holding at 1 a.m. is now filled with milk, rather than beer. Brunch dates, happy hours and, well, just about anything that involves putting on a bra (outside of business hours) just sort of drops off your radar. Keeping another human being alive, worrying about milestones and growth charts and daycare and possible food allergies and therapies and autism and diet and potty training and illnesses and IEPs, on top of your marriage and your career, leaves little time or energy for anything else.

So, maybe it was kind of crappy for “auntie so-and-so” or “uncle what’s-his-face” to disappear when things got real, but it was also pretty crappy of us for making little effort to keep them around. The new friends (you know, the “mom friends”) and the friendships that survived the wreckage may be few and far between, but I’ve reached the point where I am OK with that. I don’t need a huge tribe, or even a medium-sized one, for that matter. I have a small but fierce circle, and I am so incredibly thankful for that. Whether I see you multiple times a week, once a month or twice a year, I love you all dearly. I’ve let go of any anger or sadness I’ve had about the friendships that have faded, but still hold on to hope that we can reconnect again someday. I mean, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be closing the bar with you on a Friday night, but if you want to drive out to the ‘burbs, join my chaos and enjoy a Sunday morning mimosa with me, you’re welcome anytime. You might be forced to blow bubbles, eat Cheez-its and you may even trip over a diecast car or two, but it’ll be worth it, I promise.

Follow this journey at The Unstoppable Mom.

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Getty image by Zero Creatives

Originally published: December 5, 2017
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