“I think it would be beneficial if we added another child to his therapy sessions,” my son’s speech therapist tells me. She has another client around the same age and with the same speech disorder, and she would like to work with them together.
“That sounds great,” I tell her.
The day the session arrives, I arrive first. My son goes into his therapy room as I make my way into the observation room next door. I glance at my phone every few minutes to waste time, checking the time, and scrolling through social media. The other boy and his mom are a few minutes late, but when they arrive, a rock forms in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know if I’m anxious or excited to meet this mom, to spend an hour in a room with her. I wonder if I will leave this session with a friend.
After timid introductions, we watch our boys get acquainted with one another. Small talk takes up the first few minutes of our time together, but I am not a fan of small talk. It seems neither is she. We delve deep into a conversation about how and when our sons were diagnosed, how we felt about it, the impact it has had on our other children.
The hour passes quickly. We talked and shed a few tears over everything from our boys to our marriages. I can not remember a time I have ever connected with someone on such a level before, and suddenly I am anxious I may never see her again.
I want to ask her for her phone number, see if she would like to have a playdate sometime, but I can’t get the words to form. My hands are shaking and sweating so I rub them on my jeans. I am not very good at reading people, and even though it seems like this was equally enjoyable for her, I am not so sure. The thought of rejection is debilitating. I don’t make friends easily.
I bite my tongue and walk out of the observation room with my son’s hand in mine, hopeful that this is not the last time I will see this mom.
“How did the session go?” my husband asks once we are home.
“It went okay. The boys didn’t seem to do too well together, so they may not do this again. But the mom was so nice. We talked the entire time.” I practically squeal when I tell him about the conversation with her. Her husband works for my husband’s dream company, and our other children are close in age. We have so much in common.”
“Think you’ll see her again? It sounds like you guys could be friends.”
“I didn’t have the nerve to ask for her phone number. And she didn’t ask for mine. So maybe it didn’t go as well as I thought. I don’t know.” I shrug and end the conversation.
If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve always been lonely. In high school and college, Friday nights were spent at home, reading or spending time with my family. On the surface, it didn’t bother me. I hid my true feelings about being excluded from those around me, even from myself. I told myself I enjoyed the time alone rather than surrounded by groups that would give me anxiety, listening to pounding loud music that would give me a headache. This way, I didn’t replay conversations and ache to take my words back or wonder if people were talking about me. I was wildly insecure, thought I was weird and different, and that was why I was never invited anywhere. Making friends seemed impossible.
I’m an introvert and thrive on time alone. I am also anxious, shy, and fearful. I can count on one hand all of my closest friends that I’ve ever had in my life, from elementary school to college.
When I had my second child, I was plunged into postpartum depression. I wore bright and false smiles, pretending I was okay. It was exhausting. It was easier to avoid group settings, but when alone, I realized how debilitating it is to go through the motions of motherhood without a tribe.
Now, six years and three children into motherhood, I crave friendship on a primal level. When I walk into play areas and see moms gathered around each other, a sense of loss washes over me. I think about what I would do or say if I were to walk up to them and ask to join. I never follow through. My fear of rejection keeps me planted in the same spot. Even when I see moms arrive alone, I want to make conversation, but there is a voice inside me that keeps me quiet. My eyes stay on my children and imaginary conversations play in my head.
Nearly a year after I first met this other mom in therapy, we met again when our boys were together in a literacy group, as part of their speech therapy regimen to prepare them for kindergarten.
I sat in the back of the small observation room, surrounded by other mothers and caregivers. A few minutes after therapy started, the door opened. I looked up to see her walk towards the only empty seat in the room, right next to me.
I wonder if she recognizes me, I thought to myself. She situated herself and her other son and glanced my way. We smiled at each other, then moved our attention to the two-way mirror.
“Do you remember me?” I worked up the courage to ask her.
“Yes, you have Cameron as your therapist, right? We tried to do group therapy together?”
“Yea, that’s right. I just have to tell you, I am so glad we are meeting again,” I said. “Our conversation that day has stayed with me all this time.”
This sentiment broke the ice and started the friendship I had wished for all those months before. We exchanged phone numbers, added each other on Facebook. Our families met, went to birthday parties, and Trick or Treated together.
Most moms I know are lonely, aching for deep and meaningful friendships. Like me, anxiety and fear of rejection keep them sidelined. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make friends as quickly and easily as my children do, to find a best friend while strolling through the park. But when anxiety is at the forefront of my emotions and fear of rejection is constantly in the back of my mind, it is hard. It is a rock that sits in the depth of my belly, a feeling that tells me I am not enough–not good enough, not smart enough, not funny enough and therefore, no one wants to be my friend. But the older I get, the deeper into motherhood I go, I know loneliness isn’t going to sustain me. I need other women in my life.
As much as that mom from therapy, I wanted our friendship to be solid, it isn’t easy to form friendships with other mothers, despite having one major thing in common. Family obligations, school schedules, and distance make it difficult to keep the friendship sustainable. I am grateful for the friendship we formed, for the conversations and solidarity we shared. I think about her and the tears we shed together, the losses we mourned and the joys we celebrated. I know that if things were different, (if we lived closer, for one), we would still talk on a regular basis. Some people only come into our lives for a short season, and I think she was one of those people for me. We helped each other work through difficult emotions surrounding our sons’ speech disorders, and we helped each other feel seen and heard. When I let fear hold me back from reaching out to her the first time, it was one of my biggest regrets. We don’t always get second chances, and I’m glad that I did because, for a season, I wasn’t so lonely anymore.
Jacey is a wife and a stay-at-home mama to three. She finds solace from her long days at home in the kitchen, between the pages of a good book, and in the words that plant themselves in her mind throughout the day and escape through her fingertips at night. Jacey’s writing has been featured on Gather the Village blog and Coffee + Crumbs. She writes about books and motherhood at jaceywrites.com.