Thankful For All the Wrong Things


I birthed my first babe a week ago.

My unwashed hair is scraped into a lazy bun, my eyes sunken from lack of sleep. I’ve been wearing the same pajamas for days. Shuffling to and from the bathroom is a major event now, and I’m embarrassed by how difficult those few pathetic steps are. It is a particularly cruel blow considering I made my living as a fitness director a month ago. The hunched, fatigued woman in the mirror is a stranger.

A close friend comes to visit me in my glamorous state. She’s never seen me like this—lying in bed like an invalid—but she is unfazed. She chats about her life and makes me laugh, the lightness of her spirit slices easily through my fog. She dotes on my beautiful boy and calls me strong and capable. She says she is so proud of me. And I believe her.

Then it happens. When she walks back into the room after getting a drink, I sense something isn’t right. I can’t explain it. But as she sits down and continues our animated conversation, I look at her more intently. I muster what little might I can to quiet my body’s aches so I can really see her and be present in the moment. And I begin to hear what isn’t being said. I see the pain behind her dancing eyes. She is hurting, I am sure of it. I try to tell myself it’s just postpartum hormones messing with me. That I need to wait until I have more information. Something concrete to go off of. There is absolutely no reason to say anything right this second.

And yet.

I can’t ignore the sick clenching in my stomach. The words she’s saying. The over-the-top positivity she’s exuding. They’re not adding up. Not even the pool of self-pity I’ve been wallowing in can distract from it. I could be wrong. But what if I’m not?

I take a deep breath. There is no energy for eloquence or a pretty speech. I ask if she’s okay. I say I’m concerned, and I’d love to help if she’d let me. My words tumble out more clunky and blunt than I’d like. And then I wait.

She is startled by my question. Her eyes widen, and I wait for her to deny it, or call me out for ruining our pleasant time together with overly personal questions.

But tears fill her eyes instead. She confesses she is indeed struggling, and has been for a long time. She’s been keeping it secret, carrying the burden on her shoulders alone, without help, without support.

We sit on the bed and cry. But we do it together. She won’t do any of it alone from here on out. We make a plan because plans make us both feel better. I call her strong and capable. I say I am so proud of her. And she believes me.

When she leaves, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. For things I never thought I would be.

I am grateful for my weak, broken body. It helped me to recognize the brokenness in another.

I am grateful for a Facebook feed overflowing with cheery well wishes that felt painfully incongruent with my reality as a new mother. It reminded me to dig past a deceptively shiny surface for the truth.

I am grateful for my exhaustion. It squelched all my inhibitions so I could speak up.

I am grateful for my make-up free face, worn pajamas and even my confinement to the darn bed. They invited vulnerability and authenticity into the room, instead of glossy perfectionism.

Our friendship is never the same after that moment. It transforms into a new thing. What used to be a fenced, manicured yard is now an expansive, unruly field.

And in that wild and open space, we are free to be fully ourselves.

All because my tired, broken self had the courage to ask. All because her tired, broken self had the courage to answer.