My three best friends and I have a longstanding tradition, dating back to 2004 of taking a trip together. We knew each other years before this, some of us as early as elementary school. Every year we reconnect, despite the miles that have separated us since the tradition began in high school.
But I've explained the history of all this before, and you can read more of those posts here and here (last year's girls weekend didn't make the blog since I had just had Willow and was taking a blogging break!). Today I want to focus on 2017.
See, last year's girls weekend was not traditional. I had just had Willow less than two months before, so was still getting the hang of things. Still recovering from birth honestly. And there was just no way I could travel. So my kind, generous friends drove to me and spent the weekend at our house. Unfortunately, Stephanie had other commitments and schedule complications at that time so she could only spend a little time with us, and Nicole had family matters to attend to while she was in Richmond so she was gone for a little while as well. So as wonderful as the weekend was, it didn't feel quite the same as other girls weekends.
This year's trip didn't feel the same either. I agonized for weeks over whether I should bring Willow on this trip or not. I knew it would be practically and logistically difficult but I also knew it would be difficult to leave her. From a breastfeeding point of view, from my very attached baby's point of view, and from mine. We've never spent a night apart and she doesn't sleep through the night. Being away from her for three days, well, we just weren't ready. So I strapped her into her car seat and made the three hour drive to Smith Mountain Lake and my girl was a trooper, despite not sleeping a wink the whole way there.
Friday night after spending my whole morning packing/preparing baby and I, driving there, and then unpacking/preparing baby's new living situation... I put Willow down for bed and prepared to spend time with my friends! But baby was scared of this new place and wired from our trip and she did not fall to sleep like she's been doing so well with. By the time she finally did, I was so relieved... and the power went out. This is bad news for a sound machine addict like Willow. She woke up instantly, terrified all over again. And after fighting it for about an hour I told my friends I had to take her to bed and let her sleep with me. So we did. And when she finally fell asleep to the sounds of my cell phone's white noise app, Erik called to say goodnight and we had to start the process over a third time.
Needless to say, I was very stressed and tired that night.
I kept thinking, "maybe I shouldn't have brought her... maybe this is more stressful for her than me being away. But how could I have predicted a power outage!?" I kept thinking how my friends were upstairs (Willow and I were in the basement) laughing and bonding without me. I just kept thinking how different my life is from theirs now, and it made me a little sad. I love my life the way it is, but I guess the four of us have been in relatively similar places in life emotionally and practically speaking until Willow came into the picture.
So when we were planning our weekend, I felt like a bit of a damper, constantly shooting down activities that weren't baby friendly. Working to keep up and quickly get Willow out of her car seat as everyone else pops out of the car and heads to our destination without a second thought. Making sure we're home by 7 so Willow could go to bed without crying and stressing everyone out. It was an adjustment. And while the mama bear in me puts Willow above everything, I hated feeling like an inconvenience or a disappointment to these wonderful people. It felt selfish and I don't beat myself up over anything more than when I feel like I'm being selfish. And then I look at Willow and think how leaving her to deal without me would be the ultimate in selfishness. It's a struggle.
I just felt constantly reminded of being in a different place in life from these friends I've had so long. And that's okay. But it did make me a little nostalgic for simpler times when our struggles were similar. It made me realize that these trips and our lives are only going to get more complicated as time goes on. As we make different choices. As we start having children, moving to new places, getting married, starting new jobs, whatever it is.
When you look at our four lives over the past year, it is has been an absolute roller coaster. Two of us experienced incredible loss and sorrow. One of us found out she's moving far, FAR away and it's going to be very difficult for us to see her in the future, despite it being an overall positive happy change for her. I, of course, had Willow, a totally life altering event. And there were a lot of smaller moments in between. Like Nicole's ninja warrior 30th birthday party at an inflatable Jumpology kind of place (I can't remember what it was actually called) where we all had the best time just bouncing around, being carefree and celebrating a new decade of life. Days like those are when I forget that we all live so far apart.
I'm thankful to have these girls in my life. I'm thankful that there are three people I know who will always be there and be supportive when the worst happens or celebrate when the best happens. Real life is messy and it doesn't always have the shine and sparkle of your college years when you can drop everything and head to the beach, when one bag is all you need for a weekend, when many of us are privileged enough to not have to experience true grief. True stress. Big, life-changing decisions.
I'm thankful for sangria sipping in the hot tub, watching the sun set over the lake. I'm thankful Willow SLEPT on Saturday night so I could do that in peace! I'm thankful for all the good news we had to share and the catharsis of sharing our struggles. Girls weekend looks different now, but I think what I need to remind myself of is that it will always be growing and evolving, just like us, and different is not always bad. What would be bad is to let this tradition die. And luckily, we are all very committed to preventing that!