Before chronic pain and injury from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome prevented me from being really active, I was a dancer. I have loved to dance since I was three years old. I was a swing kid in Philadelphia during the 90s, clubbing several times a week with my then boyfriend, now husband, and making extra money teaching and performing. We dressed up in full vintage clothing, and ran around with a large pack of friends. We were the “it” group of the club. It was there that I met Ann* (I have changed her name.)
Ann was a rockabilly girl with a shy streak and a razor sharp edge. She wore beautiful, feminine vintage outfits, had picket-fence eyebrow tattoos (among many others) and always had very brightly dyed Manic Panic hair well before this was a trend. I thought she was fabulous. She though I was completely Vanilla, and at the same time, was awed that I seemed to like her just the way she was. I did.
We shared our lives for several years. I watched her leave a boyfriend, and find another. She became pregnant with her second child, the first from this boyfriend. I helped her find a midwife, and cuddled her newborn as much as I could in between Nursing School classes. They moved in together to an apartment around the corner from me, and it was Heaven. When I wasn’t studying or then working in my new job as a Nurse, I would go visit her. I loved sitting in her small kitchen, drinking tea and watching her mother her baby. She was a wonderful mother: she was patient and calm, relaxed, yet set proper boundaries. She fed him whole foods and seemed to have no anxiety about his safety. She was everything I wanted to be in a mother, and I burned it all into my memory, thinking, “I’m so glad she will be there for me when it’s my turn!” I became engaged and then married, and they attended my wedding. She became pregnant for the third time.
Ann had a very stubborn streak. She decided that she wanted to deliver her baby by herself at home, with no birth attendants present. I learned this when she called me at 5 am to tell me the baby was coming, and did I want to come watch? I showed up to find out that she expected her mother and boyfriend to catch the baby, only they were terrified and really wanted nothing to do with it. (They were also trying to keep her now 18 month old second child from constantly trying to get into the bathtub with her.)
Guess who caught the baby? (Don’t worry. I was a certified doula. It wasn’t my first rodeo.)
Below Ann’s calm surface, a storm raged. She had a history of substance abuse, depression, suicidical thoughts, and many other feelings that she never directly shared with me. I picked up on them in fragments over the years – she tested me, and I would like to think that I passed, but I never got more than tiny glimpses. One day, she fought with her boyfriend, and left. She called me to tell me that they had a terrible fight, and that she was calling the police on him for kidnapping her children (He took them out of state to visit his parents.) I was dumfounded. As I walked to the store the next day, I saw him sitting calmly outside. I tentatively asked if everything was OK. When he had no idea what I was talking about, I finally admitted my fear that the police were possibly on their way (You see, I really liked this guy. He was a good guy.) He laughed, and said no…
But with that move, I earned a last and terrible phone call from my friend, who felt very betrayed and angry with what I had done. She slammed the phone down. And that is one of the the last times we ever spoke. I reached out to her several times, only one time getting her on the phone, pleading with her how much I love her, and how I am always here for her, no matter what. She wavered, and said she heard me, but never spoke to me again.
What her friends and I have pieced together, is that she pulled away from all of us around that time. She left her boyfriend for good, leaving their children with him for the most part, while she ran around town with a guy that no one liked (which is probably why she cut her ties.) I don’t know if she started using drugs again. I think she eventually took her children back to her mother’s house in New Jersey. All of this is rumor and speculation.
Because my friend is dead. She lasted only a few years after this time, and then took her own Life. I didn’t get to see “my baby” grow up. Ann didn’t get to see me become a mother and have two home births just like her (with birth attendants though,) or understand how much I admired her, and how much she influenced me.
What brought us together is that she knew that I liked her for who she was. But she didn’t really know that, because she didn’t really share all of herself with me. She didn’t trust me with the depth of her pain and her sadness. I’d like to think that I would have sat with her in it. I would like to think that anything I could have done or said would have made any difference at all.
September is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. If you or someone you know is at risk of committing suicide, please call for help. The national hotline number is: 1 (800) 273-8255 and their website is: www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org