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Big plans for friendship evolve in motherhood

Rebekah and her best friend, Jessie today

This must be the year of reflection. Decisions made and the paths you take, all of it is front and center in my thoughts lately.

I had big plans growing up that all involved Jessie, my bestie since eight grade and I doing all the fun things before settling down across the road from each other and raising kids that were friends, all while remaining the coolest moms EVER. We had an awesome start to our plans as we drove to Mexico from Idaho on a month and a day road trip soon after graduation. We washed our hair in rest area sinks and made the funniest recorded tapes of our travels. We spent a year in Portland, Oregon before taking the train to New York City before driving to California and breaking down. And then, a detour ahead as I went home to my parents for a bit, and she went home to hers.

We reunited in February, when Jessie was pregnant with her first child and I readied myself to be her labor coach. We didn’t ready ourselves with study or classes. We were adventurous girls who surely had this. My mom tried to warn us about the upcoming hard road labor might be, but we apparently took that advice from my mother of nine for granted.

Valentines Day 1995 was the day. Her body was ready, and I thought I was too. Though much is a blur, her pain in labor was such a shock to me that I cried and I cried and I cried. At one point, the nurses were consoling me and Jessie jokes that she was the one dying over there, but they were all checking on me. We laugh about it now, but I am still surprised at how unprepared I was for how I would react emotionally, and how inadequate I would feel to be her support.

I will never forget her face as she became a mother. I watched it happen, and can still see it, but not describe it with words.

One second she wasn’t, and then she was.

Oh, I was happy for her. But have you ever felt like suddenly you were somewhere you didn’t belong, and you are quietly trying to back out of the room before they notice you are still there? That is also how I felt. One of us was a mother, and one of us wasn’t, and I didn’t know how to reconcile that.

Rebekah holding her best friend’s new baby

I would like to say that I handled it better, that I was the supportive best friend who was there through it all, but I went home feeling lost and separated from all of the plans we had made. I was 19 and unsure of what to do next.

To speed up the story a bit, I started dating my now husband when I went back home. And so life went on, I was in North Dakota and she in Idaho, though our friendship remained.

Fast forward all sorts of years and we are both mothers, she of six and me of four. Our kids became pen pals not long before they were able to come and visit for two weeks while her husband helped some of his builder friends on a new subdivision here. We spent two dirty and lovely weeks in two campers parked side by side in our newly acquired 20 acres north of town. And our kids forged deep friendships that they continued through eagerly anticipated letters and phone calls.

She has two girls the same age as my two girls and what a joy it is to watch them enjoy each other! Their friendship is a peek back into the early days of ours, and I hope they have a glimpse of the good ahead for them by watching their mothers. My prayer is that they will look back in 30 years and still have each other in it. And if there are detours along the way that they will not lose sight of what a gift it is to have a friend and to keep her.

Written by Rebekah Engebretson

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Rebekah lives in a little house on the prairie with her husband and 4 daughters near Watford City. She is a huge North Dakota fan and loves people and taking pictures and personality tests.

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