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  • Writer's pictureSam Martin

Friendship:A Love Story

1// November 2011. I’m 22 and newly married, in a suburban megachurch comprised almost exclusively of families with kids. Nary a young couple to be seen. I love my new husband, but I need friends. Most of our friends are still in college. I want friends where we live. Friends outside of work. Married friends to hang out with on the weekends.

2// October 2012. We have tentatively and timidly started a “young marrieds”  lifegroup. Tonight is the first time we’re meeting. They’re coming over to our little apartment in a few minutes. What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t like them? What if it’s awkward? I think I said a bad word... They probably won’t come back. 

3// October 2014. It’s been 2 years. Many couples have come and gone, but a few have stuck. We throw birthday parties for our dogs. We go to classes at the gym then spend hours at brunch after. Our husbands are doing who knows what, but they’re always together too. We make plans almost every weekend. We talk about everything. Fears. Dreams. Finances. Sex. Nothing is sacred. Everything is sacred.

4// December 2015. We collectively start to get the baby bug. I conceive first. A few weeks later that baby meets Jesus. I am devastated. Angry. Bitter. Jealous of the two other growing bellies. Unsure how to hold onto these friendships that suddenly feel tenuous. Strained. But somehow we manage.

5// April 2016. I’m again pregnant - 12 weeks. We are excited to learn if our baby is a boy or a girl, but with that highly anticipated news comes news we never considered hearing - our son has Down syndrome. 

6// December 2016. Our baby grows. He kicks, he rolls, he makes me puke. But he’s also sick. It’s several weeks too soon, but the time has come to meet him. 

7// December 27th, 2016. Max is born at 4:14pm. He meets Jesus half and hour later. Everything is a blur. I’m holding and kissing a baby without a pulse. I call Melissa, the burgeoning photographer of our group and ask if she will come take pictures for us. The only mementos of his little life we will ever have. Quiet tears fall as the shutter clicks. She steps into the pain and dares to document it. I hear a knock on my hospital door. They are all there. They didn’t know what to do. What to say. But they wanted to be close. We pass Max around. They kiss him. Through tear-filled eyes and choked out words, they tell me he’s perfect. They aren’t afraid of my grief in the rawest form.

8// December 29th, 2016. We leave the hospital without our baby. I can hardly force myself to step across the threshold of the hospital into my new reality. We drive home in silence. We walk into a quiet home. But a home that has been cleaned. Christmas decorations put away. The fridge stocked. Little displays of love at every turn.

9// March 21, 2017. I head to Mollie’s house for a quiet night. Confused, I see balloons reading 21. And special foods. It’s a little surprise party for World Down Syndrome Day. A small way of seeing a confusing and contradicting part of my identity. I’m the childless mother of a son with Down syndrome. They see that. They see me.

10// December 27, 2017. Lachlan is born on Max’s first birthday. I am terrified. I don’t believe he’s really coming until I hear him cry. Doctors place a living, breathing, kicking child on my chest, and right alongside my son, I take a deep breath and fill my lungs for the first time in nine months. A few hours later “the gang” shows up to marvel at this miracle of life. They bring a “new baby” balloon. They also bring a “1st birthday” balloon. My heart  simultaneously breaks and mends anew. Every year from then on, we will purchase two number balloons - one for each of my sons. 

11// Over the next few years we keep adding babies to our crew. We descend on the L&D floor over and over again to welcome our newest members. Each one belongs to us all. We learn the language of motherhood together. The expanding and breaking and reshaping of our bodies. Our evolving marriages. New identities. We text each other through tears of exhaustion. We feed each other. We lend breast pumps. “Have you tried this kind of bottle?” Brunches and nights out melt away and take the new shape of Bachelor nights in our sweats after the kids are asleep and endless Marco Polo chats.

12// 2021. Friendships change. They shrink back. They expand. We no longer all attend the same church. We no longer meet for lifegroup in the formal sense. Connections lengthen in one direction and tighten in another. I feel left out when they take that trip together. She feels hurt and misunderstood when I say that thing. Some families move away. Some come back. We give grace to each other and ourselves over and over and over again.

13// 2023. We have 18 kids earthside among the seven families who are local. There are many babies who never get to join us. One family is still states away but forever a part of our collective soul. I see the following poem on instagram and send it immediately in the group thread:

Friendship is what will save us

so fall deeply in love with your friends

date them, woo them, pursue them

mark your anniversaries

celebrate their victories

take care of their names

when they’re not in the room

create a space for them

where all truths are tender

for intimacy doesn’t have to be

reserved for romance

and crushes do not belong

only to lovers

so don’t hide it

when you find

a bonafide ride-or-die


14// February 14, 2024. I love my husband deeply and desperately. We’ve been married twelve years now and are still learning and practicing what it is to be one. To be a team. 

And I love these people too. They are woven into my very being. I am the me I am today because of them. 

I’ll be 35 next week. This will be my 13th birthday to celebrate in their company. The older we get, the more precious and rare we understand this multi-directional web of friendship to be. Like a spider’s web, it is both stronger than steel and yet terribly delicate. 

I live in an increasingly digital world where where quite literally everyone I have ever known is at my fingertips, including innumerable people I have never and likely will never meet. I can share anything I want on the behemoth we call social media and the internet. I love to write and share my thoughts with anyone who wants to listen. But still I know, they are the ones who will ask. The ones who won’t shrink back from my shadow side. Who will see the unvarnished truth and choose to turn towards not away.

When C.S. Lewis published his book The Four Loves in 1960, he penned, “Very few modern people think friendship a love of comparable value [to familial or romantic love] or even a love at all.” I’m not sure that we’ve evolved much (perhaps, in fact, we’ve regressed) over the last 60 years, but at the very least, speaking for myself, I know now that while friendship is, as he says later in the book, “unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” 

It’s friendship that will save us. Over and over again if we will let it. If we will dare to be seen. To be known. To be loved. To be challenged. To be held. 

Praise be to the God who looked down upon creation and said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” And praise be that God gave us the gift of life partners, not only in the romantic sense, but in the entirely earth-shattering, ground-breaking, platonic sense of soul level friends.

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