What you need to know:
- A new mother often seems distracted, when in fact she is facing a complex network of new challenges.
- Women who are desperately trying to conceive are especially vulnerable when a pregnant friend undergoes the normal social changes.
- In hindsight, Monica wished she had known how important it was to give Cathy some time alone.
Over lunch at their favorite little restaurant, *Cathy, Monica’s best friend, announced that she was pregnant. But instead of Monica being happy for her, she felt betrayed. She had a sinking feeling that nothing would ever be the same between Cathy and her. Whether she liked it or not, from then henceforth, she would have to compete with the precious presence inside her friend’s womb.
"Congratulations!" she said, suddenly feeling very lonely. This was not a case of baby envy. Monica already had a 12-year-old daughter. Additionally, she had decided a couple of years earlier, after a series of painful miscarriages, that she wouldn’t have any more children. She vividly remembered what it was like to care for a baby—to wake up in the middle of the night and to lack the time to do simple things like taking a shower —and she was glad that phase of her life was over. No, she was not envious.
“How dare Cathy make a unilateral decision yet it could affect our friendship? There is a chance I could lose her forever,” she thought.
Ah! Separation anxiety is such a primordial emotion, it defies rationality. How needy we all are under our poised, affable facades. And indeed, from that moment until nearly three years later, not only did Cathy and Monica struggle to make time to get together, but when they did, they strained to find compelling topics of conversation.
Monica had the impression that Cathy was withdrawing, because she was no longer as enthusiastic as she used to be. Right after the delivery, Monica went to visit her, but she never managed to bond with her friend’s bundle of joy. The baby would fret and whimper the minute Monica held him in her arms. And whenever she would get on the phone with his mother, he would begin to scream uncontrollably as if on cue. She would say, "I'll call you back," and hang up immediately, but she never found the time to do so.
Eventually, Monica stopped reaching out to Cathy. Let's face it: A brand-new car seat strapped onto the back seat of a dear friend's car can easily damage friendships between two women. No matter how deep the understanding or how long-standing the baby’s charm, your relationship will certainly be tested when one friend embraces motherhood.
A new mother often seems distracted, when in fact she is facing a complex network of new challenges. As a friend, you might get annoyed by her changed behaviour, especially if you aren’t a mother yourself.
Women who are desperately trying to conceive are especially vulnerable when a pregnant friend undergoes the normal social changes. In hindsight, Monica wished she had known how important it was to give Cathy some time alone.
Clinging to a friend is also part of friendship. Even enduring relationships have their own timelines, with periods of separation that can last months or even years. It turned out that Monica’s friendship with Cathy was only on a hiatus.
Many childless women, however, are tempted to ignore the overwhelming lifestyle changes that a baby can bring upon their friends. *Susan is mortified because her former college roommate has decided to stay on maternity leave an extra three months.
"Since the birth of her daughter, she only wants to discuss the pros and cons of backpack baby carriers versus swaddling slings," Susan tells me, rolling her eyes.
And *Carol, a successful graphic designer, recently described a meltdown she had while baby-sitting in the lobby for a friend who was in the bathroom.
"I can't tell the difference between a pacifier and a teether," Carol recalls, "Yet there I was, trying to get a colicky newborn to calm down!’’
Maybe there is a good reason why mothers and non-mothers have trouble finding common ground. Only the most devoted buddies are supposed to stick around. Motherhood is not for the fainthearted. Mess, chaos, and pandemonium are to be expected, so if you can't take the heat, get out of the nursery. Yet, baby-bashful girlfriends can end up having a healthy influence on both mother and child.
Monica’s daughter was raised among her feminist friends, women for whom liberation was synonymous with solidarity. A number were childless by choice, yet they felt compelled to support their peers who, like Monica, were single with a baby in tow. These liberated girls would come over every evening and, while Monica washed the dishes, show her daughter how to purl. From these "aunts," her daughter learned so much.
In the long run, a child can provide a platform for girlfriends to get closer to each other. Cathy and Monica didn't drift apart forever. When her son turned three, she emerged from hibernation:
One morning, perhaps because she had had a rare good night’s sleep, she woke up and returned to her old self. She called Monica and their relationship blossomed once more. Today, although they live in different towns, they are very close.