I was excited to meet you for coffee after the post-partum chaos of the last few months. I know you do not have children, and I appreciate your patience with me. Your story about your latest dating mishap made me laugh, and I wish I could have been there in person. But I have to admit I started to feel anxious when you stopped talking, like reaching the front of a busy restaurant line and not knowing what to order. Part of my brain remembered that in social situations, this is when I am supposed to speak. A slightly larger part of my brain was stuck on how the baby slept last night, what tonight may bring and whether I remembered to unload the laundry. No part of my brain had a response ready or is even sure what you last said.
I zoned out – again – and said something innocuous about the challenges of dating. I don’t know if you noticed but thank you for jumping back into your story. I know you are trying to show some understanding and empathy for my devolved mental state and sleep-depleted social skills. But the stark reality is that there is a rift between us now that was not there before; life has unimaginably and irreversibly changed for me, and I worry our friendship may shift and drift during this transition. I know you may not be able to offer the advice I need right now or want to endure my endless yammer about bottles and breastfeeding and sleep. And I think you know that I want to hear about your life, but I may face plant into my coffee from exhaustion at any moment. It was more effort than you know to simply make it out of the house and meet you within an acceptable range of fashionably late.
I have been looking forward to re-emerging from newborn life to connect with you again. It is a much-needed reminder of my former self, a person I worry may be gone for good, and relief from the monotonous duties of raising a baby. I thought it might be helpful if I was upfront with you about where I am to help us navigate our shifting relationship. Remaining in your life and you in mine is important to me.
I am sorry I talk about schedules so much. Gone are the days, for now, of one glass of wine dripping into multiple bottles and days turning into memorable nights. I am on the clock – when to feed, when to sleep, when dad is arriving home to help share the workload. In the irregular rhythms of caring for a baby, the semi-certainty of a schedule gives me a glimpse of control. Some structure to the day helps the baby, but it is more about my mental health. When the baby takes long naps, I get a long break to look after myself and the house; predictable feeding helps avoid hysterical crying. Moms approach schedules in different ways, and I am still figuring out what is right for us, but I appreciate that you are trying to honor my choices and meet at times that work for both of us. As my good friend, could you help me consider letting go of some of that control and experimenting with flexibility? I hear babies can be very adaptable, but it is hard to remember that in the moment.
Biology is a powerful force. Don’t mistake my diverted eye contact and focus on the baby as not listening to you. I have become remarkably good at multi-tasking. As distracting and disrespectful as this may seem, biology dictates that we care for our babies, and it often happens without much conscious thought. If this bothers you, please draw my attention to it. Ask if I need a minute to take a break in our conversation until I can be more present. I want to be present for you.
I may need to share some part of my birth experience. Labor, delivery and recovery were life-changing events. I am still struggling with some of the physical and emotional scars that I may need to speak about to help process and heal. This is new territory for us, and I want to respect your comfort level in hearing about it.
I am in baby-jail at home and want to hear about your life. Even though our realities are diverging right now, and I am excited for my new path, I miss the path we used to be on together. I am interested in hearing about your life. It is a welcome break from the baby-jail feeling of spending a lot of time at home, and I do not want the new mom in me to crowd out being a good friend to you. Your patience as I learn to balance these roles reminds me of what made us such good friends in the first place.
I don’t expect you to hold, coo at or drivel over my baby. But please know that any bit of help is welcome – a minute feels like an hour, so I appreciate anything you can offer. Feeding a bottle, changing a diaper or just watching the baby while I order for us at the counter or take an uninterrupted phone call helps me rejuvenate and build confidence in finding a life-baby balance.
(A mom-in-training and friend for life)