When I was a freshman in college, my best friend from high school got pregnant. We were very, very close the summer between senior year in high school and freshman year in college--and throughout our first year at college, we wrote each other letters, sent each other silly emails, text messages, and Facebook wall posts. (Remember Facebook wall posts!?) We were each others rock when we didn't really have a lot of other people who understood our background: we were perfectionist girls from small towns outside of a major metro, who went to a Catholic school where everyone was just a little wealthier than we were. We worked hard, took AP classes, played sports, and got good scholarships.
I wish I could tell you that our friendship survived her pregnancy, that her becoming a mother and having to quit school, because you can't keep a soccer scholarship that covers most of your tuition when you're pregnant. I wish I could tell you that I had been there for her. And truly, I did try: I was 19 years old, however, and while that's no excuse, I didn't really have all the tools necessary to deal with her circumstances.
We fell apart for several years. My best friend disappeared into the background of my life; I remembered her fondly, but I wasn't sure exactly how to reconnect with her. But a year before my wedding, as I was trying on wedding dresses, I spotted her: she was trying on wedding dresses too. We hugged each other, we swore to get together... and we never did. I've chatted with her a few times since: we've met up for dinner once, she gave me the last of her breastmilk when Forrest was in the hospital just after his birth (a favor that is truly one of the greatest kindnesses anyone has ever done for me), and we talk occasionally on Facebook. But the spark of our friendship--that exciting feeling to have someone who just knew me, who understood all my quirks, who laughed at the same jokes as me, who sent me goofy cards she found in the grocery store just because--it's gone and it doesn't really come back.
Recently, I was reading Jimsy Jampots, a newsletter by Amy that I really love, and she talked about friendship, about how some people seem to have a friend group that survives just about everything and others, well, just don't. I'll be the first to tell you I've never been great at making friends; I'm introverted and shy, with a heaping dose of social anxiety. I'm eternally self-conscious, always convinced I'll say exactly the wrong thing. It's like I never learned how to have a conversation, sometimes. But when people get to know me, I really do think I'm quite funny. But friends? Lasting friendships? That's something I really struggle with.
In Amy's newsletter, she included a link to an article on the Pool about friendship and motherhood, and about how friendships shift and alter throughout our lives, but especially when we have kids... or don't have kids. You can read that article here. It got me thinking about my friend and how our friendship really dissolved once she was pregnant and especially after she had a baby. I was still in college, living a completely different life from her.
Similarly, almost 3 years ago, I was having a baby when almost none of my friends were. I've written before that I found pregnancy a really fun experience (despite learning later on that I actually had a quite difficult pregnancy), but that I found the first three months of motherhood absolutely brutal. Postpartum life is isolating, exhausting, and, truly, just not very fun. Some people adjust really well and some people just don't.
One line stuck out from that article by Robyn Wilder in particular:
It's very difficult to explain to people that it's not that I don't want to go to a trendy bar, or, god, even sit on a park bench and eat a sandwich and chat for hours. It's that I literally, physically cannot. I might be able to beg my child off on a babysitter for an hour, but that's just an hour. Or I can bring him along, spend all the time not really listening to someone talk, try to entertain him, annoy everyone else in the coffee shop, bar, or park, and then have to leave early because he didn't get a good nap, or he needs to eat lunch, or some other reason. (And truly, the stroller situation is out of control. Why don't they fold up easily!?)
Motherhood changes everything in your life. In one monumental way (you have a human life that is dependent on you for basically everything) and in many small, insignificant ways that sometimes feel glaringly painful. They are little paper cuts, reminders that your life is somehow much better, but also much harder, than it was a year ago, or two years ago, or whatever. It's like someone has come into the apartment of your life and just changed the furniture a little bit. Your body doesn't work quite the same anymore and neither does your brain, really; you don't have as much time as you once did to lounge on the couch, or binge watch TV shows, or chat with your friends. Your car has gotten bigger, bulkier, and harder to maneuver and the backseat is basically a non-space, taken up entirely by a plastic potty that you have to carry everywhere, a bag full of extra clothes just in case, snacks, and the carseat that cost about the same as a house payment. You find yourself doing things your parents used to do: folding money into parchment paper and saving in the freezer with peppercorns inside, carefully wiping tennis shoes with wet paper towels to clean the mud off, creating travel books out of old binders and hole punched activity sheets you photocopied from your sister's old books, counting coins out for allowance, creating a chore chart.
And there are people in my life who don't understand any of these things. They might even have kids themselves, who are older, or who are younger, or maybe they just adjusted to motherhood better than me and don't have to check the stove 3 times before they can get in the car. It makes friendship difficult. It makes it easy to go a week without talking, then two weeks, then somehow it's been two years and you're not even sure how to start the conversation anymore.
Parenting is hard. It's not the hardest thing in the world and ultimately, it's a choice--but it's still really challenging. And it's hard to juggle parenting and socializing, especially if you, like me, aren't great at socializing to begin with. I've been on both sides of the coin: I've been the one moving on while a friend becomes a parent and I've been the one left in the dust, looking around and wondering when the last time I spoke to so-and-so was. And it's ok. At the end of the day, it's ok for friendships to fade.
Because, in the meantime, you can find new friendships. Mom groups have bred some of the best friendships I've ever had--people who totally get me, who understand me and my difficulty with parenting, who laugh when I joke about starting a revolution, who understand when I say I don't really know if I want a second baby because I really, really like my first baby. People drift apart and it's hard to make time in the quagmire of our lives, but if you meet someone who is also fighting a two-year-old 13 hours a day, you'll be surprised as how well you can talk over screaming,.