No, this is not a post about Facebook.
One of the main topics of conversation on fertility blogs, or pregnancy loss/trying to conceive message boards/websites, is the issue of friendships; how they change, how we deal with friends who have children, how they deal with us. It’s a difficult topic, and I’ve read countless blogs and forum posts about friendships that change. The pain, anguish, anger and hurt in these posts are almost palpable.
I’ve also been considering a post about one of my own friendships that has irreversibly changed over the last ten years. But I’m a bit nervous, fearful that my friend might find her way here, and that I might ruin what we stil have. It’s also too painful, still too raw, even though I’ve been mourning the loss of this close friendship for several years now. I go through phases I guess, and recently I’ve been feeling it again.
So I know there is still much more to say than what I’m about to say here. But I want to keep it brief. (As you can see, three paragraphs in, I’m failing dismally. Brevity is not my strong suit!)
One of the friendship issues that I see women face is how they cope when they are the only one in their circle of friends who doesn’t have children. I don’t know how they cope with that, as it is not something I have had to face. Yes, I know how lucky I am.
Nicole posted about this in “Who will be our friends wheneveryone has kids?” Even back when I was in my 20s, I was determinedly NOT trying to conceive, fiercely resisting the expectations that, as a woman, my first job would be to procreate. I never said never, but quite definitely said “not now, not yet.” I was going to do it when it was right for me. Not when people thought I should. And so I found it hard to think of our other friends having kids, when it was so far from my own immediate thoughts at the time.
By the time I was 30, only a few of my friends had children. And it really didn’t affect my life. One of my oldest friends had children but really didn’t change her (outward) lifestyle much at all. We got to know the children well - G spent his first birthday at our apartment in Bangkok - but we never felt that we could only ever talk about the children. Our relationship continued with little change. And there was never any judgement about our choice (at the time) not to have children, or any pressure to do so. (Well, with the exception of obnoxious brothers-in-law).
I made new friends, friends without children, and friends with children. But again, these parents were people who had wider interests, who were intelligent, curious, and had more to talk about than their children. They all adored being parents, being mothers, but they never pressured me, and when I did try to conceive, and had losses, they supported me, and some of the parents were the people I was able to talk to most openly.
This wasn’t the case with everyone in my life though. Some friendships/relationships did change. But most didn’t. And even if they did, they tended to be staggered. Not everyone in my life got pregnant at the same time. They very thoughtfully spread their child-bearing over about 20 years. So I never felt completely isolated at any one time.
Now of course I am in my 40s (not for much longer – argh!), and in a different phase of life. I don’t expect any of my current friends or immediate family (or in-law family) to have any more children. (Although the youngest child in our life will only be 4 this year). But any new children in my life now will be in another generation – the children of nieces and nephews, or the children of children of friends. Yes, my friends and sisters and siblings-in-law will most likely be grand-parents. That has started already. I don’t expect it will be too painful, simply because these are the same people who were sensitive when they were parents. I don’t expect them to change their personalities and become painful, insensitive grand-parents.
So I’m pleased to report that this is a time when I am reclaiming my friendships. Children grow up, parents discover babysitters, and even if they did withdraw from your life for a time, most of my friends/family have returned with a vengeance. And that’s something to look forward to. My sister-in-law and I are even planning the day that my niece can be the “designated driver” on a trip to the wineries of the Barossa or Margaret River Valley! She’d better hurry up and get her drivers’ licence.