This is something that I keep coming back to in my head over and over again…and I’m sure one post won’t even do it justice. Everyone knows that as life goes on, relationships and friendships change. You grow apart, you grow closer. You meet new people, find new interests. We’re continually changing, so it’s only natural that our relations with the people around us change too.
But I can tell you that nothing has changed my relationships as much and as quickly as being pregnant and having a newborn. I’m the first of my close circle of friends and it’s been a real eye opener for me.
To begin with, let’s point out the obvious: hormones. Little things can suddenly become HUGE issues because you’re feeling sensitive or SO INCREDIBLY TIRED. This is something that comes with being pregnant AND with having a newborn. There is no escaping it. Some people are more affected by hormones and fatigue than others but we all must deal with it on some level.
But beyond the hormones and exhaustion are other critical factors. I’m sure anyone who has their first baby can agree that before they got pregnant and had to think about being responsible for another life (regardless of exposure to other babies – friends, family, whomever), it’s a whole other ball game when you realise you’re expecting. I have two sisters, each of whom have a baby and I can tell you despite being around them and babysitting and helping out and listening to their stories and happiness and complaints…I was still pretty oblivious to so many things before I had my own child.
Things like – you can’t easily keep plans. Back too sore to walk? Feeling too sick to get out of bed? Didn’t sleep and feel like every little thing is annoying you? And once baby comes along – baby is too fussy? Not well? Not sleeping? (Or FINALLY SLEEPING?). Plans are for people who know exactly where they’re going to be and how they’re going to be feeling in a few days time. I was surprised how some friends gave me a hard time about not wanting to commit to big plans or worse…needing to back out last minute. I am so grateful for those people in my life who understand that I need flexible arrangements and who go out of their way to make my life easier to keep plans…like coming over for tea instead of arranging to meet in a coffee shop or inviting me over for dinner instead of wanting to go out to eat.
And then there are the plans that you can actually keep but are suddenly faced with so many logistics…are there elevators so you can get up and down with a buggy? Is there a space for you to breastfeed or is it ok for you to breastfeed in public there? Are there baby changing stations? Is there parking? I swear – I made a huge effort to attend a friends’ hen party 4 weeks post partum and when I arrived there was no elevator and I had to climb 3 flights of stairs on my own with the buggy, baby, flowers and presents. I arrived with water from the flowers spilled all over me, a dead arm from carrying everything over it and completely sweaty and out of breath. No-one thought ahead to warn me that there was no elevator – and I didn’t think to ask. Lesson learned!
I was also surprised at how isolated I felt when I was about 5/6 months pregnant. This was around Christmas time and everyone was making plans to go out and party or go shopping and do things and I felt really alone. I felt fat and tired and sore and I was unable to walk long distances or stand for too long. I couldn’t even go to the cinema without worrying about needing to pee 20 times. Sitting in a restaurant with a large group of people was exhausting. Only Mr G knew how I was really feeling…but he’s a man! Sometimes you just need your girlfriends and I didn’t feel I could relate to them anymore.
Some people disappeared from my life and others really surprised me. Thoughtful gifts, lovely emails and phone calls checking in on me, sharing in my excitement. Just a simple text message asking how I was feeling made the world of difference.
Since having Baby G, my relationships have changed again. Some people are so willing to call over, hold her, bring us food, check in on me or whatever – and it’s amazing. They bring things I don’t even know I need (like cabbage leaves to help with engorgement) and I’m so thankful. But that’s not to say these other friendships won’t get back on track, we’re just at different stages and one day when they have a baby, I”ll be able to be there for them in a way that some of their other friends won’t…and they’ll get it. It’s a pay it forward kind of deal.
On the flip side, I have so much respect and admiration now for my sisters and my mother and other women I know with babies. I’m suddenly on the inside of this little club and I get it.
A simple, knowing smile to another mum in the supermarket reassures you that you’re both doing a good job. It’s tough, but we’re here and we’re doing it.
And now I’m meeting other new mums in the area and I have a new group of women who are excited to talk about nappies and breastfeeding and not sleeping and baby burps and all the glorious and disgusting things that come along with being a mother. And I don’t have to share so much of that with my other friends who don’t have babies and would get bored very quickly hearing about it.
Have any of you had similar experiences? Did you go through big changes with the people in your life?