Navigating Friendship After Baby

My friends are my family, and I’m fortunate to call several people close – really close – friends. When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t know many people with kids in my closest circles. I imagined I’d be a mom who had no problem integrating a baby into my nearly baby-less life. My daughter would come with me to brunch and happy hour. We’d go camping before she could walk, and she’d sleep peacefully while my husband and I had friends over. Sure, it would take a couple months of adjusting, but then we’d be back to business as usual, just with a baby in tow.

When that didn’t happen, and when suddenly I needed a new kind of guidance that my friends without kids couldn’t comprehend, I felt incredibly alone. At my lowest points, I felt abandoned – not because they weren’t trying, but because I needed something they couldn’t possibly wrap their heads around: I needed them to understand what I was experiencing so they could walk with me through it, and honestly, I needed them to do all the work. I just didn’t have it in me to extend myself to anyone other than my daughter, Amelia.

Yeah, that sounds irrational, but it was my reality for at least the first year of Amelia’s life.

All of my capacity, truly all of it, went toward navigating these incredibly uncharted waters. I clung to my few friends with kids, knowing that their time and energy were also limited. I grew increasingly convinced that I wasn’t welcome back into any aspect of life without baby (this was self-induced). And I felt like I lost the ability to carry on a conversation about anything outside of motherhood.

How was I supposed to explain to someone without kids that yes, I haven’t slept since 2015, my daughter is teething, I miss my husband, I never work out anymore, but really, I’ve never experienced such immense happiness and fulfillment in my life?  The paradox of parenthood is just too much to try to explain. You have to live the madness, or witness it first-hand often, to understand it.

Over time, I cultivated wonderful, life-giving relationships with other new moms. I found respite in the ways in which we could relate and watched the most beautiful connections form based on the common ground of parenthood. I realized that I talk about my daughter constantly, not because I don’t have anything else to say, but because she is my passion and a great joy. I found comfort in the ease of a guilt-free 4:30pm dinner and glass (or three) of wine, and I began to see, quite simply, that life after children is just different.

Still I craved the friendships that I felt/feel fading. I know eventually our paths will sync back up, but I’m unwilling to miss out on the time in between.  So now, two-years into this beautiful insanity (now that I’m somewhat removed from these feelings of loneliness), I’m finally able to put into words what I wish I could have said to those I missed so desperately early on:

Dear Friend Without Children,

I need to ask you an enormous favor: Can you please step into my world for a while… a long while? It’s a shaky, unpredictable place, but your presence here would make it feel a little more like home.

I’ve always imagined our kids playing together when I pictured the future of our friendship. It really threw a wrench in things when we didn’t get pregnant on the exact same day and I had to navigate the beginning of this without you.

These early months of parenthood are hard. Really hard. I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I think I’m hoping you will figure it out for me, but I know you can’t just yet. I understand that you aren’t the right go-to in the middle of the night when I need someone to tell me this gets easier, and I understand why you check in less and less. For the first time, our lives are going in different directions. I know this, but knowing it doesn’t always ease the feeling of loss.

I miss you and think about you most days. Often I think about how wonderful it would be if the simple sight of you made Amelia smile. I so badly want her to know you. I’m counting on you to teach her so much because hell, you’re wonderful at a million things I know nothing about. I always imagined you’d be like an aunt to her, and my heart breaks because you’re not right now. I know we’ll get there, and I can’t wait for that day. She’ll love you as much as I do. She’ll run to you when I’m driving her nuts, and I long for that time, strange as it may sound.

Until then, here’s what I need from you:

Please step into this chaotic world of mine. I’m just too tired to come to you right now. Continue to tell me EVERYTHING about your life, even when meaningful responses escape me – know that I am interested in every bit of it, I just don’t have the brain power to articulate it. Keep reaching out, even if I say no 100 times – a day will come when I can make it to something, and know that a simple “how are you?” will make my day. Understand that I can only go to dinner before 5:00pm for a least a year, and if we can eat at my house and I don’t have to wear real pants, I’ll be overwhelmed with happiness. Listen to me and love me, even though I sound insane, when I gush about my baby in the exact same breath as I cry about how tired I feel. Please just meet me where I am for a bit, and bear with me. I’ll be able to give you more so, so soon.

For years you have made my life more enjoyable. Let’s just call this a new kind of crazy and do it together.

With love,
Your recently irrational friend, New Mom

Photo by: Leah Muse Photography | Lindsey Baker Photography

Post Author
Jessie Collins
We often refer to parenthood as the "most" in our house. It's the most rewarding, most gratifying, most difficult, most terrifying, most fulfilling adventure we've ever known. The details change daily, but parenthood is consistently the most everything. These new experiences started the minute we met our first daughter, and nothing could have prepared me for the ways in which I'd need support once I became a mother (twice over!). So now, I write to create community, to give other women a voice and to offer support through the constant mosts of motherhood.