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what to expect when your best friend is expecting?
May 28, 2014 10:55 AM   Subscribe

My best friend is a few weeks out from the birth of her first child. Mom, dad, and baby are healthy and well-appointed. Everything is great! But inspired by anecdotes and first-hand experience, I am growing increasingly terrified that our friendship will necessarily falter and/or fade in light of this incalculably life-altering event. Can folks with similar experience give me a heads-up as to what can, should, or could happen next? Any tips or tricks that might help a person figure out how to offer the right combination of support and space to their new parent friends?

We are totally open and honest with each other and readily talk about everything under the sun, but I haven't brought this up with her directly yet because a) she obviously has WAY more important stuff to contemplate at the moment and b) even thinking about it completely overwhelms me and renders me speechless. She's in the "dear god, get this kid out of me already" phase, but I'm (secretly) in the "dear god, these are the last days we will ever be able to interact with each other like this, I must savor each and every second" phase.

She is the best person I have ever met and the only real family I have ever had, and the possibility of losing our 15-year friendship to the simple, benign progression of time/life is almost too much to bear even though I know it's something that happens to people every day. I feel awful and selfish for worrying about it, especially considering she has so much more to worry about, but I can't seem to figure out a way to make it stop gnawing at me.

Specific worries:
+ I am childfree and not particularly interested in talking about babies at all; it is extremely difficult for me to hide this
+ I don't know how to change this and don't particularly want to, which makes me feel more than slightly defective and guilty
+ I want to be there (remotely -- we live 2,000 miles apart) to provide her with the usual abundance of love and support but I don't want to be overbearing, annoying, or suffocating
+ I want to give her lots of time and space to adjust to her new life but I don't want her to feel abandoned, neglected, or lonely

Specific questions:
+ Women who have/had be-all end-all die-hard best friends, did your relationship with them change after you had your first child? If so, how? If not, is there anything in particular you can credit this to?
+ Childfree women whose best friends have children, ditto?
+ Is it possible that after a lifetime of abiding disinterest re: children, that I might be able to become interested in this particular child because he's my best friend's child? Sort of like how everyone thinks their own baby is the cutest baby of all time?
+ Parents, what do you want people like me to ask/talk about w/r/t your children? What don't you want us to ask/talk about? I am clueless.

Aside: I hope my personal feelings on the whole "having kids" to-do aren't inflammatory, insensitive, or insulting. I just had to be a (surrogate) mom starting when I was very, very young and I have no interest in ever changing diapers, mixing formula, boiling and filling bottles, cleaning up various and sundry foul emissions, or attempting to rock/walk/stroll a kid back to sleep ever, ever again. Even being in the same room as a screaming baby makes my legs twitch with the bone-deep instinct to run away. All good for thee, but not for me.

Thanks as always for your kindness and guidance, AskMe.
posted by divined by radio to Human Relations (36 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
The first few weeks after the baby's birth are going to be terrible for your friend. She won't be able to put together sentences, let alone check email, talk on the phone or keep up with Facebook. Don't get your feelings hurt if she's exhausted, or short, or the baby is crying in the background when you call. Just say something short like, "How's it going? Anything I can help with?" Leave it at that.

Talk to her partner if she's in the middle of something, "Hey Ted! How's everything?" It's too easy to shine on Dad, and to turn to Mom for the information, or just to chat. Always treat your friend's partner as a friend of yours. "Well, tell Lucy I called and I'll catch up with her later."

Since you have experience with babies, if you're asked tell what you know. If you're not, bite your tongue. This is hard. I get it.

It may be a few months before your friend's conversation is anything except baby, baby, baby. Ohh and ah, tell her how precious the little one is, compliment her taste in baby stuff. New parents question everything about how they're doing and even little compliments mean a lot.

Your relationship will change, and you'll have to deal with that. But don't demand more of her than she can give you right now. That's the BEST way to stay her friend. Trust me, after a while, you'll get back to talking about books, TV, mutual friends, work and regular stuff. Just don't be suprised if you hear, "Jordan! Get off of that this instant!" While having this conversation.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:04 AM on May 28 [2 favorites]


This is probably not what you want to hear but I was in a similar situation with my best friend (2000 miles away, first baby) and our friendship was seriously curtailed after the baby was born. By necessity, the baby was her entire world. The father was not particularly involved and she was/is estranged from her family (similar situation to yours).

I managed not to take any of it personally, but there were still things that at the time I was too ignorant to understand (e.g. why couldn't she just call me when the baby was sleeping?! doesn't she even have time to return an email?). It frankly got a little tiring that all she did was talk about the kid. Totally, absolutely understandable, but exhausting. I'd have the same bored reaction to someone endlessly talking about their model train collection.

I'm not anti-baby and I enjoyed playing with her son when I'd visit. I'm not particularly involved in his life, but if she asked for help I'd be there in a flash. But... it's been seven years and our contact is so infrequent that I know she wouldn't ask.

We're all individuals and it's impossible to know how you and your friend will handle this life changing event. I would plan to be very patient with her, and be prepared to have the baby be the #1 focus of every conversation for quite awhile. And don't take any of it personally - it has absolutely nothing to do with her feelings for you. She will most likely come around in time.
posted by desjardins at 11:11 AM on May 28 [7 favorites]


I get wanting to give her space when the baby is born, but you should still get in touch right away via email or text and tell her to call you when she can. It always hurts my feelings when someone I consider a good friend goes totally MIA when I have a baby. It can be very lonely sitting around all day with a newborn baby. That said, it's hard to answer the phone sometimes because the baby is crying, or you are trying to catch a half hour of sleep - so put the ball in her court and let her call when it's good for her.

Ask her about the baby but also ask how she is doing - pregnant women get a lot of love and attention in general.... Once the baby is born, no one gives a crap about mom anymore and that can be rough.
posted by amro at 11:16 AM on May 28


One of my wife's best friends lives out on the west coast. The two of them have been able to keep up a close friendship, and part of it is that they have been very deliberate about scheduling long phone calls with each other. I'm informed in advance and know that I am expected to be home and watching the kids when they have a call scheduled, That's harder to do right away, but I think you should consider adopting a similar practice once things are bit more settled down for your friend.
posted by Area Man at 11:24 AM on May 28 [7 favorites]


My best friend had a baby after we had been friends for about six years. The kiddo is 8 now and she's just delightful. We don't see each other often but that's partly because we live in different cities, though in the last month, we've seen each other twice, once with her kid and once without.

I understand your disinterest in children but it's possible that this one will be different because it's your best friend's baby. We've jokingly called my best friend's daughter her mini-me because she's so similar. Plus, that's just what your friend is doing these days. I'm sure people thought it was boring when I talked about running but that's what I was doing so I talked about it. At least with my best friend, she's still interested in current events, we still talk about our families and hopes and dreams. Kiddo is just another part of the equation.

I think that my best friend doesn't assume that I want to know about the minutiae of babies so she doesn't tell me but if I ask, she'll unload. Right after she had the kid, she talked to me for about an hour about her labor and delivery but usually it's more I'll ask and she'll answer. I've asked her stupid stuff, like how does she put the baby to sleep, how she knows when the baby is too hot, etc. She's very open so she doesn't mind talking about stuff.

Not going to lie - our relationship has changed. We used to be very into going out or drinking a few bottles of wine at home and listening to music. The last time we saw each other, we got lunch and wandered around with the kiddo. But that's also a factor of getting old. We're not opposed to going out, we're just more likely to leave if we're not feeling it than to have another Red Bull and start trouble.

It's great that you want to be there for her but you should follow her lead and see what she wants. Your mode of communication might change - she might be more into texting or email than phone calls. And the first few months are rough. But in a lot of ways, this is not unlike other life changes our friends go through - moving, getting hitched, etc. I also think it's often a relief for my friend to have someone around who knew her before she was a mom so I can remind her that she's more than that (not that being a mom isn't important and that she isn't a great mom but she's also still the weirdo I met in college.

Be patient and see how it goes. Be present but not demanding. Good luck!
posted by kat518 at 11:30 AM on May 28 [6 favorites]


Nthing the sentiment that once you have the kid, people stop caring about you and how you are doing. So be in touch - text/email are good - and make sure you check in on *her* and how *she* is doing. You might get responses typed one-handed at 2 am while she is nursing. As a second-time-around nursing mom these middle-of-the-night correspondences can be sanity savers.

My best friend doesn't have kids, though might some day. She sends my son a gift for birthday and Christmas. I love that she *remembers* these events for my son - not to make it a gift grab, but just that she remembers and cares. That really means a lot.
posted by handful of rain at 11:31 AM on May 28 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, this is going to be on her, not on you. There's not much that you can do to help maintain the kind of relationship you had before--she's the one who's going to have to put in more work to get the same result.

Sometimes it works--I managed to keep my die-hard BFF relationships about where they were, post-baby, though it was helped greatly by having interests in common that could be discussed instead of the baby. (Television shows are best for this, because movies require leaving the house and effort and etc.)

I have a few friends who basically stopped doing friend things for anywhere from a few months to a year after baby-having, and then picked up again. You can encourage this by making it clear that you're always going to be there, and if she can't answer your email or whatever right off, she's welcome to do so at any point, even months later. (I actually explicitly state this in emails: "I would love to hear from you, but this is a no-pressure email. I know that your life is busy and you've got things going on. It's ok to respond to this weeks or months from now, and equally ok to not respond at all--I'm still your friend and I love you, and I assume that you feel the same about me unless otherwise stated.") I loved long, chatty emails when I was nursing, because I could read it and feel less isolated.

It's possible for you to learn to love this one baby, and doing so will probably help your friendship stay alive--it's hard to feel like someone loves you when they're visibly bored by you talking about the Biggest Thing In Your Life Right Now, you know?. Remind yourself that this is your friend's baby, and has made friend happy, and you can admire him but also not be responsible for him in any way.
posted by MeghanC at 11:33 AM on May 28 [10 favorites]


Babies are unpredictable. Mine STILL won't let me talk on the phone (at 10 months old) without needing my attention. My voice wakes him up. If her baby is anything like mine, give her good days/times that you can be reached via text or Skype messaging or Facebook messaging or anything like that where she could quietly have a conversation with you.

My best friend had her babies years before I had mine and I still don't know when a good day or time is to call her to chat. (I should probably ask her!)

Be flexible. Send her a card every week or so to let her know you are still thinking of her. Babies are so all-consuming. I know I am a terrible friend right now because of how much I give to my kid. But they are only little for a little while (or so they tell me).
posted by jillithd at 11:33 AM on May 28


Thirteen years ago one of my dearest friends had a baby boy. We were pretty close, to the point that we hung out physically at least once or twice a week and we'd call and talk maybe about as often.

She was the first one in our group of friends to have a kid and we talked about it a good bit before she gave birth. She was worried she'd lose me as friend and I worried she'd get lost. She knows I'm not a fan of babies, so she was convinced she'd never see me again; I was afraid my friend would turn into a fountain of poop stories and baby thoughts. We talked about it candidly and I told her very clearly that I understood the level of work and emotional exhaustion she was about to endure. Given that, I'd never force myself on her or make a big thing out of hanging out if she couldn't. But at the same time, I might need her as a friend and I'd let her know when it was important.

On the other hand, I promised her I'd drop everything if she needed me. If it was a night out, or even an afternoon in while the baby slept, I'd do it. Babysitting, I could handle once the little guy got mobile, but babies just aren't my thing.

After her son was born I saw her maybe twice in the first 6 months. She called a few times to check in but our contact was minimal. Then at about 8 or 9 months, she called and said "Come save me."

We had a nice dinner out, had a few beers, and talked about everything but the baby. After that, we started to hang out again more frequently but not anywhere near as much as we did before.

After a while the kid developed a personality and hanging out with her evolved into hanging out with the group (Her, Husband, & Kid). Luckily, her son is a really awesome kid and we get along really well. If I met him independently, I'd still want to be his friend, he's just that kind of kid.

Through the years, I've moved, we've both gone back to school and changed jobs and we've tried to be there whenever we can. Facebook, email, and twitter makes it easier but honestly the thing that make it work is that we both understand that if a month goes by without a heads up, it's not personal. The love is still there, it's just distracted.

But I guarantee you, if I called her right now and said I needed her, she'd be here ASAP. Same goes for me. Kids make it harder, but it can still be done if you're both aware and want it. And hopefully, in a few decades you get a new friend out of it.
posted by teleri025 at 11:37 AM on May 28 [11 favorites]


Good advice above, but also - if you're so dependent on this friendship that the thought of it changing is making you totally distraught, this is maybe a good time to diversify.

Before my friends had kids I probably had a smaller number of close relationships. Now I have a much wider group of friends, but no one person fulfils all my "friendship needs". There might be one person I only speak to once a month, but I know I can tell anything to; another I know will always be good for an evening out during the week; another I can compare dating notes with; another who'll go out and run with me if we plan in advance.

They're all really dear friends, and none of these friendships feel less valuable than the old ones, but they each demand a little bit less of everyone involved.

I think this happens anyway as you get older, through kids, geography, relationships etc, so it's a good thing to start doing. Take up some new hobbies, see who you meet, spread your wings.
posted by penguin pie at 11:46 AM on May 28 [5 favorites]


One of my good friends had a baby six months ago, and she lives hundreds of miles away. Try to be as flexible as you can possibly be--she has a lot more restrictions on her time than you do, even if you're a busy bee. Also, text to see if she can talk instead of calling. Nothing feels worse than waking up the baby, nothing!
posted by zoetrope at 11:49 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


One of the greatest gifts of my best friend's first baby has been the opportunity to see TEEEEENY LITTLE HER since we didn't meet until we were 14. I can't get over it. It's delicious and hilarious and it just gets more entertaining as time goes by.

We did have to adjust to less-frequent calls and visits (we both have kids now, and we are also long distance), and when we visit we do things like zoos and children's museums and kid concerts, with children and husbands in tow -- which have actually been surprisingly fun. Now our littlest ones are all toddlers, we are finally able to have somewhat longer phone conversations and to -- joy! -- go out just us girls again sometimes. But yeah, the years we were both breastfeeding, it was a lot easier to let the interaction space out (while keeping the love!), but we have always been friends who when we talk again, it's like no time has passed at all.

Another thing we did during the busy years was write each other letters, actual physical letters, because it's so fun to get one in the mail and it reminded us we were thinking of each other.

Be generous with your BFF's baby -- birthday and christmas present sorts of things -- and it's okay if you're not a baby person. Take a mild interest, make noises about how adorable the baby is and how you can't believe how big he's getting!, that sort of thing. But remember the child with cards and/or gifts for childhood milestones, which, more than anything else, will show your BFF that you care about HER and her life even if you never want to roll around on the floor playing peek-a-boo or listen to poop stories. You might like the baby because it's your BFF's baby, but it's okay if you don't, and chances are when the kid gets to be six or seven and starts to have interests and be more grown-up in conversation, you'll be interested in her, and she'll be VERY interested in cool Auntie Divined-by-Radio who always sends her the weirdest, most wonderful books for her birthday.

This child will have the special distinction of being a member in the club of People Who Love Your Friend As Much As You Love Her, and that will render the child automatically interesting when she gets old enough to have a personality. She'll know all kinds of things about her mom that only the people very closest to your friend know, so you'll have a sort-of secret conspiracy of occult knowledge, and then to each other you will always be someone with valuably unique perspectives on your best friend.

I really can't get over how much I enjoy watching my BFF be a mom. It is ENDLESSLY amusing to me, and her little daughter, who's four now, totally knows that I know things about her mom and wants to cultivate me as any ally. She's already figured out I can persuade her mom to let her do messy, sloppy things her mom doesn't otherwise let her do.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:50 AM on May 28 [14 favorites]


You are not going to lose your friend; in fact, she is probably afraid of losing you. Baby care can be incredibly isolating, and she will at some point really really need to communicate with someone with verbal skills. Even the most dedicated mother needs a break from mothering to keep her sanity. You can be part of those breaks.

If you want to provide long-distance support, then send her a card once a week, or flowers now and then; come visit once the baby's old enough to be out and about, but don't expect her to visit you for a while. Schedule phone calls, or just tell her "you can call me anytime between 6pm-12am if you have time and need to talk," or whenever works for you. Texting is great also.

Kids get older and moms get their time back, sooner or later. Think of this as a major event, but not The End of Everything.

The childfree thing; I have a friend exactly like you in that respect. Never gonna happen, she's always known she didn't want any. I have zero problem with this, because having had one, I know just how much work they are and completely understand not wanting to take that on. She and I are still very close.

Now, you may still have to learn to hear about kid stuff, in the same way you hear about her spouse, because it's a big part of her life. But with you, she may also be able to talk about exhaustion and depression and uncertainty, and the downsides, because she knows you won't be judging her as an imperfect mother (I assume). Which is not something that's so easy to do with people who want kids. So that's really valuable. It's ok for you not to know what she's going through, you just have to listen and be sympathetic.

You may have to be patient with interrupted conversations, too, but that's just part of it.

You don't have to feel all over-awed by what she's going through though; motherhood can transform you but it's still really mundane, body-function stuff. It's often gross and hilarious and weird.
posted by emjaybee at 11:59 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Yes, your friend will most likely fall off the face of the Earth in some ways in the coming months. Having a breathing fetus to take care of can do that to a person.

1. You can still be there to be supportive of her. Her stories and discussions will likely be much more focused on babies, children and maybe even husbands for quite a while, but she will not stop being who she is. I would recommend you be supportive of that while, at the same time, expect the friendship and support you need in return. You might very well be the thing that keeps the new mother grounded in reality while she experiences the surreal world of baby caring.

2. You may not want to change diapers or put up with screaming-colic beasts, but there is a special place in the world for great 'aunties'. Aunties are there to spoil a kid in ways that parents cannot and maybe even provide a future place to run away from home to as a sour teen. The world needs more aunties.
posted by BearClaw6 at 11:59 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


It probably depends on your friend. My high school/undergrad/grad school bff was pregnant and was afraid it would change our friendship and she'd end like her mother - putting all her energy into her family and not having her own friendships. We had kept up a long-distance friendship for 12 years and once she had her daughter, nothing. I tried for years because I had heard that the first year was so hard. I asked about her baby and requested pictures and updates. I guess she didn't have time. Her daughter started school last year.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:20 PM on May 28


So, I have kids. I have friends without kids. I see them less, much less than I used to, and much less than I would like. But my kids are my world. I don't say this as a I don't want to do anything but be with them sort of way, but in a practical, every minute of most days involves me thinking about them, or planning what we need to do, or actually dealing with them. And it leaves me without much to talk about but them. This has gotten old with some of my friends, and I get it. What they don't tend to get is that generally, if I am hanging out with someone, if they start a conversation that is not about my kids, I can usually join in and have a great time talking about non kid things. I love doing this. But I suck at starting those conversations these days. Asking a parent not to talk about their kids with you is like asking you not to talk about your job and whatever hobby you spend the most amount of your time doing. It's hard. In person hanging out is tough too. When the kids are young, you have to watch them all the time to keep them out of trouble, and when you aren't watching them, they are likely vying for your attention. My kids somewhat understand that they have to wait and not interrupt people talking, but there is only so much you can ask of a 2 and 4 year old. And dropping the kids to go out is hard too. Besides scheduling to make sure they are cared for, you often can get mom guilt for not spending time with your kids, especially if you are a working mom who is gone most of the day from them as is.

Now that all sounds terrible. But, if you are willing to work for it, you can keep your friendship. Call your friend, be understanding if she disappears for months at a time, be willing to talk about the kid, but also provide other, non kid related topics to talk about. Be willing to hang out with your friend and her kid, even if you don't like kids. Nights out without the kids are possible, but be realistic and understanding of the pressures these put on a mom when you ask for them. Of course it isn't all on you, your friend needs to try to, but you, being the clearer headed, less sleep deprived one, may need to take the lead for awhile. I think it is completely fair to ask to talk about something non-kid related (assuming you do it nicely and not snottily), though be prepared to give a topic to talk about. The more understanding you are, and the more you help her talk about her life outside of her kid, then the more likely you are to be able to maintain your friendship. But if you expect her to only talk about the stuff you've talked about in the past, never mention her kid, always hang out with you without her kid, then no, your friendship will end.

I cherish my non-parent friends (partially because I know they like me for me, and aren't just hanging out with me because our kids are friends), but they are harder to keep up, especially the ones that are really not into kids.
posted by katers890 at 12:37 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


It can totally depend on the parents, too. We have friends who I actually see more than before because they are willing and flexible to hang out with the kid or take turns or have us over for cocktails post-bedtime. Then we have friends who we literally never see anymore. I don't remember the last time I saw them. It's hard to predict how folks will be before this happens.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:45 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


I don't have kids and I'm not sure I'd say I'm childfree--I might yet someday--but I'm certainly not really interested in having a lot of conversations about them Right Now, and yet I tolerate them markedly better when it's a good friend's kids than when it's someone I only kinda know. I don't always, but on the up side, the friend I talk to most like this is also clearly happy for adult non-child-related interaction, so that helps. The newborn period seems to be clearly kind of stressful for the parents, but honestly, from an internet-friend POV, the first six months or so seem pretty normal compared to ages 2-3, when every conversation gets interrupted by random AFK for toddler-related-something.

I find it overall pretty bearable. Sometimes it's rough. I have made a serious effort to cultivate more friends who don't have kids, during this time, not because I don't want to be close to this person, but because I wanted to have somebody else to bother when new-mom was unavailable. It can be trying because now that my principle mom-friend is into those toddler years, it does feel like we've lost a lot. But on the other hand, for example, we had this conversation at one point where she was clearly really frustrated about not having sufficient appreciation for her babies while they were babies, and I was really pleased to for once have an appropriate outlet for the not-baby-appreciating, "You know, you've still got all the cool years with the serious craft projects and children who can actually hold a conversation ahead of you."

But mostly we end up talking about fandom, and Tumblr, and a lot about food, and--well, the usual stuff, really.
posted by Sequence at 12:57 PM on May 28


My experience was much like hydrobatidae's, except it wasn't long distance. I kept trying to be "there" in any way she would let me, and be as flexible as I could be -- bringing food, accepting short-notice invites, being canceled on with short notice, visiting after bedtime and not speaking above a whisper the whole night, pleasantly accepting of phone calls that only lasted a minute, etc.

But by the time she was out of the baby-haze she was expecting baby #2. And by the time she was ready to come up for air say "screw it, I'm leaving them with their dad/my mom" and start going out, she had accumulated a new group of friends-with-kids through playdates and mom groups. I'm not proud - I was stung by that. I still am.

I guess I'm trying to say that you can be the best friend ever and do every single thing right without showing a sliver of judgment and it could still not work out. It all depends on your friend.
posted by kimberussell at 12:57 PM on May 28 [7 favorites]


In addition to all the great advice above:

- Send her stuff in the mail to let her know you're thinking about her, and make it clear that you don't expect her to reciprocate or send thank you notes or anything. Stuff just for her would be great -- maybe something to pamper her. This lets her know you care and are making an effort, while still giving her space.

- I was especially touched when a staunchly childfree friend gave me a baby gift. She wasn't my BFF like you and your friend, but it meant a lot to me and made me feel like our friendship wouldn't be affected at all by our respective choices. So if there's a chance she's worried about the same things you are, make it clear to her that as far as you're concerned, your friendship is as close as ever.

- I really appreciated hanging out with the same childfree friend after having a baby, because it was a relief to have somebody who DIDN'T want to talk incessantly about the baby and who would treat me like a normal adult person. Of course, she would express general interest about how we were all doing and adjusting to our new life.

- nthing that babies turn into kids, who if they are anything like your friend will be totally awesome people who you will eventually probably love hanging out with and who will remind you of your friend in all sorts of ways.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:59 PM on May 28


Also, I think this is an area where distance might actually make things easier. Making actual plans could be impossible. I think sometime in the last six months I was supposed to actually go visit and that didn't work out. But finding a bit of time in the evening or during naps with a phone or tablet is way easier than finding time to Make Plans.
posted by Sequence at 1:02 PM on May 28


Here's one very concrete thing you can do. If you make plans with her (Let's brunch at 11!) be there on goddamned time. She will have arranged her schedule around the event, including prepped the kid for nap, which can be a process that starts even the night before. If you show up--oopsies!--an hour late, the window has closed and she will feel like you have no respect for the amount of work she's done to be there for you.

Just realized you are long-distance. Well, advice still applies for a Skype date, or scheduled phone call.
posted by Liesl at 1:03 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Just another voice for how awesome it is to meet a mini-me version of someone you love. I didn't expect this when my best friend had her daughter a decade ago, but it was a total delight. Now her second child is her husband all over, so this might not apply if your friends kiddo takes after papa.
posted by pennypiper at 1:28 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Yes, this really depends in the friend. Two of my very close friends have had children in the last three years. The first friend dropped off the face of the earth for a year, which I found perfectly understandable, but once she returned to semi-normal communications, she had become one of THOSE mothers, the kind who talks all about what a genius her baby is and how her baby can already speak three languages (no) and name all the countries in Africa (what?) and is disdainful of all other babies because of their apparent inferior intelligence (doubtful). I was not able to continue that friendship.

The second friend kept up semi-regular correspondence, telling me funny stories about the baby and her struggles as a new mom and allowing me to ask lots of questions. Although I'm not into babies at all, I find my friend's kid really adorable and interesting just because it's hers. I just kind of ask what the baby is doing/learning at the moment, what toys she likes right now, how she's sleeping, etc. My friend usual chooses the topics herself because she a.) needs to get baby stuff off her chest and talk to someone nonjudgmental about how tired, lonely she is OR how much she loves the baby, or b.) needs to not talk about babies at all and wants to hear about my life. She's pretty realistic, honest, and self-deprecating about the pros and cons of early parenthood, and though I don't see her as much or unless her husband is willing to babysit, I love seeing this side of her, getting to hear about what she's experiencing, and offering her my support. Parenting has certainly changed her but not her down-to-earth style of friendship, and in appreciation of that, I do all I can to meet her half-way and accept that we spend less physical time together but have an even deeper bond because I'm invited to share in her family life. I think that if your friend is this sort and you accept that your role may shift from BFF to most-loved auntie for a bit, things will be fine.
posted by pineappleheart at 1:33 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]


I'm the mother of a first-grader and a preschooler, and (one of my two) BFFs since middle school is happily childless by choice. She now lives in London and I live on the west coast of the US. The time difference sucks. But technology keeps us as close as ever. Texting. FaceTiming. Emailing. Putting visits on the calendar months ahead of time. I have always consciously made time for her. Before I got pregnant, I negotiated with my spouse to be able to go on at least one trip with her per year. It also helps that I did not marry an asshole.

Here's the thing - call it a harsh truth if you will: You make time for the people who are truly important to you.

Everyone, even mothers of triplets (heaven help them), has time for an occasional text. But when people stop reaching out to an old friend entirely, it's inaccurate to call that a failure of all motherhood. It is a matter of priorities. Time constraints show you what really matters. A lot of these narratives we hear about "my BFF friend-dumped me after she became a mom" are really about old friendships that were kind of on the outs to begin with - and the new-motherhood time constraints were often just that final nail in the coffin.

OP, I get the sense that you and your BFF will be just fine. She is important enough to you - as you say "She is the best person I have ever met and the only real family I have ever had" - that you will take the predictable communication gaps in stride. You will not cause drama over her taking awhile to get back to you. It's fine to think you might not looove talking about babies, but you could be pleasantly surprised. Your BFF's baby might strike you as more precious and lovable than you think, and certainly it is a different situation than being forced to parent a child when you were a child yourself. Good luck!
posted by hush at 1:36 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]


Since you are long distance I think this will be much easier. The first 2-3 months are a blur where you may not hear from her very much, so be prepared for that, but after that it is totally feasible to maintain a non-real-time friendship. By that I mean: email her to check in, post funny cat pictures on her Facebook page, text her silly things that happen in your day, etc. An actual real-time phone call? Eh, maybe sometimes, but the emails/texts/etc.? Those are AWESOME and I can respond at 3am when I am up nursing. Bonus points if the email/text/FB post is NOT baby-related and is something that makes me feel like a normal person that is part of society as opposed to part of my living room furniture. It totally makes my day when one of my friends reaches out to me, even casually, and I always respond happily even if it's a bit belatedly.
posted by gatorae at 1:50 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


I have a three-month-old baby, and my closest friends are either ambivalent about having children, or do not want them at all. I don't believe that my relationship with any of them has suffered. I still see them about as much as I did before. My baby is very young, and there's plenty of time for things to get more distant. But I am committed to my friends, and I believe they are committed to me. Despite the fact that I have a small baby and spend the majority of my time caring for her, I do not only talk about her.

Anyway, you two sound extremely close. I'd be surprised if she utterly jettisoned you after her baby is born. However, you are going to have to give her a lot of leeway. Your future with your friend is going to depend on how much you respect each other's choices as valid.

My daughter's birth was characterized by serious complications. For at least a month after I had the baby, I was freaking useless. Many friends sent me well-wishing messages, and I could barely reply. Getting back to an email or text = socializing energy burned out for the day. I wanted to talk to people, but I physically could not pull it off. My friends were patient. They did keep in contact, but understood I'd get back to them when I could.

Keep in mind that labor itself is intense and overwhelming, even at its best. Your friend's birth could go completely smoothly, or it could be problematic. My own complications were bad enough, but my daughter also has a birth injury that requires lots of occupational therapy/possible surgery. Once upon a time, we both may have died. Dealing with her injury means that I might have even less free time and energy than other mothers of small babies. If your friend has any sort of complications, you might have to be even more understanding than average.

One of my closest friends has similar feelings to yours about babies. I'm cool with that. Good for her, to know herself that well. But sometimes she'll say something like you said in your post - "Even being in the same room as a screaming baby makes my legs twitch with the bone-deep instinct to run away." You probably don't need this warning, but: Unless your friend is pretty exceptional, I wouldn't use that rhetoric with her. She understands that you don't want children, and presumably she has no issue with that. You don't have to remind her that you think babies suck, when she is going to love her own baby with a scary, overwhelming intensity.

On the other hand, my aforementioned friend is one of the few people who's let me unload about how awful my hospitalization was, and how scary it is to get sick in childbirth. That is so valuable to have, when you've just had a baby. A sane friend with a good ole fashioned listening ear.

It's fine that you don't want children, and that you do not find babies interesting! However, there is a tendency among some people who identify as "childfree", to lump all conversation about babies under "Stuff that dumb unenlightened mommybots talk about. Stuff that is beneath me. I'm going to go think about art and travelling and uninhibited sex acts." I had that attitude once, and it was really about me and my own insecurities/internalized misogyny/leftover self-hate from a crappy childhood. My attitude wasn't truly whether babies are inherently boring. Showing interest in a baby conversation, was tantamount to admitting I wasn't cool as shit, ultra-different, and totally interesting.

None of that may apply to you if you're smarter and more self-aware than I was (and you probably are). Just trying to say: Once your friend's baby is here, you might find that not every conversation about babies is boring. And since your friend knows you don't want kids, she might try to not overwhelm you with baby info.

divined by radio, I have a good impression of you as a person. If your friend is as decent as you are, you guys will be able to keep it together. You sound like you love each other a lot. Try not to worry that you're going to lose your friend. Things will change, but you can stay friends if you both make a concerted effort to keep understanding and valuing each other.
posted by Coatlicue at 2:11 PM on May 28 [8 favorites]


Reiterating everyone who's expressing that being an Auntie to the kids of people you really love is AMAZING. Like, SUPER AMAZING.
This happened to me for the first time several years ago. While I don't share the elements from your history that disincline you towards the diapers-and-gurgling set, before my besties started popping out wee monsters, I did firmly share your reluctance towards babies and kids in general. When I found out one of the members of my extremely tight friend circle was pregnant, I had EXACTLY the same fears and uncertainty that you did. I was convinced that not only was this incredible person suddenly going to be missing from my life, but also that even if by some miracle I did manage to squeeze myself in to her new life as Momma, the chasm between our lives, concerns, obsessions, and experiences would have grown so wide that it would be too depressing for me to handle and would be even worse than not having her around at all. Moreover, I just knew that the baby was going to freak me right out and make it difficult to be comfortable around my friend. So, while I was absolutely thrilled at her palpable joy and excitement, I was simultaneously bummed and felt like every interaction we had in those first weeks was like a little mini farewell.

What changed things for us was my decision to be really, brutally honest and open with her. I told her I was scared of losing her. I told her I was scared that I would no longer fit in her life. I told her I was worried that she was going to change in ways that meant I couldn't follow her. And guess what? She told me that even though she wanted this baby SO BADLY and was absolutely over the moon with happiness, she was ALSO feeling EXACTLY the same thing, from her end. She (like many first time moms) was terrified that she would lose herself in the baby, that she would miss out on everything with our friend group, that she would do something wrong, that she would be a bad Mom. Our conversation was really open and cathartic and good. It helped me to realize that even though a lot of her time and mental energy was focused on preparing for Baby (and even though even MORE time and mental and emotional energy was going to be focused on turning that Baby into a functioning human person), she was still herself and still someone who would want and need her friends in her life. (Anecdotally, as a result of this conversation, we ended up collaborating on a dance/theatre piece that we built from the text of a pregnancy journal that I asked her to keep and share with me. This meant I was let in on elements of her pregnancy journey that I would never otherwise have been aware of, and also meant that I got in some serious in utero bonding time with that baby, and the process really allowed me to feel like I was still part of her life. It was pretty damn special. I'm not saying you need to make a dance piece, but finding a way to connect with her emotions/fears/excitements on a human level - even if you don't and won't ever share her specific experience on a biological level - can really help bridge the Mom/Non-Mom gap. The stimulus might be different, but she's still feeling things that you can in some way empathize with/laugh about/relate to)

When the baby actually came, we did the following things to help make sure that New Momma didn't fall completely off the face of the earth (we were all living in the same city at the time, so some of these might need to be modified for your case):
- checking in on her (not just the baby) frequently and casually. She didn't always respond right away, and she didn't always respond with more than a quick "too tired. cant type. still alive.", but on those occasions where things were becoming too much, or she needed to have a rant, or she needed to just have a dialogue with a person who was not her husband and was not pre-verbal, she was super grateful to know that I was only a text away. Keeping casual interaction going in between those moments where she emerged (by necessity or by choice) from her baby cocoon meant that picking up the phone to ask for help when she needed it didn't feel as daunting as it might have if I hadn't been regularly reminding her that I was thinking about her. No matter how close you are, re-initiating contact after a long absence can be hard, so I made a point of casually and unobtrusively (e-mail works great for this. No dings or buzzes to wake wee light sleepers) letting her know that I was still around, and getting in touch with me was no big deal.
- Related to this (and this one was harder for me), I really really made sure not to take it personally if my casual/friendly e-mails or texts only recieved a terse response or no response at all. Letting her know that I was thinking about her was exactly that - a note to say "Hi! I'm thinking about you! Hope you're well and not entirely zombified!" - and not a request to pay attention to me disguised as well-wishes. When I really, truly needed her to pay attention to me (and this happened), I was explicit about it: "Hi. I really need to talk. Can I bring some coffee by during naptime so I can vent to you?". Honesty and clarity goes a long way in helping someone with limited time and limited extra mental/physical/emotional energy to prioritize what they can spend their attention on.
- YYMV, but I was never once turned down when I offered to bring cocktails over after Baby's bedtime. (This is one of the greatest perks of friends-with-kids: "party nights" which used to involve horrid gobs of preparation and primping and putting on shoes now take place in pyjamas, in the living room, and mostly consist of hushed voices and stifled giggles and covert impromtou dance jams. Middle school slumber parties all over again! It's truly great.) This can be accomplished over Skype, too, though she'll have to supply her own beverage.
- I made an effort to keep her up to date on my life, too. She tells me that even if she didn't always comment or respond, it really helped maintain her sense of normalcy to be able to keep up with the lives of her friends on Facebook or Twitter or e-mail or whatever. I wasn't a huge FB user before, but during the early months when she was pretty incommunicado, I made sure that I kept her in the loop about whatever was going on in my world, so that if she wanted to connect (especially at awkward times, like middle of the night feedings) she had an avenue to feel like she was still involved and not some freak from planet Baby.

Yes, things are going to change. And yes, you will probably have less contact with her (at least initially). But the contact you DO have will be even more meaningful, because you will have the very privileged opportunity to watch your very best friend take on an incredibly difficult task and succeed at it, and you get to share in that and help her do it. It really is amazing.

As for the whole me-not-liking-kids thing, it turns out my super awesome friend had a super-awesome kid, and getting to know her has been mind-blowing and life-changing. YMMV, and that's totally fine.

Try not to worry! You'll both be OK.
posted by Dorinda at 2:47 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]


I am the child-free-by-choice best friend, and I ended up losing my best friend after she and her husband had a baby. It didn't happen right away, but actually, my life changed and I think that we just kind of grew apart and in different directions. I tried, at times she tried, but we just could never really reconnect. It's probably not so much about her having a child so much as us just having very different paths to walk.
posted by sm1tten at 5:19 PM on May 28


I'm in your friends' shoes, a few years on: my BFF lives far from me, is an extremely non-child person, and we were both worried about the friendship changing / becoming less when my kid was born (he's 19 months old now). I'm happy to report that although it's changed a bit, we're still as close as ever. I put it down to the following factors:

- We talked frankly before the baby was born about our fears and hopes about how it would change things, and even though we didn't decide on any strategies or anything at that point (how could we? neither of us knew what we were getting into) it really felt good to just talk about it. We therefore knew how each other felt, and it really helped to reaffirm that keeping a close friendship through it all was important to both of us. It helped me to know that she was planning on doing what she could to accept my kid as a big part of my life, even though she's not a fan of kids in general. And I think it helped her to know that I was also nervous about how my kid would change things, and that I still really wanted her to be an important part of my life.

- When the baby was born she sent congratulations, sent a little baby gift, etc. Nothing excessive but enough to show she was trying to live up to her words - she welcomed him because he was important to me, and I was important to her. She didn't say things I knew she didn't believe (e.g., she didn't say "he's so cute!" when I know she thinks newborn babies are generally ugly) but she said nice things that were true for her (e.g., "I am so thrilled for you! You look so happy!"). That really helped me, particularly in the stressful hormone-fueled early months where you lose all perspective.

- We set up monthly skype calls. My son was usually good at letting us talk but when he wasn't, I'd give him to my husband or wait until he was napping. It was important to me that we keep that going. You guys might not end up skyping -- you might do email or phone or whatever -- and a good bit of this depends on your friend, but for us it was important to have that consistent contact.

- When we talked about the baby, which was often (because he is a huge part of my life!) I tried to talk about it in ways that were accessible and interesting to her -- less "he burped! isn't he so cute!" and more "here is how having a kid is affecting how I am seeing the world." She cares about me and is really interested in how different experiences affect one's worldview, so she's been quite receptive to conversations like that, even if she doesn't quite experience the same things or see how X thing is super adorable. It helps that a lot of our relationship is about discussing ideas, and that slots neatly into that. I think this is something you can totally do. If she starts talking about how she's super sleep-deprived, or it's hard to get the kid to latch or whatever, don't feel like you have to be obliged to nod and smile and say bland supportive things. Ask why latching is hard. Ask what it's like to breast-feed, or give birth: these are really interesting and surreal experiences. Ask how the sleep deprivation compares to overnighters in college. Almost anything is interesting when framed in the right way, so give some thought about what kind of framing would make your friends' baby interesting to you.

- Also, don't feel afraid to talk about your own life. I know my friend had the temptation sometimes to think that her stuff was boring or I wouldn't be interested, but it wasn't true. Even when I was exhausted and didn't have much to say in response, I loved hearing about her life. It is so nice to be reminded of things going on in the rest of the world, and to get some perspective that people still do go and travel and form enveloping hobbies and various other things I had to curtail a lot.

- We both got into the same fandom at the same time (at her instigation), which gave us a lot to talk about. Watching movies/TV is something that one can do even with children (especially with newborns - it's a bit harder with older kids if you don't want them to be watching them as well, but there's always after they go to bed at night and you're beat). That was helpful.

- We made an effort to travel to see each other when possible. When visiting she did her best to find things to do that my kid found fun (e.g., we went on a walk past a fire station and got a tour, which blew his mind), and she was happy to work around his schedule. I also tried hard to make time to actually be able to talk about real things, during naps and while watching him at the playground and so forth. If both of you are trying, it will happen.

You might find that you still grow apart, because sometimes that just happens, and it takes two to work to make sure it doesn't. But it's certainly not inevitable. I am just as close to my BFF as I was, if not closer, than I was before my son was born -- and she is one of the most anti-kid people I've ever met.
posted by forza at 7:01 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


I have one friend who had her first child about 3 years ago, and had another one about 1.5 years ago. So our friendship kind of took a double whammy - as someone else mentioned, just as she was starting to emerge from the haze of never getting an uninterrupted night's sleep, she was back in it again. To be honest, she still is, because even though they're getting older, there seem to be perpetual colds/nightmares/teething/something going on. I do feel like her life revolves around her kids, which is pretty natural and understandable. (In case it wasn't clear, I don't have any.) I do understand. But I also wonder if my friend is still in there, just kind of vague and foggy with sleep-deprivation, kid-wrangling and her new life, which obviously involves a lot of other mums and kids and kid-related activities. I wonder this not just because I want my friend back, but because I worry about her, and whether she's really happy. She makes the occasional longing comment like "remember when we used to sit on my balcony with a couple of bottles of wine and talk about everything" so I have hope that she's still in there! And to be fair, she does make an effort to ask me about what's going on with me, it's not really her fault that the kids often interrupt her ability to pay attention to the answer. And it is also my fault that I sometimes assume she won't be interested/have time/be able to bring the kids along to various other things in my life, because of all the times she hasn't. I know I need to keep making the effort even though she can't always do stuff.

The good side is that being the Cool Auntie is definitely a lot of fun. This may wear off as the kids get older and more cynical so I am enjoying it while it lasts. Her eldest daughter has announced that I am HER friend (not her mum's) so I come to visit HER. She's a pretty cool kid. I tend to bond better with kids once they start being able to verbally communicate, so I haven't yet got that relationship going with her youngest, but she's a bright, cute little thing so good times ahead. Also if I'm out in public with one/more of her kids, with or without her, it can be kind of fun to experience that public approval that mums-with-kids seem to get a lot. I would be extremely uncomfortable basking in that kind of privilege if it happened more often, but occasionally is kind of nice.

I do think it depends a lot on the personality of the parents and the kind of relationship they have as well. If there's no one else to help look after the kids, or give the mum a break, then it obviously creates a lot more strain. But if the partner is involved and they can spell each other with looking after the baby, that leaves a lot more room. And some women really do just go all baby-brained. It's an amazing little life that is unfolding in front of them and how could they not be completely absorbed in it? It makes me feel a bit blind sometimes that I don't get how fascinating it is. On the other hand, I also know some women who want to feel like there is more to their lives than motherhood and have actively taken charge to make sure that happens.

One of my best friends is about to have her first baby. This is a very wonderful and much longed-for thing, and given that she and I have had D&Ms previously about her getting married and effects on our friendship, other things that have happened as well, I'm not too worried. I think that she will go baby-brained to an extent and that is cool, but she will always be interested in the non-baby aspects of life too, and reflecting on how her life has changed. Different personality.

Upshot is: yes, sometimes friendships suffer for a while, sometimes even irreparably. But they also just change and deepen and add new dimensions. A lot will depend on you and your friend. But it definitely can work!
posted by Athanassiel at 7:18 PM on May 28


When my best friend had a baby I kept waiting for her to go through a state change and become Other -- but she was still the same rangy, curious, talkative, weird, enthusiastic person she'd been before. She had the same interests. It's just that she was now my best friend with a baby.

When I had my own baby people started to assume that all I wanted to talk about was babies. And some days, when the parenting puzzle is really hitting hard, I do want to talk about babies at length. But I also want to talk about economics and forest management and the history of gay rights and animism.

I doubt your friend thinks you're about to morph into some baby-crazy person. You might ask her if she has ideas about how she'd like to be supported in the early months. But I doubt she thinks you're going to want to knit baby hats and debate Montessori vs. Waldorf.

So: Think of it like your friend was entering a PhD program in a topic that doesn't interest you much. You might find her thesis fascinating, just because you like her mind and the paths it travels. But you're not obligated to always be asking about her doctoral research. Just keep an open mind, be friendly and affectionate, ask after her well-being, and talk about the stuff you've always talked about.
posted by sockanalia at 2:38 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


What's her partner like...?

I ask because I have seen the couple dynamic be more of a determining factor in this stuff than the kid. Some people start families and -- at least after the overwhelm of the early stage -- maintain their relationships pretty close to how they used to be. Some people start families and it is off to Planet Family for them, and they are tight-knit and interaction outside the family dwindles or becomes superficial. I have friends who invite me into their home and include me in their family life; the friendships are close. I have friends who keep a bit of a separation between family life and social life; the friendships can be good, but there's a distance.

I had a baby almost seven years ago. I did not appreciate the old chum who kept after me to leave the baby with a sitter and go on a pub crawl with him a la the old days. I did appreciate the friend who said "You should leave her with me sometimes so she'll be comfortable with me, and then you'll have a babysitter!" (My daughter recently called that person her "best grown-up friend!")

(Assuming here that there will be in-person visits involved) I really appreciate my friends who have taken a bit of time here and there to establish themselves as a friend to my daughter; it means the world to me -- kids really benefit from having caring adults positively involved in their lives. But I also note that my social interactions with these friends are a lot smoother: they are not "another boring grown-up!" but "my friend too" to my daughter, and that means hanging out with them is a fun thing you look forward to, and you get your little interval of attention, and then politely buzz off because it's Mummy's friend too and why shouldn't this nice person get some private time with Mummy. The people who don't really interact with her are just "boring grown-ups" and you are (at six) entitled to come and interrupt or whatever because you hold them in such low regard. The baby phase lasts a relatively short time, and nobody expects you to be interested in diapers etc, but in not too many years they turn into interesting short people with their own stuff going on. A little chit-chat about the "Rainbow Loom" of 2020 (and maybe the odd dollar or two to buy more elastics) will be a win-win-win for you and your friendship and for the kid and for the mom. When somebody goes abroad and sends my daughter a postcard or a trinket it is a big present for me because it is also a "I care about you so much that I care about the happiness of your child" thing, not just a postcard or trinket. Low investment, high rate of return on that stuff!
posted by kmennie at 4:06 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


What I've learned is that the best way to maintain friendships through life changes is to be easygoing and guilt free. If she catches even a whiff of resentment on your part over her totally awesome, fresh from the womb new baby, it's going to make the prospect of calling you or texting to catch up more onerous and painful. But, if you remain chill about the whole thing, assure her, when she inevitably answers an email a whole month after you sent it, that it's no big and you understand, you actually increase the likelihood of maintained connection.

I'm a new mom, and I'm quickly cultivating a coterie of new mom friends. And one of the reasons it works is because they're in the same boat, and sometimes we'll be exhausted or scattered or have milk stains on our shirts and it doesn't matter. That helps a lot.

But I agree with what everyone said here about being welcoming to her child, too. I understand that you had a traumatic experience with forced childcare when you were young, but when it comes down to it, babies are people. People undergoing rapid brain development and changes. Being a friend to a kid is a super special thing, and there's a lot of fun to be had--whether you're the auntie that introduces the kid to the muppets or sings that silly song or always has play-doh or can talk to you about the baby-sitters club, or whatever. I know my mom friends from my childfree days appreciated my engagement with their kids. And I appreciate it now. Whether or not you have children is less important than whether you're nice to children.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:31 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Man, all these stories of friends dropping you when they had kids are depressing to me. I guess you should be braced for that, OP, but as someone with a kid, I can tell you that I would feel ashamed to do such a thing. Friendship is too precious. I hope your friend feels the same.
posted by emjaybee at 9:00 AM on May 30


Update: BFF's baby is (finally!) here. Everyone is doing wonderfully.

When her husband sent me the first hospital room photo of mom and son together, I was so bowled over by admiration that I had to sit down and weep a bit. It's super-intense and awesome and I was not expecting to feel such overwhelming love for him so quickly. I would do anything for that little dude and I don't even know him yet!

Bestie in the "exhausted beyond anything I have ever known" phase right now, but we've been texting up a storm, and all of these kind, generous, thoughtful answers have given me a ton of ideas about how to handle the road ahead. Aside from the baby-centric gifts, I've already sent her one of those post-partum donut pillow things, a gift certificate to a maid service, and a bunch of frozen heat-and-eat meals, just trying to lend a hand from afar.

This comment in particular really shook me up, in the best possible way. Made me cry like the dickens, too. What a gift it's going to be to get to know this new tiny person that my BFF made! She worked so hard and I'm so proud of her.

Thank you all so much for your wonderful insight and advice.
posted by divined by radio at 1:15 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


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