Struggling with a friendship change (pregnancy) with close friends.
June 18, 2022 12:27 PM   Subscribe

A very close friend couple of mine became pregnant in January, and are expecting their baby next month. I'm thrilled for them, but I'm also struggling with the transition of the friendship. Tips and suggestions would be much appreciated.

This married friend couple have been one of my closest friends for about ~5 years. They originally didn't want children, but after the untimely passing of a close family pet, decided they wanted kids. They surprised me with a pregnancy announcement back in January, and the wife said at the time that despite her becoming pregnant/having a baby, our friendship would not change and that we would still get together.

We have had a standing monthly get-together for the last couple of years, where we would get together once a month and spend the day together. This continued through last month, and recently this month, I attended their baby shower and got them three gifts, especially a cute baby shirt that says "I love you" in American Sign Language (we're all Deaf). I explained at the shower that I got them/the baby that shirt because their friendship meant so much to me and that I considered them one of my closest friends.

Before the baby shower, Wife said that she was up to getting together one more time after the baby shower, in between that and the birth. The baby shower was fun, their baby room with the crib, furniture, etc., was very nice, and at the ending, I mentioned to Wife that I would contact them to pitch suggestions in where to get together. The expression on her face was, in a split second, seemingly hesitant, but I chalked that up to exhaustion after the baby shower (it was a long day with a lot of people), and she said sure. On Tuesday of last week, I texted Wife and Husband on our group text and suggested a get-together, acknowledging that we were all busy, especially them with preparations for the baby, etc., and asked for ideas. Silence. On Thursday, I followed up, and Husband said he was not sure and that they were stressed with stuff to do. I was initially hurt by this response, especially as they had originally said that we could get together. I sent a videotext on Friday, explaining that I was very flexible, and it could be a short dinner, a short gathering, and could be incorporated with their shopping, if necessary. I also explained that their friendship meant a lot to me, and that it would mean a lot if we could have one last gathering of just us before their new chapter, but emphasized that I completely understood how busy they were and that I'd be completely open to negotiation and/or suggestions. Radio silence. I'm befuddled because she said before that she would be available to get together after the shower, and I know they have a fairground plan with another friend.

I've told myself that I'm going to wait 48 hours, but this hurts. It's not just the silence, it's the fact that the friendship is changing because a new addition is coming. I'm happy about that, don't get me wrong, it's just a tough transition for me. I struggle with change in general, and this is the first time I've experienced such a change with close friends, so I'm not sure what to do. I also have fear/trauma associated with abandonment, and unfortunately, the radio silence is triggering this. It's not the first time, too—once in the past, when Wife was upset with me, things went to radio silence, and I had to follow up repeatedly until we finally fixed things. I'm afraid she, or they, are mad at me (and yes, I acknowledge this is the story I'm telling myself, not necessarily what's really happening).

I'm truly not sure what to do. I really want to get together with them one last time, as a "closure" to the past friendship that contains just the three of us, so that we can move forward with a new/improved friendship with the baby when they give birth in late July. I really am open to something dead simple, even 1-2 hours if necessary, but I don't want to bother them or seem pushy, or seem like I'm coming across too strong.

I want to find a happy medium/solution, and suggestions on how to cope with a major friendship change/transition like this. I'm open to realistic perspectives, as well.

posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (48 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So, what you do is reach out and acknowledge that they are stressed and that they have a ton to do before the baby comes. And since you are an awesome friend, you offer to lessen their stress in some way - ask them if you could provide a meal to them (whether you cook something and drop it by or you order something for them to be delivered at a time convenient for them), or ask them if they need help with any last minute shopping - and let them know you are perfectly fine doing the shopping on your own (not a group activity), or send them some popcorn and movie snacks for their own movie night.

I know you really really want to do something together, but they’ve really got a lot going on and have told you as much. And it’s actually great that they told you they are stressed. They are being communicative, but just not available to do things. And since you know about this stress, you, their friend, can help alleviate that. And continue to be that friend that tangibly helps as they adjust to this new phase in their lives. It’ll be a new dynamic and it’ll be ok. You’ll be ok.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:49 PM on June 18, 2022 [34 favorites]

I don’t see anything in your story that suggests they are mad at you - I think that’s anxiety talking. (And I understand that - my anxiety’s chatty as hell.) I do think you’re on the verge of being too pushy and waiting a few days to check in again is a good idea.

Pregnancy is exhausting and my best guess is that when your friend said she’d be up to one more hangout she meant it, but now some time has gone by and she’s even more tired, even more stressed, and running out of energy for even one more optional thing. I know she has plans with another friend already but if anything that’s one more stressor - that’s a plan already made that she can’t un-make, but she can’t add more plans on top of it.

So I think in your place I’d wait until at least Tuesday to make it a full week and then just check in with a “thinking of you both, hoping you’re well, excited to meet the new baby soon, can I drop off some takeout some night this week and say hi?” Very low key, nothing that requires them to go anywhere or do anything, or even invite you in if they’re not up to it.

The closure piece of this has to be something you do on your own, not something they do with you. They’re working through their own closure of their life as a two person family. Your feelings are valid and important but right now you’ve got to handle them on your own or with other parts of your support system.
posted by Stacey at 12:54 PM on June 18, 2022 [22 favorites]

It can be really joyful to lean into a new phase of friendship where the other party needs more from one. Especially in late pregnancy and early parenthood, I think what people really love is to be helped out. Practically and emotionally, to have their friends thinking of things they might need and providing those things. Crucially, it's the thinking that makes the difference. Between texting "I really want to see and help you guys out, what can I do to help?" and simply turning up with e.g. a cooked meal, or some shopping, is a HUGE difference for the people on the receiving end. I'm guessing this is why you have received silence: you are asking them to think of ideas and plan. They cannot do this right now. So you get the chance to take comfort and joy in your ability to be a strong, proactive friend who is secure enough to take the lead and do unprompted favours for people in really challenging times. Your friends will love you for understanding they are in really a whirlwind of change, exhaustion and huge emotions and will be for the foreseeable future, and for doing what you can to help them instead of holding it against them or taking it as a personal slight.
posted by Balthamos at 12:55 PM on June 18, 2022 [17 favorites]

I'm truly not sure what to do. I really want to get together with them one last time, as a "closure" to the past friendship that contains just the three of us, so that we can move forward with a new/improved friendship with the baby when they give birth in late July. I really am open to something dead simple, even 1-2 hours if necessary, but I don't want to bother them or seem pushy, or seem like I'm coming across too strong.

I don't really think you can get what you want here and I'd like to gently suggest that you do some reflecting that your fear/trauma is on you to work out and not on them to help you with at this time in your life and in their life. I know you're in therapy, I know you're working out some stressful stuff in your home life, I know in general it's a stressful time for you. At the same time, they just had a big event, have a baby coming somewhere between 2-6 weeks from now, and despite Wife's statement that she's like to get together one more time, you seem to be holding her to that and not acknowledging Husband's statement of uncertainty and stress as a polite way of saying "Not right now."

You sound like you require some reassurances about your friendship with this couple at a time when they're stretched pretty thin and looking at some major life changes. They don't owe you closure. And some couples with children start interacting with their friends differently and, my experience has been, some don't. It's possible that things may not change that drastically. I agree with the above commenters that offering to do a thing that is helpful (let me run some errands, let me bring some food over, let me mow your lawn) may be the most well received. I'm aware this can be hard because of social anxieties (often I feel like I am forcing myself on people sometimes) but I think it's the best way to have a likely outcome of seeing them before the baby even if it's not an all-day-chilled-out-hang like you're used to. They may have a LOT of family and friends who are also clamoring for their attention so it's possible that this is a thing that, all other things being equal, they would want to do, but all other things aren't equal.
posted by jessamyn at 12:58 PM on June 18, 2022 [42 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I really hate to threadsit, but a common theme suggested so far is to drop stuff off/go to them. Unfortunately, that's not possible because I don't have a car, and they live far away from the city. How we've gotten together up to this point is me taking the Metro to the last stop, that is nearest to their home, then they pick me up. So, transit-wise, going to them or dropping stuff off with them physically, is not possible on my end, due to me not having a car.
posted by dubious_dude at 12:59 PM on June 18, 2022

The end of pregnancy can be super hard. So yeah, give it a few days and then see if you can do something connective but not necessarily time intensive. I agree the planning piece is probably hard on them right now.

I also noticed you were suggesting where to get together. I dunno if you meant your place or theirs, or if you meant “go out and do things.” That last can be super hard in hear and pregnant and needing bathrooms. That may be even more true with a baby, so you might want to shift your invites/habits more towards “come hang on my balcony and share a (hard) cheese and fruit platter” rather than anything elaborate.

Finally…sure things will change but they are not dying! I strongly encourage you not to take the next few weeks as The Last Fun or The State of Friendship. They are getting tossed off a pier and are just swimming in new water, be the pier! Hang out on the pier with towels and beer and trust them to make it to shore…eventually.

Also, after the birth, drop by now and then with snacks. People raising newborns needs nutritious easy food. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

So the timeline is:

Sometime during this month (june) you went to a baby shower and offered to hang out together again.
Days later you text on a Tuesday asking them for ideas when you originally offered pitching ideas
Two days after that you ask again, and they are by their own words stressed
The day after that you send a video message laying on an enormous guilt trip .

That is entirely too much for what should be a casual hangout.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2022 [46 favorites]

Oh sorry, we cross-posted. Think about Uber, and send snacks. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

Yeah, at this point in a pregnancy they can’t be fetching you. I get that part of it too, as a non driver, but right now that’s not a reasonable ask. Maybe you can take transit to get the takeout and then a taxi or rideshare from there to their place. Or maybe it’s just “send a care package and a warm note” time.
posted by Stacey at 1:05 PM on June 18, 2022 [26 favorites]

Things I have done for people in my life who are having a baby but live some ways away:
- Buying cute baby outfits/nice baby books (I particularly like getting things intended for when the baby is a little older, so they won't be inundated with newborn things that they won't be able to use for long), and/or nice things for the parents (e.g. fancy toiletries, treats/snacks) online and getting them sent direct to their home.
- Making or buying a lovely card and writing a heartfelt loving welcome to their new baby.

It doesn't have to be huge or dramatic- just something that shows you care and are thinking about them.
posted by Balthamos at 1:12 PM on June 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is hard! Deep breaths.

I have similar abandonment triggers, and understand how this is complicated by the whole new-life-stage your friends are going through.

If you’re a close enough friend to do actively helpful things like assisting with chores (cooking, cleaning), offer to do those things, but also inwardly acknowledge that new-baby families sometimes also close-ranks and limit their time outside their most inner circle.

It sounds like the opportunity for a “closure” event has already passed, but I encourage you to do a private one for yourself. If you have a lot of photos/memorabilia, you can even make a scrapbook to gift to them about your times together.

Feel your feelings, grieve the end of an era, and lean on other people in your social network (+therapy helps), but it’s probably time to scale back your expectations of what your friends can offer into your friendship for a while.

You are allowed to make choices now about whether to decide if the silence from them is a dealbreaker for you, even under these circumstances. I’ve had some really heartbreaking ends to friendships where I couldn’t handle getting ghosted/left on read (by people who are still in my extended network). At those times, being ghosted seemed to shatter the illusion of how close I thought I was with those people… but I don’t regret having my own back and “breaking up” with those friends, instead of continuing to be vulnerable and putting myself in a position where they would let me down.

It’s okay to privately reframe the friendship to protect yourself, and it’s okay for that process to hurt, but do your best to keep “comfort-in, dump-out” in mind, and try not to add any stress to your friends while their family is growing. It’s unlikely that confronting them about how their actions hurt you *at this time* will be cathartic for anyone.
posted by itesser at 1:17 PM on June 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

Do you have Seamless where they live? Send them a seamless gift certificate. You can have it emailed to them and they will 100% appreciate the gesture. This is the time to offer them your support, not to be looking to them for reassurance.
posted by cakelite at 1:19 PM on June 18, 2022 [11 favorites]

(CW: I talk about birth in a scary way)

My suggestion would be to shift to being the low key person who can maintain a sense of connection via middle of the night text messages or whatever, if that's possible. Low key and supportive, not asking much, available to listen whenever they feel like telling you about whatever wild situation they're dealing with.

Part of being a good friend is being understanding of the other demands your friends have on their life and being able to be self-reliant for awhile. Your idea of closure sounds nice, I get it, but they might be pretty stressed out. She might be having to finish up to take several months off of work. They're about to go through a major medical event. After that they'll have a baby who will have to learn how to breathe air, eat, hold its own head up... They have to focus on that around the clock such that they will be extremely sleep deprived. They'll have to go back and forth to the doctor. They'll need the adults in their life to be self-sufficient. You're talking about trauma... She might be quietly wondering how this enormous baby is going to get out of her body without her being torn apart, so I agree with the advice to comfort in, dump out.

Find others who can give you some of the sense of family you got from them, but also think about how you can be supportive to them and excited to meet and connect with their new little one. The only constant in life is change and hopefully you'll be able to find ways to stay connected even as the form of that changes.
posted by slidell at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

The best thing you can do at the moment is do whatever you have to to self sooth and support them from afar, if you really can’t get to them.

And gently, they may not be up to picking you up for a while after the birth either. So perhaps figure out alternative ways for you to meet that don’t require them to pick you up or come to your home or meet outside their home. In theory newborns are very portable but in practice birth takes time to recover from, caring for newborns is very hard and relentless work and they won’t sleep.

That doesn’t mean they no longer want to be friends. But the baby will change their life completely in ways they themselves don’t even understand yet. On a very practical level, parents have to find childcare to meet friends or have to spend time with the friends that accommodates young children. And people who want to spend time with parents of young children have to be ok with that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2022 [11 favorites]

I've told myself that I'm going to wait 48 hour
Please wait longer. I really do not think that persisting in this way is going to "fix" things, especially when they aren't actually broken.

People often are really uncomfortable with big changes in their friends lives, but I encourage you to consider that their having a baby (or getting married, or buying a house, or retiring...) is not just going to change their relationship with you, but also change their relationships with other people, with each other, with themselves... there's a lot going on here that you aren't acknowledging because your anxiety is the loudest voice in the room, but you have to continue working on quieting that on your own.
posted by sm1tten at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2022 [28 favorites]

Everyone has made good suggestions that I agree with - I'd send them a takeout gift certificate of some sort, a nice card letting them know you're here for anything they might need, and then back off. It doesn't sound like you are going to see them another time before the birth, and I'm sorry, but nothing good can come of pushing here. When the baby comes, you will have another opportunity to send your well-wishes and offer to drop off food (via Uber!)

It sounds like you've been good friends with the exception of this stressful period, so I am betting anything that if you give them space they'll come back to you in a way that feels manageable for them - but since you're open to practical feedback, I think you're stressed and anxious because you correctly sense the friendship is changing, permanently. Weddings and babies are wonderful, joyful occasions, but our culture doesn't talk much about how they can be bittersweet because they change friendships irrevocably. Not all that change is bad, but as you describe it yourself, it is a transition, and transitions can be bumpy for the one feeling "left behind." To help yourself from here on out, I would grieve the friendship that you had before the baby as completely as if they'd moved away. Approach your friendship with them now as though you're starting from scratch. The unspoken rules that governed your friendship pre-baby - the transit methods you used to see them, the activities you defaulted to - no longer apply. You can make new ones together, but it will help you (and them!) if you have no expectations and make no demands on them for quite a while.

I think there is a possibility you may read these replies, though they are all meant kindly, and feel worse. Please take care of yourself and share your feelings with your therapist and any friends or family members who are sympathetic ears. It will be okay in the long run, but it's really, extremely, exceedingly normal to feel very sad about this right now.
posted by superfluousm at 2:33 PM on June 18, 2022 [15 favorites]

Late pregnancy is incredibly tiring, or at least it was for me. I had very little energy for anything but work, the absolute minimum of self care, and growing a baby. It can also get really physically uncomfortable in new and exciting ways, and you start having more frequent doctor appointments, and it just generally felt like it took up more of my time and energy than earlier in pregnancy. Like my default state was asleep for the last month or two. I would give it much longer than 48 hours and scale back your interactions to whatever level of non-planning interaction your normally have and just wait and see. They may have a window where they can hang out or they may not- and if the baby is due next month, they’re getting into “could actually come any time” territory so they may be really really feeling the pressure to get things done.

Actually, one thing that was incredibly helpful in my last couple of weeks of pregnancy was having someone process the various gifts we got from our shower- opening boxes and unpacking things, putting things together, cutting tags off of tiny baby clothes, etc.
posted by MadamM at 2:36 PM on June 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

This is a situation where, if you wish to maintain a healthy and positive friendship with these folks in the long term, you’ll have to endure some discomfort and hard feelings in the short term. You’ll have to accept that they can’t meet a lot of your needs right now: they can’t give you your “closure” hang out, they can’t come and fetch you for a visit or meet you somewhere, they can’t expend a lot of emotional energy on supporting you.

You get to decide if you’re ok with that. People change, your friends are undergoing a huge life change, and if it’s too emotionally difficult for you to maintain a friendship where they can’t meet your needs or support you much for a while, it’s ok to take a step back of your own.

However, whether or not you decide you are game to endure this tough season of friendship, or whether you want to let the friendship fade, all of the work to do is yours alone. The more you demand of them, the less likely it’ll be that the friendship will endure this period.

You’ve gotten lots of great suggestions here for ways to support them in the short term. They will one day have more capacity and energy to devote to your friendship again (though maybe not exactly as much as before), so if you accommodate and respect their needs through this massive upheaval, you will be much more likely to maintain a great relationship with them.
posted by rodneyaug at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2022 [10 favorites]

The no car thing probably is a practical part of the problem. They can't just have you over for an hour and have you go away, they have to go get you and then take you back again. What seems like a good meet in the middle compromise - you come half way to them and then they pick you up instead of them coming to you or you going all the way to them - at normal times but it is another burden on their time when they are stressed and busy, bigger than the hour when you would actually see them. It also means housekeeping for having guests over or getting ready to go out of you are going somewhere public.

I don't know what you normally do when you see them, but maybe you could suggest a video check-in. Get on discord and party watch a movie together if you normally watch movies. Play games on board game arena if you play board games. That sort of thing. Something you can plan and which puts no burden on them at all. Maybe send them a surprise uber eats snack delivery on the evening if that's plausible where they live.

And definitely don't use the word closure or in any way or an emotional burden on them about this virtual visit. If you can't figure out something they want to do, guilting them into it will almost guarantee that even if they do it now because of that guilt, they will not continue to be friends after the baby is born.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:15 PM on June 18, 2022 [19 favorites]

Late pregnancy is physically and emotionally very taxing (and BTW new parenthood is even more so) and you are being pretty high-maintenance and self-centered here. I understand you are afraid and feeling let down, but they are not in a place where they can make their lives about you right this minute, and you insisting that they assuage your fears right this minute or more drama will ensue will not end well for you.

They said your friendship wouldn't change but I don't think they ever meant "we will never miss one of our monthly meetups." If they did, they were being naive. But more likely they meant, like, over the medium to long term, they hope to keep you in their lives. But you are going to have to be flexible in the short term. Their lives are changing and they are going to need you to be understanding about it.

Please consider finding a ride all the way to them, either Uber or a taxi or some other solution. They have been very generous to come pick you up but with a new baby they aren't going to want to (again: this does not count as the friendship changing). You may as well figure this out ASAP; it isn't temporary that leaving the house is going to be a pain in the butt for them. In 2022 "I don't have a car so I simply cannot get there without inconveniencing them" is not a reasonable way to think. There are many options for you to get there on your own.
posted by potrzebie at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2022 [34 favorites]

Lots of good advice here but I have to note that your friends themselves are probably worried about their new stage in life. Pressing for a "closure" visit likely is exacerbating their own anxieties. Combine that with the mental and physical stresses of pregnancy and they may have found your requests for a hangout pushy when they normally would be seen as friendly invitations.

I would suggest a short, positive apology text for pressing them to hang out--"Sorry, I know you must be busy and I wasn't thinking!"--and a gift card to a meal service.
posted by kingdead at 4:53 PM on June 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

I agree with the consensus above - you became overly pushy when you responded to "Husband said he was not sure and that they were stressed with stuff to do" with a videotext spitballing more ideas - it sounds like the husband was trying to gently tell you "no" and so it makes sense they've not responded to you.

Finally, I just want to add that how much your friendship will change once the baby is born is truly beyond anyone's control, and will likely not be personal. Your friend may not want to reveal if she comes down with a bad case of postpartum depression (women can feel a lot of shame even if it's become more normalized), and many women don't feel comfortable revealing how intense the birth was - especially to male friends. How severe your friend's vaginal tear is (or whether she ends up needing an emergency C-section) will have an impact on how soon she starts to feel like her old self again, but this might not be something she wants to talk about with you, so I'd say now is the time to practice accepting their "no, we can't hang out right now" is not personal.

One option you might put forward though (after you give them some space) is to see if they'd be up for a short Zoom hangout. Much easier to coordinate, given your lack of a car.
posted by coffeecat at 5:45 PM on June 18, 2022 [11 favorites]

This is a hard transition and it is ok to be sad about how the nature of your friendship will change. It sounds like maybe these are the first close friends of yours to have a baby? If you are not super familiar with babies, know that pregnancy and infant care can be massively physically and mentally grueling in ways people don’t expect. If your friends can’t be there for you in the ways that they have in the past, it’s not a comment on their feelings about you—it’s just that babies become the center of parents’ worlds in life-altering ways.

My best advice for navigating this change is to find a way to get to your friends on your own when they are up for visitors. Once you are there, you need to do something helpful for them, like walking the dog or doing a load of laundry. It is helpful if you feed them. And then you need to leave. You are there to support and then clear out. The first three months of a baby’s life are referred to as the “fourth trimester,” meaning that even though they are breathing in the outside world, they still have an enormous amount of development to go through before they start to resemble babies as we typically think of them. Gradually as the baby gets older you will probably be able to stay a little longer. But in the beginning, all babies can really do is eat, sleep, cry, pee, and poop. That’s it.

I am really used to babies, so friends have expressed relief and appreciation when I have been able to visit them and make my visit entirely about the baby. Your friends will be sleep deprived and possibly experiencing a combination of crushing anxiety, excruciating depression, and delirious love. For the next year or so, possibly more, you cannot take anything they say personally. No, really. You will text them something innocuous like “hey, a bunch of us are meeting at the park in your neighborhood to see the Christmas lights, zero pressure to come but here’s where we’ll be if you want to join us at 5:00” and they will respond in a way that implies that you are suggesting they tie the baby to the bumper of a car and drag her, screaming, through the frozen streets. They’re exhausted and stressed out. You can’t take any responses like that personally. It will get better.

All of this sounds really hard and dismal, I know. But it gets better. And then you have this marvelous little person in your life who is new to everything and you get to have the fun of being there when they see ducks for the first time. Or eat food. Or go on the swings. And your friendship will develop new dimensions and depth as all of you get older. But for right now, the best thing you can do is try to be as supportive and undemanding as you can for your friends while you take care of yourself and work through your own issues. Your friends still care about you, it’s just that their ability to meet your needs is going to look different for awhile.

I'm befuddled because she said before that she would be available to get together after the shower

Probably your friend really wanted to get together, but is a lot more tired or stressed out than she thought she would be. Sometimes things change and people don’t have a crystal-clear answer of when they’ll be available. Sometimes people’s anxiety is triggered by multiple requests for something. You can’t know exactly what’s happening, so I would let that go, hard as it is.

and I know they have a fairground plan with another friend.

Gently, I would really urge you to let go of keeping score like this. I know it can feel super hurtful when it seems like people are ignoring you but spending time with someone else. Again, we can’t know exactly what is happening and you will only make yourself miserable if you’re mentally keeping track of who is with whom and when.
posted by corey flood at 6:05 PM on June 18, 2022 [14 favorites]

I sent a videotext on Friday, explaining that I was very flexible, and it could be a short dinner, a short gathering, and could be incorporated with their shopping, if necessary. I also explained that their friendship meant a lot to me, and that it would mean a lot if we could have one last gathering of just us before their new chapter, but emphasized that I completely understood how busy they were and that I'd be completely open to negotiation and/or suggestions.

This strikes me as a very unhelpful way to approach friendship — it's not a "negotiation," where they "owe" you some hang time, and you'll graciously lower the amount they owe you if only they'd come to the table to discuss. Just because previously said they wanted to hang out doesn't mean they have some kind of locked-in obligation to do so. Things change! This has come up in one of your previous questions, too, the "let's hang out" / "actually, i can't" / "ok well how about we just hang out a LITTLE" format. You are misreading a gentle no — it's not the beginning of a bargaining structure, it's a polite and normal tiny rejection that is part of all relationships.

I really want to get together with them one last time, as a "closure" to the past friendship that contains just the three of us, so that we can move forward with a new/improved friendship with the baby when they give birth in late July.

I mean this in the nicest way possible, but their baby is not about you. They "surprised" you with pregnancy news?'s not your baby, so presumably all news about it would be a surprise? I don't know if you realize how selfish you sound here. We all need love and support, but usually people offer that TO the folks having a baby rather than demand that it come FROM them. I am sure you are a caring person, but I hope you can see how severely your lens is warping your perspective here.
posted by Charity Garfein at 6:08 PM on June 18, 2022 [31 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for all those perspectives!

Yes, transitions and change are hard for me, for sure. Especially this is the first time I'm experiencing this with a high-level close friend couple.

I wanted to follow up with a few comments and try to understand those perspectives.

it sounds like the husband was trying to gently tell you "no" and so it makes sense they've not responded to you.

I honestly don't do well with ambiguous language. "I'm sorry, but we are booked/busy/stressed, it wouldn't be possible" is a very clear and explicit no to me. "I'm not sure" can mean either yes or no, and given the context of past discussions with them, "I'm not sure" resulted in either a yes or no final result, eventually. The same goes with the non-response. If they're annoyed, or really can't, it'd be easier if they communicated that with me. I do better with clear, explicit communication than ambiguity. The fact that they haven't responded could mean millions of things: they're busy and haven't watched the videotext yet, they're not sure and need to think it over first, they're annoyed/upset, etc.

you are being pretty high-maintenance and self-centered here
They "surprised" you with pregnancy news?'s not your baby, so presumably all news about it would be a surprise? I don't know if you realize how selfish you sound here.

I'm struggling to see exactly how, and I hope I can get some helpful perspectives on how — I got them presents, and when they weren't sure (not an explicit no, which I wouldn't have 'pushed back' with) about getting together, I suggested different ideas, and clearly said I was flexible/open to negotiation if necessary. Can you please clarify how I am being self-centered? Also, when I said "surprised" me, I meant it in a good way. They did it over dinner and videotaped my reaction. Of course, I was surprised and pleased for them. It was actually a very touching event. I'm not sure how that is interpreted about the baby being about me?

In 2022 "I don't have a car so I simply cannot get there without inconveniencing them" is not a reasonable way to think.

That's true, and it's more of in the context of doing that on a more regular basis (popping by, bringing stuff, stopping by for a visit). Of course I'd be more than willing to Uber/Lyft to them once in a while, but if I do this regularly, it's pretty expensive.

a short Zoom hangout
but maybe you could suggest a video check-in

I like those ideas! I can suggest that as an alternative to getting together in person. Not the same, but doable.

This is a hard transition and it is ok to be sad about how the nature of your friendship will change

Thank you! I agree, it's definitely a lot to take in.

This has been quite a learning curve for me, so it's great that I'm learning along the way! I'm just trying to understand some aspects, and it's fascinating to see different perspectives as well.

As for what I will do, I think I will send a text simply saying that if they can't get together, I'd understand, and send them a gift card (maybe Seamless, I like that idea).
posted by dubious_dude at 6:15 PM on June 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I noticed that your question contained some very transactional language and actions, pitching places to go, negotiating time and place, even some very aggressively-timed follow up calls.

When the baby is born, you're going to have to do most of the lifting in this friendship for a long time -- the *they do this and I do that and we always do this* is going to disappear for a while and will likely be replaced with you texting them funny memes & links to get them through long nights, you sending snacks, you visiting (yes to the uber suggestions) for an hour or two to hold/watch the baby while they take a nap. They're going to focus on the baby, and your job will be to focus on them for a while, which might seem one-sided to you if you're used to keeping score of who does what. But that's how it's supposed to work, and eventually it'll be more even. But not the same. It's not going to be the same, but it can still be good.
posted by kimberussell at 6:20 PM on June 18, 2022 [10 favorites]

Think about it from their perspective. The past two years of the pandemic have been hard, and now they are bringing in a human being into a world where a pandemic is still happening. This is another instance where your question centres on wanting to control your friend's behaviours for the one last hangout which you said you would work on.
posted by saturdaymornings at 6:54 PM on June 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

"As for what I will do, I think I will send a text simply saying that if they can't get together, I'd understand, and send them a gift card (maybe Seamless, I like that idea)"

Not replying to your previous attempt to get together was a signal that they need you to give them space. I would back off (the gift will be infused with guilt). Just congratulate them after the baby is born (and send Seamless) and go visit when they're ready to show off the baby. Wait for them to invite you to see the baby.
posted by spork at 7:05 PM on June 18, 2022 [10 favorites]

I have not been pregnant and am open to correction from those who have, but when you say it's still "just the three of us" the month before birth, as if the baby is not already physically present and growing every day inside her extremely strained and pained very real physical actual body, even if not visible to you--

I would not take it well if it were me, and if a very dear friend of mine spoke to me as if the baby was going to explode into existence in July rather than being RIGHT THERE RIGHT NOW, probably causing a great deal of pain and discomfort and preparing to cause a great deal more, I would consider discretion to be the better part of valor & say as little as possible to him, so as to preserve our friendship for better days. so maybe that is what they are doing. if they're not just very busy with late pregnancy business.

the couple did not become pregnant, not even if they said they did and you're just politely repeating their own words. she became pregnant, although they may be fully in sync and he may be consumed with supporting her. you may not be expecting a pregnant woman to pretend not to be pregnant, but it sort of comes across that way.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:56 PM on June 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I'd stop attempts to contact them. Maybe the week that the baby is due, send a text like "hope you're hanging in there, especially in all this heat! thinking of you all as you wait for Baby to arrive..."

Then, once you get the announcement, send a card saying congratulations, you're thrilled, you'd love to come by and help, but in the meantime, here's a gift certificate for a food drop off service.

I've thought about trying to explain more in response to your questions, but I honestly feel like all the answers are already here. The issue is that you're repeatedly asking for time / energy that they've hinted they don't have. You get that things are changing, but your focus is on what it means for your friendship rather than on what it means to their entire life, day in day out. It comes across like "am I still going to get from you what I used to get?" See if you can switch to "okay, what are you dealing with, and how can I help?" But also, they just might need space right now. The last month of pregnancy is very physically intense. It also has a special emotional character that may make them need more space. Just make yourself available without trying to negotiate for anything and see if they can find ways to turn to you for emotional or logistical support.
posted by slidell at 11:07 PM on June 18, 2022 [14 favorites]

I do better with clear, explicit communication than ambiguity.

I feel you, but we don't get to demand people communicate to us in the style we prefer (well, maybe romantic partners, but even then, only somewhat). I prefer people who communicate without ambiguity too, but I also have some friends who don't - sometimes I handle this by injecting some certainty into my responses.

So for example, in response to the husband saying that he wasn't sure they'd be able to hang out, I might have replied "No worries, it makes sense that you would be too busy to hang out right now, let me know if there is anything I can do to help - happy to bring over a casserole sometime in the coming weeks!"

And then, it's up to them - they can write back immediately and say "Oh I didn't mean that, we actually might have time this weekend" or weeks later reach out and say "Oh hey, if that offer of a casserole is still on, tonight would be great!" or they can not reach out at all. But I'd at that point just assume (for my own need for certainty) that the answer is "no" - then if they do later reach out, you can be happily surprised, and if they don't, well, you can't be disappointed.
posted by coffeecat at 11:10 PM on June 18, 2022 [24 favorites]

I don’t know if anything in this recent ask will help with understanding why someone might say they want a final get together and then not follow through: Why do people say they want to do something but then never do it?
you are being pretty high-maintenance and self-centered here
I'm struggling to see exactly how
Part of it is, I think, the focus on satisfying your own emotional needs. This is partly the nature of asking a question here - of course it’s about you! But also, you focus on your need for closure and your desire to keep the existing relationship going the same.

Your friends may have the same desires but, even if they were once top of their mind, they have now slipped down their list of priorities I’m afraid. They now have the stress and work of preparing for a very imminent child, the stress of worrying how on Earth they’ll cope, the time pressure of fitting in all of the things that they want to get done before the birth, and everything else they would normally do in their lives. It’s A Lot!

As much as they love you - and it sounds like they do! - their lives are suddenly, alarmingly, So Full right now, practically and emotionally. Being a great friend will, in part, be in recognising this and giving them space. Make sure they know they can rely on you if they need you, keep gently in touch, keep them in your heart, but know that this time is all about them.
posted by fabius at 6:28 AM on June 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

queenofbithynia makes a key point here - the "your friendship includes the baby now" point has *already happened*. You're already in the part of your friendship where the baby is a very real and present factor affecting your friends' lives at every moment. What you're experiencing now is the growing pains of figuring out what this new phase looks like, but maybe it would be helpful to think of it that way - the start of the new thing, not the end of the old thing.
posted by Stacey at 7:14 AM on June 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

Tbh, the best thing you can do for yourself here is start re-imagining your life without meaningful participation from them in it. No matter how close you *were* with them, you're about to get pushed out to a more outer ring, and you will be permanently de-prioritized. Whether or not that's "personal" is, I guess, a matter of how you receive it.

You will never as important to them as you once were. If you can handle being friends on their terms for the next however-many years, and if you can still feel like it's a strong friendship under those conditions, you should be okay. But for the sake of your own psyche, just start the emotional separation now and work on finding someone else who can give you the social and psychological connections you felt to them. Your closure was that baby shower.
posted by mccxxiii at 9:34 AM on June 19, 2022 [8 favorites]

Your friend is weeks away from birth. I would frankly be shocked if they had followed through with plans with you when they already had a trip to the fairgrounds on the calendar.

It sucks when relationships change after kids. I had weekly-visit friends who became once every few months-visit friends for years after baby came. Our relationship is much more sporadic now, especially after baby #2 and I don't expect the same level of support as they were once able to give me. Babies are exhausting! And kids require all the emotional support parents have available to give. But I adore them and I know that at some point the kids will be more autonomous and they will have some breathing room to have more frequent visits, and our friendship will shift again. It's not about them liking me less, I know they adore me too. But they have more important small humans that need whatever energy they can muster.

Send your friends some Zimmermans cinnamon rolls with a loving note, and do take a frozen home-cooked or store-bought casserole over after baby comes. Do not linger, just hand it off and let them know you'll be happy to stop by in a couple weeks to just do some housework while they nap with the kiddo. Offer your services and make it clear that socializing is optional. Trust me, there is nothing that works better to show your care for new parents than helping out with no strings attached.
posted by ananci at 10:46 AM on June 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

As someone currently pregnant with my 2nd child, friendships have had to change both since having kids and also during pregnancy. The last trimester of pregnancy is physically exhausting, and personally I have 2 months til my due date and can barely keep up with work and keeping the house presentable.

If you want to maintain the friendship, part of your job is to read through the lines and be understanding - they're going through the most major life change you can experience, and you're taking that to mean they don't care about you as much as they used to. Of COURSE they still care about you and want you around!! Of course. That's the thing you need to remember. But you also need to be ok with your relationship changing and be more accommodating. There's another person there for you to care about too, and the biggest thing you can do as a friend is start caring about the baby.

Things that can be meaningful in between hangouts - and especially while they're dealing with the final weeks of pregnancy and with a newborn:
-checking in to see how the wife is feeling
-sending food when the baby arrives**** (literally the best thing a friend can do)
-offering to help in whatever way you think they would appreciate (some people prefer to not see anyone for a while, some would love people to come meet the baby - but you'll have to do this without expecting a ride)
-once they're adjusting to life with baby (few weeks to few months), suggesting baby-friendly activities that you can do. Depending what your normal handouts are and what they're comfortable with, this could look like your normal hangout, or could require quite a bit of adjustment. For example, if I'm making plans after baby's bedtime, I prefer to have friends come over so we don't have to worry about a babysitter. But when my first was a few weeks old, we went to breweries, outdoor brunch, met in the park for chats while baby napped in the stroller, etc.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:55 AM on June 19, 2022

Are you willing or able to get a car/learn to drive?
posted by rhizome at 11:30 AM on June 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

If she’s anything like me, she’s super exhausted and probably getting anxiety about the physical unknowns around birth, and her biology is telling her to stay home and nest and not take on other obligations. The month before birth I was having nightmares and panic attacks. At a party I might have agreed to see someone but the second the party ended I would likely have been totally unwilling.

Imagine you were about to have a major life changing, possibly life threatening abdominal surgery AND you were preparing to adopt a very delicate needy pet alligator - both on the same day. And while you’re planning all that, your friend keeps messaging you to schedule a date and come pick them up so they could have closure with your pre-surgery self and alligator-free lifestyle. You might think they were being pretty self-centred?

A great way to be a good friend would be to leave them be for now, send them some food when the baby comes, and figure out a way to get to their house by yourself so you can visit (with a meal) when the baby is a couple months old. Show up entirely on your own steam, tell them the baby is beautiful, bring them a yummy meal, eat & wash all their dishes, and leave in under 2 hours. When friends did that, I adored them.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:44 AM on June 19, 2022 [9 favorites]

"Tbh, the best thing you can do for yourself here is start re-imagining your life without meaningful participation from them in it. No matter how close you *were* with them, you're about to get pushed out to a more outer ring, and you will be permanently de-prioritized. Whether or not that's "personal" is, I guess, a matter of how you receive it."

This is probably true in a lot of cases, but I wanted to offer up my own experience with close friends having a baby, which has been overwhelmingly positive. The situation is a bit different; one of them had two kids from a previous marriage, who were elementary-school aged by the time they got married, so at least one of them fully knew what to expect from having a newborn in the house. But when I met them, they had two older kids who would often disappear for chunks of time to spend time with their dad, and we basically did whatever we wanted when the kids were away.

Then the friend who hadn't had biological kids decided that she wanted to experience childbirth, so they got pregnant and have a little boy who is turning 4 this week! And honestly, I feel even closer with these friends now than I did before the baby came. Sure, I saw a bit less of them right before the baby was born, and for a couple of months after. But as they settled into a routine, we started spending time together again, and it just looked ... different. They are very comfortable having close friends around the house on a regular basis, and maybe that's not how your friends will operate. But there were and are weeks -- especially during the first year of the pandemic, when we decided to be a pod -- where I'm there 2 or 3 times, just living life with them. Eating dinner, emptying the dishwasher, playing with the kids, doing a puzzle while the little one naps, whatever. I would imagine that most parents would be thrilled to have a close family friend around who can be an extra pair of hands, shower love on the kids, and above all, be selfless and understanding about the fact that circumstances have changed, even if your affection for each other has not. I know that transportation is an issue and maybe you can't be there all the time, but I'm sure you'll find opportunities to connect with them and support their new lifestyle however you can.

Yes, I'm probably less of a priority to my friends than I was before the kid, but it doesn't FEEL different to me. This is possibly because they already had two kids and I knew from day one that my friends couldn't hang with me at the drop of a hat, except when those kids were elsewhere. I think the other difference is that I don't have the same kind of attachment issues that you do. I ADORE my friends and lean on them for emotional support, a sense of chosen family, and so on. But they're not my only close friends, and in no world would I ever assume I'm their first priority. If they're too tired or busy to hang out, I see other friends instead. When the kids are older and life is a bit less hectic, we can be more spontaneous and re-prioritize fun activities and adults-only travel instead of "everything is about the kids" stuff.

Yes, your friendship might look really different for a while, or might even change forever. This isn't inherently a bad thing, and it's not your fault, or a failing on the part of your friends! I would set a goal of meeting them where they are, expressing your love and support without asking anything in return, and finding ways to participate in their family life so that you become a beloved family friend and honorary uncle. This is also an excellent opportunity to work through some of those attachment issues, and build out your circle of close friends a bit. These friends might mean everything to you, but they can't BE everything to you, especially with a new baby.

This is hard stuff and I'm wishing you the best of luck!
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 12:14 PM on June 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

>I don't want to bother them or seem pushy, or seem like I'm coming across too strong.

Dear OP, I'm afraid that ship has already sailed . Let's review:

1. At the baby shower, you said to her that you'd contact them about getting together. You saw in her face a potential hesitation, but she said sure. So you are capable of reading non-verbal cues. I say this because you weren't sure how to interpret his "not sure" a few days later.

2. A few days later, you texted about getting together. No response.

3. Two days later, you followed up. He responded "not sure, we're stressed."

4. The next day, you sent a video message. It almost sounded like you were pleading to get together because they mean so much to you, etc.

Can you see how this comes off as a little needy? Sorry :/ You're kinda sounding like a little kid stamping their feet "But you said I could do x/we were going to do x!" Sorry :/ (again). People say all the time they want to get together then end up changing their minds or not being able to with no malice: in theory it's great to meet up but in practice there are SO many factors at play. People have busy lives and sometimes it's just HARD to fit people in, and it has nothing to do with you. Especially when you're preparing for a baby, there is so much going on, practically, physically (for her) and emotionally.

Here's the problem: you think it has something to do with YOU, there's something wrong with you, you did something wrong, or you feel unimportant. It really is not that at all. And when you think it's your fault, then you trip all over yourself to try to rectify things (e.g. point 4 above), and it actually makes things worse because you are putting a LOT on them. You're trying to make them make you feel better about thinking it's you. They said they're stressed, and it seems like you ignored that. By doing point 4, I can see that as adding to their stress (sorry).

I understand that you don't intend any of this at all, that you have trauma, but you have to figure out a way to see that you are making it about you, and then not do that. (It's like how my violin teacher says, figure out the mistake you're making, then don't it. Lol ok then. But sometimes it's really that easy.) This really has been the theme throughout several of your posts: People don't respond in the way that you want, you think "I'm not good enough, if I was cool enough they'd want to get together with me." (You have never actually said this outright, but that's the feeling I get from your posts. I may also be projecting.) By thinking this stuff, you've unintentionally made it about you and you're unconsciously putting them in the position of having to make you feel better for a wrong you feel they've done (making plans when they said they would)? And people don't want to be in that position.

By unintentionally making it about you, then it DOES become about you, and your worst fears come true; it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Put yourself in your friends' shoes on the receiving end of points 1-4 (I would have stopped after point 2. No response is a response, which in this case is "we're not able to get together"). I would feel like it's a lot. It's overwhelming. And I'm not pregnant (though I have been). So I wouldn't respond either because it would feel like I can't give you what you want. Even if I could somehow find the time to meet up it would feel like the entire time we're hanging out, I'm on edge as to whether or not I'm hanging out with you in the "right way", to your exact expectations or needs (this goes back to that Ask Polly quote in an earlier comment of mine. Please read it again and internalize it. Offer still stands to get you an Ask Polly subscription.) And all of this is really hard to explain to someone. What would I say? "Sorry I value your friendship, but you're being really needy right now." Very few people are that blunt. (I might say that because I can be blunt, but then I have to think if I have to energy to go down that route, and maybe I don't.) Because then I'm pulled into explaining everything, and even then I don't know if you'd understand. I also wouldn't want to say (if I was like, 38 weeks pregnant), "Sorry I don't think a get together is going to work out soon. Maybe in a few months" because I'd feel like I was disappointing you and then I know that like clockwork you'll message and say "So you said two months ago that you'd be open to getting together, so how about it?" And the cycle repeats.

So it's easier not to respond. In a perfect world, your friends would be direct and clear and say no they can't get together, and why, and you'd be perfectly understanding AND not get hurt, but it's not a perfect world. So we have to make do with that unfortunately.

You're only thinking about you and what you need. You want to see them again. You want closure. You want to find a happy medium/solution. This is how you're being self-centered. I also get the feeling you think you're doing a good thing by reminding them about what they said earlier about meeting up, and by being effusive about your love for them and being open to negotiation. I'm sorry to say: sometimes this can be really overwhelming to be on the receiving end of this. Because it comes off as needy to them, people generally won't feel they're able to meet these really big needs. I don't see any understanding on your part for what *they* might want or need (again, this is how you're being self-centered).

And it's not that your needs are bad and that you're a horrible person. You have to understand things from their POV. They're stressed and not able to meet up. They might not feel the same way you do about closure and a happy medium/solution. Nor can you make them. This is not to say that your needs don't matter. But it really is too much to ask your friends to do all of this if they're not in the same place. And they're definitely not, especially with a baby coming.

I get that this hurts. I get that you want to hold people to what they say so that you feel better about yourself, but you can't do this to people. It will hurt your friendships and the self-fulfilling prophecy will come true. You really need to develop the self-confidence somehow that it's not something wrong with you. This is what your friends (and the world) need from you: Your beautiful self being confident with yourself.

Next steps: Let it go. Don't message them again. They will likely send out a birth announcement and you should definitely respond with congratulations. After about a month, I would message something like, "Hope you're all doing good. Can I send some food over?" Do not ask for their time, like a zoom call, etc. Let them offer it. Maybe at that moment, they would love your food offer, or maybe their freezer is stocked for the next 6 months. And key part: do it because you want to, not because you want something in return. Don't make this transactional. And if no response, LET IT GO. It's not about you. It's not about you. That's your mantra. "It's not about me." And mentally send them all the good thoughts because the newborn phase is SO hard.

>I want to find a happy medium/solution

I hate to say it, but there really isn't one. Only because *they're* not in the mindset of finding a happy medium/solution. You're in the position of "I want to work on this" but they are SO not in that place right now. It would be different if say, you had a conflict with someone at work, and you BOTH recognize that you need to figure out a way to understand each other and work better together, but this is not that. Not by a long shot. The solution is with you, and you alone: you alone are responsible for your feelings. Don't make your feelings someone else's problem.

All of the above applies whether or not your friends are going through a major life transition. And for this particular life transition: from the parents' pov, having a baby is hard. Taking a shower becomes hard. Getting out of the house is harder. You don't go out in the evenings anymore. Your mind is baby baby baby all the time. Diaper changes. Cleaning up poop. Vomit. Not knowing why they're crying. Eating. Napping. And this is assuming no colic or other health issues. Tons of laundry. Skin issues (cradle cap is so gross in a fascinating way lol). Illnesses like roseola and hand, foot and mouth disease. Not to mention COVID precautions and now, potentially monkeypox. And also mom could have a tough recovery, challenges with breastfeeding. Any number of things you'd never think of.

It gets better a few months in. It might be less hard to take a shower, but it might be still hard to go anywhere. Then they start crawling. They have sleep regressions. Then at about a year they start walking. And then there's teething. And then close to two, toilet training. There is always something, including family visits and expectations to manage, etc. Not to mention all the panic and self-doubt of "I have no idea what I'm doing! What have I done?! Why did I think I could be a parent etc. etc." And reading all the baby books and all the internet advice and just feeling so overwhelmed and frustrated. So keep your expectations low of them. Check in every 2-3 months. If no response, let it go. It's not about you. It's not about you!

Other commenters have said you're self-centered, and I kind of agree. Sorry :/ (again). Even the way you said this: "They surprised me with a pregnancy announcement" - it's centering you in relation to them. You might use this phrasing "They surprised me" for a gift or something ("They surprised me with concert tickets that have been impossible to get"). But I know you mean to say "I was surprised when they announced their pregnancy because I thought they didn't want kids." Then it's about you in relation to you. You had reaction X because you had information Y, not "my friends did something to me and I had X reaction." They didn't surprise you with something, YOU were surprised about something they said. This is very subtle and nuanced and given your responses to this point specifically, I'm not sure if you'll totally get this? Feel free to correct me.

We associate self-centered to mean being mean, but you are not mean, or a bad person at all. You really need to heal your trauma though and I know it's hard. I really hope you have a good therapist who is trauma-informed because this is definitely a pattern with you and only you can break it. You are totally capable of this. Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency by Melody Beattie really helped me. I encourage you to read them if you haven't already.

Final point: "I know they have a fairground plan with another friend." Yeah you have to stop this score-keeping. You're saying "If they have plans with another friend, then they should be able to make plans with me. Since they don't, then that must mean I'm not good enough/that other friend is better than me." Again, I may be projecting. I know it's hurtful to see this happening, but you can't do this to yourself. You have no idea why they have those other plans. There could be a zillion things going on there. The only thing you can tell yourself is "I don't know why they have those plans. Not my business." Because it isn't your business.

OP, I feel for you. You're a good person. I think because of your trauma, you want to show people how much you love them, in the hopes of getting love as big as yours back. People don't have that much capacity. You have to meet them where they are. You want so badly to be loved, and to have your friends show (prove?) their love for you in a specific way. It's not working. For you or them. You have to find another way, unfortunately. It's something you have to figure out on your own. There really is no step-by-step way that you can follow and implement and you're all healed. It has to be something you do for yourself; no one else can do it for you. I think your biggest issue is not being able to see things from people's POV and what they might be going through because you're still in your trauma. Like I keep saying, it's not about you.

This may all be hard to read. I'm sorry if I've hurt your feelings with what I've said. I hope this was kind of a wake up call for you? If not, a similar situation will likely come up in the future and we'll all still be here to respond to you :)
posted by foxjacket at 12:53 PM on June 19, 2022 [35 favorites]

">I want to find a happy medium/solution"

It will be helpful if you can work on letting go of this frame of thought, because there will be a lot less of that moving forward. It's not going to be about "happy medium" ... it's going to be about doing it their way. It sounds like this is going to be very different from the current relationship dynamic that you have.

People often say "you need to meet them where they are" and that's true ... but you have to realize that they will seldom or never meet you where YOU are. For a few years at a minimum, you are going to have to accommodate yourself to their situation if you want to spend any time with them. This isn't your fault or necessarily their fault either, it just is.

This is, unfortunately, not a "fair" situation. The single/childless people get screwed. It is what it is. Look at it as a chance to expand your friend group to other child-free people, or to people who already have kids and have figured out how to handle it better.
posted by mccxxiii at 1:50 PM on June 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

Your friends' news has handed you a golden opportunity to deepen your relationship with both them and their child. What a blessing. Although your approach to this point has been focused on you and your feelings, you can still seize the moment!

Babies and pregnancy are extended periods of uncertainty and vulnerability for people. You have a chance here to be of great service to your friends. When you reach back out to them, and your idea to wait a bit is well-founded, drop all thoughts of "when are we going to hang out and what are we going to do." Instead, I would explain that I had neglected to ask them some very important questions, like "what would be most helpful from me, at this exciting time?"

I would also offer them three options, my standard support algorithm, if you will. It breaks down to Time, Money, or Space, and in this case would sound like this:

"Hi friends! I realize our hangout might not be the best way for me to support you right now. I'm so excited for the baby and thought I could come out on an evening and help you fold baby clothes and put together the crib [time], or send over dinner so you two don't have to cook [money], or delay our hangout until after the baby is here and you're ready for visitors [space]. You let me know what sounds best to you, or if there is another option I can help with."

You keep this friendship by demonstrating that you can be relied on when life changes happen - and they happen to us all. Parents get sick. Significant others leave. Show yourself as supportive and reliable.
posted by House of Leaves of Grass at 3:10 PM on June 19, 2022 [11 favorites]

It sounds like you want closure on this part of the friendship because you're seeing it as the end of the best time. It sounds like you're worried you'll be second fiddle to the kid and this will have been the golden age of your relationship with them. You might be right, a lot of my childfree friendships changed after I had a kid.

But the thing is, new parents typically do NOT have that "good old days" relationship to their childfree days. I don't see my life before kids as the golden age. I am thrilled to have kids and I see this as the best time of my life, even when I'm tried, annoyed, have poop on me, etc. This is still really great. So on some level the friends who are remembering the pre-kid-me as "the best me" are kind of insulting me. (And they don't have to say it, I can feel it very strongly). To me, my parent self IS the best me.

Even parents who are surprised by a pregnancy. They have made the choice to have the baby. That means buying into it (and in fact they may even try extra hard to reject the old self that said they didn't want kids because it makes them feel guilty or like they were disloyal to the baby or some other complex psychology).

So I think you may end up being disappointed in wanting "closure" on this time because I bet your friends are excited about "opening" a new time!

And almost certainly, they can read into your behaviour the vibe that you're kind of dreading their kid. And anyone who dreads my kid, or finds my kid annoying, or liked me better without kids, doesn't fit into my life any more. My life is very much structured with my kids as my priority. So anyone or anything that doesn't jive with them, doesn't jive with me.

Now - I am still friends with lots of my pre-kid friends (including single gay male friends who will never ever have, nor ever want, a child!). And I have a great career and I still have interests and once my kid could be without me for a few hours I still go to parties and I still, you know, drink and swear and stay up all night and work like a horse when I'm on a cool project. I'm not boring.

But I don't tolerate people who don't like my kids. My kids are magical, and also it's my JOB to protect them and put them first. I protect them from injury. And I even protect them from bad vibes if I can. So if anyone sees pre-kid me as the best me, even silently, or resents my kid, even silently, I'm going to be annoyed by that, and perceive that person as a bad fit for my life, and promptly ghost them out of my life.

Something to reflect on, because I think you're probably radiating that value system at them rather strongly. It definitely comes through in your question.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:25 PM on June 19, 2022 [11 favorites]

OMG, there is so much to do in the last few weeks before a baby comes! It stresses me out just thinking about it.

- Finish any house cleaning/organizing projects 
- Assemble crib
- Set up the baby's space, organize and put away all those lovely baby shower gifts you received, put away all of baby's clothes
- Pack hospital bag
- Install car seat 
- Stock up on household essentials
- Make and freeze meals 
- Finish taking a prenatal class
- Prenatal care appointments (frequency  of these goes up towards the end!)

They are busy doing that! They are probably also trying to wrap up work before parental leaves, fit in some time together as a couple before the baby comes, and see other family/friends who want to hang out with them 'one last time'...

Cut them some slack. Or help them with this stuff if you can!

So just because she said she would like to hang out one more time before baby comes doesn't mean she actually can hang out one more time before baby comes. Practical concerns always outweigh what we'd like to do, because time is limited!
posted by spicytunaroll at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2022

You're getting good advice here, and I wanted to add the suggestion that you put some of the energy you're putting into following up / worrying about this into treating your anxiety. Your questions routinely have an anxiety component, it's affecting your life, turn up your self care a notch and figure out how to enlist some professional support for your anxiety.
posted by momus_window at 10:30 AM on June 20, 2022 [8 favorites]

Honestly, the comment about getting used to being a low priority in your friends life from here on is accurate. And as a childfree person, it HURTS. Take some time to grieve the way the friendship was. Talk to other people who've been through your end of it. There is, rightly, a lot of understanding being shown for the challenges of parenting, but you deserve understanding and comradery for the painful experience of being left behind too.

If your friends were moving to another country, you could say to them "I'm so happy you're following your dream, but boy I'm going to miss you!". When friends get pregnant, it often doesn't feel like you can say that to them. It's ok to say it to yourself though. You can be happy for them and sad for yourself.
posted by Chrysalis at 11:09 PM on June 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

Some amazing advice above. I just wanted to add, I am pregnant and due at, I think, exactly the same time as your friend. I've already had a kid, so I thought I knew what to expect, but even so it caught me off-guard how incredibly exhausted I am in these last two months. I am counting down the social engagements left before my due date, all long-ago-booked, and making no new ones at all now.

So, if it helps, another vote for "it's not you", being the reason why they aren't wanting to hang out. Pregnancy surprises people all the time with what it takes from you, it's surprised me and it's not even my first rodeo.

If you go on pressuring them of course, it may well become you, the reason why they don't want to hang. So please, give them space, manage your emotions privately on this occasion, stump up for the Uber you need to be planning to get every time you want to see them for the next few months, and take a deep breath every time you start going down the anxiety hole about it. Babies are attention monopolisers well before they're born :)
posted by greenish at 12:55 PM on June 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your perspectives. I'll leave this be for now, and reflect.
posted by dubious_dude at 2:28 PM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

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