So, your friend is having a baby! After the squeals, and the excitement, and the repeated hugs have died down, this news might leave you feeling a little nervous. You’re happy for your friend, of course, but having a baby is a big deal. Will your friendship — which is wildly important to you — have to change?
The answer to that is yes. But that doesn’t mean your friendship is over. It just means it’s going to be a little (okay, maybe a lot) different. If your friend is about to have a baby (and you don’t have one yet) here are a few things to keep in mind:
Even She Doesn’t Know How Crazy Things Are about To Get
When your pregnant friend tells you that you’re totally going to still hang out exactly as often as you do now once her baby is born, she isn’t lying to you. She’s a 100% stone cold wrong. But she isn’t lying. She just can’t conceive how much her life is about to change. No one can. That’s the thing about having a baby.
She just doesn’t know yet what’s about to happen to her life, or how it will make her feel, or what the meaning of exhausted is.
See, everyone knows that a baby brings change. But there’s change, and then there’s change. When she tells you she loves you and that she’d never disappear on you just because she’s having a baby, she means it. She does love you, and she has every intention of maintaining your friendship. She just doesn’t know yet what’s about to happen to her life, or how it will make her feel, or what the meaning of exhausted is.
So, once the baby is born, and she starts turning down invitations to brunch, or doesn’t return your texts, or can’t remember the plot of the show you both watch religiously, don’t hold it against her. She really had no idea what was coming.
This Is Not the Time To Vent
When your friend has a baby (and you don’t have one yet), chances are you’re going to experience a whole host of emotions. If you’re trying to get pregnant yourself, you may feel jealous (like, why does she get to have a baby and I don’t?). If you’re nowhere near ready to have a baby of your own, you might feel angry (like, why’d she have to go and ruin all our fun?). If you absolutely love babies and can’t wait to meet hers, you might be feeling excited in a way that turns out to be overwhelming to your friend (like, why can’t we both be the baby’s mommy?).
All these feelings are normal and understandable, but if you want to maintain your friendship with a new mother, you’re going to have to keep them to yourself (or share them with a different friend). It may be hard to keep these feelings from her — you usually tell her everything! — but she’s not in a place right now to deal with them. She will be eventually, just not now.
Acknowledging to yourself that you can’t understand it will help you in the long run.
She’s going through something you can’t possibly understand. Acknowledging to yourself that you can’t understand it (rather than thinking, “It’s a baby, I’ve seen babies, what’s the big deal?”) will help you in the long run. And understanding that your feelings are about you and not her will save you both unnecessary heartache.
Initially, Let Her Know You’re There and Respond to Her Needs
The best thing you can do for a friend who’s just had a baby is to not demand anything from her. In the first few days after she’s home from the hospital, she’s probably feeling sleep-deprived, disoriented, and lonely. She wants to hear from you. But she may not be able to summon the energy or the brain power to respond. So, send a text, an email, or leave a voice message rather than showing up at her door unannounced.
She wants to hear from you. But she may not be able to summon the energy or the brain power to respond.
A text that reads “Thinking of you!” or “Love you! Hope all’s well!” is much more manageable than one that reads “How are you?? What’s happening??” or “Tell me everything!” She’ll know you’re thinking of her and that you’re there for her, but she won’t feel obligated to respond (unless she wants to) or be overwhelmed by how many things she has to tell you to answer your questions. You may not get answers to these messages (and that may feel frustrating or offensive) but she’s getting them, and they mean a lot to her.
There are lots of ways that you can help your friend with her newborn — assuming that she wants and needs help. You can come over and hold the baby while she takes a shower or a nap. You can bring over some cooked food that she can freeze and then reheat when she has a spare moment. You can fold laundry or throw some in the washer. Or you can just be there for moral support while she cries, or tries to breastfeed (which can be super hard), or rocks her screaming child. The key, though, is to make sure the help you’re giving is help she actually wants — rather than something you just think she’ll want. It’s a good idea to ask her, while she’s still pregnant, what kinds of things she’ll want you to do. But remember, that may change as reality sinks in.
Understand That Her Time Commitments Have Shifted
Once your friend has settled into mommy-hood and is ready to start going places and doing things, she still won’t be ready just to pick right back up where you left off. She is now at the mercy of feeding schedules, napping schedules, diaper changes, and weird random fussy periods that have no explanation but put everything else on hold. Understanding that you’re the one that needs to be flexible will maximize the chances of you getting to see each other.
The more you’re able to be flexible and let her dictate how and when you see each other, the more you’ll be able to spend time with your friend.
If you need to meet up at a particular time (because that’s the only time you’re available), arrange to meet up at her house. That way it will be less of an issue if the baby suddenly needs a nap, or a feed, or has a huge diaper blowout. Plus, you can help her in the ways mentioned above and get to know her baby — who is now part of her life forever and therefore part of your life too.
Your friend’s baby doesn’t have to be the third wheel in your relationship. But having a baby is life-changing, and imagining that everything will just go on, as usual, will leave you with unrealistic expectations. If you want to maintain your friendship, being flexible and understanding is the name of the game. Life is full of change, and relationships can withstand that, but only if you acknowledge that change is inevitable and roll with it. Your friend’s not leaving you in the dust, she’s inviting you to the next stage of your friendship. Accept the invitation!