The following is the story of how my best friend figured out that she was nine months away from becoming an honorary auntie.
Scene: Torrey and I sit in a booth at our favorite diner. We are twenty-five and by now, we have sat across the table from one another at least a thousand times. Eleven months ago, she wore magenta and preceded me down the aisle at my wedding. A year before that she moved into my apartment, making us roommates for the third time over. Six years before that, we met in our freshmen dormitory.
Me: (to server) I'll have the number two. Pancakes instead of toast. And...um...a decaf.
Torrey: (Looking at me with accusing eyes.) Decaf? You're pregnant.
Even among the closest of friends and clearest of communicators, things get interesting when someone has a baby. Though our lives run parallel, we all find our own pace. While some women finish school, work, or stamp their passport, others give birth and learn to be a mom. I was the first among most of my friends to join the ranks of motherhood and Torrey, like many of my other girlfriends who are waiting or choosing not to have a baby, has been incredibly patient as we have learned to navigate a new chapter in our relationship.
Torrey is getting married this weekend and I get to watch it happen from the altar. Our friendship has endured college exams, boyfriends, breakups, love, loss, new cities, and, new babies. I think most women would agree that navigating female relationships gets complicated when a newborn enters the scene.
I started thinking about the ways in which I have managed my relationships (sometimes more successfully than others) since becoming a mom and I started asking my friends -- moms and non-moms alike -- for advice on how they've handled these life changes and protected their relationships. Good girlfriends are few and far between. Here's how my small circle suggests that you keep 'em close once you're a mama:
It's worth the effort. Sometimes at the end of the day you don't have enough energy to wash your face, let alone return a phone call. But, you can at least throw a lifeline. It's like my friend Beth says, a text or short email saying 'We're good here, still love you, we'll talk when things are less crazy' satisfies for a time.
Embrace rapid reconnection. Because I don't love talking on the phone, but I do love my friends, I have instated the "Five-Minute Phone Call." This quick conversation will usually suffice until we see each other again. There's no pressure to carve out time for a long conversation, so we tend to talk more often. My friend Courtney talks on the phone while her kids are contained in their car seats. She also tries to sends one thoughtful, detailed email (or letter) per week.
Ask real world, non-baby related questions. Planning an evening with a non-mom? She's your lifeline. Chances are, you'll hear her talk and fall right back into the easy conversation you used to share. Such encounters are refreshing.
Don't pressure your friend to procreate. (Or, as my friend Justine puts it, "Don't keep harping on me to have a baby!") You may think your friend will make a great mom and wish she would have a baby soon, but the decision ultimately has nothing to do with you. And though you have always told your best girlfriend everything, you may not want to share the very worst stories from the battlefield and discourage her from ever wanting to go through it herself.
Make a friend with technology. Erin lives two states away, but I keep up with every milestone by checking her blog. Taking advantage of email, joining Facebook, and sending each other pictures can maintain relationships.
Include your friends on updates. Don't assume that just because your girlfriends are not mothers they don't care about children. Keep them in the loop. I never hesitate to send pictures to my cousin Mindy because I know she genuinely cares about what's going on in my life.
Understand that your children are not her children. More than likely, your friends will adore your children. However, you cannot expect that they'll love your offspring quite as passionately as you. My friend Ashley puts it like this: "While I may love your children and want to know about what happened at preschool, I don't need to know everything. A few highlights go a long way."
Arrange for childcare. You hire a babysitter or call on the grandparents when you plan a date night with your significant other, why not do the same for a night out with girlfriends? They're definitely worth it.
Don't inadvertently ditch your non-mom friends for mom friends. Just because you are now a baby-carrying member of the Mommy Crew doesn't mean you should ignore your girlfriends who are not a part of the club. Yes, you'll want someone who has been through childbirth to swap stories with, but if you let motherhood become exclusive, you'll end up lonely. And it's typically in times of change and new adventure that good friends are most important.