There's no question that it's harder to keep your friendships (and other relationships) strong once you give birth. Babies pull your focus and energy like little else, and present all kinds of logistical challenges that make previously simple get-togethers a complicated effort. Taking them with you means packing enough for a weekend away; leaving them behind requires coordinating care with someone who's trustworthy enough to watch them, and, if you're breastfeeding, pumping extra milk for them ahead of time. So discovering some of the unexpected ways my friendships changed for the better postpartum was a really welcome surprise.
For me, giving birth, then recovering from giving birth and having a lot of time (especially during those long early nursing sessions) to read new things and reflect helped me learn all sorts of things about myself. All those new discoveries I made about myself helped me show up as a way more empathetic, caring person in all of my relationships.
Also? No matter how cute they are, or how much you love them, caring for a baby all day and all night can be lonely AF, which drastically lowered my standards (and increased my appreciation) for adult interactions. In my postpartum life, any gathering of friendly people whose asses I don't need to wipe, counts as a party. ("What's that, Friend? You're doing laundry tonight for the first time in a month? Cool, I'll be over in 45 with a bottle of wine. #TurnDownForWhat") I've totally welcomed the following changes in my friendships, and I'm almost sad I didn't realize most of this stuff a lot sooner.
I Finally Learned To Embrace Vulnerability…
Between needing to find a way to deal with the achingly painful experience of being responsible for a fragile new being in an uncertain world, and needing to occupy my mind during the sleepless nights feeding and caring for a newborn, I started reading about and reflecting on my own vulnerability. I've been terrible at dealing with that for most of my life, and I now realize trying to control everything in my life (including how other people see me) made a lot of things unnecessarily hard and lonely, including my friendships.
...Which Helped Me Find The Courage To Ask For Help
Recognizing that I truly can't do motherhood alone, or even just with my partner, and realizing that being vulnerable and imperfect isn't a problem, gave me the courage to start asking my friends for help. Unsurprisingly to people who get this stuff, but totally surprising to me, they were so happy to help and be involved. No one judged me or made me feel badly, they just stepped up, and our friendships are so much deeper and more meaningful as a result.
Asking For Help Let Me Get Closer To People
Motherhood has pretty much completely destroyed my attempts to pretend I have it all together by pretending I never need help. Cool thing about letting go of perfectionism: when you're not worried about people seeing who you really are, you build way better relationships.
I Feel More Comfortable With Myself, Which Makes It Easier To Be A Good Friend
Making peace with who I am, stretch marks and all, makes it possible for me to see, value, and empathize with other people on a much deeper level. Being willing to own all of myself, the flaws and the great parts, means I can show up for my friends in a way more honest, accountable way.
Being Responsible For A Brand New Person 24/7 Made Me Crave Adult Company…
I love my little boy to the moon and back, times infinity. But that doesn't mean I like every second of caring for him. It's a lot of work to keep up with a really young child's needs, and it's draining to constantly be on the look out for dangers in his path. Being a stay-at-home mom in particular has made me appreciate the ease of just kicking back with grown-ups, who aren't going to smash things or drown or run into the street if you take your eyes off them for a single second.
...So I Started Putting A Lot More Effort Into Connecting With People
When I went to my office every day, or could hit up a happy hour at a few moments' notice, I took it for granted that I could just stumble and fall into a group of friends to chill with without any planning. After having a baby, that became impossible, so I had to actually be intentional about spending time with friends. That has definitely paid off.
I Started Getting More Creative About Socializing
Once I couldn't necessarily depend on seeing people all the time or doing the same kinds of social events I used to, I started looking for ways to add socializing to things that that might not normally be social events. Have some new baby furniture to put together? Invite some friends over to help and drink beers while working. Haven't been able to go to brunch for a while? Host a brunch to celebrate baby's first solid food. It all counts, and it's all benefited my friendships a lot.
I Started Caring Less About Making The Perfect Plans
I used to feel like I needed a "big deal" to invite people over (think birthdays, holidays) or to make specific plans to go somewhere, like concert tickets. Now I realize that the thing that makes any event worthwhile is the people who show up, so as long as you've got good people, you've got solid plans. No need to wait around for perfect opportunities (and risk falling out of touch in the process).
Having A Cute Sidekick Made It Easier To Lure Friends To My Place
Especially after I moved away from my old neighborhood, which was way closer to my non-mom friends, I was really worried I'd never see anyone again. I shouldn't have; people are totally willing to put in some effort to see an adorable new human. And once they see how active said new human is -- and how tired you are -- they're often more willing to come to you, so you don't have to worry so much about things like where to change a dirty diaper or which spot is best to nurse in or whatever.
Becoming A Mama Helped Me See Everyone’s Inherent Preciousness
Here's a postpartum affliction not enough people talk about: birth-induced sappiness. I got it bad after giving birth, and it still hasn't gone away over two years later. Having a baby of my own has driven home the fact that literally everybody on Earth -- my friends included -- is somebody's baby, and that makes me so much more mindful of how I treat people. I'm still not a perfect friend or person, nor will I ever be, but I'm certainly more attentive and open to people than I was before.