Before you have your first baby, you're overwhelmed with the best of intentions when it comes to your friendships. You vow to not let this whole "baby thing" change you. You'll still totally meet up for dinners and drinks and brunches, it'll just take a lot of extra work and commitment. Your friends assure you they'll have your back, and they'll visit you all the time. Turns out, however, fantasy and reality are a little bit different. There are a lot of things you can only learn about your friends after you have a baby, because reality is jarring when it involves a newborn.
I was one of the first people among my friends to have a baby. Worse, nearly every single one of my friends worked normal work hours at an office. So, after I had my baby, I was really, really lonely. Without my newly discovered friends from my local mom group, I surely wouldn't have survived because, well, my pre-baby friendships were extremely hard to maintain. In the beginning, I had friends visiting to see me and the baby, after they finished work or on weekends. It was great to have all that company and to be able to see people I hadn't seen in a long time. But after the initial "meet the baby" visits, a lot of friends kinda feel off the proverbial map. Phone calls became few and far between, and the lure of more fun activities, like "going out" (and I totally get it) superseded hanging out on my couch and watching me breastfeed for an hour and a half.
Luckily, a solid few friends really stuck by my side. If they couldn't visit me in person, they remained virtually present via constant streams of texts, the entirety of which could fill volumes. They answered my calls when I called them crying at work and just listened, even though they couldn't really decipher what I was saying through all the snot and dry heaving (because new motherhood is damn hard). When I expressed that I just really needed a girl's night with wine and a dumb movie at my house, or someone to just sit with me because the baby hadn't stopped crying all night and my husband was working late, they would drop whatever they were doing to come over. These are my ride-or-die friends, and I hope that I've been able to do the same for them when they've needed me (especially when and/or if they become new moms, too).
How Comfortable They Are With Nudity (Namely, Your Own)
If you choose and are able to breastfeed, it's likely that your friends are going to be seeing a lot of your boobs post-baby. If my girlfriends were visiting me at my home, I often just said, "Whatever, I don't care," to any kind of modesty, and walked around in my nursing bra and sweatpants because both of my babies were full-time on the boob nursers. To cover my breasts at any point would be fooling myself.
Some of my friends, I discovered, were not so down with the boobies. I was surprised, actually. It was one thing for my more uptight mom to follow me around with a nursing cover any time I nursed. It was another to have my friends, who've known me since always, blush when they saw something as insignificant as a nipple. Maybe it is because they were bigger than they'd ever been, or maybe because boobs are just funny to look at in general. Oh, well.
How Squeamish They Are
"Want to watch me change a diaper?" I'd naively ask a visiting friends. Newborn diapers aren't all that gross. Their poop is a little bit stinky but it is mostly yellowish and liquid in consistency. It's not like a solid grown up person's poop. Plus, baby butts are adorable!
"Um, I'll pass," was sometimes the reply. You'll find that not all people enjoy looking at baby bums, clean or otherwise. Your friends may also not find it as hilarious as you do when milk shoots out of the breast that your baby isn't sucking on, across the room and onto your coffee table. Can you believe that?
How Much They Actually Like Kids
Over the course of your friendship, you may have talked about each other's feelings about babies and kids. Your friend might have said something to the effect of, "Oh, I think kids are lovely, and I may have one one day, but it's not something I'm really into right now." So you're a teeny bit surprised when she comes to see you and meet the baby and it's like you're introducing her to your rabid dog. It is clear that she does not, in fact, think children are lovely. She is kind of terrified of them. Maybe even repulsed.
When you ask if she can watch the baby while you go to pee, she requests that you put the baby in the bouncer and when you return to the living room, she is staring at him with a grimace, like your sleeping babe might start shooting lasers at her from his eyes. All of the aforementioned is OK, of course. No judgement. She didn't sign on to co-parent this baby with you. You do, however, know the real truth now. Hopefully she'll come around to tolerating this new person in your life, because that new person is going to be here for a while.
If They're Actually Visitng Or Just Checking You Off A List
Some friends are truly excited to spend time with you and your baby and want to hear all about how you're feeling, now that one of the craziest of life experiences has just happened to you. Those friends will sit with you for as long as you require, and ask how they can help you around the house if you need it. Some friends may not really be that interested in your birth story (not everyone is) but can't wait to snuggle your baby, and will insist that you should rest because they are happy to just cuddle. Those friends are amazing, too.
Then, well, there are the friends that stop by real quick on their way to something more fun, like bottomless brunch. "Visit Friend With Newborn" was one of the things on their list of things to do, and now they are efficiently checking it off. You probably won't hear much from this friend for some time, because she has just fulfilled her civic duty to you and the new person you created. Don't worry, it is no major loss.
Who The Baby Whisperers Are
You may never have expected that one guy friend of yours to have the "Midas Touch" when it comes to getting a colicky newborn to sleep, but holy crap this guy is good. You didn't even know he knew the proper technique of holding a baby, but there he is, putting your baby to sleep like he's done it every day since always.
If They're Givers Or Takers
Some friends will visit you after you have a baby and expect for you to roll out a meal. "What's for lunch?" was a question I received on occasion. "Um, whatever you ate before you got here?" was my usual go-to response. I mean, lunch for me had been some Ritz crackers hastily rubbed with peanut butter that I'd shoved into my mouth over the sink while wearing my baby. So no, I didn't have a platter of tea sandwiches on supply here.
Other friends would text me on their way to visit and ask what they could bring. Some amazing friends wouldn't even ask at all; they'd just show up bearing delicious gifts they knew or hoped I would like (or that I could eat later) like pastries, or a fresh baguette and cheese. Sometimes I would be so happy I could cry postpartum hormonal tears of joy.
How Forgiving They Are
Having a baby makes life pretty unpredictable. You try to make plans, but then your baby comes down with a nasty ear infection. You said you would meet for coffee at a certain time, but just when you were headed out the door your baby had a blowout diaper and needed to nurse for half an hour to calm down from his post-diaper change tantrum.
Some friends just will not be able to handle your inability to respect their schedule. Other friends will totally get it, and realize that not a whole lot is within your control right now.
Whether This Friendship Was Meant To Last Forever
Some friendships are great for a certain period of time, then end for completely valid reasons like circumstance or people simply drifting apart. Not every friendship ends in a dramatic fashion. I found that a few of my friendships did not survive my having had children, because our lives were on completely different paths. My friends without kids were still meeting up for after work drinks and dinners, going out hard on week nights, and having brunch dates.
Of course I wished that I could join them, and for a while I really tried to make it to some of these events. But when I did join them, I was just too exhausted to really be in the moment, and I was hyperaware that I should really nix any talk of my brand new baby, lest I fall into a tired cliché of the mom who only talks about one thing. For a while these friends tried to meet me halfway, too, coming over to my house for dinner after I'd put the baby to bed, but I'm sure that was kind of a downer for them, too. In the end, we simply drifted apart. I miss some of these friends, but luckily I have made some great new friends in the time since I've had my boys.
How Open Minded They Are
You may have thought that your friend was a free spirit who was completely open minded when it came to other people's approaches to doing things, especially if that approach varies from their own.
But suddenly, now that you have a baby, this friend seems to have a lot of opinions about your parenting choices. She says that ordinarily she wouldn't judge, but since she is your friend and this is another life we're talking about, she can't keep this to herself. Heated topics like whether to breastfeed or formula feed, to exclusively breastfeed or to introduce a bottle, how and when to introduce solids, whether to give vitamins, whether to co-sleep, to cry it out or not; they've all elicited harsh commentary from friends I hadn't expected.