Over lunch at our favorite little restaurant, Cathy, my best friend, announced that she was pregnant—and instead of being happy for her, I was stunned to realize that I felt betrayed. Before I had even a second to compose myself, a survival instinct deep within the most primitive part of my brain had taken possession of my emotions. I had a sinking feeling that nothing would ever be the same between Cathy and me. Like it or not, I was competing with the tiny presence in her womb. "Congratulations!" I said, feeling suddenly very lonely.
This was not a case of baby envy. When Cathy got pregnant, my own daughter was 12 years old. And some years earlier, after a couple of painful miscarriages, I had decided that I didn't really want any more children. I vividly remembered what it was like to care for a baby—to wake up at 3 AM, yet not be able to take a shower until 3 PM—and I was glad that phase of my life was over and done with.
No, I was not envious. What I did resent, however, was being presented with a fait accompli. How dare Cathy make a unilateral decision that would affect our relationship! Maybe I would lose her forever. Ah! Separation anxiety is such a primordial emotion, it defies rationality. How needy we all are under our poised, affable facades.
And indeed, from that moment until nearly three years later, not only did Cathy and I struggle to make time to get together, but when we did, we strained to find compelling topics of conversation. I had the impression that she was pulling away, no longer chatting enthusiastically the way she used to.
Right after the delivery, I went to visit her, but her newborn and I never managed to bond. He would fret and whimper the minute I held him in my arms. And whenever I'd get on the phone with his mother, as if on cue, he'd begin to scream uncontrollably. She would say, "I'll call you back," but she would never find the time to do so. Eventually I stopped reaching out to her. Adults are powerless against the will of a baby who doesn't want to share with others his mother's attention.