A Test of Friendship
Let's face it: A brand-new infant car seat strapped into the back seat in a dear friend's car can become a hurdle between two women. No matter how deep the understanding or how long-standing the chumminess, your relationship may be tested when one of you embraces motherhood.
A new mother seems distracted, when in fact she is focusing on a complex network of new challenges. As a friend, you get annoyed because she looks at you but doesn't quite see you and doesn't laugh at your jokes anymore. I can only imagine how much worse the feeling of rejection must be for someone who has not experienced motherhood firsthand. Women who are trying to conceive but are denied the joys of childbearing are especially vulnerable when a pregnant friend begins to withdraw from them. It's harder for them to accept that a future mother has to focus inward; it comes with the territory.
All friendships are at the mercy of events beyond our control, which is one of the reasons we cherish their fragile pleasures. In hindsight, I wish I had known it was safe to let go of Cathy when she needed to be left alone. Not clinging to a friend is also part of friendship. Even enduring relationships have their own timetables, with cooling off periods that can last months and even years. As it turned out, my friendship with Cathy was only on hiatus. We were lucky: The birth of her baby heralded what was only a brief interruption.
For many childless women, though, the temptation is to deliberately ignore the overwhelming lifestyle change the birth of a baby has brought into their friend's household. And what a change! My friend Susan is mortified because her former college roommate—a Rhodes scholar who became the lead investment banker for an international merger-and-acquisition team—has decided to stay on maternity leave an extra three months. "Since the birth of her daughter, she only wants to discuss the pros and cons of backpack baby carriers versus swaddling slings," Susan tells me, rolling her eyes.