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We Were Old Friends. Then Motherhood Moved Us Apart

I tried to reserve emotional room for my dear, childless friend as I cocooned into a life of cribs, bibs and sleepless nights. But so little of my new identity affirmed hers, and the reverse was also true.

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I’ll call her Annette. We went to yoga class together every Sunday, and after hitting the mat, we’d have tea in a nearby café. We would sit and chat for hours about past loves, hip-hop, fashion, Florence, art.

Then something disrupted our sisterly yoga routine. Attempting a pose that was normally easy for me, I felt dizzy and collapsed onto the mat. Both Annette and the instructor rushed over. I wondered, what just happened? Days later, I would find out and share the exciting news that I was pregnant!

My friend was there to listen to my fears, hopes, dreams and concerns about becoming a mother and a soon-to- be wife. When the baby came, she brought him clothes wrapped in bows. But at his shower, I couldn’t help noticing how Annette, accustomed to being the center of attention at gatherings, sat off to the side looking miserable. Why? Annette was part of our family. We enjoyed afternoons chatting with my husband, while I rocked my little one in his chair. I made room for her in my brand-new life.

But it seemed as though the more I pulled Annette in, the more I pulled at and frayed the fabric of our friendship. The more time she spent with us in our domestic marital bliss, the more she began to drop subtle hints about how she needed to do things alone.

I got the message. As soon as the baby was sleeping through the night, I resumed our yoga dates. But my mind was usually elsewhere and Annette noticed. I couldn’t remember the names of the guys she dated the week before, the one who called her the other day, the one who hit on her at the art opening, let alone much of anything.

I had a classic case of post-pregnancy mom brain. But my friend was unamused by my lapses, which she translated as disinterest. I no longer seemed to care about her personal life, her identity as a single woman. Petty arguments began to erupt between us. Was she feeling neglected—or jealous?

“Don’t expect much of me these days,” I told her. Perhaps I could have put it more gently and explained what it was like to be a new mom. Sleep deprived. Sore from breastfeeding. Attached. Spent. But all Annette knew was that I couldn’t seem to occupy the space that was our friendship along with the space that was new motherhood.

Perhaps she was right. But other people I spent time with, married and single, parents or not, welcomed my son on our outings to the zoo, museums, a ride on the ferry. I didn’t feel that I had to carve out alone time to see anyone else who mattered to me.

I knew I would always love my old friend, but the truth was that my child came first. I gave him my resources, my energy, all of my love. As much as I tried, maybe there really wasn’t room to nurture another, adult, person. I’ll never forget the time Annette, over tea, applauded the fact that I hadn’t mentioned the baby in two whole hours. I took the jab, smiled politely, then thought to myself, it’s time go home to my family.

I let my connection with her fade.

For a while, we’d occasionally exchange likes or comments on social media. Once, I saw her on the street. Annette was headed to yoga. I was headed home from picking up my son from school.  We hugged, wished each other well, and tearfully acknowledged that our paths had diverged.

My son is nine now. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Annette — the teas, the long chats, the seeing myself more clearly in the reflection of someone else with shared creative passions. But I am changed. Many of my girlfriends these days are also mothers. Transformations involve shedding what no longer fits who we’re meant to become, bittersweet as the shedding can be.