Behind Closed Doors: When they don’t and you do

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It’s widely known that all women faced with impending motherhood have worries. They might range from small niggles like “am I really sure about the colour that we’ve painted the nursery? It’s a bit too yellow” to massive, all-consuming worries like “what if I can’t get the hang of breast-feeding?” and “please let my baby arrive healthy and happy.”

I am no exception.

Currently 28 weeks along, with a sizeable bump, boobs and nipples that saw me wailing to my husband that I looked like a pagan fertility statue, I seem to be losing more and more sleep as a result of the intensifying stuffiness of our bedroom at night coupled with a plethora of worries.

It’s pretty acceptable for women to be worrying about a range of different aspects of pregnancy and life with a newborn. I think a lot of family, friends and healthcare professionals would be surprised and probably highly suspicious of any woman that claims to be completely and utterly calm about the situation. It’s encouraged by all manner of pregnancy books and resources online that we talk about these things with our partners or anyone that we feel can help put our minds at ease, and there’s very little that seems to be considered taboo now in this age of over-sharing. I’ve even had conversations with my dear mother-in-law about the intimacies of childbirth.

But I have another worry in conjunction with all of the above that I can’t seem to find anyone willing to talk about.

First, some background…

I have a group of girlfriends whom I’ve known since we were all stressed out, emotional teenagers at secondary school. Over the course of our school lives, we had ups and downs and after leaving school, we drifted apart for a few years (affectionately termed “The Wilderness Years” by us all now). During the Wilderness Years, I had real difficulty coming to terms with how I could sustain a friendship with people with whom I had nothing in common, for my school friends and I were all considerably different in so many ways. It wasn’t until I got engaged and experienced an epic friend fail from one of my bridesmaids-to-be (who was not part of this group) that I realised that I didn’t need to have anything in common with my old friends; it was way more important that they just knew me. They knew me in a way that people who I’ve subsequently got to know never can. I sought them out, we re-kindled our group friendship and spent a very happy day at my wedding, all together. I’ve never said this to any of them but it meant the world to me that they were there.

These girls are all fab in their individual ways and I gain insight and comfort in different ways from each of them. We don’t all see each other often; we’re busy and it often takes the stars to be in complete alignment for us all to be available on the same day and time to meet up, even for a coffee. But that’s ok. It’s quality, not quantity that we need from each other and we all accept that.

Out of the five of us, two of us are married. None of us have children. In fact, I think I can fairly confidently say that three of them won’t ever have children and the remaining one that might is some years away from it yet.

So my worry is this: is becoming a mother going to make me so different that I will no longer be able to sustain these incredibly important, yet admittedly still fragile, friendships?

I think it’s partly a small identity crisis that I’m experiencing. I am fiercely stubborn and independent. I spent many of my teenage years trying to fit one stereotype or another, often to the exasperation of my friends and poor family, with some unpleasant consequences that I won’t explore here. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve become comfortable in my own skin and that has helped me be part of my friend’s lives like never before. And it’s been the most exciting and fulfilling episode of my life so far. I’m terrified that it’s going to change and it’s manifesting itself with fears for my friendships.

What if my friends think I will only want to talk about nappies, breast-feeding and sleep deprivation? Will they assume that I no longer want to meet up spontaneously for coffee because everything in my life will take an action plan of military precision? Will my fellow fitness freak friend assume that I won’t want to bench heavy weights with her because “that’s not what mums do”? And my biggest and broadest worry of all, will they treat me differently?

When I’m planning the kind of mother that I want to be, I think about how I’ll still want to retain the sense of the “me” that has taken me 29 long years to reconcile. And that’s the crux of my worries. Because I got there with the support of my friends and if they treat me differently, will the person that I was pre-baby be lost forever?

I’m not naïve, I know that I will need support from other friends who are mothers and I know that I will want to spend time with them talking about all things motherhood-related. For the record, I have very few of those kinds of friends in my life and I am close to none of them in the way that I am with my school friends. But I despise that it’s almost anticipated that I won’t have time for my non-mummy-friends.

Like I said, I’m stubborn and my husband says that one of my defining qualities is my ability to control mind over matter. If I want to continue these friendships, I WILL. It’s just that how other people feel about me is out of my control. And that’s my real worry.

 

Categories: Behind Closed Doors
16 interesting thoughts on this

16 Comments

  1. Leni
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Hi anon, I am in a very similar position. 33 weeks huge with my first and with a fab group of friends from school who I do not see nearly enough but when I do, I feel so safe, comfortable and always laugh so much. There are 10 of us in my school friend group. 3 of us are pregnant so that is different but 1 has a 5 year old. When this friend had her daughter we were all 24 and the rest of us were a long long way from thinking about babies. She is such an inspiration to me now because she is an amazing single parent, has qualified into a profession she has always wanted to and has maintained friendships and herself! She is utterly hilarious, very blunt at times and fearless, just as she was at school! She has not always managed 2 nights away for a hen-do but has made the effort to come for part of the celebrations. She doesn’t make every birthday celebration but will always remember to send you a card. Also, as we have all got older and busier we are more likely to meet for lunch than go clubbing so her daughter comes too. She is equally as strong and independent as her mum and a pleasure to be around. I am sure your friends will love spending time with you and your baby.

    • Anon
      Posted September 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Your friend sounds like a real inspiration Leni. I hope to follow that example and still be a person who can be relied on to remember the non-baby aspects of my friend’s lives. Good luck with your pregnancy!

  2. deltafoxtrotcharlie
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Crazy thought – why don’t you ask them?

    It could be that they’re having exactly the same worries as you ‘We just got this stubborn, wonderful girl back into our lives and now she’s having a baby, what if she changes and just wants to talk about nappies all the time?’

    What makes these situations worse are unmet expectations but you have a fantastic opportunity to deal with that right now by asking them what they expect and letting them know what you do.

    My group of four has one with three kids, one with one (unexpectedly) and one who is about to start IVF. And me, love kids but I’m not interested in having one right now.

    Yes, sometimes its frustrating when it seems like everything revolves around them (and yes, I know this makes me sound like a selfish idiot!) but you know what? I’ll still know these girls in 20 years time when their kids are grown up so a little distraction now makes not the blindest bit of difference!

    Keep talking and good luck babycakes
    DFC xxxx

    • Anon
      Posted September 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your advice, I definitely want to talk to them about it. I want to reassure them that I hopefully won’t just want to talk nappies all the time – for a start, they’d be flippin’ useless if I wanted advice on a nappy! Now to find the time to pin them down before I pop!

  3. Fee
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I am hesitant to comment on this sort of thing as from comments on other posts its a very sensitive subject.

    In my experience, I’ve never really worried about how my friends with children might change as I assume things will be different as babies are hard work! I have a couple of friends who have surprised me by going to the very extreme end of the spectrum – never replying to my messages of phone calls, only see their ‘mummy friends’, basically cutting out their old friends – and these children are now 3+ so not babies anymore.

    But much more common are the friends who (as with friendship in general) treat it as a two way street – I am totally happy to go to them, attend soft play groups, look after the baby so they can have a rest etc because I know they’re having a tough time sometimes, especially at the start, and their child is central to their life. It makes the much less frequent but much more precious time we have having a glass of wine more valuable. And often they suggest it because they need a break.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sure your friends will go the extra mile and be understanding when the baby comes – and later on, it’ll work itself out as it sounds like you have great intentions. Lots of luck xxx

  4. Posted August 22, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Wholeheartedly agree with DFC – letting it percolate in your head isn’t helping especially if you add all those hormones into the mix! It doesn’t have to be a serious chat. With my very close friend we discussed it – not in a heavy way, but just chatted it through. And it is a bit weird that she’s still out partying every weekend and I’m in with the baby, but when we do see each other we just talk about all our life stuff, regardless of how different it is, just like we always have done, and it’s great. And she loves being a part of our little boy’s life even though she’s not quite ready to go there yet herself.

    Good friendship will transcend being in different places (geographically and emotionally) in your lives. Your not 21 anymore, this doesn’t have to be the wilderness years again. You’ve all grown up. If you and your friends are understanding and accommodating of the change I think you’ll surprise yourself.

    Px

    PS can’t guarantee it won’t be a conscious effort not to talk about the baby all the time… very hard when there’s not much else going on in your life! I just try to ask lots of questions…. :)

    • Posted August 22, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      I CAN’T BELIEVE I WROTE YOUR WHEN I MEANT YOU’RE.

      *shame face*

      Px

      • Fee
        Posted August 22, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

        I blame Ernie ; )

      • deltafoxtrotcharlie
        Posted August 22, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Yeah, baby brain

        (don’t let it happen again though)

        :)

      • Posted August 22, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        I was totally just about to pull you up on that P!

  5. Amanda M
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Speaking as someone on the other side of this, I think I was initially kind of oblivious – I thought everything would carry on as before except there was something new to discuss and late night drinking sesssions might have to be postponed for a few months! What I’m saying is that, chances are, your friends haven’t really considered how momentous a change this will be for you. Unless they’ve experienced it with other friends of course.

    I think it’s the new mums that set the agenda here. You (I) want to be a supportive friend but never having gone through it, you (I) might not know how to be. So tell them! It’s a sad but inevitable fact of life that I see less of my friends who are mothers now – but that time we do see one another is very precious.

  6. Posted August 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    My two best and oldest friends don’t have children, and won’t for a long time. Right now, they are on the descent down Ben Nevis – a trip that they were adamant I would be able to go on last summer while I was pregnant. It’s not until the baby is here that your friends will ‘get’ it, but as long as you make an effort, you don’t have to lose them. Similarly, they have to understand that your life will never be the same again, and you wont be able to do some activities. And in certain instances might plain just not want to because you would rather spend the weekends with your family, rather than gallivanting off without them. So, all hope is not lost, but it will most definitely be different.

  7. rachel JHD
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been in both places, the friend without children & am now the friend with baby. As friend without baby I still did want to see my friends & their babies, though they often wanted to meet up with me for non children time, which was lovely but then I didn’t get to know their children. Other friends never talk about their children when we’re out which is a bit strange. The worst was friends wanting to live vicariously through my going out life & when deciding where to meet up saying ‘I don’t know anywhere anymore how about McDonalds?!’, the best friends those who are genuinely interested in you. Reflecting back I think two friends experienced PND & I think that’s why they stopped meeting up & Inthen had no idea why they disappeared. So if things are tough say so.
    From the other side it was strange the first time I had to turn down a friends birthday meal due to our baby. I agree with Penny ask questions so you know what’s going on in their lives & can pick & follow up conversations. I’m also determined to continue reading & keep up with current affairs so I have something else to talk about. I use who I follow on Twitter to do this.
    Enjoy your pregnancy & your lovely growing bump.

  8. Beth
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Like others above, I’d encourage you to share how you’re feeling with your friends. Knowing that you care so deeply about them will carry you through. Even if your friendships change shape a bit with the birth of your baby, the substance will be there as a bedrock.

    On a very practical note, I’ve found Whatsapp invaluable for keeping in touch within my group of girls from school. We have a little group, swap news, pictures, quips in short bursts enabling us to keep in touch across timezones and despite being in different places life wise. We’ve just welcomed the first baby to our group and I love seeing photos of him, that we’re able to share our friend’s first days of being a Mum. We’re all very enthusiastic honorary aunties!

    I would imagine that your friends are excited for you too xx

  9. Louise
    Posted August 23, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Anon, you could have been writing about me this post is so similar to how I was feeling around 8 months ago! Completely understand your worries, I was the first in my friends from school (also 5 of us, also very different, and scattered around the world!) and was so concerned that this very longed for baby might throw everything else out of kilter. At the time I did share my concerns with my friends, and I would recommend it – it made me feel better just knowing they were aware of my worries. In the end I needn’t have worried, they were all fantastic when my son was born and love him to bits, and we do still talk about the stuff we used to – just with a bit of baby updates thrown in too now!

    What I would say is don’t expect this to come immediately. For those first few weeks/months you will be in a world of your own and its so important you don’t put pressure on yourself to get back to normal too quickly. My son is now 7 months and we’re all pretty settled and used to each other now. I feel like I’m myself again – different yes, but still very much ‘me’.

    You’re about to go through an amazing experience. The fact you’re aware that you don’t want to become a baby bore tells me you won’t. Enjoy it, it’s bloody brilliant :-)

  10. Anon
    Posted September 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi all,

    Firstly apologies for the tardiness of replying to your comments, I unexpectedly lost internet access for a week (seriously, how did we live without it before?).

    I wanted to say thanks to you all for your comments, it was cathartic to say the least to write this post which only leads me to realise exactly how much better I’ll feel for talking about it, let alone writing about it.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment and reassure me, I don’t feel quite so daunted by it now and there you’ve provided some great, practical advice. I’m determined to keep these friendships going, even if they do look different in the future, and I think that kind of determination can make all the difference x

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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