Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

When Childfree Friends Move to Mommieville May 7, 2012

It’s now been well over three years since Mr. Fab and I decided to call the whole thing off and figure out how to get happy with the idea of not having children together. It’s been a rocky road, especially in the early days, when hope would keep rising up to remind me of everything I was walking away from, even when I knew that walking away was the right thing to do. (I wrote a post about hope vs. acceptance last year.)

For those of you still in the early stages of coming-to-terms, know that it does get better, and you can get to a point of making peace with the situation. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that booby traps can still lurk around unexpected corners.

Recently, three of my childfree friends dipped their toes into the mommy pond. One had a baby after an awful infertility journey and the other two, once resigned to their childfree lives, met suitable partners and started discussing the pros and cons of attempting motherhood in their 40’s.

As a friend, I was supportive and talked with them about their futures. I was genuinely happy for my friend who got her baby and I’d be just as happy for my other two friends if they decided to go for it.

But our conversations made me feel as if I was on a raft, floating further and further away from these friendships. These women have been my friends for years, more than a decade in one case. We’ve been through all kinds of challenges together and our friendships have survived. But I know that motherhood would drastically change my friends and I’m afraid I won’t be part of their lives anymore.

And this is where it gets dangerous and I consider calling the calling off off.

I just read a story about a 57-year-old woman who used donor eggs and IVF to have a child, and it reminds me that with enough time, money, and lack of sanity, I could probably be a mother too, and then my friends and I could all be mommies together.

Fortunately these whims of mine don’t last long and reality gives me a swift kick in the behind. I made the decision I made after carefully weighing all the options still open to me. I had good reasons for not pursuing motherhood at all costs and those reasons haven’t changed.

But I would certainly miss my friends if they moved away to Mommieville, and at some point I’m sure they’d miss me too.

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25 Responses to “When Childfree Friends Move to Mommieville”

  1. littlemanleo Says:

    Such a timely post! I spent Saturday doing a baby shower for one of my friends who is a last-minute cross-over (I was *so* sure she was going to stay on our team …) and then at the shower *another* of our early 40s friends announced that her IVF had finally worked. I had every emotion you described here … just when I thought we had gotten old enough that teams were picked and settled, I’m losing my girls left and right. I’m still working on the swift kick in the behind part …

    And for those of you who were so sweet earlier when I was whining about this on a Wednesday … I *did* pull back my participation in this event to protect my own sanity, although I didn’t feel that I could skip it altogether. I left before the opening of the presents. (And I drank a couple of illicit cocktails from the basement bar in one of those cute little pink baby cups, even though it was technically a dry party due to the religious family … :)

    xoxo

  2. Outside of concern for children of post-prime parents (how fair is it to them, really?), life gets complicated when you’re an older (elder?) parent — as listed in this article:

    http://nymag.com/news/features/mothers-over-50-2011-10/

    “These are cases in which baby lust seems to obliterate any sane calculus of the real dangers involved: After 35, the risk of preterm labor increases by 20 percent, and preemies can have lung problems, digestive problems, brain bleeds, and neurological complications, including developmental delays and learning issues, depending largely on their gestational age at birth. After 40, a pregnant woman is likelier to become afflicted with preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and hypertension—the worst outcomes of which can result in the death of the fetus and occasionally the mother as well. It is also after 40 that the risk of having a child with autism increases—by 30 percent for mothers and 50 percent for fathers, says Lisa Croen, a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente. Advanced paternal age is likewise associated with miscarriage, childhood cancer, autoimmune disease, and schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders. “Everyone wants to believe it’s not going to happen to me,” says Isabel Blumberg, an OB/GYN at Mount Sinai.”

    • Maria Says:

      I saw an article over the weekend about a study in Australia that showed babies born through IVF had a higher rate of disability. Here is the link: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/05/study_suggests_certain_inferti.html. I was always opposed to IVF because I felt it was forcing something to happen that was resistant for good reason. After reading this article, I thought hmmmm my gut never lies to me.

    • khh1138 Says:

      Another important thing to consider is – what is it like for a child to grow up with older parents?
      My parents were much older than all of my friends’ parents (my mum was almost 43 when she had me, and my dad was 46). They never were up for anything “active” when I was growing up – they already were experiencing issues associated with aging when I was a schoolchild – and they developed serious health problems as soon as I was an adult. My father died when I was 23 and my mum when I was 36. All my friends, of course, still have their parents and will for many years. Are you prepared for the very real possibility that your child will be a very young orphan? We are all mortal, after all.

  3. Wolfers Says:

    *nods in agreement* I have already noticed a close friend and I have been no longer talking; especially with the bad timing of my surgery and her announcement of pregnancy literally in the same month. I asked her to give me time to grieve and recover; she got upset, feeling I abandoned her during her pregnancy- so there’s no middle ground. Hopefully I could get in touch with her later on when I feel emotionally stable…
    I miss her.

    It sure hurts when a friend is close to you, especially with good and bad memories, pulling for you, cheering for you, and then you find yourself walking on a different path from hers. :/

    *hugs*

  4. Maria Says:

    I was diagnosed infertile at 36 and when I was 40, we decided to take a break because of the emotional impact on me. At the time, it was just a break, but as more time went by and I began to feel like my old self, I realized I didn’t want to get back on the emotional rollercoaster and it became official that we were not going to try anymore. My husband has always told me that all he wanted was me — a baby would be nice — but his primary concern was me and my health. At 46, I can say that we are now in the same happy place we started. I had my moments over the past 6 years but I can honestly say that I feel good about my decision. I have a friend I’ve known for almost 20 years who got married at 43 and in less than 6 months became pregnant with a donor egg and IVF. It didn’t upset me — just surprised me that it happenned so quickly for her. My husband and I talked about it and we weren’t hurt or envious because we were never willing to do that procedure, and still aren’t. But this is my friend’s first marraige at 43, she has been wanting to be a wife and mother for a long time, I know that she will be a mommy maniac and that we will spend less or no time with each other after the baby. I have in the past felt left behind by some of my friends but with this friend, I didn’t. I think getting to such a good place with my husband made me feel like his is my best friend again so losing a girlfriend to a baby is not so painful anymore.

  5. Lane Says:

    Went for a great night out with 3 mommies this week, all was well til halfway through dinner one actually said we won’t let this become all mommie talk but… Then for the next two hours it was all about the kids. We had driven together and I was TRAPPED! Always happens and I have to just sit there and smile, sucks so bad!!! One had a bio kid and was adopting so her pity for me was tremendous, trust me I could feel it. Being pitied by THEM is the toughest part!!

    • IrisD Says:

      Yeah. I hate the pity thing, too.

    • Wolfers Says:

      been in the same boat again and again… Gotta stop buying those cruise tickets..

      • Lane Says:

        Love the way you put that! No more cruise tickets for me either!!

      • Heather Armstrong Says:

        I like that … cruise tickets… but I hate when you have a night out with girlfriends, them knowing about your situation, and then the kid talk comes in… I know you didn’t have a car.. I am the one that would get up and walk out. I wish I could say that is not true, but it is. I can’t do that chat for more than 5 min. For reals.. I would leave. Hard art is your friends look after you like.. ” what’s wrong with her ” ?

  6. Jen Says:

    I only have two close friends that are mommies, one has a 8 year old and the other a teenager. I remember calling the one with the 8 year old about my first miscarriage and then being told by her that she was pregnant herself. That was a slip in the face and I know she felt horrible about the timing of our conversation – we were living in different states at the time. I saw her and the baby the day before our wedding (which took place in our hometown where she was living) as she had the baby just a day prior and I was fine at that point and focused on our wedding. We have stayed in touch on and off since moving back to our hometown, but I have to say since my second miscarriage I haven’t felt that comfortable being around her. All she wants to talk about is her child and when the child is there, she continually hangs on her mother all the time. The second close friend with the teenager, is my best friend from high school, she had a terrible pregnancy and birth of her son and had severe post depression during which we didn’t see each other for a long time. When we would talk or get to see each other, she was never one to overly talk about her son and never made me feel uncomfortable. She has since divorced her husband and is now living with a new man with her teenage son. We continue to be friends and I am grateful for that.

    I am also so grateful that in recent years I have been able to find a few “childless” friends as well.

    Regarding the story of the 57 year old, I too thought that with enough time, money, and lack of sanity, I could probably be a mother too, and then my friends and I could all be mommies together, but like you Lisa, it’s a whim of a thought that quickly fades away knowing we weighed our options too and we made our decision not to pursue motherhood and are sticking with it.

    I am sorry to hear that you might lose these wonderful friendships with these women. The circle of life – we all go thru chapters in our lives at different times and sad to say the outcomes aren’t always the same.

  7. Angela Says:

    All my close girlfriends either have no kids or school-age kids who can go off to play with their friends and don’t have to be tended to constantly. All my friends who have had babies during our friendship have been lost to me, through no fault of my own. I understand the fact that babies demand constant attention, leaving little time for anything else. Their new friends become the mommies of other small children during the kids’ play dates, once they’re able to actually get out of the house. I see facebook posts of their play dates with this one and that one, so I know my friends are socializing, just not with me. I can’t help that, because I’m certainly not going to go hang out with a bunch of women who have babies/small children, for one, they wouldn’t think to invite me and I don’t invite myself places, and two, you can’t have a conversation with anyone who’s watching small children anyway. I dropped by one friend’s house a couple of times after she had kids, and it basically turned out that I played with one kid while she tended another, and we never could finish a thought. The last time I was over there she said, “I don’t want us to lose touch.” And then she never contacted me again, and a year has passed. I’ve called her several times, but she never contacts me. So, I think it just can’t be helped; we don’t have anything in common right now.

  8. Kellie Says:

    Lisa..thank you for your post and for reminding me that there is hope that one day I will be able to make peace with the cards that have been dealt. It will be one year this Wednesday that we got our final negative pregnancy test. After many failed IVF’s – four of them using a donor, we decided to stop. It’s been a tough road, but finally feel the road leveling out a bit, not such an uphill battle.

    The toughest part lately has been a friend of mine who just had her baby a month ago. She wasn’t the greatest friend during my IVF treatments and when she told me she was pregnant – she did what she could to make me feel like crap for…in her words…abandoning her during her pregnancy, and not living vicariously through her during this wonderful time. GAG!!!

    She is not only swimming in the mommie pond, but literally drowning in it and taking everyone, who will let her, with her. I don’t feel like I have lost a great friend, but I hate to say it, she and her husband were really our only friends up where we live since moving here 3 years ago. It’s tough finding friends at our age when you don’t have children. We have now made a big effort trying to make new friends with couples that either have older children or none at all.

    Some of my older friends who I have known for pretty much my entire life, who, unfortunately don’t live close to me anymore…are starting to float their way back into my life now since their children are getting older. We can actually have conversations that don’t always, if at all, include talk of their kids. I can laugh at them as when I do ask about their kids, they tell me they don’t want to talk about them and they want to hear about what great places we have been traveling to lately, and what fun things we get to do. It’s been great reconnecting again and at times I feel like getting off the IVF crazy train was the best choice for us.

  9. Mali Says:

    I cannot imagine wanting to become a mother at 57!!

    The issue of friends is tough – you never know quite how they’re going to react. I’ve had some who have totally embraced mommieville and have left me feeling left out, but I’ve been lucky that other mother friends have just continued to be my friends, have continued to maintain adult relationships, and really haven’t changed much at all. To be honest, as I don’t have friends with very young children, or my nieces and nephews near me (the closest is a ten hour drive away), and perhaps with the benefit of distance (3 years is still in the “big ouch zone” if you ask me), now I kind of wish I did have some new mother friends nearby.

  10. sewforward Says:

    After reading all the comments I don’t know what I could add? So much I feel is in the words that others have said.

  11. Amel Says:

    I have 6 very close friends and 3 of them are mommies (I’ve been friends with them for 16-20 years). One is currently pregnant again for the 2nd time, one has two kids already and will not have another child. Another one will probably want to have another child in the future. One has started TTC since January. One is single and one hasn’t even tried TTC yet (though I know she wants kids in the future). We’re all 34-35 years of age, but we still keep in touch through emails a lot, though in real life it’s harder to meet due to the fact that we live in different countries. I just wanna say that even though most of them are mommies, but we do talk about so many different things in life. Granted, in real life it’s probably harder to meet and catch up, but whenever I have a chance to meet them in real life, they’re still lovely ladies and we still have so many other things to talk about and we still have fun. The same goes for my other uni friends who are all mommies now – whenever we have a chance to meet up, we’d talk about fun things.

    • Amel Says:

      Oh, sorry, I know my close friends aren’t childfree-not-by-choice, but what I was trying to say is that some friendship lasts longer than others and it’s kinda hard to know which is which, but I DO hope that you can still be friends with them considering how long you’ve been friends with them.

      • mina Says:

        good contribution, Amel. I have found ways too to still be friends who became mommies. In my opinion if a woman stops talking about anything else than the kids once she becomes a mommie, she is a narrow-minded, uninteresting person. It’s a shame she turns that way but I don’t feel it so much like a loss of a friend. Just are paths went in different directions and it’s her that’s the reason for that. I don’t WANT to be friends with such boring people, so good riddance! I have several mommie friends who keep being interesting people and good and reliable friends to me – as long as I in my turn accept that their children are part of their lives now and accept some of the changes that will bring for the friendship instead of mourning the “good old times” when we were both childfree.
        I was very very depressed when my committed relationship with my Ex-boyfriend broke up, because of losing him AND because of losing the possibility to become a mother at the same time (there had been a short infertility journey before that in which male factor infertility was the main issue). BUT there is probably the positive aspect to that that being suddenly single again, I did meet a lot of new people and made new friends, and mainly childfree ones (because people with children are not “out there” to meet me but stay at home).

      • Amel Says:

        Mina, THANKS for sharing your story. SORRY to hear about your break-up. :-( Letting go is one of the toughest things on earth, eh? It can always come and haunt us back. I’m HAPPY to hear that you’ve made new friends, though. :-D You’re right about accepting children as part of their mommy lives, but if they really want to invest time with you, you’ll feel and know it, too. I also find that I’m good friends with empty nesters ‘coz they have more time for me, too. :-D

  12. rantywoman Says:

    Those last minute crossovers in your late thirties/ early forties are the worst, the worst! You think you have a few people left you can relate to, and then they suddenly move to the other side. It’s so painful and isolating that I started blogging– I had nobody left to talk to about being childless in my forties.

  13. Ava Says:

    I don’t know.. I think this is a dangerous way to live your life “I made the decision I made after carefully weighing all the options still open to me. I had good reasons for not pursuing motherhood at all costs and those reasons haven’t changed.” Objective ideals (pros cons) change. Life is finite and sometimes the only reality is to follow your heart. If you truely don’t want a child and can’t face the fight to possibly be able to have/adopt one – then I fully support you. But I have read all your posts and I don’t believe it. I think you want to be the support for many women that can’t have kids or the money (and time and partner) to go further, and I think you are talking yourself into a decision that doesn’t have to be, because unlike many women you do have the loving partner and other resources. Ask yourself (without anger or annoyance at this comment) – truely ask yourself – not what you think is right, or correct, or what your readers need or want or expect. But what you truely and deeply want beyond all the rational. And fight for it. When you are at the end of your life and you look back – what will you regret the most? That you followed your mind or your heart? That you made others happy or that you lived a full and true (to yourself) life?

    • elizabeth Says:

      Lisa’s post has been a great comfort to me this morning. I have just learned that two of my friends back home (overseas) gave birth some weeks ago… yet all the while they had never even let me know they were pregnant in the first place. I feel so, so hurt… it’s like that horrible schoolyard feeling when you realise you’re suddenly on the ‘outer’.

      These are women I’ve been very close to, and with whom I once shared hopes and dreams of motherhood. But since I decided against the baby route, it seems I wasn’t even included in their pregnancy news, let alone the birth announcement. I guess I’m at the beginning of a process of loss and reconfiguration of friendships that so many women have described in these pages.

      And yes, I will also admit the pain is not all about my friends, but also includes a deep pang of longing at what I’m missing out on by not having a baby of my own.

      Ava, if I were to take your point, I might take this pang as a signal I had made the wrong decision to choose against birthing a child. I would assume my ‘heart’ was speaking, and redouble my attempts to make it all happen.

      Yet I know it’s more complicated than that. I’ve learned that no profound life decision can be made from the heart alone. In my own process of deciding my parenting future, I’ve engaged it all: emotion, intellect, body, wisdom, instinct, ethics, imagination.

      What I have realised is that, yes, grieving the loss of a dream can be convoluted and painful, and sometimes the easy remedy seems to be to take it up again with a new energy. But the fact that a decision hurts and takes a while to come to terms with does not necessarily mean it was the wrong decision.

      I know I will always be sad that I didn’t experience pregnancy and birth. But here, at the age of forty with silver in my hair, I am wise enough to know that by saying ‘no’ to that particular pathway, I have opened up a rare and precious space in my life, a space that few women in history have been able to savour. I intend to use that space to nourish my beautiful marriage, to explore my creative energies, to build a house with my own hands, to be a foster-parent for children in my community, to care for my disabled younger brother, to redefine family.

      Thanks to Lisa and everyone who has left comments on this post. You’ve helped me to feel some kind of sisterhood and solace on what started out as a pretty rough morning. Best wishes to all.

  14. DAK13 Says:

    And when the do move to Mommieville, and they most certainly do, it is as hard to handle as the announcement of their pregnancy…
    They become so involved with the kids that they honestly, just don’t have that time anymore. So sad, but so very true.


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