Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side August 21, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

This post was originally published on July 18, 2011

“I’m pregnant!” my friend gleefully announces.

And I think, Well, f*ck me six ways to Sunday, but I instead I jump up and embrace her and say, “Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!”

Yup, another one has gone over to the Dark Side. My playmate, my buddy, my date for tea and chick-flicks will soon switch discussion topics from the last great novel she read to the merits of cloth versus disposable diapers and the challenges of getting into the “right” preschool/private school/ballet studio. While I bravely continue to pursue political movements, investing options, and the hottest new tapas restaurant this side of the Bay, she’ll be focusing on PTA politics, college funds, and how to get her kid to eat green vegetables.

Before long, the excuses for missing lunch dates (sick baby, sick kid, soccer games) will grow tiresome. She’ll kindly include me in the first few get-togethers with her new friends from the mommies group. I’ll make polite conversation when I’m invited to baby showers and first birthday parties. But eventually I’ll get lost in the mist as she gets sucked into more and more “family” events and senses how much more she has in common with the other reproducers. “Whatever happened to your friend Kathy?” they might ask. “Oh, she never had kids.” “Oh,” they will say knowingly. Or so I imagine. This is worse than being the last kid picked for teams. This is being told you can’t even play the game, but if you want, you can watch from the bleachers.

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

Since moving here three years ago, several of the women who I thought could become part of my new posse now are new mothers. I didn’t know they were trying; we hadn’t known each other that long, so the topic never came up. A couple had been trying for years, and became pregnant shortly after meeting me. My friend Lisa found this hilarious and suggested I offer myself out as a fertility icon: Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months—guaranteed!

After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right. Because, really, I am happy for my friends. And it won’t be as isolating as I imagine, it will just be different.

When I get the “good” news, when I sink into one of my funks, I fully realize that I am the one who has gone over to the Dark Side. But for a short while, I need to lose my perspective and my sense of humor, wallow in self-pity, and mourn the loss of my friend. Because underneath my happiness for her, I still hurt for myself.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. It’s raining today, and she’s feeling blue.


8 Responses to “It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side”

  1. j thorne Says:

    I’ve had the same experience too many times to count. We used to joke about the same thing – everytime we thought we had a great couple to hang out with, we’d hear their “good news” shortly after. We would say if couples want to get pregnant, just hang out with us. Too bad our fertility charm never worked for our own efforts. It is a lonely place and can feel pretty alienating at times. We long for new friends who share our love of music and trying new restaurants and weekend getaways…we’ve lost the ones we had to their “new lives”.

  2. Peaches Says:

    “After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right.”

    Excuse me but you fiancé sounds a bit disrespectful to your feelings here. I’ve been through similar situations and I must say I could NOT even pretend to be happy for my friends. It was just pure PAIN!

    • Kathleen Guthrie Woods Says:

      Oh, gosh, I don’t want to give that impression. He’s the same man who held me when I sobbed over lost friends, boosted me up when my feelings were hurt. This particular event happened well into my coming-to-terms process, having endured countless announcements, so he had heard and seen it all and would have been gentler if that was what I needed. This was really about me making waaaay too much out of it.

  3. Rose Says:

    I agree with the above. It’s bloody hard to make friends over 40 without kids. I’m sick of losing good friends in this way. I was in a big funk about this for ages, when I was battling to get positive about a future without children. ALL the couples I know disappeared to have kids in their 30s. For those in their late 30s (like me), it was as if you’d turn into a pumpkin if you didn’t have a kid by 40. Those who couldn’t have kids were desperately trying, as if life without them was unthinkable. Single friends were talking about sperm donors and sabotaging condoms. It’s as if life isn’t worth living unless you have children. I wish society/media could do something to change this prevailing atmosphere…. Yes there are all those child-free communities on the web, but in real life I have never, ever met a determinedly child-free couple (in their late 30s/40s). Sorry if the above is off-topic but it does all astound me sometimes.
    I’d love to have more single friends – much more interesting anyway than “mommy friends” – but I sometimes wonder how they in turn feel about having married friends. It is hard: all my friends with kids tell me that a kid is a passport to an instant social life, or at least a supportive network. So I don’t see anything wrong in feeling sorry for yourself now and again. And no, I haven’t always felt happy at all about those pregnancy announcements, I’m no saint – they change the entire landscape of a friendship – but I know it sounds unattractive to admit that. Big sigh.

  4. Rose Says:

    On the upside, I love “f*ck me six ways to Sunday”……

  5. megleto Says:

    My husband and I are slightly fearful of how difficult it may be when our close friends start having babies. It’s hard to not go to the dark side.
    I did have some practice with an old co-worker that called me to let me know she was expecting. Even though I was shocked and hurt, I think I still managed to sound happy for her. Ultimately, she is a very nice person and I believe was scared to tell me because she knows how long we’ve been trying to get pregnant. That gives me hope that there are sensitive people out there. I don’t imagine it will change the fact that when we get together in the future, it will be all baby talk. I try to remember I would do the same if i were afforded the opportunity.

  6. Maria Says:

    This has happenned to me. But I think women fall into 2 categories – those whose only aim in life is to become a mommy, and those who want to have children. The first category of women – when they have a baby – want to talk only about the baby, spend time only with other mothers,and drop all their childless friends. The second category of women simply continue to be themselves plus baby. There’s a big difference. All the women that fell into the first category have dropped out of my life and I say good riddance. The women who are the second category didn’t change one bit when they had children — in fact you wouldn’t know they were mom’s unless you saw them with their kids. Of course, everyone has less time to spend with their friends when their kids are little but most of my friends took them along rather than stay at home and we had lots of fun. So please don’t despair, not all women are the same.

    • Kathleen Guthrie Woods Says:

      Agreed. And I’m getting better at identifying that latter group. Thanks for adding your experience.

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