When you made the absurd decision to have a baby in your 20s, there were a number of changes you were prepared for: your ass getting bigger, your sleep time getting smaller, your concern over life insurance increasing, the viability of a bike as your sole form of transportation decreasing, and other such important shit. But after spending 9 long, gestational months making mental and logistical adjustments to your life to account for this landslide of change, you might have taken for granted that your personal relationships would remain constant. The truth is, embarking on something that so disrupts the foundation of who you are, how you perceive the world, and how you spend your time, can’t help but mark an equally notable alteration to how you interact with and relate to the people you know.
From my not-even-remotely exhaustive observation over the past 6 months of my own burgeoning motherhood, I’ve managed to boil down the classification of your post-baby friends to the following 7 categories. Because generalizations are for winners.
The Tell Me EVERYTHING Friend
You don’t remember your friends ever talking about babies, or pregnancy, except perhaps to mention how terrifying and strange the whole exercise seems, or how laughable it would be to factor a child into their irresponsible, drunken lives. But then you pop out a kid, integrating a needy little life into your heretofore irresponsible, drunken world, and they want to know EXACTLY how the shit that happened. You suddenly discover that a few of your friends have been harboring a secret, desperate curiosity about this process. This likely comes to light on your first nights back out in the world, quietly, to the side at a loud bar, the questions come: “How did it feel to be pregnant? What was labor like? No, what was it really like? How long did you labor? Did you get an epidural? Did you tear? How many stitches? On a scale of 1 to beef carpaccio, how fucked up is your vagina now? Are you breastfeeding? How are your nipples doing?” It goes on and on. Strangely, you love this person, and this conversation, their unexpected desire to hear you recount every gory, glorious detail of bringing life into the world. You, of course, have memorized these details and there are few, in any, people who want to hear you discuss them. You are a superhero to this friend, a brave pioneer into a mysterious, amniotic soaked future they are now starting to contemplate. They probably end every conversation with a furtive confidence of their private yearning to have a baby, and you better seriously not tell their boyfriend/girlfriend.
How to deal with this person: Carry a thesaurus, mama. To talk to this friend, you’re going to need an arsenal of adjectives to describe the wholly indescribable sensation of pushing a 9-pound lump out of your ass.
The Friend Who Assumes You’re Completely Different
This friend is possibly the most annoying you’ll encounter. This is the person who is perpetually hating on people for “having a baby and becoming lame,” always in an abstract sense because odds are they don’t have any actual friends with kids. To them, adding offspring to the landscape of your life means automatically forsaking every other interest and pursuit you previously had, and they are prepared to judge the hell out of you for it. Not surprisingly, this is also the person who will stop inviting you places post-baby, and then criticize you for never hanging out anymore. One of the hardest parts of baking and birthing a baby in your 20s is that, yes, for a considerable chunk of months, your social life takes a backseat. It’s lonely and difficult, and there are times when even you, in all your commitment to maintaining a well-rounded existence, start to doubt that you’ll ever get your social sea legs back. So try not to resent this person too much. The less hostile version of this friend: someone who simply becomes incapable of talking to you about anything but your baby, in the most earnest, uninformed way. They don’t remember what you used to talk about, and they don’t really know how to talk about babies either, but god bless them, they are trying.
How to deal with this person: They are the walking embodiment of your own worst doubts, minus the perspective of actually living your life, and knowing that you can and want to hang out with friends and do non-baby things. Tell them that. Tell them that the people who choose to let a baby equate to a surrendering of their entire lives were probably quitters who were looking for an excuse to lame out anyway, and you aren’t that person. Explain that while the proportions of your time have shifted, there’s still a sweet piece of the pie for them. If they still don’t call you, fuck it. Some people dig their heels into a preconception and are immovable, and that’s never something you can never do much to combat.
The Friend Who Refuses To Accept You’ve Changed at All
The opposite of the last friend, this person is still calling you all the time. Oh, you just debuted a new human two weeks ago? That’s cool — oh hey, there’s this warehouse party on the West Side and everyone is going and we’re all taking molly, PICK YOU UP IN 20, BABE! This person is most likely a close friend, maybe even your best friend. They were around during your pregnancy, or as they thought of it, “Countdown to My Friend’s Freedom.” Maybe they have a complete lack of understanding that you can’t, in fact, just give birth and then run freely back to your exact old life, or maybe they’re just in denial because, let’s face it, you’re awesome and accepting that they might have to weather their warehouse drug nights without you is understandably heartbreaking.
How to deal: Assuming this friend isn’t a gross piece of shit (I mean, don’t be besties with gross pieces of shit anyway, babies notwithstanding), invite them to hang out with you and your little. Create time for your friend to see the trade-off you’ve made, rather than letting your absence be the entirety of their having-a-friend-with-a-baby experience. Yes, babies are very frequently boring like tax season on Ambien, but they also afford you the privilege of being in the humbling, energizing, life-affirming presence of a fresh, unsullied soul who is experiencing fucking everything for the first time. Nothing has yet been found to more effectively shake off the mid-20s “been there, done that” affliction, and given this friend’s hesitation to embrace change and personal evolution, you can be pretty sure they are also often bored with life. Help them see babies as one possible cure for that, as opposed to the cause. And also try to go out and get wasted with them one night, so they can see that you can, in fact, always go home again.
The Secret Pregnancy Fetishist
There’s no subtle way to say this: some of your dude friends are going to suddenly want to fuck you. That guy you’ve been a tight ladybro to for years, with whom you’ve never shared even a twinge of sexual tension? Yeah, turns out he’s super into knocked up chicks. For some guys, it’s the bigger boobs (they are immaculate; can’t blame them), and for others, it’s some Earth Motherly allure, an attraction to your body in full go-mode, doing all the neat, formerly dormant shit that it was built to do. You’ve got extra curves, fuller, healthier hair, “glowing” skin (that they won’t know is really just sweat from puking), and general bubble of empowerment and strength around you. It’s pretty magical in its own way. And since you aren’t hanging out in bars, shriveling up your skin, liver, and will to live anymore, you probably smell really good too. I know — when you put it like that, it kinda makes sense. Too bad your pal getting a raging bump-induced boner is awkward as shit.
How to deal: I say enjoy it. As long as this friend is being respectful, indulge in how beautiful you feel in his presence. There’s not a hell of a lot about pregnancy that makes you feel sexy, so why not?
The Strangely Judgmental Friend
You might find this unholy bitchdick hanging out with The Friend Who Refuses To Accept You’ve Changed at All, sitting next to them, rolling their eyes at you. Sound bites from this friend: “What, are you, like, not a feminist anymore? Did you decide being independent and having integrity was too hard? Did the spokesmen for the Cult of Domesticity offer you a sweet deal on a minivan? Are you just going to sit home and change diapers and go to play groups and, like, fucking cook dinner for your family, and totally forget about your ambitions and career and life?” Non-feminist incarnation of this friend: gets judgey when any of your non-mommy traits bubble to the surface of your interactions. Did you have a few drinks (after your kid is in bed, and being well cared for by its father at home, thankyouverygoddamnmuch) and make a dirty comment about the hot piece standing at the bar? BAD MOM. Bad, bad mom. This friend thinks that to be a good parent, one must become a pristine, saintly conduit of organic vegetables, Montessori principles, and breastmilk. Any sign that you’ve maintained your pre-baby sensibilities beneath your new, maternal exterior is demonstrative of an unsettling complexity that this friend isn’t comfortable with.
How to deal: Ahem, repeat after me: “Catch up, sister: feminism is no longer about a reactionary suppression of our inherent femininity, or a need to homogenize and masculinize ourselves to be seen as equals. Maybe you still operate under that misguided, painfully outdated ideology, but I choose to believe that I can enjoy the biological fulfillment of being a woman without sacrificing my brain, career, friendships, and basic autonomy. Your attempt to disempower your fellow women as a result of the arbitrary life choice hierarchy you uphold is doing far more to negate our collective progress as a gender than my choice to have a child. Among the many ambitions I have is the desire to experience life with as much depth and diversity as possible, to learn as much as possible. The things I’ve learned about myself and the perspective I’ve gained on a dizzying range of topics through the experience of creating and nurturing life has not only left me capable of pressing forward with my life plans, but has made me infinitely more focused, aware, and prepared to execute those plans with new insights, a broader emotional range, a wildly expanded confidence in my body, and generally some next level fucking awesomeness.” And then delete that trick out of your phone.
The Mom Friend Who Thinks You’re Just Like Her Now
Here’s the thing about becoming a parent when you’re young and none of your other friends have kids: you have to build a network of other parents. Books, doctors, your own parents, and the All Knowing Internet make for great resources, but there is nothing that can come close to the cornucopia of knowledge that is Other Moms. Reach out to friends of friends, or join an internet group, or go to parks and poach other moms by the swings — whatever, just get yourself some mom pals. Those bitches know everything. These women, your lifeline, your secret parenting weapon, the co-authors of your parenting playbook — they are not who I’m talking about. I’m talking about that girl who is kinda close to your age, who you kinda know from high school, who lives way out in the burbs and is the walking, jazzercising symbol of everything you are working your ass off to not become. Brace yourself, boo: SHE THINKS YOU ARE FRIENDS NOW. Because having babies suddenly makes you life twinsies, right? Jesus fuck, no. NO.
How to deal: Do not engage. She’ll see something shiny, or get pulled into a brawl of PTA politics, or see a new episode of the Real Housewives of Wherever, and get distracted soon enough.
The Friend Who Gets It
If you’re very lucky, when the post-birth mania subsides and the pieces of your life settle unsteadily into their new arrangement, you will have one friend who is on the other side of the dust cloud, still standing there, seeing you. This friend sees how your life is different and doesn’t judge you for it, and sees how you’re the same and doesn’t judge you for it, and has seen your stretch marks, and still makes you feel beautiful. This friend is an indispensable reminder of who you are at your core, an unshakable truth that can be easily lost in the fog and intense momentum of this time in your life.
How to deal: Love this person. Make time for this person. Take a break, go for coffee, and talk about the seemingly illogical idea that you are fundamentally changed by having a baby, but also oddly the same. Talk about the jarring realization of what selflessness is. Talk about anything. Cry to this person. Revel in the comforting thought that having a baby isn’t truly different from any other big moment in life. And most of all, talk about her/him. Be generous, conversationally and in every other way, with this person. Let the selflessness you’ve learned from your child bubble over into your other relationships, and see them become healthier, more balanced, more solid as a result. And this is a really good place to start.