A close friend from college is due in a couple of weeks and I’ve been chatting with her a lot about the crazy transformation she’s about to experience.
Well, chatting around it, because I get the feeling she doesn’t want me to talk directly about it, at least not yet.
It’s been almost six years since I became a mother and I’m still reeling from the insanity of that life changing transition. Being a mom was something I wanted, and thought about becoming, for my entire life. All my other dreams and plans took a backseat to having children. So when motherhood didn’t end up being the life affirming panacea I was expecting, I was a little traumatized.
I also ended up with a kid who requires a little more of, well, everything. Parenting a kid like that can be isolating. I’ve found it difficult to make friends with other moms because we aren’t generally coming from a place of shared experience. We feel differently about parenting because we experience it in vastly different ways, not just because of who we are individually, but because of who our kids are.
I’ve learned to participate in conversations about parenthood without sharing my whole truth. What I portray is not a lie exactly, but a carefully considered set of omissions. I tell people what they expect to hear, and if they respond a certain way to strategically dropped hints, I might divulge more. But most of the time I stick to the fellow-parent-approved script, and we wade into the shallow water of culturally appropriate topics, staying on message as we walk carefully to avoid the messy splashing of actual truth.
I feel the need to do this even with my closer friends, most of whom are just now becoming parents. Sometimes I’ll venture out into the deeper waters of authentic experience, but I almost always find myself alone there, my friend staring blankly at my from the safety of the shore.
It’s hard for me to know what is the right thing to say, especially with my friend who is about to give birth. I know I can’t prepare her for the intensity of what is about to happen, and the last thing I want to do is add to her anxiety in any way, but I also want her to know that I’m here for her if it’s hard. That I’m prepared to dive head first into the deep water with her, if she ever needs someone to really talk to. I guess I can say that to her at least, and hope she believes me, and comes to me if she ever feels like she’s drowning among the strong currents of new motherhood.
My two friends do have each other, and they seem much more comfortable talking to one another about these things than they are talking to me about them. For that I am thankful, because I know how important it is to have someone you feel comfortable talking to. I would hate for them to have to go through it alone.
It’s been almost six years and I’m only now feeling comfortable in the deep water of motherhood. The currents are still sometimes strong, but I know how to navigate them. I have learned to float in the calm waters, instead of trying to swim to shore. And I know that if I do get pulled down in a vicious riptide, that letting it pull me is safer than flailing desperately in an attempt to get free. It may feel like I’m under forever, but eventually the current will drag me up again, and just when I think I can’t endure it any longer, I’ll reach the surface, and be able to breathe.