“I wish there were a Hallmark card to say, ‘I’m sorry I flashed you.’ ”
That’s all my email said. I knew they would get it. I had just come from another Friday afternoon gathering of my neighborhood “mom friends.” The conversation turned to C-sections, a few women complaining their own scars were botched. I wanted to know how mine compared. “Nope, yours looks good.” I was embarrassed right after I did it, because no one else, uh, “shared,” but they didn’t seem to really care or mind.
I never thought I would make such close friends at this point in my life. I am in my late 30’s and I had a baby a year and a half ago.
At some point during “the fog” (my term for the first months after the baby comes when you’re so broken and exhausted you can’t think clearly), I ran into two women at our local gentrified coffee spot. We each had a 2-month-old strapped to our torsos in a carrier. They invited me to the next gathering of the “Jackson Heights Fall Babies 2010″–one of many self-organized groups in our Queens, NY neighborhood. In a matter of months I went from first date/job interview kind of self-conscious around this group, to counting some of these women as my close confidants.
Alex Williams’ recent New York Times piece on the difficulty of making friends after we turn 30 struck me, mostly because I too had assumed that my best years of friend-making and bonding were behind me. But in this past year and a half I have made deep new connections with some great, intelligent and fascinating women. Not only am I no longer in a fog–these friendships have given me a clarity I never saw coming.
I called my friend Carlin Flora, who just finished writing a book about friendship (Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are, out in 2013) to check out my theory that a big life-changing event can open the door to deep friendships.
Carlin confirmed this, but pointed out that there’s “a double edged friendship sword,” with friendships at pivotal life moments, meaning that you shed older friends with whom you have less in common and seek out or re-prioritize friends who are going through your same transition.
This is especially true with becoming a parent, she said, “because you’re not only sharing new feelings and experiences, but you’re also sharing information.”
I think of the many email threads that pinged back and forth in our Fall Babies Google group… titles like “Trouble Weaning” and “Rear Facing Carseat vs Forward Facing?” You do get better information from your peers than from a textbook or a website.
Another thing that has helped along my friendaissance: proximity. I live within a 10-block radius of the other families, in a walking neighborhood where the Sunday green-market becomes the town square. There is one Starbucks, one main playground, three grocery stores–all increasing the likelihood of frequent bump-intos that researchers say are crucial to building intimate friendships.
I look at my son’s baby group, really my close friend group, and I think of it as a moment in time that will one day be gone, one that I will look back on as a golden period of friendship in my life. I log the names of moms, dads, and kids in my son’s scrapbook beside each picture, knowing that one day many of us will lose touch, but hoping that we won’t.
So for new moms out there, or moms-to-be, who are feeling isolated and lonely, I would urge you to try to seek out your neighborhood baby group. If there isn’t one, then start it. Canvass about on the Internet, post signs in local coffee shops, keep meeting until you gain momentum. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you will find a few friends with whom you are so comfortable that you’ll be flashing them in no time.
Dawn Siff hosts reassuring week-by-week videos on pregnancy for Zazoom’s Parenticity (Twitter: @Parenticity.) She blogs wry observations on parenthood at momlandia.tumblr and @Momlandia.