You've got embarrassing, tricky, and otherwise unusual life questions. We've got answers. Welcome to Is This Normal?, a no-nonsense, no-judgment advice column from HelloGiggles, in which we tap experts to find out exactly how typical (or not) your situation is.
Dear Is This Normal?,
I feel guilty that I'm even asking this question, but here it goes: My best friend just had her first baby. You can imagine her days are filled with diapers and changing tables and pacifiers. Everything in her house bounces and sings and rattles. Is it normal that I miss my best friend who just became a new mom?
We used to do everything together-go to the gym, shopping, happy hours, and spontaneous coffee dates. Now, her hands are full, and I barely get to see her. I'm so happy for her in this next phase of life, but I can't help but miss our time together and having her all to myself.
Lost and Lonely
Dear Lost and Lonely,
I can still taste that chai tea latte (with coconut milk) from the first time it happened. I remember exactly where I was sitting in the coffee shop at the two-top table by the warm fireplace. My best friend and I met at this local coffee place all the time, minutes faded into hours and I loved how the barista smiled as if she knew us as regulars.
We were chatting about who-knows-what, from the trivial to the deep, and my friend says she can't wait to show me her new bookmark. (Sure, I geek out about nerdy book things, but a bookmark?) She slides it across the table. I stare down at the black and white swirl, look back up at her (she's glowing), then back down to what is definitely not a trendy new bookmark.
An ultrasound. "I'm pregnant!!" she yells.
My response is subdued and delayed. I doubt I squealed. My wheels are spinning about everything that's about to happen because of this tiny yet huge black and white swirly blob. Really, I can't know anything about the future of our friendship in that one moment, except that it's about to go through a very big change.
The hardest part about what to expect when you're expecting? Life is about to change. The most beautiful part about what to expect when you're expecting? Life is about to change.
It's also totally normal to hold these two emotions in tension: the excitement for your best friend's life unfolding in a way that she always dreamed of, and the grief for the loss of your friendship as you've known it. There's nothing to feel guilty about in admitting this. Just like you said, her hands are so full, her eyes are heavy, and her attention is divided in a way that she's never experienced before. She has to learn to listen to you with one ear, while she's also listening to the next cry to decide if it's time for nursing, a nap, or a time-out.
In the book Big Friendship, authors Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman call this "stretching" in a friendship: "Stretching is the best metaphor we've come up with to describe all the ways our friends expand our world, challenge us, and inspire us to change. This give-and-take is necessary from the very beginning because no two people are exactly alike. Life inevitably brings changes. And those changes often shift the foundation on which the friendship was built."
Sow and Friedman categorize stretches as little, slightly bigger, bigger, and huge stretches. When one friend becomes a parent, this is considered a huge stretch in your friendship. "After one of you becomes a parent or gets a time-consuming job, you figure out how to maintain the friendship with fewer hours to devote to each other. An active stretch can feel so challenging you're not sure that you will be able to sustain it."
They pose a very hard question that you have to ask yourself: Is your friendship worth stretching for?
Kim Flyr, licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC), shares that it's understandable to miss your best friend who just became a new mom. "Don't judge your feelings," she says. "Be compassionate with yourself. You've lost time with a good friend, at least temporarily. Lean into other friendships or activities, and think of things that you could do with your friend that would work for her like a walk where the baby could come along."
Flyr emphasizes the importance of talking to a counselor to take care of your own feelings that you're processing. Feelings come and go, and a counselor can help you navigate what to do with your feelings.
Remember though: the newborn stage is always the hardest and most intense for your friend as she's learning everything for the first time. Chances are pretty high that she'll make new friends with other people who are also becoming parents at the same time. She needs those friends, the ones she can text late at night to ask, "Has anyone ever seen a rash like this?" And chances are also pretty high that you'll find yourself drifting toward friends who don't have kids right now, the ones who can go out to dinner on a whim without needing to line up a babysitter.
But it doesn't mean your friendship is over if you've both decided that this is a friendship that's worth the sometimes painful stretching as you adjust to find a new normal together.
According to Darlene Bergener, LMT, CPMT, E-RYT500, RPYT, CD(DONA), holistic healthcare practitioner who offers pregnancy yoga, birth workshops, and myofascial release therapy, it's helpful to realize how physically and mentally draining it is for your friend to become a new mom. "Her world has turned upside down in a beautiful and loving way. It's the most joyous time, but it can be incredibly challenging," she shares. "Try giving a listening ear to help your friend process the changes in her body and in her life. The emotions might be a rollercoaster while things settle down, which could be the first week, the first month, or even the first year for a first-time mom."
Bergener offers some practical advice on how to be there for your best friend who just became a mom: "Offer to bring food and spend time sitting with her. You might have gone out to restaurants before, but now, she would probably love it if you spend time on the couch while she folds laundry and feeds the baby. Offer to go grocery shopping or prep meals for the future, or even clean her bathroom depending on the type of friendship you have."
You'll find creative ways to share life with each other in new ways.
The coffee shop might turn into a park between your houses where the kids can run around, and you can catch up at the picnic table under the tree. Your best friend might get a new-mom haircut and sport a diaper bag. She might have bags under her eyes and can't remember the last time she had a full night's sleep.
But she's still there, she's still your best friend. And you'll find your way back to each other, Lost and Lonely.