We met at just the sort of place we all would’ve loved back in college: funky art, greasy burgers, an enormous selection of beer. Since the four of us have, until recently, lived in four different cities on three continents, we only managed to have a night together like this every other year—if we were lucky. And every time, we marveled that, despite the difficulties of keeping in touch over the years using spotty Internet connections and snail mail, we still felt as close as we ever had.
Until this time. Until this innocent question:
“So, how is your husband’s job going?”
“Uh, great,” I said. “He’s really liking it.”
It would have been a fine thing to ask, except that it was the only thing they asked. Then the conversation rolled on to the others: new jobs, getting-serious-now boyfriends, upcoming travels.
“But wait!” I felt like hollering. “What about what’s going on in my life?”
What’s going on in my life is that I’m expecting my first kid in about a month, that I’m grudgingly settling down in the suburbs and I’m done traveling for a little while, that work is no longer a nine-to-five deal but a nebulous thing called “writing” that doesn’t strike most people as “a real job.”
And just like that, I felt a rift appear between me and my closest friends in the world—the sort whom I’ve called at 3 a.m. needing to talk, the sort with 10-year-old running jokes, the sort who know my darkest secrets. The biggest thing happening in my life—becoming a mother—is something that we didn’t talk about.
The rub is that I really need to talk about it, because I am a confused and emotional mess. One day I tell my husband I can’t wait for Baby to come; the next day I ask him if it really is too late to re-evaluate whether we even want to have a family. I have to make what seem like huge decisions about another person’s life, and the weight of it is nearly crushing. Not least of all, I’m quite concerned that having a baby will put me on the inevitable path to becoming my mother.
I have been warned that this would happen: First comes love, then comes marriage, then baby in the baby carriage and after that your life is officially lame. Your life revolves around Sesame Street and Mommy and Me classes. Your old friends drift away, to be slowly replaced by the Parenting Set, who get together for play-dates and talk exclusively about allergies, behavior problems, and the contents of Little Johnny’s diapers.
This is yet another fear of mine. While I’ve come to terms with the fact that my body will never be the same after carrying around and pushing out this little rug-rat, I am much more afraid that my brain will also go all soft and flabby, unable to put together coherent ideas that do not relate to something I read in Parenting magazine.
Am I already so uninteresting? So irrelevant? Now that I am done traveling, do I have no interesting insights? Now that I don’t work outside the home, is the only thing left to ask, “How is your husband’s job?” Now that I’m on the motherhood journey, are my single friends waving goodbye from the shore?
I came home that night, sat at the kitchen table and cried for the woman I wanted to be, and for the woman I wasn’t anymore.