Monday, March 17, 2008

Loss: Research precludes ranting

OK. I'll be honest.

A period of time passed a few years ago during which I felt terribly sad because we wanted a baby so much but faced nothing but loss.

My friends were there for me then. Some of them were trying to have babies as well. Some also faced losses like we did. Some were brave, some were sick, some were not. Some had babies. People I was not close to, acquaintances, had babies also. Strangers had them. I admit it angered me when I saw babies treated badly, or people have them who didn't want or expect them, or people have them easily while others worked so hard for empty results.

But when my friends had their babies all I wanted was to be part of their experience. It's all we talked about. We planned, imagined, dreamed.

About their children and our lives.

Maybe while they were pregnant I was still a little sad.

But when their nine months were closing in, our plans made me happy. Really, really happy.

They were excitedly awaiting the arrival of their children and I did not imagine reality would be different than our while-they-were-pregnant talks.

Then reality happened.

A phone call--baby born, these many pounds, these many inches, healthy, happy...

I already had close friends with babies. I know there is a period of adjustment. I know not to expect to be a part of everything, not really everything.

But after having spent years with these women, having discussed our relationships with men who were jerks before we introduced each other to the ones we would marry, after having double and triple dated, after having attended birthday parties, after having lunches and dinners and coffee together, after painting rooms in their houses and helping with choosing which towels and sheets they should register for, after shopping for other women's babies together...

I never imagined that I would end up having nothing. No contact. No returned phone calls or e-mails. No pictures (don't all new moms send e-mail photos of their babies eventually?). No diapers for me to change. No bottles for me to feed. No holding for me to do while she did something else using two hands instead of just the one not holding the baby.

Having loss.

Having loss even though a baby was born into my practically-family-help-yourself-to-whatever-is-in-the-fridge family.

I have been joking about a black hole these women had fallen into.

But I know that they live in their houses with those towels and sheets and husbands and babies. When I drive near their neighborhoods on the way to Somewhere Else, I know the routes my car had once taken by rote. I can still get there by landmarks and curves in the road.

But I do not.

I go to Somewhere Else and do Whatever I Am Supposed to Do and I try not to think about Losing that Friend too much.

But what is thinking about her too much?

We used to call each other almost every day. Every day.

Thinking about each other was what we did.

We were all at each other's weddings, even if we had to fly to get there.

Sometimes the Disappearance makes me so sad that I want to cry or so angry that I want to shout and rant and rage. Sometimes I wonder what I did that made them disappear. But I remember the last time I saw them--it's different for each--we had fun, I babysat while she ran an unexpected errand, I sent a bazillion cards and gifts and did what women do when their closest friends have babies. Seems to me that love is a strange thing to leave behind so suddenly when a relationship has been so reciprocal and mutual in the past.

But that's what happened.

I do not know why.

I may never know why.

That's what hurts me the most--hurts in the sense of damaging my essence.

If these women have disappeared because their lives have become too busy to maintain friendships with friends-without-children, then they can tell me that.

If I have committed some offense, then they can tell me that.

But this disturbing silence is too sharp. It cuts through every other thing I have.

If they think we can be friends again later, when they figure out how to be a busier version of their old selves, then they can tell me that.

Ignorance is so not bliss.


So this blog entry was going to be a furious rant about being abandoned, which sometimes feels like my specialty.

Despite hearing from other child-less friends that they have had the same experience, or that it only gets worse as the kids get older, or that a lot of women do this when they have kids, it still hurts. Even women with children have told me not to take it personally because they know a lot of people who have cut ties with their old friends.

I wanted to rage against the heartless Lost.

But I cannot. Again. I did some research, like I did when I had my miscarriage and needed to understand why I lost our baby. I actually found some articles and a bulletin board which provided solace and company for me. Again.

One of the articles is here for you to read. It includes some advice for women like me, who have lost their close friends, and women like... moms who have gone missing.

Really, we all know we must miss each other. (I mean, come on, who could just totally forget about me?) We are also smart women and know that friendships are important in a lifetime. We were married long enough before the babies arrived to know that as wonderful as our husbands and families and in-laws are, girl friends share each other's lives with an intimacy and gentleness that those well-intended other people just do not fulfill.

I tag these entries, "You can pick your friends."

I can. They can. So many people have told me that there are replacement friends to find, or that some friendships are transient; only meant to last for the duration of a situation and then they end. Not to take it personally. To forget about them.

But I do not give up that easily.

And I know that some people have friends for decades, and maybe they hit rough patches but somehow they reestablish contact and end up having lunch dates still, all the way until they are retired and then talk about someone or another's grandchildren.

I want that kind of friendship.

I do not think I can throw any more kindling on the dying fire though. I think I have tried really hard to keep it going and there reaches a point where the work of friendship has to be mutual and reciprocal. There comes a point where I end up the fool for trying, or suffocate the last embers of friendship with too much good intention.

Maybe I have to accept that these friends that I had (have?) are not going to be those friends that I will know for decades--even though we've invested almost one decade already.

Maybe they cannot bear to lose me to the residency program that will likely move us out of San Diego. Maybe it's easier to distance themselves now, on their own terms, than to wait and say goodbye. (It would be see you later; I would visit; they could visit; there's e-mail and telephones...)

Maybe I will never know why this loss of friendship is better for them, is suiting them for now, is what they have chosen or allowed to happen to us.

I'd like to know.

It would hurt less if I knew.

I wouldn't have to imagine why if I knew. It wouldn't keep playing in my head, trying to decipher the Quiet, to understand the Lost.

In the meantime, for tonight at least, this article helped me through the silence of women I know are rarely silent.

Baby makes 3: How kids rattle friendships
The issue of having children - or not - can fill women's friendships with landmines. What for some is a joyous event can trigger conflicting feelings in others, regrets about past choices or awaken grief about their own losses. And even when women are at peace with their choices, having a child often still means the relationship needs to be renegotiated.

1 comment:

oakmonster said...

Also remember that you DO have friends who do/will not have children. :)

This is happening with us and James and Aurora. Since they're used to having families and friends around all the time, they are fine with us poking our heads in to see them and the baby. It's all about their style, really. J&A welcome the help and the visitors. I know people who can't handle having friends along with their kids.

Hang in there you!