I had a beautiful baby shower - organised by some brilliant girls who I went to school with. We hadn't seen each other as regularly as we would have liked - but life seemed to get in the way. We had boyfriends who became partners, fiancés, husbands. We had degrees which became jobs, careers and lifestyles. We had dreams and goals that became houses, travel and other nice things. We oscillated between catching up all the time and going months - sometimes years - without properly seeing each other. There were always texts back and forwards: "we have to catch up soon!"
I remember being asked what I would like when the time came and I was in hospital following the birth of our baby. I said: "I would love for everyone to visit - but do you mind texting or calling before you come so I can make sure I'm in a good way? I don't know how the birth is going to go". We talked about Saturday nights on the couch with a cuppa while my baby slept. We talked about picnics at the playground while my child played. We talked about dinner, babysitting, anything I needed. Oh, how we talked.
The birth was scary. I was rushed into surgery. I was in shock. Everything hurt.
I rang my mum. "I know I said we wanted a couple of hours alone with the baby but I've had a caesarean. Can you come?"
I was naked in the bed when visitors came. And I was okay with that. Something within me had changed. I was a mother now. My body had created a tiny soul and I had endured the most indescribably frightening experience. My body belonged to my baby - suckling painfully on my breasts. My body belonged to the nurses - injecting me with fluids, antibiotics, anti-clotting meds; leaving bruises all over my arms and legs.
The visitors stopped after the first few days. My baby cried and cried and Brad would help me on and off the toilet. It was tough.
My girlfriends didn't visit at all. I thought: "they must assume we want visitors when we get home". Should I have called them to let them know that we would be leaving hospital and ask them to come?
We got home. Cadence still cried and cried. Brad helped me get out of bed, the car, the shower. It was all a blur. I remember snapping at my mum: "don't you think we've tried that?! Can you please go to the chemist and buy every type of dummy they have".
It wasn't until Cadence was four or five weeks old that I met some girlfriends at a coffee shop for lunch. I had never breastfed or been without Brad's help in public before but Cadence woke in her pram and needed a feed. Brad was usually there to help me get the hold right - as I still hadn't perfected it - and I was still in a lot of pain from the birth and from her inability to latch properly but I gave it a go.
It was a disaster. She wouldn't latch. She screamed. I was embarrassed and felt like all eyes were on me. Why isn't she calming that baby? I had to leave my half finished lunch and attempt the breastfeed in the car. I remember asking my friends whether it would be okay to breastfeed in their presence. I don't remember my friends cuddling Cadence or checking in with me later. I felt like such a failure. I felt so alone.
The next time, a few weeks later, I met with a girlfriend at her work. Again, I was pacing the room patting Cadence's bum while we had a conversation in between the howls of a screaming child.
But it can go the other way - and it probably did. My friends probably thought: "she's got this new life now - where do we fit?"
It's just the way it goes. Things change; people change; lifestyles change. You stop inviting me for drinks and I don't ask you if you can play with my daughter while I have a shower. That's life.
I am hurt and I am grieving. I feel like I'm on a different planet to the people I used to spend all my time with.
If this happens to you, consider this:
1. Investigate parenting groups, play groups and special interest classes.
It's a cliche but I have met some beautiful people through the local mothers group. In the early days, I had a friend who would text me at 4am in the morning to tell me what a wonderful mother I was. I have people who know what my kind of tired feels like.
2. Have the conversation.
I wish in the early days that I had spoken with my friends about how I was feeling - both emotionally but also about our friendship. When I became really unwell, I reached out to a friend. I must have written and rewritten the text three or four times before sending - and even then I anxiously waited for a response - embarrassed, ashamed, vulnerable, exposed. Of course, she responded lovingly and said all the right things - because she's a beautiful, kind, caring person. But I couldn't take her up on her offer. I didn't feel comfortable enough. I felt like it was too late - too much time had passed and I was too far gone to even begin to explain to her how I had become the person that I was - broken. I wish I had said early on: "hey, I'm in hospital till Wednesday. Visiting hours are 3-8pm. Would love to see you". Why didn't I say that? Things may have been different. Or: "yes we SHOULD catch up soon. I'm feeling really down. When and where?"
3. Let it go.
This can be a confusing task. Are we still friends? Do we have anything in common? Am I going to hurt your feelings? But I miss you. It is what it is. They used to be people you'd bare your soul to, finish your drink with and share in experiences. Now, you wouldn't even call them if you needed a babysitter - because they've only met your daughter once or twice over the space of a year. They live in the same suburb but seeing each other is more organisation than your one year old's birthday party. You see them at a cafe but no one gets up to hug you or cuddle your baby - they just say: "catch up soon!"
What's done is done. Whatever will be will be. If people want to be a part of your life, they will. If they don't, it's not a reflection on you - it's a reflection of the circumstances, your changing lifestyles and priorities. Accepting this is paramount in feeling comfortable enough to breathe, let it be and move on.