Something in me transformed when my son was born. I’m not talking about the physical, emotional or hormonal transformations (of which there were many) that come with having a child. There was another change no one warned me about: Suddenly, finally — my husband and I were granted admission into the world’s largest yet most exclusive club: Parents.
All of a sudden, people we had not talked to in years showed up at our doorstep with meals. Strangers at Target gave me a knowing smile as my little guy wailed from his carseat. Fellow moms at barre class offered to swing my babe so I could hit the restroom. And perhaps most surprising of all (for me), I found myself gravitating towards other moms, wanting to talk all things baby for hours.
While I was (and still am) thankful for the compassion and support, it all frankly weirded me out a bit. You see, it took us three years to start our family. Back in the spring of 2015, I stopped my birth control assuming I’d be pregnant within a few months. We waited… and waited. Six months passed, then a year. We became pregnant, and were excited for eleven long weeks, until we weren’t. Months passed again, and the moment we began pursuing fertility treatments, there we were, pregnant again. This one decided to stick around, and Leo Alan finally joined us in early 2018.
For those of us who dealt with infertility, admission into the exclusive parenting club can be complex. For me, this presented itself in a few ways, many of which seemed to contradict with one another:
- First, I didn’t always connect with those for whom conceiving came easily. When I met a new parent who became pregnant without putting up a fight, I immediately wondered if we could understand one another… and then I felt bad for holding this against them. I had to realize we all have our own paths to parenthood, and that’s totally OK.
- I also felt guilty leaving those still struggling behind. Immediately after Leo was born, I felt that in joining the new parents club, I was exiting the equally exclusive infertility club. With this exit, came guilt. Would I still be able to show empathy and support to friends who were still trying? Or would I quickly come absorbed with all things parenting, forgetting what it was like before?
- Still, I really needed this parent club. I was surprised by my own intense need to connect with other new parents. I needed other moms to talk about sleep, nursing and fussy phases with. This club existing for a reason: Being a parent is like nothing else.
Supporting Your TTC Friends After You Become a Parent
If you are a newly minted member of the parenting club, congratulations! If you’re like me, you may be asking what can you do for those in your life who are trying to become members, but aren’t there. Here are a few ideas, based on my experience:
- Include your TTC friends in child-friendly get-togethers. When you’re TTC, many friends with kids seem to disappear. Don’t assume your childless friends don’t want to be around children. Instead, ask. Understand their answer might be in flux. Every day is different — some days, they would love to hold your baby. Other days, all that baby talk is an emotional landmine.
- Suggest a child-free get-together. Inviting your TTC friend to do something free of parent talk can be liberating for both of you. Grab a drink, practice some self-care with a pedicure, hit a museum or concert. Come ready to discuss topics beyond your child, and reconnect with who you were pre-parenting.
- Ask how TTC is going for them. As absorbed as you are in parenting, your friend is absorbed in TTC. Ask what’s going on, and be there to just listen when they need it. If you struggled to conceive, remember your path may bring hope to your friend.
For me, I’m coming to realize that becoming a member of the parenting club does not mean I’m walking away from who I was before Leo. Nor does it mean I am walking away from relationships in my life that do not center around my child. I’m excited to be in this crazy parent club. I only wish it was a bit less exclusive.