Surrounded by pregnant friends, she feels left out

Surrounded by pregnancy, friend feels a little left out

Q: All of my friends are having babies. I am extremely happy for them, and I do appreciate the miracle of life, but EVERYONE does it. None of my friends is the first to ever get pregnant!!!

It's just hard for me to listen over and over again to the same pregnancy and baby stories. Also, when I comment about how our friendship will inevitably change, they get offended as if I don't want to be their friend, which is not the case. But we will not be able to do all of the same stuff we have done! Am I wrong to feel this way?

Lot of Babies

A: Well, not everyone has a baby.

But everyone does, for example, die — and I don't think "You're hardly the first person to bury a loved one" would go over too well when you're tired of having friends open up to you about their grief.

Baby stories aren't told and retold because they're new, but instead because childbearing, like death and love and even hideous days at work, feels new to the people involved, and that often comes with outsize emotions or just a need to make sense of it. And the obvious place for people to turn with their outsize emotions is to their friends.

This isn't to say I'm unsympathetic to your baby fatigue; just because people are emotional doesn't automatically mean they're fascinating, and certainly some do misplace their "off" switches (assuming they ever knew where they were). Their friends do burn out.

That you're in a peer-group baby moment adds to the challenge, too, because if only one friend were pregnant among childless others, she probably wouldn't be able to turn all the talk to babies, even if she wanted to.

This last issue, I think, is both the heart of the problem and a hint at the solution. You, too, are undergoing a huge change: Every one of your friends is acquiring a new top priority. However you, unlike them, don't have any fellow travelers with whom to natter it out.

And when you do attempt to express your concerns, you're backing into it. You "comment about how our friendship will inevitably change" — a seemingly confident declaration — when it sounds as if you're really trying to say, "I'm worried about being left behind." In other words, you want reassurance, without having to appear vulnerable.

But when you have your defenses up, it's only natural for your friends to raise their defenses up in response.

A low-risk way to drop those defenses is to confide in one particularly thoughtful friend among the incubating crowd: "I feel left out, but when I try to talk about it, I just sound bitter or unsupportive." Likewise, make an extra effort to put yourself in the mamas' shoes, with the understanding that maintaining these friendships will take efforts from both sides of the fertility line.

If you don't have such a friend, or if the preggo talk turns to baby talk turns to T-ball talk turns to get me out of here!!! — because big emotions cannot explain mistaking T-ball for a serious conversation topic (humor gets a blanket exemption) — then take a cue from the mamas, and seek out people willing to meet you where you are, wherever that happens to be.

Surrounded by pregnant friends, she feels left out 07/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 5:30am]

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