Whether you are choosing to be child free your whole married life, or you are in the not-just-now category, your life will change when your friends start to have children.
My husband and I chose not to have children. Not that we don’t like children, it just wasn’t what we wanted for ourselves. I have learned over the years that many people, including myself, have difficulty when friends have babies. Its a little bit like the five stages of grief first introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, but it has a better ending. Here is what I felt and what I wish I knew:
1. Denial: We are having so much fun, it will never change. Our first assignment was to a remote location in Alaska where we found lots of other newlywed couples all ready for what ever the Great North could bring. Let the good times roll! SInce the base was located so far away from town most of us didn’t work, our morning routine was running over to each other's houses in the morning for coffee, hanging out, doing crafty things.
It was great. We not only had each other, we all had pets that filled out lives plus the husbands. I never thought they’d want or feel the need for a baby. I mean I didn’t, why would they? We had a good thing going.
What I wish I knew: You could go on thinking that way, Sonja, but know it will probably change at some point. Be prepared at least subconsciously.
2. Anger: How DARE they change “us!" One by one all of the others became pregnant, including my two closest friends. I was so mad! Was I not good enough or fun enough that they felt the need to bring another “person” into our mix? It would ruin everything! No more fun, no more running off and doing crazy things like looking for moose at 2am in the summer!
What I wish I knew: You will get past these feelings and life will resume pretty much as usual for a few months.
3. Sadness: I’m SO lonely. As my friends got bigger, I got depressed. I felt sorry for myself. I complained to my husband and would joke with some of them about it. I felt there would be a deep loss of friendship because when my civilian friends had married and had babies nothing was the same and I was left out. That “bundle of joy” took my friends and now I had to make a new friends or so I thought.
What I wish I knew: This is the time to reach out. It’s time to be bigger than yourself. If a friend is going through horrible morning sickness, cook dinner so she won’t have to smell it. Commit random acts of kindness. You will feel better.
4. Reorganization: If you can’t lick them, join them (not literally). As my friends had babies, I decided to change my attitude. It wasn’t easy and at times I was frustrated by the lack of women who wanted to go out and do something. It also gave me a chance to get to know some of the other women, especially those who had older children and a more flexible routine. I also decided to throw showers, help shop for baby clothes, and find other items needed. I mean, just because I didn’t want kids did not mean that I didn’t squeal with excitement when I saw cute baby clothes.
After the initial shock of the baby’s arrival and that time period when those new moms hibernate was over, it was time to reassess the situation. I wanted to see if a friendship could be renewed or was it over. Most of the time, my friends became real people again.
What I wish I knew: Be happy for them. This is an exciting time. If you can’t fake it til you make it, then stay away. I’ve found that if a friendship was strong to begin with, it will survive those formative all-they-do-is-eat-and-poop months. Remember to be generous. If a friend must cancel on you, don’t get mad. Ask if there is something you can do to help out. If not, then carry on with your plans alone. It can be hard at times but the payoff will be a solid friendship. If your friendship can’t be sustained, find new ones that are in a similar time of life you are or who’s children’s age enable them to be more flexible.
5. Acceptance - Moving up not moving on. While I have not kept up with all of the people who have had babies along the way. There are a few whom I remained close with and have become the “aunt.” Even moving doesn’t change the relationship. I have seen these children grow from infancy to adolescence and some, even now, to adulthood with pride and at times sadness. Helping them, when asked, with homework, shopping or advice. It’s been a wonderful way to be part of the bigger military family. These are the people that you chose for family, not the ones you were born with.
Sonja Rossow is an Air Force spouse stationed in Alabama. She recently completed her master's degree with her thesis "Holding Down The Fort."