A dear friend said to me a while ago how lovely it was for her to see me interact with her (teenage) children. It made me feel blessed to realise that I have friends and family in my life who trust me with their kids. This is not something I would ever take for granted, yet it gives me such comfort and a sense of worthy and belonging.
This particular friend is a mother of four and we’ve been friends for nearly twenty years. We went from crazy party people to somewhat sensible (and still crazy) adults and I feel very much a part of her and children’s life. Our friendship has evolved over the years and has grown into one of those family-friendship bonds, one of those of which you know will last forever.
As much I adore her and her kids and as much as they adore me back, it hasn’t always been easy to be around them after I knew I would remain childless. Initially I put on a brave face when she announced her 3rd pregnancy to me not long after I had had my radical hysterectomy. I so desperately wanted to be happy for her and show her my support, that I held back my tears until I had gotten in the car or after we’d hung up the phones.
Until one day just before she gave birth (to a beautiful premature baby girl who is now a happy and healthy child) and called me back immediately after we’d hung up and I was in floods of tears again and she’d caught me unaware. All she said was; “I am here for you just like you are there for me, talk to me, help me to understand how to help you”.
Since then I have been more and more able to open up to her about my grief, my sadness, my loss, my dark thoughts, the jealousy of her pregnant body, her children and the unfairness of it all. We both cried and have cried together about this since. It has been a learning curve for us both and has rebalanced our friendship in a way that both the joy for her children and the sadness for my childlessness has a place in it.
It has helped me tremendously in (re)connecting with some of my other friends with children or who went onto having children in the past few years. By knowing that my grief has a place at the table too, I no longer bite back the tears when I get triggered or feel overcome with emotion. And it has been incredibly useful for my friends too. They saw my struggle but weren’t always sure what to say or how to respond. By me being open and honest about my needs, they were able to express theirs and from there we were able to find a way forwards.
Not all of my friendships have survived the childlessness me. Some friendships just faded out, others ended in a blaze of misunderstanding and some should have ended years before… And even though it hurt to see some of those friendships disappear, I now see that it is all part of the bigger picture. I am not the same person I was and sometimes things just end.
Again, I am proud to have friends and family who trust me with their children and to whom I matter.