There are two processes I go through when a girlfriend announces her pregnancy.
The first is, not unsurprisingly, joy. But the second is much more taboo. It’s grief. Grief that, as a childfree woman, I’m told I don’t have a right to feel, because it makes me ‘selfish’ and ‘a terrible friend’.
It’s not because I’m desperate for a child of my own – far from it, I’ve been childfree by choice my entire adult life, and wouldn’t have it any other way. My heartache is because I know the friendship will soon decease.
There are few things that can destroy a bond between two women quite as deftly as a pregnancy announcement.
Unless you’re planning on joining said friend on her motherhood journey of diaper changing, breastfeed talk and analysis over which car-seat has the best Canstar rating, you, Dear Childfree Woman, will be left behind in the dust.
‘But if you’re a true friend, you’ll support her as she takes on motherhood!’ I hear you protest. Well, yes, I have. In fact, I’ve spent many hours patiently listening to monologues about breast pumps, vaccinations, and toilet training.
I’ve attended the first birthday parties, the christenings, and adjusted to the transition from cocktail D&Ms to snatched catch-ups at the playground.
But it’s always come to the same, sad conclusion: a dramatic petering off of communication, repeated cancellations, and eventually, silence.
We evangelise motherhood above all else, and so, as the childfree friend, it’s I who should be putting in the extra effort to cater to my pal’s new lifestyle. You know, the one I didn’t sign up for, with the constant chatter about night feeds and controlled crying.
The one in which, my life, once of equal importance in the relationship, must now take a backseat? After all, it can’t possibly compare to the selfless voyage of motherhood.
And so, if I’m not willing to do that for at least the next six or so years (provided she doesn’t pop out another, and begin the process all over again)? Then obviously, I’m dead to her.
As a childfree woman in my mid-thirties, I’ve had to start over and make new friends again in the past few years, watching mates who’ve literally been around for decades disappear into the motherhood abyss.
Yes, I’ve tried to reach out. Yes, I’ve tried to participate in the baby talk and show up for the Frozen-themed parties. But there’s only so much one-sidedness a relationship can endure. And that’s fine to raise with your friend, just so long as she’s not a mum.
Then your only choice, fellow childfree woman, is to keep up with her via the endless Facebook stream of baby pictures and opinion posts on powdered formula, passing through like a ghost of friendship past. And if you can somehow manage to buoy up your relationship based off of that, snaps to you.
But if you’re a realist like me, you might like to consider accepting the uncomfortable truth that, preach as we might for #grlpwr, we really can’t juggle it all. Something’s gotta give when a baby enters the picture. And if you’re the childfree woman in the equation, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s going to be you.
Nadia Bokody is a sex-positive journalist, media commentator and mental health advocate with no concept of TMI. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, HuffPost, Cosmopolitan, Thought Catalog, and many more. You can follow her on Instagram here