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Longtime Friends and New Moms Bond Over Parenthood (and the Occasional Dance Party)


We went to Boston this past weekend to visit one of my closest friends and her son Eli, who is six months younger than Coraline. Xa and I met working at Camp Ramapo when we were 16, and both went to American University, where we lived together off campus for a short time. When I went into labor, she jumped in her car and sped down the Mass Pike, and was in the room when Coraline was born. We try to get together at least every couple of months, meeting for the night at a hotel in Springfield, MA if that’s all the time we can find; even those short visits, with kids in tow, are restorative. It’s a gift being able to share this crazy motherhood experience with her, and surreal to see our kids growing up together, albeit 180 miles apart.

Though the best friends who plan to get married together and have babies at the same time are often seen as some tragic cliché, there is something to be said for hitting major milestones with a close friend, especially parenthood. It takes many years of drama and adventure and secrets to establish the kind of intimacy that provides true comfort when you’re feeling really knocked down and dragged out… which is every other day with a small child. There is so much subtext, so many complicated, nuanced feelings that go along with being a new mother; childless friends just can’t relate, and new friends are too new. The popular Rajneesh quote is right: The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. A friend once explained feeling inexplicably mournful with the birth of her first child, coming to realize that she was grieving the death of her old self, something which is not uncommon but rarely talked about. And the inadvertent social alienation or displacement that often accompanies this transition compounds the feelings of isolation, of confusion about who this new person, this mother, is — and where she fits in.

For all these reasons and more I am ever grateful for the friendships I have that have not only survived motherhood, but deepened because of it. While Xa and I used to bond over mountain-climbing, Pad Thai, and late night dance parties, now we bond over car sing-a-longs and the crazy details of day-to-day life with a toddler. At one point, during a post-bath dance party, she looked at our kids — who were eyeing their spastic moms with a touch of incredulity — and with an emphatic fist pump said, “You guys don’t know this, but we used to be cool.” True or not, I’m so glad I have her to remind me of that.

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