Not only was I unable to give my girlfriends what they expected of me, many of them seemed unable to give me what I needed. For starters, I desperately wanted practical mothering advice. What can I do about that scaly stuff on Gabrielle's scalp? And more urgently, I wanted to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of motherhood: how amazing it is to discover this vast ocean of maternal love in one's heart, how watching my baby touch her toes can feel like the most gratifying moment of my life. I wanted to share how vulnerable I felt, knowing that I would lose my will to live should anything terrible happen to this precious being. I wondered if other mothers felt like hanging themselves when their baby wouldn't nap.
When I talked about these things with my childfree girlfriends, they often responded as though they were swimming out of their depths. "Don't worry," one friend offered. "I'm sure she'll grow up soon." Knowing that my league of women friends didn't have a clue as to how to help was the loneliest feeling in the world.
Then I met Robin at her garage sale. As it turned out, her daughter Ryanne was just a few months older than my daughter; like me, Robin had a passion for yoga and writing. When she agreed to meet me at the lakeside wading pool the next Saturday, I practically kissed the sky. I couldn't wait to have a meaningful connection with someone who shared my interests and could talk about the depths of mothering.
Days later, as soon as Robin and I parked our blankets and babies on the poolside grass, I launched in: "So have you written anything since Ryanne was born?"
"Wait a second," Robin said, trying to get her squirmy 11-month-old daughter out of her diaper and into a swimsuit. Once we got the girls suited up and their chubby legs dipped into the water, Robin asked, "How long have you been doing yoga?"
Just then a passing toddler accidentally splashed my daughter's face. After wiping the tears and lake water from Gabrielle's eyes, I asked, "Where were we before we got interrupted?"
"I forget," Robin said, laughing and lunging for her daughter, who had just wriggled out of her grip.
And on it went. After a few hours I began to feel frustrated, wondering how mothers managed to create intimate friendships if all they did together was childcare. But when we parted ways I was surprised to find myself feeling satiated even though we barely touched on the heartfelt conversations that I longed for. We did, however, manage to keep each other company and laugh with our babies in the sunshine. And we never once had to apologize for tending to our babies above tending to each other.