Friday, May 09, 2008

The Game Of Life

Remember Life? That game with the little cars and the people pegs? “Be a winner at the game of Life,” the theme song trilled. “Get married, have a baby,” as though it were just that easy. “Get a job, have money – maybe,” at least they got that part right.

My sister and I would play Life all the time and were always thrilled to see which of us would land on more spaces granting us baby pegs. Now in real life, I’ve never been much of a baby girl. I’m not one of those girls who coos over babies in public, wants to hold your baby or thinks babies are all cute and cuddly. In general, they seem messy and smelly to me.

I used to be proud of the fact I never babysat. Now, in my thirties, it’s kind of embarrassing to admit I’ve never changed a diaper. I feel like less of a woman somehow. I can bake and cook and clean and sew and even fix stuff but I don’t know how to change a diaper. I mean I get the concept but I haven’t done it.

Needless to say, I always get a little nervous when a friend gets pregnant. I feel like it will separate her from me in some intangible way. She’ll be inducted into a mystical sorority of women who’ve earned their baby pegs. The glitter of my single girl life starts to wear a little thin.

It’s on my mind these days as my best friend is pregnant. She and her husband are going to add a blue or pink peg to their family car in the autumn. She and I were on the same track for a while: amazingly wonderful single girls, trying not to be bitter about LA men. We both met guys at the same time. Mine turned out to be not that great – for the long haul anyway. Hers was a great blue peg. They got engaged at Christmas and married last summer. I panicked that she’d leave me to my singletonness but it turns out married girls still need their girlfriends too.

My friend has always wanted to be a mother and in truth I can’t think of anyone who would be a better one. When she told me she was pregnant, of course I was happy for her but I couldn’t help feeling a flutter of panic.

The last time a friend had gotten pregnant it did not go well for our friendship. Years ago in my mountain town Amy and I had always hung out on weekends and several nights a week. Suddenly she stopped calling me. Her husband, with whom I worked, wouldn’t look me in the eye. I wondered what horrible infraction I’d committed to ruin the friendship.

Finally, three months later, she pulled me aside one day and told me the whole story: she was pregnant and since her family had a history of first trimester miscarriages, they elected not to tell anyone until they knew they’d crossed that three month threshold. When she told me, I was delighted for her and relieved for us: I had my friend back. I’d understood her actions but was still a little hurt she hadn’t told me so that I could at least support her no matter what.

For the next six months, it was more or less back to normal. Amy and I hung out, I helped she and her husband move into a new apartment, I took pregnancy portraits for her. As the delivery date got nearer she asked me if I’d be her phone tree captain. I was honored. When Amy went into labor, I’d be the one they’d call. I’d bring a bag of necessities to the hospital and call all our friends with the news. I couldn’t wait.

Suddenly Amy and her husband dropped off the earth. Again. I heard nothing for several weeks. My calls went unreturned. Another friend, Joanne, called me to tell me the birth had happened. They’d inexplicably called her and not me. I called and left more messages asking if they needed help, cleaning, perhaps a casserole. Radio silence.

I guess that wouldn’t be that odd. I know things can be topsy-turvy after a birth. I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. But after two months and ten unreturned messages went by, I felt I officially had to write off the friendship. After a third month went by, Joanne informed me that Amy and her husband had actually left town. They had moved back to Florida without so much as a goodbye, thanks for being a friend.

I was hurt and also kind of disgusted by their behavior. Pregnancy, it seemed to me, can make a close friend completely nuts.

So now, when my friend told me she was pregnant I had a brief flicker of “I hope she doesn’t move back to the South without telling me.” Then it dawned on me. This friend told me six weeks into her pregnancy. First trimester rule be damned. This friend and I still catch up on life, good and bad, all the time. Just like after her wedding, turns out pregnant girls still need their girlfriends too.

So I decided it’s time. I will learn how to change a diaper. I will be so thrilled to see the new pink or blue peg in my friend’s Life car. Meanwhile I will enjoy my single-girl sports car with just my own single pink peg in it. The next spin could just bring me over one of those green, plastic mountains.

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Blogger Sarah said...

Thanks, Heidi. Of course I need you! And I have no doubt you'll check off that diaper changing item on your list this fall (also, a few of my friends changed their first diaper with their own kid). I might stand really, really close the first time, but after that, you're on your own. I feel blessed that my baby will have a person as special as you in his/her life. Remember, it takes a village.

Also, I'll take a cassarole. :-) You're not getting off that easy!

4:43 PM  

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