Notes from a Non-Breeder: Left BehindStephanie Powell
It was the last day of ski season when Jodi broke the news. We were crammed into a corner table in the packed lodge for happy hour. While we waited for our other friends to join us, we stripped off our hats and coats, unstrapped our boots and wiggled our frosty toes. Finally a waitress with bushy red hair stopped by. I ordered a beer. Jodi went for hot chocolate. Extra marshmallows. It didn’t strike me as odd. In fact, everything seemed perfectly normal. At least up until the moment I brought up an annual bike ride that Jodi and I had ridden together for the past half dozen summers.
“I think it’s the first weekend of June this year,” I said.
“Um, I’m not going to ride it this year,” she said.
“What are you talking about? It’s our seventh year straight. You can’t bail.”
“No, I really can’t ride it, Stephanie.” As she said this, Jodi leaned forward as if talking in code, trying to relay a secret message. I furled my eyebrows for a second, confused. But Jodi maintained her “you know what I’m talking about” stare. And I got it. My friend was pregnant.
I was supposed to be happy for her. Jodi and her husband had been “not not trying” to have a baby for two years. This was obviously big news. But as Jodi rattled on about the home pregnancy test that confirmed her suspicions and the nausea that was already deluging her mornings, my heart sank. I didn’t see the miniature human being growing inside of my friend as an addition to her life, but a subtraction from mine. One that was going to eat into a lot of friend time.
When Jodi told me she was two months along, I quickly calculated how many months we had left together, as if her pregnancy was a time bomb. Which honestly, part of me felt it was. It wasn’t that I had anything against babies. They were cute and pink and all. But of all my thirty-something friends, Jodi was the one who, like me, didn’t seem to have motherly instincts that kicked in the very second she got married. Over the last several years we had watched plenty of our mutual friends have babies and then fade from our social circle. Together we witnessed them move to five-bedroom houses in the suburbs and plunk down major bucks on SUVs with seating for seven and TV screens lodged in the back of the leather headrests. We said we understood when they cancelled plans at the last minute and opted to spend their weekends at soccer games and their paychecks on baby Crocs. And we smiled at their growing broods, truly happy for their happiness, but also relieved it wasn’t ours. Or so I had thought.
Jodi gave me no indication that she had set her sights on childbearing. I knew she had gone off the pill and we talked about the possibility of kids, sure. But in very broad “someday” and “what if” type terms. I never really thought she’d actually go out and do it. While our girlfriends morphed into parenthood mode, my friendship with Jodi remained relatively unchanged. We still scheduled regular “girl time” and spent it on bikes and ski slopes, shopping or baking cookies while downing a bottle of wine. I could always call her at the last minute for a Saturday-morning hike or a mid-week happy hour. Jodi was my dependable, childless friend. And I liked it that way.
As Jodi went on about genetic tests and due dates, my heart was more than sinking. It was doing a cannonball off the high dive. Who was going to host our holiday baking/drinking parties? And what about après-ski dinners, mountain bike rides and Saturday-night chick flicks? For the first time in a long time, I felt alone.
Sitting in the lodge, I starred down at my frosty mug in despair and then looked up at Jodi. She was beaming, going on about her husband’s storybook reaction to her pregnancy. It wasn’t right to begrudge her, but all I wanted to do was stomp my feet and shout how unfair it all was. But instead of throwing a tantrum, I inhaled deeply and did what a good friend should. I forced a smile and raised my glass for a toast. “To babies,” I said. After we clinked glasses, Jodi tenderly sipped her hot chocolate while I slammed my beer.