Losing my best friend to parenthood
“We learnt to embrace the new shape our friendship took”
The night we danced to a 90s Bollywood song nobody else recognised, I knew this friendship was special. Two people, bonding over their love for embarrassing music. Fifteen years later, our friendship had grown to allow the honesty that romantic relationships need veiled sometimes. “A successful marriage means being sensitive of your partner’s feelings,” my mom had told us. Read: Assure your husband his mother’s hoarding tendency is an understandable attachment issue, but tell your best friend that your mother-in-law needs to grow up.
We both got married in the same month the pandemic hit. A year later, I was sitting silently in her bedroom, suffocated by something bigger than the lockdown. I didn’t have to say I wanted a divorce, she could read my face. She’d known her husband for ten years and I’d sent a save the date within three months of knowing mine. The statistics were sound, at least.
“It’s happening.” She caressed her belly.
I readjusted myself. Now? Wasn’t it earlier than planned? It didn’t matter. I should be happy for her. I was happy for her.
A divorce and a pregnancy. We’d always been opposites, balancing each other out. I unpacked boxes of a failed past while she baby-proofed for the future, talking and laughing through it.
When my moments of panic over the divorce slipped into hours of anxiety, recounting what I’d done wrong, what I could’ve said, how I could’ve… she called to check in. As if she knew I was spiralling.
Meanwhile, life was breathing force into her as she shopped for cribs and bibs while juggling work, running a house, and supporting her waning best friend. I third-wheeled doctor’s appointments, parenting conversations, even home decor decisions. We read and discussed everything that had ever been written about motherhood, so we wouldn’t be caught off-guard when our lives changed.
Except, we were. The baby arrived and it was as if the North Star shifted overnight. “Family only”, the doctor said when I tried to enter the hospital. I didn’t get more than a few minutes on a call.
I couldn’t even tell her my final signing date for the divorce was here, so I faced the music, or the cacophonic orchestra, alone. It was the same day I finally met her new baby.
I don’t know if bitterness should be allowed to enter the room where love lives. I wasn’t a bitter person, I didn’t even wish unhappiness upon my ex-husband. I just occasionally pictured him choking on those peanuts he so loved.
My best friend was adorning her new life with patience, understanding, care, cooperation, warmth and compassion. Shiny things that had disappeared from my life. I couldn’t feel like the joyless one, so I left.
Nature took its course, which meant dating apps came and Bumble boys left. I looked for spaces to vent and crib and sour myself. We kept in touch, of course. She FaceTimed me to show her son turning over and I DM’ed her memes and dating anecdotes. But there was no denying the widening hole in our friendship.
The first reaction to losing your best friend is seeking her out in others. I overshared with new ones and over-planned with old ones. I was tired of coping. A friendship had been lost, a marriage had failed… I wrapped myself in my unhappiness, hoping that would make its effect wear off.
Then her WhatsApp invited me to a party, a celebration of one trip around the sun. Setting myself aside, I went.
She’d outdone herself, classic to her character. Adult couples were having as much fun as toddlers, and there stood my best friend, between a bouncy castle and polka dotted balloons. I hadn’t seen her in six months, she looked different even though she greeted me just the same. I just wanted to give the birthday boy his gift and leave.
He was playing with a friend he’d already made. I hadn’t seen him in a while – rather, he hadn’t seen me. It wasn’t the gift that got his attention, because it neither rattled nor shone. He stared — had I weirded the kid out already? It felt uncomfortable to be singled out by a one year old. Then, he stretched his arms out towards me.
It was our first full hug. He cosied in, throwing his head back for a full laugh. He threw a toy at me, a sign I later understood was an invitation to play. I didn’t have to turn to check if my best friend was crying, some things never change.
Surrounded by a mess, two pairs of best friends built blocks that evening. We would talk things out eventually, but for now, this was enough.
Friendship changes with time, life events demand priority, though empathy is easiest when your friends are going through the same motions as you are.
We learnt to embrace the new shape our friendship took. Assumptions were replaced by patience, frequent reminders of our place in each other’s lives. We dropped voice notes or short videos when calls weren’t possible, prioritising conscious effort. We knew what we had, and almost lost, and preserving that was more important than festering disappointment.