“You never know true love until you have a child...”
The woman glanced back over at me, peering up through heavy-lidded eyes, drugged in an oxytocin fug. Her blissful state as she gently rocked her tightly-swaddled newborn back and forth in her lap was at odds with the searing words rolling off her tongue, burning into my skin like acid.
Sure, she was smiling - one of those aloof, close-lipped grins reserved for those who know more than their recipient as they impart words of wisdom. Smug.
She could have left it at that. The inference was clear: as a Non-Mum, I hadn’t reached the hallowed gates of True Love Heaven. Yet she continued.
I was still reeling from the bullet of the first statement, which had hit me full-on in the face, square between the eyes, when she reloaded her verbal semi-automatic and took aim for a second time. To put me out of my misery, presumably, which would probably have been kinder in the long run, I think now with hindsight.
I forced myself out of the depths of my mind, which was currently replaying my friend’s last statement on repeat, taunting me like a broken record, and back into the room as I became aware of the sound of her voice starting up again: a continuous, low-level drone, like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons. The indecipherable sounds slowly swam back into focus until they became sharp, clear as a bell:
“... as a parent, the world just... I dunno Sam... it just looks different.”
Was there an audible thud in the room as those words tore through my body? I looked around, expecting to see an exit wound, thick red blood spattered up the magnolia walls of my sitting room. Nothing. There’d clearly been no sound, the gunshots must’ve ricocheted off the squishy sofa cushions, I figured, because she continued, oblivious, and the baby never even stirred.
“I mean, people told me how amazing motherhood would be - how life-changing - but I had no idea until this little angel appeared in my life. It’s as though I’ve been blessed, you know? As if my entire life has been building up to this moment. It’s like we’ve known one another forever.”
I’d heard her say that last sentence before, years ago, about a boy she’d been dating for five minutes. I’d laughed it off with an accompanying eyeball roll. She’d ghosted me for a while, to pursue their “relationship”. I’d done the same to her on occasion, to be fair. But this was different. I knew I’d lost her for good this time. I mumbled something incoherent, but it didn’t matter because she wasn’t listening anyway.
“It’s like my life has meaning now. I’ve got a purpose. I know what I’m for.”
She obviously hadn’t gauged my wide-eyed look of horror, recoiling in shock as I slumped back against the soft furnishings, the innocuous surroundings of my home disguising the fact that I felt like I was under siege by this, this stranger sat before me wearing my old mate’s clothes.
I wanted to leap up, turn off the telly (which incidentally was playing some inane daytime show aimed at other women, different women, who, unlike me, also had a “purpose”), and bellow at her: “Do you actually know what you’re doing to me right now?!” Can’t you see the wounds to my heart that your machine-gun volley of verbal shots is causing?!”
But of course, I didn’t. I smiled and drank my tea and made all the acceptable congratulatory noises, rather than the wild-animal wail I wanted to release from deep down in my soul. She was my friend. I wanted her to be happy. I was happy for her. I decided to let her have her moment. But it wasn’t easy. Because ‘her moment’ would last a lifetime.
And mine would never come.
World Childless Week takes place from 10-16 September. For more information go to www.worldchildlessweek.net. If you’re a childless woman come find your tribe in my Facebook group The Non-Mum Network. Read more about my journey through childlessness in the Otherhood section of my blog, Life: A Bird’s Eye View.