Whether you’re the first one in your social circle to get pregnant, or in my case, the last, doing things on your own time sometimes can leave you feeling lonely. I’m so happy we waited to start a family, but sometimes it feels like I missed the boat to experience it with my friends. Since I became pregnant, I’ve felt the need to look outside my social circle to build connections with other women in the same life stage and have found that this is more common than we think it is. So if you’re new to pregnancy or to motherhood and are feeling a little lonely and wondering how to meet mommy friends, then this episode is for you! Let’s dive in.
Late to the Mom Party
Getting pregnant at 39 has its upsides. I feel more relaxed and ready than I was anticipating. I’m not sweating the small stuff or getting hung up on details that I know in the long run won’t matter as much. I’m focusing on enjoying the experience and taking in the pure amazement of what our bodies can do. I mean, think about it. When I went to my 20 week anatomy scan and saw actual organs and bones, I was truly blown away that there was now a real human inside of me. Before that ultrasound, the images evolve from a small blob to a more defined blob but now there’s a skeleton in me. My body produced human organs and a bone structure from scratch. And every time I feel my little girl kick in my belly, I’m reminded that while my clothes may be getting tighter, I’m growing a human child and that’s pretty remarkable. This isn’t new news to me, I obviously am well aware of how this all works, but it truly is different experiencing it for myself.
Growing up I wasn’t sure if I wanted kids, but I figured if I had them, I would be going through this with my friends. We’d share stories, our kids would be similar ages and they would all be best friends just like us. Now fast forward to today. I’m almost 40 and pregnant with my first (and only) child. My three closest friends that were part of this fantasy have eight children between them – the oldest being thirteen and the youngest being five. The four of us also live in three separate states -so playdates aren’t really a thing. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been great in terms of advice and being there when I want to discuss something baby related, but in some ways I feel like I’ve missed the opportunity to connect with them in the way I had anticipated.
They’re past the pregnancy stage, and they didn’t have geriatric pregnancies, which makes a difference. As much as I’d love to sit here and say that all the fear-mongering we have to deal with by waiting until after 35 to conceive is pointless, there is a difference between a pregnancy prior to 35 and after. And while every pregnancy is different overall, there are added differences when you factor in the age of the mother. For example, one of my friends was surprised that my doctor recommended I induce on my due date if she hadn’t come naturally. But for geriatric pregnancies, this is normal. I’ll be forty and there are added risks to labor and delivery. If she makes it the full forty weeks and doesn’t come early, there are greater risks for my health the longer I let her rent out space in my uterus. Maybe my doctor is being extra cautious, but to me that’s not a bad thing. It’s so important my baby is healthy, but my health is just as important. The more women in their 40’s that gave birth I speak to, the more common I realize this process is – but that can seem unwarranted if you had your baby earlier.
So while I do have some great support for these women in my life that have gone through pregnancy and motherhood before, they don’t live locally. I can’t just go hang with them one Saturday or meet up with them during the week to check out some maternity clothes. We have a constant group text chain and monthly video chats, but I still find myself yearning for connection with women that are local and currently in the same stage as me. Especially at the beginning of the pregnancy, I felt totally isolated and was desperate for connection.
Constipated and Isolated
I will say I was at my lowest and loneliest during my first trimester. Three days after I found out I was pregnant, Christian went out of town for two weeks – my sixth and seventh week of pregnancy. Coincidentally these two weeks were my absolute worst in terms of pregnancy symptoms. I was exhausted, extremely nauseous and unbearably constipated. Now constipation isn’t something I have really experienced in my life, so for those of you that deal with it on a regular basis, I now have a whole new feeling of respect for you. How do you even function? I was so constipated I had stomach pains and couldn’t even get off the couch. Thankfully this only lasted until I worked with my doctor and found Colace, but those two weeks until I started taking the supplement were pure hell.
But the physical symptoms were only part of my hell. The mental struggle was the other part. It was dead of winter still in Chicago so I was cooped up, alone, at home. It was way too early to be telling everyone I’m pregnant so I couldn’t just call someone and talk about how I was feeling either. I have never felt more isolated and alone. I didn’t want to meet anyone in person because I felt horrible and didn’t know how to explain how I felt without giving it away. I also felt like I was going to fall asleep at any moment so didn’t really have the energy for any sort of sustained social interaction at that time. I didn’t even feel up to showering some of those days.
I was barely making it through the work day and then just binging netflix. I was bored out of my mind and lonely. When people talk about getting pregnant, I feel like they leave that part out. They leave out how isolating the first trimester can be. Especially if you are older and pregnant – you are even more hesitant to really share the news too soon. Maybe some people like having that little secret between them and their partner, but I didn’t. I’m a social person. I feel a need to share with others. Hell, I have a damn podcast. I’m not what you call a private person or an introvert. I get my energy from being around others. So being physically and mentally isolated took a real toll on me in the beginning. I was dying to tell anyone I was pregnant and to be able to talk about it.
When we finally were ready to tell our friends and family, I was about eleven weeks along. We had waited to go to our first prenatal to get the doctor’s thumbs up. We also waited until after the results came back from the first round of prenatal genetic testing to ensure that there was nothing we had to worry about. Of course, everyone was so excited when we told them. Christian’s parents, and soon to be first time grandparents were ecstatic. My parents couldn’t be more excited to finally have a grandkid from me after all these years of asking me when it was going to happen. My brother, our friends – all of them were over the moon for us. And for the first time it felt like we could get excited. But it didn’t take long to notice a slight change in how we connected.
First Time Designated Driver
Outside of my long-distance college friends that are mothers, my local social network is the exact opposite. My closest friends don’t have kids and more than half don’t want them. And I will say, they have been great since I’ve become pregnant. They never act annoyed if I bring up baby stuff and they are totally supportive of my journey. The support is in the little things – like when we hung out at a friends house and they made sure I had non-alcoholic drinks available. Or brought me a piece of rainbow cake because they knew I had developed a sweet tooth. While small acts, they mean a lot to me because they’re going out of their way to make sure I feel included.
But on the flip side – it feels like there’s less opportunity to connect in person. Let’s face it, alcohol played a big role in my life pre-pregnancy. I would go to dinners with the girls and spend hours chatting over wine. Or grab margaritas on a warm summer day and just people watch and chat about nothing. In Chicago, a lot of our social life revolves around alcohol. Since I’ve been pregnant, it feels like if I wanted to avoid being around people drinking, I would have to become a hermit. And while they try their best to include me – being the sober one at the party is never as fun. I just get more tired as they get their second and third winds. The bigger I get, the harder it is for me to join the inevitable dance party that breaks out after a certain number of cocktails. And the last thing I want to do is be the Debbie downer that is the first one to leave the party.
In fairness, I will say I’m happy to play the designated driver for my husband for this limited time. Between the two of us, I’m the bigger drinker and usually the one that wants to keep the party going. So in our almost eleven year relationship, he’s taken the role of designated driver. Not that we usually drive, we do live downtown Chicago, but he played the responsible party making sure I was getting home ok. I see women boast that their husband is not drinking during their pregnancy out of support – but that’s not happening here. And it shouldn’t! Christian is finishing up his masters so he has a pretty packed social calendar right now as he tries to take full advantage of these last couple months with his classmates, and I want him to! Just because I can’t drink, doesn’t give me the right to ask others around me not to. God knows I didn’t hold back when I was around pregnant people.
Fun story – when my brother’s ex-wife held a baby shower for my niece, there was no alcohol. My mom, aunt and I had all driven to Minnesota for this shower, and when we arrived we realized there was nothing to drink other than soda, water or punch. Oh, and also – the shower was like six hours. My aunt and I immediately rectified the situation by grabbing the keys to the rental car, a bright lime green Mazda hatchback, and drove to the liquor store. That freaking car. We rented a car because my mom flew into Chicago from Florida, my aunt only had a mini and I didn’t have a car, so we rented one to drive up together. My mom ordered an economy four door sedan, but when we got there, they were out and were going to give us a small SUV. Well my mom didn’t want to pay for the added gas for this car, so she opted for a compact instead and they gave us this tiny green machine that the three of us and our bags barely fit into to drive up to Minnesota and back in a snowstorm. Anyway, we snuck the liquor into the baby shower and spiked our punch to help us deal with the hours and hours of baby games and gift opening that day. My now ex-sister-in-law threw a fit and complained to my brother, but I stuck by our decision. If you’re going to ask people to sit around all day and talk about your baby, at least give them a mimosa or two! Bad planning on her part. Know your audience.
So I encourage Christian to take full advantage of my sober status because time is limited and we’ll go back to our previous roles once the baby arrives. Even more so because my tolerance is going to be the lowest it’s been since freshman year of college – which I’m super excited about! It’s insane how much less we spend at restaurants right now without my drinks racking up the tab. Enjoy it while it lasts!
Needless to say, while my Chicago friends have been super supportive, and are doing their best to make me feel included, it’s not the same. I’m very conscious about how much I talk about my pregnancy or baby planning because I don’t want to bore them with something they can’t relate to. I love my friends, but I still find myself yearning for connection with other pregnant people. But I had no idea where to start. Making friends when you’re older is hard enough as it is, let alone when you aren’t working and are pregnant. How was I going to find my sense of community during this time?
Searching for Mom-to-be Friends
First I turned to my passions, one of them being Peloton. I’m an avid Peloton fanatic. Outside of my pilates reformer class, I exclusively use the app for all my workouts, from walks to the bike, barre class, yoga, stretching and strength training. My username is PeloCultMember because that’s an accurate description of my love for this brand. I am actually really bummed that they are finally reopening the New York studios and I’m pregnant. I have a friend that’s super in Peloton and we had talked about doing a weekend trip when the studios reopened and taking as many classes as we can with our favorite instructors but I don’t want to do that if I’m pregnant! I want to do that when I can show up strong on the leaderboard and take advantage of the competitive nature of in-person classes.
Anyway, there’s a huge group of Peloton moms and moms to be out there and so I joined the Facebook group Peloton Preggos and Postpartum. Not only can we connect on pregnancy but also our love for Peloton. I also joined a Facebook group called Pregnancy After Forty which has been helpful in terms of conversations and tips specifically regarding geriatric pregnancies. But both of these groups are online only – randomly I did find out one of our friends that lives in the burbs is part of the Peloton group which is funny, but I haven’t met anyone from these groups in real life.
After some further digging, I found the social app called Peanut. This is an app entirely dedicated to pregnant women and moms. There are groups you can join that are relevant to you – like October 2022 Babies for all of us due in October. Or there’s a Chicago group so I can connect with other moms locally. There are live conversations you can join with experts or just other members and you can have one to one matching – almost like tinder but for moms. You get different profiles and swipe up, or wave, if you want to connect and down if you don’t. Then you have text conversations right there in the app. At first it’s kind of weird because it feels like you’re dating but you’re just really connecting with potential friends.
So what makes me swipe up or down you ask? I know, that’s always the question isn’t it? It’s like when someone is on a dating app and you wonder why they picked you or not. Ok, I’ll share my consideration set for my swipes with you. Well first of all, I look for their location. If they are in the burbs, that’s a no for me. After all, I am looking for people I can meet in person, and the reality is once people move to the burbs, they might as well moved to another state. You’re not going to see them other than once in a while and it’ll pretty much be a digital relationship. I don’t need more of those, I have the Peloton group for that. If someone lives forty-five minutes away, that’s with no traffic, you aren’t meeting them for a walk in the park. It’s now turned into a whole ordeal. So burbs are a no go for me.
I also usually swipe down if someone is in their twenties. You can call me an ageist, but again, I’m looking to connect with people in the same lifestage as me. Pregnant or not, I don’t have a ton in common with someone that is twenty-five. Our lives are different, and our pregnancies are different. So sorry, I prefer to connect with mom-to-be that are at least in their thirties. I also try to focus on first-time moms. I’ve connected with some that have another child because maybe they live real close to me or we have a lot of interests in common, but I do have experienced mothers in my life so I really wanted to focus on first-time mamas to experience this together. Hobbies are the last one. I try to focus on those that have full-time jobs and like to travel, are into fitness etc. I know what you’re saying – you’re not working, why are you only looking to connect with full-timers? Well, the answer is simple. I know I won’t be a stay at home mom. I’m too career-minded for that. And if I want to make friends with women that we can hopefully have our kids have playdates with later, then I want to make friends with moms that also will be working moms so we have more to connect on. So those are basically my filters – location, age, first-time moms and hobbies/interests. After online conversations, a couple weeks ago, I finally met some of these women in real life.
Building my Mommy Tribe
A couple weeks ago, I met a group of six women from Peanut for lunch and I was really excited about it! It’s been a long time since I tried making new friends though and it felt a bit intimidating! As we get older, it’s so much harder to make friends. Maybe you meet people at work, maybe if you are getting your MBA, but it seems the older we get, the more set in our social circle we become. So I was feeling a bit rusty on the friends front and was a little nervous about showing up at a restaurant when I didn’t know any of the people I was meeting. When I arrived, I walked up to the host and I couldn’t remember who’s name the reservation was under so I told her I was meeting a party of pregnant people. I thought that would be something that was easily identifiable for her, but either she wasn’t aware they were pregnant, or she was just being nice, because she looked at me with just a blank stare. Strike one. I was now hoping I wouldn’t end up striking out after riding my bike to this neighborhood with such high hopes. After searching in the app for the name, she brought me to the table.
Even though I had never met these women, the second I sat down, I felt welcomed. Everyone was so nice, friendly and curious. I was immediately bombarded with questions and it felt so nice just being able to freely talk about my pregnancy with women that were in the exact same boat. I had to remind myself to ask them questions too because I’m sure they also yearned to be able to just talk about their experience just as much as I did. I have to admit, sometimes I can be bad at that. Especially in groups. I tend to take over the conversation and talk about myself a lot and then forget to ask others questions.
I blame part of this on my upbringing. In my family, they cared about what you thought but it didn’t seem like anyone ever tried hard to probe or ask you what you thought. If you had something to say, you said it. If you weren’t saying anything, you must not have anything you want to share with everyone. During one on one conversations, I’m much better at the back and forth conversation style, and I’ll ask plenty of questions. But in a group, sometimes I revert to my old ways and just assume people will jump in if they have something they want to add. As I’ve gotten older, I have worked on this because I know how much of an issue this can be – not only with friends but also in the business setting. But I also have a friend that is the opposite of me and her excellence in this area is a constant reminder to me how I still have work to do.
Everyone had a different story. I was one of the few from the Chicago area, most were from out of state originally and even one from Canada. Two were going through IVF and were going on this journey solo which was so inspiring to me. I was just talking about how I felt so isolated when Christian was out of town, but at least I could call or text him. I can’t even imagine going through this alone – especially adding IVF into the mix. I found it so amazing that they just knew what they wanted and they were ready now, partner or not. Very empowering message in my eyes. Everyone had an interesting story and we had a great time sharing pregnancy stories, but also how our families and loved ones played a role. I didn’t have to be the sober one. I didn’t have to worry about talking about the baby too much and I got some good ideas.
Out of the seven women, I seemed to have more of a connection with two in particular. Which is normal right? You naturally connect with some better than others because that’s life. You aren’t going to connect with everyone on the same level when you’re in a party of seven women. Plus I am trying to build a more long-term mommy tribe, and so you’re going to meet a lot of amazing women, but just like in other parts of your life, you aren’t going to have the same relationship with each one of them. So the longer the lunch went on, the more three of us seemed to gravitate towards each other in conversation.
Leaving lunch, I felt more hopeful and energized than I had in months. The whole way home, I rode my bike with a smile on my face as the feelings of loneliness started to slip away. I even worked up the courage to reach out to the two women to meet them for one on one “dates”? Is that what you call it? It still sounds kind of silly to me that I met these strangers from a pregnancy social app, but at the same time, I was excited. Had I started to create my local mommy tribe?
In Season One I talked about how different people in our lives serve different purposes. There are different levels of relationships and while the people in your circle should bring positivity to your life, they do it in different ways. When you’re raising kids, they say it takes a village. But if you don’t have a village, then what do you do? Well first, you evaluate the village you do have. For me, my college friends know me best and while our kids may be different ages, we will be able to connect on a whole new level, motherhood. My local social circle will enable us to not lose our sense of selves when we become parents. While I know we’ll change, at forty-years old, I also know who I am and it’s important to have people in my life that know and love us for who are as a man and a woman, not just mother and father. And then there’s these new relationships that are forming in hopes of having a local, in-person support group that understands this stage in life and is going on the journey with us. Just like pre-pregnancy, we get to choose our tribe. So consider who’s in your life and what role they’ll play once the baby comes. And it’s ok if this new stage has produced some new gaps. There are folks in the same boat so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
Thank you so much for joining me today. Please rate and review this podcast on Apple Podcasts. Join me on my social channels to get more content and inspiration. You can follow My Almost Midlife Crisis on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out my new YouTube channel with videos of the episodes and shorts to keep you entertained all week. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to make sure you are always up to date on the latest episodes and sign up to get the written transcripts delivered right to your inbox at myalmostmidlifecrisis.com.
Until next time!