Should my estranged BFF be at my baby's birth?

Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Bestie bracelet from Etsy seller jewelryloveshoppe
Bestie bracelet from Etsy seller jewelryloveshoppe
When I (unexpectedly) found myself pregnant this June, my best friend of nearly a decade was finishing an eight-month trip through Asia. Because of the deep bond we've shared for years I decided right away that along with my husband and midwife, I wanted her to be at the home birth of my first child. But since she's been home (for several months) I've felt the distance between us. Our lives are on separate paths and in many ways she isn't supportive or understanding of how profound all the changes of an unplanned pregnancy have been for me. I haven't expressed any of these feelings to her and now I'm not sure I want her to be at the birth. My husband says I will regret not having her there. My midwife thinks I should have a heart-to-heart with her but I know that doing so will open up a can of worms that I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with given all the other things on my plate.

Has anyone else dealt with changing their minds about someone on their "birth team?" Or is there a way I can approach the topic with her without devastating our friendship? — Jennifer
  1. I found myself in a similar situation. I am kind of the person who hates conflict (aka passive), so I made it about me (which it was). I told my friend what I would need from her in the moment and that I may not be the person throughout that she thought I would be in the moment. (I had heard horror stories) I said things like, "In the heat of it, I am going to need you to do this for me or my hubby." I asked her how she felt about it. I did that to gauge how she might be in the room with me. She ended up not being there for other reasons, but this certainly opened the discussion up. People don't like to feel like it is they who have changed. Which is why I love "I" statements. 😉

    1 agrees
  2. Have you invited her to the birth? Did she say she wanted to be there, and is now distant? I think if you haven't invited her, then maybe you can wait to decide after you have talked with her more. Feel it out.

    Also, if her role in the birth is to just "be there" for you, it might be ok that you are not as close on a day to day basis. Sometimes friends lives change, but we always keep a special bond, and show up when it's important.

    Personally, I wanted my mom to be at my son's birth, and to have spent more time with us after the birth, but she had to be with my dad. So, it was not in my control, and it's in the past, but I still wish she could have been there.

    Your husband probably knows you better than us strangers! He might be on to something.

    1 agrees
  3. I am in almost the same exact situation! One of my closest friends moved out of state a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Before she left, we'd shared a teary commitment to be there for one another at each other's children's births. She had expressed interest in doula training, and started collecting books and resources about birth coaching, hypnobirthing…you name it. As soon as she was gone, though, the connection dwindled, and I just found out that she had been back in town a few weeks back without even telling me. I'm due in less than two months, and I don't even know if I should call and see if she's interested in being there, to say nothing of whether or not she'll even be in the state. I say we both need to just take the bull by the horns and open up a dialogue. At the end of the day, we might end up rekindling a once-precious friendship…or at least finding out for sure where things stand. Either way, there's enough uncertainty in childbirth: best to know the facts about at least one thing, right? (If it does open a can of worms, my plan is to play the pregnancy card and just flat-out refuse to engage in any unpleasantness.)

    1 agrees
    • Nice to know I'm not alone 🙂 I think you're right about opening up a dialogue. As scary as it is and as vulnerable a topic it can be, talking it out will at least bring about some relief.

      Jessi- Yes, she was invited to the birth from the get-go and has even been to one of my prenatal appts so it seems too late to change plans without an explanation.

      Thanks everyone!

    • goldfishfox: just want to say, a little off topic, im sorry to hear your friend was in town and didn't contact you. peronally, i would have felt very hurt. you still want to work on the friendship so obviously your friend means A LOT to you. i admire your strength 🙂

      1 agrees
  4. My pregnancy was really hard on the relationship between my bff and I. Hers had been one of those no-problem, fairy tale pregnancies, and she had a hard time dealing with how difficult my pregnancy was for me and how drastically the hormone changes affected me. We lived together at the time, too, which didn't make things any easier. By the time I was ready to pop, the tension was palpable and neither of us wanted anything to do with each other. We had previously talked about having her there when my daughter was born, but by that time we didn't even need to verbally agree that that wasn't the best idea – it was just understood. As soon as my daughter was born, I made sure she was notified and she came right down. I couldn't have imagined not having her there that day. Things between us took a whole lot of fixing after that, but it wasn't until we really sat down and talked (after a lot of emails.) Nothing has a chance of getting better if you don't talk to each other about what's going on.

    1 agrees
  5. No, bot unless you truly work things out and feel like you're "back" to where you were. Birth is intense, and emotional, and incredibly personal, and you don't want anyone there who you have ambivalent feelings about – you're going to need to be surrounded by uncomplicated, positive energy.

    4 agree
  6. I invited my mom, husband and our two best friends to be with me at my son's birth. It was a zoo. Would not recommend. If you are having second thoughts, it is perfectly reasonable to error on the side of more privacy. A lot of women feel a need for more or less privacy than they expected during labor. Chances are, you will have enough time during labor that you can call her if you change your mind.

    4 agree
  7. When I was pregnant with my first child my BFF was preparing for her wedding. By the time her wedding rolled around I was so angry at her that I didn't even want to be in her wedding any more. She kept complaining about doing everything by herself even though I kept offering to help her. Then I found out she said she was surprised I even came to her bachelorette party, which I planned, which stunned me. And I doled out hundreds of dollars on her wedding shower decorations and she acted like I wasn't fulfilling my matron-of-honor roll a month later. So yeah. Didn't know if I wanted to be there for her anymore. But I did it. And I realized later that between my pregnancy hormones and her wedding stress things were just not lining up for us, but after the wedding we were closer than ever. She even asked me to be a surrogate for her when after 2 years of trying she was still not pregnant.

    What I'm saying is, don't be so quick to remove her from the picture if she's been your best friend for a long time. Talk to her. Tell her how much you want her there and that she means so much to you. And tell her that you are feeling like maybe she'd rather not be there. It's okay if she doesn't want to be there. It doesn't mean she doesn't love you just as much. It just means maybe she's not ready to witness birth yet. Or maybe she isn't aware of the bumps you've had in the road because she's been away. 🙂 Give her a chance.

    2 agree
  8. Even if it opens up a can of worms to talk honestly with her, it probably will happen sooner or later. It may be easier to have that conversation now than after your baby is born, as having your attention on your child will likely change the dynamic between you even more, for better or worse.

    2 agree
  9. Invite her. Have a little heart to heart, just "I love you, you're important to me, and I want you there. I know we've had some difficulties lately, and I understand that you're doing your best to be with me on this new part of my life. We will talk about all of that when we're ready… we'll figure it all out. We have time, because we'll be friends for years." I agree with your husband; I don't feel regret often, but I deeply regret not having a friend of mine with me the day I had my daughter. I didn't know how to get past our problems, I was afraid to cause more problems by asking her to be with me. I was having trouble dealing with my surprise motherhood, that I couldn't see that she was struggling to deal with it too, and she was heartbroken that she didn't understand my new emotions enough to help me. I wish I'd kept in mind how many phases relationships go through. Our distance was just temporary, but our friendship was not. I missed her. It would have been better for me and for my daughter to have had this friend's support and love. I wish you the best of luck with your decision and with everything. Remember that a strong friendship can recover from any repercussions of whichever decision you make.

  10. Wow, this really resonated with me. As the friend in a similar situation, I have to admit that I was devastated when my best friend didn't invite me to her homebirth after we'd discussed the possibility a few times. We never felt any distance throughout the pregnancy, and in fact grew even closer over those months, but in the end her midwives, partner and mom were the only ones there.

    At first, I was so crushed that I only found out she'd had her daughter a couple of hours after the birth by text message. I was at work and couldn't even get there for several hours, so that made the sadness and anxiety even worse. After meeting her little girl and seeing this new family, though, I realized that it was never about me. My job was to support her and love her, no matter what, and what she needed then was to be with her partner and her mom. I had to shed the ego and realize that experiencing the birth with her partner was so important, and I can't imagine interrupting that with my presence now.

    It still hurts to think about sometimes, but I keep reminding myself that even though I wasn't there for the birth, I'll be there for this little girl (and her mom and dad!) for her whole life, and that means so much more. Whether or not your friend is with you, you need to know that she'll be there to support you as a new mom, and she needs to know that you're still her friend, and that even though life is changing, you still need her. Try not to feel guilty if it's not right to have her there, and if you want her to be a part of your child's life, let her know. Only the two of you can decide this, so I think your impulse to go ahead and open the can of worms is right. Good luck! 🙂

    2 agree
  11. It sounds like you need to make these two separate issues: dealing with the changes in your friendship, and deciding who will be on your birth team. Combining the two will make the discussion more fraught.

    My BFF and I went through a similar period of time – where once we'd see each other every day, we suddenly hadn't even spoke on the phone in months. We hadn't fought, we had just grown apart. It was an effort – eventually I called her up and asked to hang out. The first time was awkward and we didn't have much to say to one another. But it reopened the channel of communication, and reaffirmed that we were still there for one another. Then my boyfriend dumped me and she picked me up, in the middle of the night, in a rainstorm and gave me whiskey and listened to me weep and moan for several hours and I knew that she was still my BFF.

    So you see, perhaps just beginning to communicate and know each other anew once again can lead you to a clear solution about the birth team. If she means so much to you in your heart, there's no one who can truly replace her. Once you've gotten back to being a bit closer (maybe not even as close as you were, but better than currently) you can bring up your thoughts on the birth team issue and the two of you can reach a decision together as to whether or not she should/wants to be involved in the momentous occasion.

    1 agrees
  12. I would bring it up as a decision of privacy, and how you and your hubby together (his support is necessary here) feel you want time to bond during the birth as a family unit. I am all about this anyway myself, but your family "bubble" is something that no other on this earth is truly a member of and you and your hubby created this new addition to your bubble. This moment of closeness is like no other, do not allow yourself to be distracted and lose sight of the moment. Because that will truly be a regret.

  13. You should talk to her. Even if you still want her to be there, having cleared the air will make her presence much, much better.

    Different people handle the presence of others at their birth differently. Some people don't even notice that there are people there; some people have a hard time laboring with any weird vibes in the air. It's probably a good idea to clear the air regardless.

    She may be distant because she doesn't understand what you're going through. Our society assumes that once people have children, they don't want to see their single friends anymore. This doesn't have to be the case, but she may be making that assumption. Talk to her!

    1 agrees
  14. Whatever you decide to do, I think open communication is really the best idea in this situation (and pretty much all the time). Spend some time thinking about what you want to say to her and how you want to say it, to make sure you don't come off as attacking her since its pretty impossible to communicate when one person feels defensive. I'm not sure why you don't feel as close to her now but just making sure she knows that you notice there is a rift between you and that it makes you sad. She could be making assumptions that you are very preoccupied now that you are pregnant, or uninterested in what is going on in her life, or something like that. Whether or not you want her there, I think trying to connect with her before the baby is born is important since it won't be any easier to do afterwards. IMO the most important factor about whether or not I want someone there would be their personality and mood – if they are going to be calm and supportive, or impatient/annoying/stressful. Otherwise I could probably couldn't have cared less who was there, I mostly just wanted everyone to shut up and let me do my thing, lol.

    1 agrees
  15. First, congratulations to you and your husband, Jennifer!

    I'm sorry to hear that things have gotten more distant between you and your best friend. Other posters have written lots of great advice, and it's been interesting for me hearing about their experiences.

    I am thinking a few things. I'm a single, non-parent friend to some with children; I'm also a teacher. I love kids and I'd want to help any way I can… but attending a pregnancy is not something I'd ever want to do unless the said friend were a single parent looking for one support person in lieu of the other parent. I think it's great for expectant friends who want the presence of others at the birth as well as those friends who want to be part of it. However, it's just not for me and perhaps not for your friend either. I would be glad to cook, clean, babysit, come visit, etc. etc. all AFTER the child has been born. Same for pregnancy talk: I would want to support as much as I could but having not experienced it at all, I could only help so much, even if each experience is different.

    She may find it overwhelming to talk about the pregnancy so much. It may simply be because she prefers other topics. She may feel it's become the main or almost-only item of discussion for you two these days or it maybe somehow it brings up hard feelings. Perhaps she is going through a rough time: she doesn't want to burden you with the challenges but she also finds her own troubles make it hard for her to be 100% there for you in your happiness. In your question, I hear about how you're feeling about this situation and how disappointed you are in her for various reasons (and that's OK and understandable!) but I'm also not seeing any speculation on your part as to her reasons for distancing herself or demonstrated understanding for any possible unknown reasons. It's totally OK how you phrased everything here but, if your conversations with her are like this in person, I can imagine she might be wishing for more focus on her and what's going in her life, too.

    You say you two are on very different paths: maybe you have grown apart very slowly and it's just really showing itself now. It's too bad but part of life — I've experienced it before and it's painful but OK. However, it also doesn't take away from the great times and closeness you had had before. 🙂 In any case, please talk to her. As others have said, if she's a true friend, she will glad you brought this up, even if it means admitting she feels you've grown apart because at least you'd know, as sad as it'd be.

    1 agrees
  16. Have you ever heard of the analogy of the cat vs the elephant in regards to birthing? Cats give birth in quiet, dark, private places with no one around. A herd of elephants will gather around a laboring elephant mama and form a circle of protection and strength for her. Tell her that you think you are more "elephant" and want her around, but when the moment comes your inner "cat" may come out and you might ask her (heck, even your partner, you never know!) to leave/not come. Tell her that you don't want her to take any offense, you just want to be prepared to listen to what your body is telling you at the moment.

    And a note to you: if you express your needs with sincerity, then it shouldn't upset anyone who is a true friend. If you can't be a little selfish during your birth, when can you?

    1 agrees
  17. I feel like I've been on both sides of this one.

    A very close friend had a baby several years before I did, and we grew apart as a result. It wasn't that I didn't still love her. I just felt we had little in common, and I didn't know what to talk to her about, so conversation between us became stilted. I didn't even visit her in the hospital, to my continuing shame, merely because I didn't know that people who've had babies like getting hospital visits.

    Now I'm a mom and some of my single bffs have had a harder time relating to me. One of them reacted to the news of my pregnancy by saying, "Oh god, was it on purpose?" — despite the fact that I've been married for 12 years — because he's in a phase of life where pregnancy means BIG BIG MISTAKE. Of course it's hard for him to relate to what's going on in my life now. But that doesn't mean we're not friends.

    Now that I'm on the mom side, I know to try harder to communicate what my life is like to my childless friends. It's not that they don't care about me; they just don't really know what to talk to me about, so it's up to me to take the lead.

    I'd also say, having done a ton of international travel, that it can be hard to fit back in to your old role when you come back from an extended trip abroad.

    I don't know whether your bff should still be there for the birth, but I'd urge you to try to rekindle your friendship either way. In my case it was really helpful to be extremely direct with my friends and have a real conversation about what my changing life experiences were going to mean for our friendship.

    2 agree
    • Very well said! I am the friend – I do find it hard to relate to my friends who are having babies. I can only take so much 'kid/baby-talk'. It is hard to imagine what it must be like to be pregnant/have a baby. I feel that, although I do talk with them – I haven't got a clue. So talk to her, open the conversation. Maybe the distance is just her not knowing how to react!

  18. Been there. Done that. Open that can o' worms!
    You may be surprised 🙂
    PLUS it's really nice to not have to shove a can o' worms to the side when you're in labor 🙂 better it's not there to begin with!

  19. When my BFF got pregnant unexpectedly we did all kinds of bonding together–talking through whether to have the child, celebrating when she decided to, reading everything and discussing every aspect of birth and childrearing, throwing baby showers–all of it. I was right there for all of it. And so I totally expected to be invited to her homebirth. But, in the end, she decided to just invite her partner's sister and her professional birth team. I won't say that my feelings weren't a little hurt, but once I went to meet her daughter I realized that it wasn't about me–and in many ways it wasn't even about her. She needed certain people to behave in certain ways so she could let go and welcome her baby into the world. Once the baby was there, I was re-embraced to become a doting auntie, and they even came to live with us for a year. I think telling your friend that you love her but that you need to only have your partner and birth team there (or whoever) is something she should accept with grace–and save the heart-to-heart about change until after you get through this huge one you're about to hit. If you still feel distant 6 months into motherhood, have it out. But she may surprise you once your child is here and your life seems more stable to her and she can decide how to relate to you again.

    2 agree
  20. I had 4 children, and that moment of birth I tell you, you wont want or need any one but your birth team and your partner. You dont need other people in the room. You dont need to think about talking to the others especially if there is a situation at hand. Its best to have a quiet safe space so you can focus on the birthing and only have people there who are loving and supportive. Its a venerable moment only really supposed to be shared with you and your partner. Every one else can wait to see the baby once you and baby are clean rested and ready to take the emotional toll others can give.

    2 agree
  21. Congratulations first and foremost! Almost all the lady's above hit the nail on the head that communication is key. Personally I am a fan of honesty, and letting the chips fall where they may approach. But at the same time as someone who had an "unexpected pregnancy" I know that I went through profound changes that would make me unrecognizable (emotionally and mentally) to people who knew me before I was a mom. So you may in actuality be different to each other, but it dose not mean you cant reconnect! As far has having her with you while you give birth I personally feel you will be at your most vulnerable/powerful and you only want people with you who make you feel 100%! The only people who matter at that point is your baby, your partner, and you.

  22. Agreed with everyone above who says that a. you should deal with this as two separate issues–the friendship and the birth, and b. you do NOT want a bunch of drama surrounding you during your birth. There will probably be so much going on for you anyway and you will probably want to stay focused on the incredible thing that is about to happen to you…not wondering things like 'why isn't she holding my hand?' or 'I need water–should I ask her to get it for me?'. Pull your focus to what YOU need on that day. Deal with the friendship separately…but better before than after.

  23. My pregnancy was unplanned and came at a very difficult time for myself, my partner and my family. I felt very isolated and my best friend was suddenly, unexpectedly totally unsupportive (even negative). I chose not to confront her about it (the "can of worms" issue, her general inability to accept criticism, plus I knew I would cry my eyes out and couldn't stand the idea of that) and now that my amazing daughter is 1, our friendship still hasn't recovered. It took me a long time to get over the hurt, that turned into anger, and now I've accepted that I will never really trust or rely on her again – which doesn't really allow for best friend status. I don't know if you should confront your friend or not, but I do think that you will not be close friends again if you don't.

    1 agrees
  24. I invited my closest aunt to my first baby's birth. It was her connection to me and to my estranged mother that inspored me to do so. I love my aunt a great deal, but by mid pregnancy I realized that she just wasn't the right person to be there at the time. So I uninvited her. I was kind and gentle, I said that when I first invited her it was because I adore her, but as I got closer to the due date I realized that I wanted the birth to be more intimate. Her feelings were a bit hurt, but we are still incredibly hurt and she never held it against me. My advice is tell her – it's your birth and her feelings should not manipulate this for you.

  25. As a person who does not plan on having kids, ever, I'd say, from my experience, mums-to-be can be really boring. They become so absorbed in the whole baby thing that they can be very off putting. So your BFF might be avoiding you because you weren't the person you used to be, but you are expecting your friend to be the same person although she's been overseas for quite a long time(almost as long as pregnancy) and things change in that period. I'd say, spak with her, but don't make it all about you being a mum and the baby. It's a cop out.

  26. From a non-mum perspective I feel physically sick with envy when I hear about other people's pregnancys. I adore my friends and Thier babies, but cannot always be there with a breezy smile loving every minute of your happiness. Sometimes a little understanding and patience is needed, don't give up on your friend, and don't assume it isn't fixable. Some days/ times are better than others or everyone.

    1 agrees

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.