Do I really want to do this?
I was eight months pregnant. Four hours of tossing and turning now counted as “a good night’s sleep” so I could have one at least every now and then. Sitting in line at a coffee hut, waiting for something called a “White Zombie” which promised even more caffeine than a regular 20oz. latte, I discussed my plans for the evening with my BFF. (Yes, I was having an ungodly amount of caffeine while pregnant. Yes, it noticeably freaked out the bowling-ball-sized boy under my shirt. But I was low on options—I needed to parent my pair of toddler girls.)
My sister was in town for the first time since she’d moved to Europe a few years prior. We’d hung out some, but I felt a little panicked at our limited remaining time. Her plans that evening included a reunion of the book club she’d been in when she last lived here—and I was invited.
This morning, I’d dragged myself out of bed after an even-worse-than-normal night’s sleep. I was uncomfortable (see: eight months pregnant) and grumpy. The idea of dragging my enormous, introverted self, after dinner, to a stranger’s house full of women I didn’t know (but who all knew each other) sounded…less than appealing at 11 in the morning when I was already fried.
“I don’t know if I have it in me. I want to spend as much time with Kori as possible, but I just don’t know if I can,” I said into the phone. My friend reminded me I was free to go or to skip it, then let me talk myself in circles until I figured out what was most important to me today: I tentatively planned to go. Time with my sister was more valuable than avoiding the unpleasantness of peopling while pregnant.
As the day wore on, I continued to waffle. The regular business of toddler sass and making dinner drained what little energy I had left—the effects of my late-morning White Zombie had worn off long before—but changing a decision I’d already made seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I put on my cutest casual maternity top (making an effort, but not trying too hard) and a ton of concealer under my eyes and went.
When I arrived at the hostess’s home, I hefted myself out of my car, waddled past a row of unfamiliar vehicles (plus one I recognized as my sister’s), and nervously knocked on the door.
The women were warm and friendly. They asked all the usual pregnancy-related questions and we made the usual small talk. I felt the usual level of awkwardness and sounded the usual sort of derpy. Eventually, we all had our plates with veggies and fancy cheese and seltzer water and settled down to the serious business of the night. Since they hadn’t met in years, we weren’t discussing a common book; instead, everyone brought a book to recommend to the group. Now, I don’t people well under the best of circumstances (which pregnancy is not), but I can book like a total boss. We talked about the books we’d each brought (I brought Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine) and why we brought them (in my case, recipes). There was much laughter and much taking-photos-of-book-covers with our cell phones to add to our already-absurd TBR lists.
By the time we’d made it around the circle, it was late. I was exhausted (which, for me, is sometimes like drunk, but the happy kind) and more relaxed than I’d started. People started trickling out, but some of us stayed. The conversation worked its way from books to kids to childbirth. Before I knew it, the clock said 11 pm, my sister had gone home, and I was discussing rental property and postpartum sex with these women I’d only met four hours prior.
Kori went back to Czechia (well, Czech Republic as it was known then), but I kept meeting with those women. We discussed books quarterly, decided that was not frequent enough, so we added another. Now we meet six times a year with movies thrown in when the book happens to have one. We eat excellent food and have added wine to our beverage menu, but we still get to the serious book discussions and the gut-busting laughter. It’s been nearly six years now. Some of the members have cycled out and more have come in, but I still think of this group as the very best decision I really did not want to make.
I think of my beloved book club often when my introversion and exhaustion make the idea of peopling seem like far too much effort. The tired introvert still calls the shots frequently (I prefer to think of it as letting self-compassion win). But when I decide to move toward a crowd despite my hesitance, it’s always because of this group of strangers-turned-immediate-friends, the laughter they nearly didn’t bring into my life because I was too pregnant to meet new people, and the joy they are still bringing.
Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing, and editing and making spreadsheets for Kindred Mom where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.