I owe you an apology. I am sorry for being a crappy feminist and not including your issues in my fight. I’m sorry for not realising how significant those issues were until I faced them myself. I’m sorry for not listening to you as I should have.
I’m sorry for the times I, frustrated with the marginalisation of childless women, failed to realise those with children were marginalised too. I didn’t see we are damned no matter our choice. I didn’t see we are seen as less whether we are mothers or not. I felt judged for not having children, never realising you felt equally judged for having them. I didn’t see that women are often defined by our reproductive status, and that there is no winning.
I’m sorry for the times I didn’t realise how much the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood changes you. I’m sorry for when I thought you meant it made me less of a woman not to have experienced it, not just a woman with different experiences. I’m sorry for the times I didn’t respect your experiences or how much they can change you. They’ve certainly changed me. And I promise now I won’t expect that my experiences are yours.
I’m sorry for not realising how truly painful it all can be. I’m sorry for the times I have dismissed or minimised your pain, just because another friend told me it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t realise that every single birth and every single pregnancy and every single child is different. I should have trusted you.
I’m sorry for not believing you when you said you loved differently as a parent: not that you loved better than me, but you loved better than you had before. You were talking about yourself. I thought you were judging me. I thought you were saying I hadn’t experienced love like yours. And it’s true: you were. But I never will experience love like yours. Every love is different.
I’m sorry for not worrying enough about the financial implications of parenthood. I’m sorry for using “choice” as an excuse not to support you. I’m sorry that I didn’t realise the huge financial burden that biology has place on women, and that in a civilised society, we should be attempting to limit such burdens.
I’m sorry for every time I laughed “haven’t they ever heard of birth control”. I knew the odds but I didn’t realise how real the failures are.
I’m sorry for the times I took your choices as a judgement on mine. I know they weren’t. You did what was right for you. My choice to spend 14 years of adulthood child-free was right for me. Our choices were unrelated to each other.
I’m sorry for the times I was a bad friend. For the times I didn’t listen. For the times I thought that the gulf between us was impossibly large. It wasn’t. You were still you. I was just too wrapped up in my own experiences to listen to yours.
Now that I’m approaching the other side, I hope I can avoid making the same mistakes with my friends without children. To remember that their love is not better or worse than my love, just different. That their fights matter too. That their choices having nothing to do with my own.
To remember the gulf is not so wide, and that if we listen, our burdens can be shared.
And I’ll re-read this, regularly, to remind myself that we are all in this fight together.