There’s nothing like having a newborn baby that you have no idea what to do with to give your confidence a bit of a shake, rattle and roll. Newborns are divine things but by God they are hard to figure out. Having spent a bunch of years in IVF I thought I was all over the “positive mindset way of thinking” but deep down I wonder if I ever did believe I would fall pregnant, much less have a real baby. Getting pregnant was an ongoing science experiment, staying pregnant was a bloody nightmare (literally – sorry) and so it’s a safe bet to say I didn’t really put much thought into what having a baby would be like. In my hormone fuelled messy heart I just thought that nothing else would matter if/when I would have a baby much less what it would be like. I remember saying that I was desperate for sleepless nights, cracked nipples and elastic pants (that would be the drugs talking, I wasn’t drunk) but I don’t regret saying those things and anyone who is going through or has been through IVF will know what I mean.
Last week a colleague came into work with her 9 week old daughter. She is a gorgeous little creature and at 9 weeks she is all meowy noises, tiny features, deliciousness. My ovaries were always being performance managed, they weren’t just average, they were wildly under performing at best and in retirement at worse. Anyway, last week I think they did a bit of a skippity hop when I finally got to meet this cute pie. During a lovely morning tea for the new mum, and with only women present, the conversation veered from sleep, milk flow, huggies versus babylove, sleep, labour, holy matrimony will I ever sleep again and mother’s group.
Mother’s groups get plenty of bad press. Some say they are competitive, bitchy, tedious affairs. My experience was (still is) vastly different. I. Loved. Mothers. Group. We all met when our babies were around 4 months. God at least I think they were about 4 months – hard to say given the fug I was in. Initially we were at some kind of mothercraft arrangement. It sounds all very 1950’s but I think we were all there for the free biscuits rather than the swaddling lessons. I do remember one particular session where I couldn’t seem to settle Charlie, I didn’t quite know what to do and his cries were getting louder. The nurse was demonstrating how to
make your baby into a burrito how to swaddle and she gently and discreetly suggested that perhaps Charlie needed a feed. Shiiiiit. Fail and guilt aren’t mutually exclusive but did I feel judged by the other mothers? God no, and in fact, some of them probably wouldn’t even remember the moment. It was my moment and as dishevelled as I felt I’m sure they were all caught up in their own beautiful chaos to notice my incompetence.
As the months went by we graduated from the ability to sit around in a café with the babies sat at our feet chewing their own feet to parks where the babies chewed on bark and grass. It didn’t matter where we came from – banking, government, health, marketing, recruitment. We were all on an equal playing ground in this space, and by that we were all mostly clueless. We didn’t compare notes for competition but compared notes for compassion and camaraderie. We talked about anxiety (usually mine), relationships, work, cake, baby milestones and yes of course we talked about sleep. We were all experiencing these wild emotions that were both overwhelming and scary and so there was something insanely comforting in knowing that this new normal wasn’t a lonely existence. Grey days and hey days. As an oldermum (the medical term is officially “geriatric” if you are over 40 – but hell that’s a whole other blog post to write about) many of my other friends had babies LONG ago so this new circle of friends was crucial to my sanity.
Nowadays, our babies are toddlers nearing their third birthdays (Wait what?!) and we have continued to meet where and when life allows. It was only a few weeks ago that we met for dinner (sans toddlers of course). Prosecco instead of coffee. Italian instead of leftover sultanas from a kid’s lunch box. Conversation is now around juggling working and parenting, toddler bed transitions, toilet training (not ideal), and is it bad parenting if you feed your child spaghetti for dinner every night? Recently and happily there has been the arrival of two more babies and we are looking forward to the imminent news of a third. Hey days indeed.
I don’t know when we will all next see each other. Of course we aren’t all at every catch up because life happens but I do know that when we are all in the same company again we will all be able to talk about what has been happening without fear of judgement or without it being a competition to win at life. It would suck if I had joined a crappy mother’s group and what a shame for those who haven’t had the best of experiences. My “other mums” might read this and be surprised by this, but I think it is only in retrospect that I can look back on that first year and the first year of being in a mother’s group and realise that I had found my tribe. They are all true and good people and somehow I know that these aren’t friendships that will eventually fade away as our children grow up. We all of course have our own lives, our own families and friendships elsewhere but I think there is something about friendships that are established from a mother’s group that make them gloriously unique. Even if we don’t see each other for another month or another 6 months, it’s the kind of connection that really picks up where you left off from. I’m merely hoping that by then Charlie will be eating something other than spaghetti for dinner so that I will have more to add to the conversation.