Sitting at home with my four-week-old newborn in our love bubble on the couch. I realised that I had not put on a proper outfit since the day before I gave birth. I was looking to do something social and fun during my maternity leave; just then, an ad came up on my Instagram “A baby massage course for babies 4 – 8 weeks”. The universe was listening. I emailed, and they responded, the first class would be the very next day. “Oh no, I am not ready; I haven’t shaved my legs since I was pregnant, never mind washed my hair, will any of my clothes fit?” I was panicking.
Make the effort to meet others
I put on a nice summery dress, packed up Maddie’s nappy bag for the second time ever and off we went. Walking in, I saw three other moms with prams walking towards the class. They looked so well put together, so relaxed and confident. I do not belong here.
When we stepped into the class, I recognised someone I went to high school with; our babies were born two hours apart. What a happy coincidence. We set ourselves and our babies up on the mats, laid in a circle on the floor and went around the room introducing ourselves.
One woman was fostering a premature, malnourished baby who had been put into her care with only 24 hours’ notice. It was a truly inspiring story, and she was so glamourous too. Another woman who looked relaxed and confident spoke about her post-natal depression and told us that she had been crying every day since her baby was born. As we introduced ourselves around the circle, I realised that none of us was at ease with this new stage of our lives. Some spoke about breastfeeding difficulties, issues of recovery post-birth, feeling completely overwhelmed by this new experience or even hating it. We all had something to share. There was absolutely no judgement. We took our turns to sit on a comfortable chair to breastfeed or walk around to hush our tiny babies. It felt so natural and comforting seeing all the other women doing it.
The session took two hours, and we did not learn a thing about baby massage, but I left feeling like I had found a safe space. We started a WhatsApp group from that first meeting, and the messages started following: “My baby’s skin is flaking, do you know what I can put on it?”; “What can I eat to increase my milk supply?”; “My dog jumped up on me, and now my C-section wound is very sore. Do you think I should see a doctor?” The second-time moms were the gurus.
I have had a fabulous group of girlfriends for many years, who are still my absolute rocks. They are all massively successful in their own rights, and we boldly support each other. I also have many friends who are mothers; the difference is that our kids are at completely different stages.
Bonding over common experiences
In my baby massage group, all eight of our babies are only four weeks apart. We are going through the same thing at the same time. There is something so special and bonding in that. After three weeks of going to the course, I wanted to get to know the women better, but making friends as an adult can be intimidating.
I asked my circle for advice on making friends, and it seemed like this was a daunting task for everyone. They encouraged me to send a message to the mom group, asking if anyone would like to have a coffee after the class. I poured a glass of wine, took a big sip, and sent the message. Immediately four women replied, saying they would love to! Phew!
We started having coffees after every class and then arranging lunches, including the dads. I was invited to a weekend getaway with the group, six babies in one house (some quality wine eased our nerves). Recently we did a mom’s spa day. You know you like each other when you make plans without the babies. Now all our babies are ten months old, we are back at work and have completely different daily challenges compared to what we faced in that very first class. It has been amazing to watch the babies grow at a slightly different pace but hit those milestones. Most importantly, I am so happy to have these meaningful connections in my life.
When my 4-month-old decided she had had enough of breastfeeding, I had to face the emotional roller coasting of ending the breastfeeding journey. It’s difficult to understand just how emotional that process is if you aren’t going through it. The group messaged me every day to ask how I was feeling, and I could be completely honest telling them that I was teary that whole first week. That oxytocin kick was gone. The feelings of failure. They held my hand through every step in that journey. I’m so grateful that they were there because I honestly don’t know who else I could have turned to, who could have truly understood what I was going through.
One of the babies got sick, not keeping any fluids down and vomiting. The mom was worried, and so was our group. Mom, Dad and baby went off to the emergency room. The hospital told them that only one parent could go in with the baby when they got there. They decided that it would be best for the dad to go in, as the mom was emotional. We got a message on the group “I’m sitting in my car outside the hospital weeping, my baby is sick, and I can’t be with him” 15 minutes later, another mom in the group was at the hospital, got into the car with her, pizza and bottle of wine in hand. They sat there until they knew all was okay with the baby.
Making new friends is hard. Making mom friends is even harder.
As moms, we have precious little time for any extra effort in our lives. We are busy; we are exhausted, and when we do have a moment to ourselves, we would rather take a hot bath or read a good book. It takes an actual effort to make and grow these connections.
Real connections with real women
But let’s be honest, motherhood is lonely. We crave real connections with real women. I need someone I can lean on to talk about the absurdities of a day in my life with a ten-month-old. It is intimidating to put yourself out there and ask that mom out for coffee but trust me, that little vulnerability is so worth it. We need to embrace the awkwardness and feel just how uncomfortable it will be when you ask, “Can we be friends?” and lean into that awkwardness. Chances are she’s feeling the same way as you do. Make plans and be consistent in the friendship. Of course, as a busy mom, we cannot reply to every WhatsApp on that group with 100 unread messages, but try to set aside time every few days to connect. You will feel good about it.
The importance and support of connecting with people through shared experiences lighten the load of adjusting to a totally new chapter. Prioritise quality over quantity. A few good friends to make this journey of motherhood more fun is better than a wide circle of friends who make you feel uncomfortable in your new role in motherhood.
Dedicated to my Mom Squad