When I was pregnant, I knew no-one who had kids or was pregnant – in fact, I didn’t even know anyone who was remotely thinking about starting a family at any point in the near future. In truth, despite being surrounded by a group of incredibly supportive girlfriends, it felt very lonely at times.
The only people who really understood what I was going through was my mum and my mother-in-law, but that wasn’t really the same.
Blogging filled that void a bit. It introduced me to other mums online around the world at the same stage in life and pregnancy to me – some planned, some unplanned like us.
But it wasn’t until we went on an NCT course that things really started to change.
There were five couples on our course; the mums exchanged numbers and started meeting for decaffeinated coffees as we all gradually went on Mat Leave. Suddenly I had someone who was genuinely interested in my dilemma of whether we should get a Bugaboo Bee or Bugaboo Chameleon or to confide in about the latest pregnancy symptom without them squirming in their seats.
But after the babies were born, from around the three months mark, cracks started to show. As lovely as our little group was, we had been thrown together due to circumstance rather than genuinely finding each other because we clicked. One went back to work very early on, one moved to a different part of London, during the summer months we all went on holiday at different times and playgroups paused.
And so the loneliness started to kick in all over again.
But one woman – we’ll call her Van Dam (don’t ask) – and I did remain close despite this. We would walk and talk for hours, attend baby music classes together and sip endless cups of tea (the decaffeinated thing didn’t last long). We would send photos of our girls – who also became quite the partners in crime at times – doing their latest tricks, share articles on sleep regressions and teething tips and also ridiculous Buzzfeed links at 2am to keep each other sane. There was also a lot of poo jokes. She was a keeper.
Around the six month mark, I started Water Babies and met Digital Mum. We started walking to and from swimming together and slowly began meeting beyond the changing room. It turned out that Digital Mum had crossed paths with Van Dam at another class and so our little group began to grow again.
At music, we met another pair of NCT survivors; in between nursery rhymes and hand clapping, we got chatting to Bum (her son has created his own name for her… Which naturally we’ve all adopted too) and The Token Dad, who’s partner, The Illustrated Mum, had returned to work when their son was five months old while he finished his phD. After a few weeks, Van Dam and I got a bit brave and invited them to join us for a coffee after class. This became a treasured Wednesday ritual for many months to come and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Token Dad and Illustrated Mum have since swapped roles while she trains to become a childminder; Bum has now returned to work; Digital Mum fills her time with more volunteering projects than a non-parent could fit into any given week, let alone someone looking after a toddler full time; and Van Dam has moved to Jersey. Yet our Facebook thread is rarely quiet for more than an hour at a time and we’re there for each other through toddler tantrums, sick bugs, squirrel bites (yes, really) and beyond.
Everyone needs their friends.
In a mum’s case, this is to keep you sane through the sleepless nights, food fights and wrestling matches on the changing mat. There is a special bond between mum friends who have seen you in your PJ bottoms with greasy hair and vomit on your shoulder at two in the afternoon or to whom you confide your deepest fears or darkest moments of parenthood too. Who else would understand why you might crawl into the cot with your son at 3am and not judge?
The other week, Van Dam visited from Jersey and so we met for ‘Mummy Mondays’ – sadly not an official London night out but simply drinks on a Monday night for our little mummy gang at a local bar. Near the end of the evening, a good few cocktails in, Van Dam whips out a book of birds… As you do.
Before they moved, her daughter’s room was beautiful. Teal walls with huge dark trees filled with pastel coloured birds flying amongst the branches. (I was always not-so-secretly jealous as we were unable to make Little Miss’ room all that special being in a rented apartment with a double bed our landlord refused to move…)
We were each to pick one bird to stick in our littl’un’s rooms, as a little reminder of our’s and our bambinos’ friendship across the miles.
Van Dam even left a bird for the new owners of the house as they’re looking to start a family. May their bird bring Mummy luck in finding mum friends she clicks with, not who just happen to have babies the same age.