We used to huddle in coffee shops, my new mum friends and I, corralled in by pushchairs, sipping coffee in a quiet corner, occasionally whipping out a boob or a bottle to feed our babies.We would share sympathetic looks over a latte when a little one cried or one of us had to carry that tiny bundle into the changing room for a nappy change. We were all tired, actually beyond tired, but those meeting every week or two kept us going. Part of that was the caffeine and part of that was the conversation and support.
None of us knew what we were doing. We were all first time mums with various birth stories and none of them what our NCT class had prepared us for. A few of us knew that despite our hopes for a natural delivery with a lovely, caring midwife, we’d see the rest of our pregnancy journey as it had begun – under the care of a consultant. Others had hoped for plain sailing but still had a couple of spanners in the works. Whatever the story and ending, we had got there in the end and we were muddling our way through as best we knew.
But we had taken something vital from that NCT ante-natal class and it wasn’t learning how to build a den with a sheet and two chairs while our partner’s rubbed our backs. That something was each other.
We had all met when we were heavily pregnant and somehow that formed a mummy bond which most other friendships just haven’t been able to match. It’s not that my friendship with any of these women is stronger than the ones that have come before, because they aren’t. But they are unique friendships.
Although now we don’t see each other as frequently, these are the woman who I share my moans to, my musings on whether to have more children, my observations about parenting and my baby making equipment. These are the women I messaged in the early hours during those early weeks of motherhood, when my nipples were bleeding, or I didn’t know if it was too warm for a sleeping bag. Perhaps it’s also because we were all off work together, in the trenches with new-borns all at the same time, or because we were the only other people we knew who would be up at insane o’clock and happy to talk about anything.
My other mum friends are amazing and incredibly important to me too, but in different ways and offer a different type of support. They’re more friends who happen to be mums, than mummy-friends, and I wouldn’t want them to feel like their importance is diminished in this post. They are the women who were my point of reference in deciding to try for a baby and through those attempts at trying. They are also the ones who are my anchors. They’re the ones I go to when I need to know that it’s all going to be okay and I will have some sleep eventually. They are the woman who knew me long before I became a mother and who remind me of who I am, and who I will still be when Small Boy is grown and flown the coop.
I also made new mummy friends after I became a mum. These are mums I met at classes and groups, with little ones around the same age as Small Boy. Apart from a couple, I didn’t really gel with these in quite the same way, although it could be said that as time went on I would see some of these more regularly, albeit it confined to a weekly play group.
It’s now two and a half years since I attended those NCT classes and I don’t see my NCT mummy friends as much as I did. Most of us are back working and with varied work patterns and commitments, it’s hard to get us altogether in one place. Now rather than the whole gang it tends to be two or three of us meeting up.
We tend not to be huddling over a latte now, we’re sat on someone’s carpet amongst building blocks and toy cars, pretending to drink tea from an empty plastic cup. And when we do, I look at the faces of those women, slurping away at thin air, and think thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me and how you’ve kept me sane.
Mummy friends, you really are amazing.