One minute you are young, remarkably wrinkle free and sailing through life on a breeze of blissful irresponsibility. Then you decide to become a parent. How hard can it be you chuckle as the two lines appear on the supermarket pregnancy test (carelessly thrown in with a bottle of wine, soft cheese and some extra strong espresso – what are the chances after all that it will happen so quickly). You partner seems oddly silent but gamely tries to show no fear (the sweat on his forehead is a dead giveaway). He will later drink the wine himself and devour the soft cheese while you watch jealously drinking your decaf tea. This will be just the beginning of the many sacrifices of motherhood.
As the months fall by (and that date on the calendar looms closer to reality than ever before) you begin to realise that life will truly never be the same again. It’s not just that you can no longer sleep or that you count your cups of coffee or that the stairs has now taken on Everest proportions…it’s that feeling that you are no longer really alone in your own mind. Every thought is overshadowed by The Baby. Will this help The Baby? Will this harm The Baby? What is the best thing to do?
It is no longer just your own life you are living; it as if you are living (not just eating) for two. Your body holds two people; two hearts beat in that body and two brains work away at keeping everything ticking over as it should be (one of these brains is very tiny and underdeveloped but then the same could be said for your brain some days). It is a great responsibility to live two lives at once, sometimes you don’t feel up to the challenge and consume a vast amount of calories as food is now a substitute for everything you are denied (wine, sex – too uncomfortable – and a decent night’s sleep).The months drag by, your feet ache, your back has given up the ghost and people joke that you must be carrying twins.
Then the day dawns when this girl’s life becomes this mother’s life and the world as you know it morphs into an alien landscape, a sparkling riot of colours; love has never felt this deep or scary before. A soft smelling bundle of warmth is placed in your arms and life will never be quite as free or as easy again but with your price of freedom comes a love you have never known before. There will be struggles ahead and sleepless nights and days when you just want to cry but…you will be rewarded with sticky kisses, warm cuddles and a life rich in meaning. You will still carry that girl in your heart, she will never be left behind but the joys and sorrows of motherhood will strengthen her; they will mould her into a woman and this life will be something totally unexpected but very much worth every ounce of pain.
Today I sat in the car singing songs with a pal I met at Gymboree. Before you have us carted off let me explain…our children were in the back and both of them were having ‘the blues’! It was a surreal moment – meeting a friend and ending up singing nursery rhymes. We agreed a lot sure has changed since becoming mummies.
It can be hard making new friends when you join the ranks of motherhood. You are advised to go out and join every parent & baby group you can find and manically overcome any awkwardness by descending on said group with a fixed smile and an armful of anecdotes about your baby. Now as any new mum (or dad) knows you won’t immediately bond with someone just because you both produced another human being; it’s like deciding you will have lots in common because you are the same height or wear the same size shoe. It makes no sense when you really think about it. A baby-wearing, organic loving, vegan woman won’t have much in common with the woman who has the latest in designer threads and refuses to let having a baby stop her from her weekly hair-dry. Of course, I am just using extreme examples here but seriously having a baby won’t automatically gain you lots of soul sisters!
Yet I went along to my local Gymboree class hopeful of making some sort of connection. I’m not the most chatty of people and the tiny lady was slow to mix so nothing happened beyond me having a headache by the end of the first session. But I persisted. However, finally I had to admit it just wasn’t happening yet the tiny lady was warming to it so we kept going. Luckily for me that I did.
After a few weeks a new face appeared among the crowd. I made small talk with her at the beginning of class (go me – small talk isn’t exactly my forte). From there we decided to meet for coffee. As time flew by in Costa Coffee and we were still chatting I realised I had done it. The golden grail of motherhood. I’d made a new mammy friend! Not just an acquaintance type friend with nothing to chat about beyond our brood but someone I actually have lots in common with. We even like the same random eighties film (a film I thought nobody even knew about).
Now as well as my new buddy another old friend also attends the class so it’s a lovely mid-week social outing for me and the tiny lady. Joining classes can actually work! Clearly I can’t say it will work all the time but when it does you will be so glad you forced yourself to do it. My advice is to try an activity based class rather than a general mums and tots group. If you have absolutely nothing in common with anyone at least you can focus on the activity itself. At coffee morning for mums & tots there can sometimes be a clique who have been going there forever while newer members circle feeling self-concious and awkward. Do yourself a favour and avoid unless you know a member of the inner group.
New mums often miss the social interactions of work so classes for young children can be a life-saver but don’t feel bad if they don’t work for you or you don’t find one that fits. It can be difficult enough to find your tribe in any life-stage but it is particularly hard with a small child in tow; you can’t even make conversation for longer than a minute without interruption. Try what works for you. If you can find a babysitter take up an exercise class or a new hobby. And if you still find all this too overwhelming, start online there are lots of forums out there you can join without even having to get dressed! Remember everybody feels lonely when at home with just the four walls and a baby to talk to so don’t worry that you are the only one. Take heart and know you are not alone.