Do you remember those isolated early days when you had your first baby?
I can clearly recall that the support seemed to be everywhere in numbers and yet (impossibly), nowhere simultaneously. There were nurses, doctors, professionals and consultants, friends, family – even well-meaning neighbours, all gathering around at every opportunity, cooing and clucking, commenting earnestly with experience and education and everything in between.
And there I, (and most likely you too) sat, at the centre of it all, feeling bone-tired, deliriously proud, crazily overwhelmed and mentally scrambling for something (or someone) to anchor your rocking world.
Oh god, will I ever forget those days… (Will you?)
Whether you welcome it or not, your new baby and the new life that sprouts with it, is a magnet for advice and anyone and everyone will freely offer it to you. It’s all part of the motherhood game, at least until you’ve quelled the masses with a bit of a brood and some associated experience to keep them all at bay.
Back then, I remember I used to crave the advice and support I would garner from those early-on scheduled visits with my maternal health nurse. She was a much older lady and had never had kids and yet she was to me, a beacon amidst the confusion.
Behind the security of her office door each fortnight, she was everything to this new mother: Her advice a virtual encyclopaedia on motherhood, her office a confessional, and her listening skills – that of a friend. She could see through each mummy’s thinly-veiled and fragile veneer and grasp them at the core. This remarkable woman was my rock in those first early weeks and I will feel forever indebted to her for pulling us through some tough days, intact.
It was my wonderful senior maternal health nurse who suggested I join a new mum’s group with a handful of other local women who had given birth within the fortnight that my first daughter had arrived. I erred immediately – the thought of being surrounded by even more people offering-up advice while my feet were sliding uncontrollably on the motherhood road beneath me, quite frankly, terrified me.
I declined, with insistence. I didn’t have time, I didn’t need it. I wasn’t interested.
Thankfully she was gently forceful about it. (No doubt she was used to this reaction from lost first-timers.)
“This is something all new mums partake in – just try it once” she coerced.
My destiny was sealed then, scrawled in pencil into her jumbo date book spread across her lap. I bit my own lip and broke out in a mild sweat as I watched her scratch my name among the other women with whom I had been fatefully delegated.
My first official mother’s group was scheduled to begin as a five week crash-course on newborn baby care at her office, almost immediately.
Nervous as hell was the only way to describe myself. (Plus excited, relieved and terrified as a deluge of jittery emotions swept over me.) Ultimately, (and wisely), I trusted this woman, and valued her judgement and so I went with the flow of the mums who’d trod before me.
From that very first meeting in our maternal health centre as a group of around eight new mothers, our friendships together were cemented, not just for weeks, but for years.
In the course of just five weeks, we came to know one other at our local maternal centre over instant coffee, cheap biscuits and the cries of our new and binding additions. Cautious and protective at first, we each took baby steps and carefully worded our conversations. Initially our chats were all about universally safe mummy topics – our birth experiences, the difficulties of adjusting to new motherhood and of course, the development of our babies.
With time, our burgeoning friendship ensured those meet-ups continued at the homes of each other and in local cafes. As our trust intertwined at the roots, we began to open up in the safety of our familiarity. Not surprisingly, the conversation regularly began to delve deeper into the truer areas of motherhood we were experiencing: the relationship issues, the coping issues, post-natal depression, the raw and abrasive emotions and the guilt we felt – the serious motherhood stuff that only other mamas know about bubbled readily to the surface at our weekly meets and vented there like escaping and cleansing steam.
Motherhood is not the glossy image portrayed in magazines and we were quickly coming to recognise that fact. Together we discovered and united in the realisation that it was okay to feel depressed, lonely, anxious, worn-out, un-sexy, teary and a million other less-than-glamorous emotions. At our meet-ups we shared, supported and listened to the plights of one another’s experience of motherhood and it was welcomed, powerful and healing.
Cultivating your mummy friends is just as important as caring for your child – It’s caring for yourself.
While you will no doubt find yourself surrounded by carers in those early baby days, none will truly understand your unique situation like another mama who has walked the very same road. Make sure you reach out to other mums and keep up with them as regularly as you can manage. There’s no greater assistance and comfort available to you when you’re feeling the full-spectrum joys and trials of motherhood, than the company of other women friends.
Jody ~ Are you part of a mother’s group? Do you make the time to maintain friendships with other women?
If you are nervous about going out to Mothering groups, Hello Mamas is a great way to find like-minded mamas and ease you in gently.
Jody is a mum of 6 young kids. She’s always asked “How do you do it?” “What is it like?” These questions blossomed into the blog it is today, and so much more. Follow Six Little Hearts for all things parenting, recipes for delicious treats and reviews of great products for babies, kids and beyond as well as places to visit with kids (or without!) in and around Melbourne.