New mothers need friends to support them
I’m not ashamed to admit that I found the early weeks of motherhood extremely hard. In fact, I think it would be better if more mothers were more open about just how hard those first few weeks can be! I still have days where I have a complete melt-down, and my baby is now 9 weeks old! It’s definitely getting a lot easier now and that is due to a number of reasons: Millar is a bit older, therefore generally a bit more content; he’s also on medication for his reflux, which has really helped as we have a lot less inconsolable screaming; also I am better at knowing what he wants and simply accepting that sometimes babies cry and you can’t fix it – that was the hardest thing to learn!
But the thing that really saved me over the first two months of his life was having mummy friends. I really cannot stress the importance of this enough. Normal friends are great, particularly if you’ve known them for years and can ask them to make you a cup of tea when they come to visit, rather than vice versa, but nothing beats having mummy friends who are at a very similar stage to you, with babies of roughly the same age.
I did already have some friends with babies, but they are mostly a bit older and I genuinely believe that something happens to mothers’ brains to make them forget just a little bit about hard it was. Otherwise I guess we would never have more children! So for this reason, I joined the NCT and went to antenatal classes with a group of people due at roughly the same time as me. The information we were told at the NCT class was relatively useless and nothing that you can’t read on the internet really, but the people have been absolutely invaluable. There were six couples in my group including us and all five of the other ladies are lovely and we got on well. But there are two in particular that I hit it off with and we got together before we had the babies and used to message each other on Facebook a lot leading up to giving birth.
I was due first out of the three of us, but one of the other babies just couldn’t hang on and arrived two weeks before even my due date. I had Millar on his due date as I was induced, then the other lady had hers ten days later, so we are all pretty much around the same time. And their friendship and support has been such a lifeline over the last few weeks. When I sit in bed in the dark at 3 in the morning, either feeding Millar or waiting for him to fall into a deep enough sleep for me to put him back in his crib, I quite often find that one of the other two is online too – there was one morning at about 4am where we were all up feeding at the same time. It is just such a relief to know that someone else is going through it right now as well.
I appreciate that the NCT is not for everyone and is not cheap. The other absolute saviour early on was my local children’s centre. I was really struggling in those early days and my midwife suggested I go to a breastfeeding group on a Monday morning. Millar was two weeks old and I finally made it out of the house (late, of course) and was so nervous about going in. I nearly turned around and walked home again. But I plucked up courage, went in, and met the loveliest bunch of people you could possible imagine. I was immediately offered tea and cake, congratulated on having even got up and dressed, let alone out of the house, and made to feel totally and utterly welcome. Their babies are a few months older, but from that first day, some of the girls there exchanged numbers with me and invited me to one of their houses for cake later in the week.
I now see and talk to these new friends I have made in the last few months more than any of my other friends. I still value my friendships with non-mummy friends, but having a network of people who you can ask for advice, rant about something that you’re finding hard, commiserate about lack of sleep, and go to see knowing that it really doesn’t matter if your baby cries, is so so so important and has made the utter whirlwind of having a baby so much more manageable and fun.
At that first breastfeeding group, affectionately known amongst its members as ‘boob group’, one girl came up to me at the end and put her arm round me, asking if I was ok. A little dazed and teary, I nodded and she gave me a squeeze saying, ‘I recognise that look in your eyes’. That’s what you need. People who get it. And who really get it, not people who just say they do and give you sympathetic looks as your baby cries. People who are going through it. And people who give you cake!