When I sprogged out baby number 1 I had just moved to a new city with a new husband and was jobless, friendless and scared shitless. I had never been around children growing up, none of my friends had had children and prior to falling in love and getting knocked up (I deplore and secretly love the violence of that term) I was touring as a stand up, drinking every night and bouncing around Europe.
I was desperate for mommy friends and yet terrified about not fitting in, knowing all the right stuff, looking stupid, you know all the same stuff that plagued most of us in grade 6. So I made my way to the local new moms group meeting weekly in the leisure centre. I looked around searching the faces anxiously for a flicker of connection. I tentatively threw out some light comments to test the waters -
Do they serve wine at these things?
And of course the gushing compliments
She is so cute! How old is she? Oh, sorry - he?
Next week I sat beside the 'cool' mom I had made light banter with and she blanked me the whole meeting. Okaydokey. Try not to take it personally, maybe her stupid husband was leaving her and she just got the text message today. Not everything is about me...repeat.
Third week and I just didn't care anymore. No friends, not going to fit in here at all. Fine. Then a mom in a green shirt with spit up on the shoulder leaned over, 'How old is yours?' We found out that our boys were born a day apart. We made a date to meet for a walk that week. The week after that we were joined by another mom. The three of us started going for walks 2, 3 sometimes even 5 times a week.
We were confident mothers on those walks. Proud of our ability to make it look easy. We talked about our great husbands. DIY jobs on our houses. Hopes and dreams for the future. But we never really talked openly. Or at least I didn't. I didn't talk about how hard I was finding it. How my husand and I were struggling financially and emotionally. I wasn't sleeping even when my son was. I was terrified that this gift given to me would be taken away. I checked on his breathing 20 times a night. I was finding being a house wife tedious. But I didn't talk about this with my new friends. I talked about the sweet potato puree that I made the night before. I watched what they did with their babies and tried to copy them. I assumed they knew more than I did.
One day I called mid wife and said that I wasn't coping. Maybe it was depression or the baby blues or whatever but I was crying all the time and I felt like a failure most days. She referred me to a talking therapy group that met in my neighborhood. I was scared that my friends would find out and kept the whole thing to myself.
The night of the first meeting I was shaking with fear I didn't think that I would even make it. I day dreamed about just saying I went but going to a movie instead. Then I was seized a fear of being alone that I have never experienced. I used to go to movies alone, relished a hour in a cafe by myself to flip through the newspapers but suddenly the thought of being without my son or anyone reduced me to an insecure shaking mess.
So I went. The counsellor running the session was nice. She invited me into the upper floor of a play centre where cups of tea and coffee were set out in a living room setting. It felt okay. A few moms started to come in and we were getting ready to start. Just then the door opened up and underneath the dark green hood of her rain coat was my walking buddy.
She looked shocked. I smiled sheepishly. She looked nervous. The counsellor noticed and said 'Do you two know each other?'
We nodded and explained that we are friends outside of the group. She asked if we wanted to continue or if we wanted separate groups. I nodded and said I would be okay with it. My friend paused and said 'I don't know how I feel about it'
The counsellor nodded and said 'Would you both be able to agree not to bring up anything raised in group when you are out socially?'
I said sure and my friend looked more scared than I'd ever seen her before. She started to cry.
'You just always seem so confident and I really need a place where I can be honest without being judged'
I didn't know what to say to that. I was pretty stunned that my acting normal had gone so well. For 3 months at least 2 a week I had walked for at least 2 hours with this woman and we had talked non stop and yet we hadn't shared anything that was really important. The sugar content of the rice crackers - yup talked about that. The fact that our mothers were really shit Nanas..nope missed that massive well of hurt. Skipped over the strain on our marriages to discuss in depth which baby bottle was BPA free.
Mamas - love your fellow mamas. Kindness and honesty are the most wonderfu boomerang gifts - they come right back to you.
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