On the advice of friends we decided the chance of making a whole load of new, local friends who were about to become first time parents seemed too good to pass up. Going to NCT classes seemed ideal. Living in London we have a mixed bunch of friends, none of whom have kids, all of whom are fairly fond of an alcoholic beverage or two. Finding people who didn’t mind sitting inside the pub as opposed to in the smoking area with a pack of 20 on the go seemed prudent.
It’s a bit over a year ago since we started the classes, I can still remember the first meeting with the other hugely pregnant mums and the nervous, trying to make an impression, dads. The classes were fun, in stark contrast to the reality of giving birth, and we thought everyone was just fabulous. Some, of course, seemed more our kind of people than others but everyone seemed great. How amazing to be able to find friends like this and all for about £400 per couple.
It all started off well – whatsapp groups were set up, dates were made for coffee and we all sat around rubbing our bumps and feeling fabulous drinking our decafs. Things fell away a bit while everyone squeezed out their respective babies.. 4 boys and 4 girls. Perfection.
In the early days it seemed like a bond was being formed. But quite quickly someone was upset – I shit you not – because she thought the other mum was having a dig at her for mentioning that she was moving her baby onto size 2 nappies.
In the following months I reached out to the group a few times when baby was sick and I was feeling like I needed a friendly ear. I got nothing back. Soon it was clear that a mini group had formed and they were meeting a lot more frequently and in contact a lot more and I wasn’t a party to that. I’m 34 years old and the only other time I can remember feeling like this is when I was in an all girls secondary school aged 15. Even then it didn’t seem so bad, at least in school you expect that.
I soon realised that arriving to the meet up and announcing how hard I was finding the sleepless nights and the breastfeeding and everything else was a one way street and if they were also feeling like that I had no idea. I felt like they were actually enjoying the fact that I was finding it hard. They knew a whole lot about how I was coping and I knew nothing about their situation. I decided to remove myself from the group meet ups for the sake of my sanity. I had made one friend from the group and we were getting incredibly close. After a hiatus from the meet ups we made the effort to get things going again, the babies seemed to love the chance to taste some new toys and it was a shame for them not to have their playgroup. It was as bad as ever to the point where the others just stopped showing up, without even bothering to tell us.
I feel extremely lucky to have made a friend in the last year. I know we’ll be friends for a very long time but I am still struggling to get my head around what happened to the rest of the group. Why, as women, do we find it so hard to support each other? Why do we feel the need to compete with each other? Why do we have to be fucking assholes all the time? The first year of motherhood is hard. I assume the second and subsequent years are fairly tricky too. It would have been so much easier if I could have been honest with these women and we could have helped each other through it.
My friend told me she once sat in a local coffee shop holding her newborn baby, facing the wall with her back to the rest of the coffee shop and sobbed. Feeling the most alone she ever had. And you know what is the shocking thing? I know some of those women would have revelled in the knowledge that that had happened.
Thankfully as time as passed quite a few of my London friends have popped out sprogs and more are on the way. They must have seen how easy it was for me and decided to follow suit. I hope when they feel sad they’ll know that it’s ok and that no one is expected to be ok after having their vaginal ripped open and their nipples sucked raw.