It seems crazy that a group you’ve only known for a year can be the people you confide in and expose your rawest emotions to. But when you’re in the trenches together as new mums, an inevitable bond develops. It’s stronger than any other type of friendship you’ve had before, and it can pull you through even the darkest of days. And it’s because of this I thank my lucky stars for my ‘Mumates’.
As a new mum, it can be a terrifying prospect to leave the house with a newborn. In my case, I wouldn’t even open the curtains for the first three days. The outside world seemed like a terrifying place. I was barely holding it together and the thought of someone glimpsing in to my life and seeing how much of a mess I was made a lump swell in my throat.
It wasn’t until I saw how worried my husband and my mum were about me that I finally took the plunge and ventured out into the big bad world, but more specifically, to a post-natal breastfeeding clinic.
My hair was lank and in dire need of a wash, my nursing bra was unclipped at one side to accommodate my inexplicably one engorged breast and I’m pretty sure my mattress of a maternity pad was visible even through my thick jeans and long padded coat. I opened the door and almost instantly a wave of relief hit me. We all look like shit! Hurray! We’re all terrified out of our wits! Woohoo! That girl over there is crying! Hallelujah! Now I’m not one to revel in someone else’s misfortune, but hell I’ll revel in our collective misfortune all day!
A few cups of tea in, and I felt more like my old self than I had in weeks. Maybe it’s an extension of the maternal instinct but they all went out of their way to make me feel human again.
Mumates just get it. They’re going through it too, and they’re just as shit-scared and lost as you are. There is no greater feeling as a new mum than to be able to come to the realisation that you aren’t alone, and that someone else has also sat on the stairs and cried at least three times today too.
Just knowing someone is feeling the way you are feeling is a huge comfort. They don’t give you any answers most of the time, because they don’t know the answer themselves, but by simply sharing your experiences with someone who’s going through it too, being a new mum can seem like less of a daunting and lonely place.
In the first few hours of our new-found friendship, we had already seen each other at our most vulnerable. For me that was sobbing in a chair as a breastfeeding councillor rhythmically squeezed my breast to stimulate milk whilst my new Mumates sat with me and chatted as if we were getting our nails done and what was happening was the most normal thing on Earth. Once someone has witnessed something as surreally messed-up as that, you’re pretty much going to have to be best friends for life, or vow to never see each other ever again.
Luckily, we collectively agreed on the former, and we saw each other nearly every day of maternity leave. We have laughed together, we have cried together, we have talked about our ‘battle-scars’ (mainly tearing and episiotomy-related) and after a few months of getting used to being mums we finally solidified our friendship by getting drunk together too.
These women are warriors. I adore them. Having known them for little over a year, they still manage to inspire me every day. They juggle jobs, babies, older children, sleep deprivation, chronic illnesses, marriages, separation – all with such strength and determination. They are a constant source of comfort and support to me and I honestly wouldn’t have made it through this last 12 months without them.
I would urge anyone who’s a new mum to take that daunting first step outside and visit a local mother & toddler session / clinic / baby class. Odds-on however scared and shitty you’re feeling, someone near you is feeling exactly the same way, and they’re just as desperate to rant to someone about how hard they’re finding everything.
And for those about to have a baby, make sure you to join at least one pre-natal class. Joining NCT and attending the NHS pre-natal workshops was hands-down the best decision I made. I was able to meet a group of girls that I love so dearly, I will forever be in their debt for the support and love they have shown me, and trite as it might sound, I know we’ll be friends forever.