One of the very best things I’ve ever done in my life is to form a mother’s group.
My oldest son is a couple days off from turning 6. My body hadn’t been coping very well with the pregnancy and after being in and out of hospital for a few weeks, an emergency delivery happened and he was safely incubated in the humidicrib at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) within minutes of being born at 32 weeks. For those who don’t have kids, that’s early, a bit too early. That means that his lungs weren’t fully developed and needed help breathing. This also meant that he had hair all over his body which normally comes off before reaching full gestation at 40 weeks. For the next 5 weeks after he was born, I was in and out of the NICU visiting him and expressing milk since he was too young to even suck to try and breastfeed. All the while I’m having to take blood thinners that I have to inject myself to help dilute the blood clot that had formed in my groin, I was in incredible pain physically from complications, the surgery of birth, and a slipped disc. I was in incredible emotional pain as it all happened so quickly, the birth occurred 10 hours away from where I had intended in a fully medicated way when I had envisioned a water birth, instead I was put under anaesthetic and completely knocked out, I didn’t even get to hold my own baby for two days after he was born. So without support other than my husband who was near breakdown status as well since his wife nearly died and his baby was so foreign with cords attached at every limb and part of his little body and a huge breathing apparatus covering his face, my husband was barely hanging on during his shift work days off.
I will suggest to every pregnant woman forever to go to antenatal classes in the 2nd trimester just in case, because I had aimed for the 3rd trimester and he was already out in the world, so I was wholly unprepared to do things as simple as change a diaper, or anything maternal it seemed. I was in shock and didn’t have any friends or family around for support. When he finally came home I was elated and within a couple of days quickly overwhelmed. Although my body had healed a lot more, I was still so broken, and I had some very dark days, the darkest I’ve ever known.
When the community nurse mentioned something about a parenting class happening, I signed up and made sure I was there. I had missed the antenatal class and I felt like I was flailing and I knew deeply that I wasn’t coping well.
When I walked in to the group, everyone was in a circle and I saw some people that I had met at the NICU. Another mentioned that they saw my son there. Another mentioned that their partner had talked to my partner one day in the NICU. It was only a small group and yet we were already connected. We talked about parenting and how to soothe a crying baby by checking if the baby is hungry, warm or cold, has a clean diaper, needs sleep, needs a cuddle, and this felt like a revelation to me. I had ordered a book that basically said that I’d know what to do, if I can summarise a book in a sentence that is what it was. The thing is that I hadn’t had the whole become a mother life plan on the cards, not really, so I hadn’t really thought about or spent any time with little people nor babies. I soaked up the information as best as I possibly could.
At the end of our sessions together, I just knew I couldn’t say goodbye yet. I had felt more normal amongst these women than I had since having the baby and knew I had to do what I could to keep us together. I asked each mom if they were interested in joining a Facebook group with me that I created on the spot, and to my delightful surprise each and every one of them said yes. We then met for the first time a week later for Valentine’s Day 2015 at my house and had our own meeting.
We all got along so well that we just kept getting together, sometimes up to three and four times a week. 5 and a half years on, we still meet in some combination most weeks, covid-19 has put a bit of a pause on gatherings in 2020.
Over these years, these women have come to mean so much to me. They have shown me what true friendship is and together we have gone through the highs and lows of becoming the moms that we are. We’ve collectively experienced new babies, miscarriages, buying houses, moving, breakups, new relationships, job changes, and starting kindergarten. It’s been incredible and totally added so much quality into my life and to my family’s lives. Not having our own family nearby means that this group have become like cousins and when everyone gets together it’s like we haven’t missed a beat, it’s wonderful, and a total and complete gift.