Baby groups : its a jungle out there!
Eva and I have been to a lot of groups over the past year. There’s been newborn groups, fancy dress groups, sensory groups, mum and baby coffee mornings, baby music classes, baby swimming lessons, and even mum and baby exercise classes. We’ve done it all. But what point would I like to make about all these activities? Well….I for one found them bloody tough for a lot of reasons and I wanted to share this in the hope I might help a mummy out who feels the same…..
I compare starting out in baby groups to the first day at secondary school….it takes guts to walk into the room because it’s a new environment and social group that will be unfamiliar if you are a first time mum like I was. So in each group, I smiled like a loon trying to give off ‘I’m a lovely happy mummy please befriend me’ vibes. I used to compare how I looked (still do) from other mums, convincing myself my hair was scruffier, my clothes more stained with baby sick, and most of all that I was the only mum in the room, the only mum in any room, who had lost a baby, felt the pain of grief, and had a horror show of a pregnancy. I would over hear conversations like ‘I was induced at 40 weeks’, ‘he/she was 8lbs 2oz’, and inwardly cringe that I couldn’t join in and talk about a normal, full term pregnancy or even share a normal birth story. My negative brain would tell me every other smiling, well groomed, confident mum had enjoyed a blissful pregnancy and birth, and that I was alone in it all. There I would sit, assuming everyone else was unscathed by their journey to getting that baby in their arms. I would meet happy chatting mums and leave thinking ‘why do they seem to have all their shit together and I can barely get dressed in a morning?’, ‘why am I always the scruffy flustered one turning up late?’
And what was the answer to this loneliness, this battered down self esteem and feeling like shit from the energy it takes to put on a smile and pretend you’re ok? TALKING. Of all these mums I envied….talking to them and admitting that in fact I have insecurities, carry pain and suffer general mum strife literally SAVED me. Mums I had known for weeks and assumed were perfectly functioning humans, were really battered and bruised IVF warriors, miscarriage survivors, infertility soldiers. They were grieving from previous baby loss, from cancer scares, from a breakdown in shitty relationships, from post-natal depression. From crippling anxiety and sleep deprivation. They too were pretending, smoothing their wild hair down, putting on a bit of lippy and earrings to take the edge off the sore boobs and bags under the eyes. They were smiling through the shit, getting out the house, and putting on a brave face, just like me. Sounds exhausting right? Why do we do this to ourselves?
It’s a cliché, but you really can feel so lonely in a room full of people. Whilst I may have had the additional challenge of overcoming grief and recovering from the NICU, I was no different to any other mum in any of those groups. In terms of the newborn group I attended….those women are a cherished lifeline and we continue to meet and stay in touch long after the 6 week course came to an end. We help each other out through baby health worries, mum gripes, and share memories of our babies together. Moral of the story : turn up in what you want, be open and honest, and never ever allow yourself to feel alone. Do not assume everyone else is doing it better than you, is happier than you, or has had it easy – they haven’t. Cherish the new mum friendships you have – they will save your life. Being a mum is mind-blowingly hard – lets help each other out, be kind, be friendly and reach out in these groups. You have no idea how much the mum you are speaking to will value that.