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As we (all too rapidly) approach the Little Mister’s first birthday, I have a few posts planned to celebrate not only him, but my first year of parenthood. This is the first one – an open letter to my mothers’ group (I used an apostrophe because it’s totally ours as well as us being a sum of mothers in the plural sense – don’t know why I felt the need to explain…).
Dearest Mothers’ Group,
I can’t believe it’s been almost a year of parenthood and almost a year of knowing you ladies. I remember being nervous when I received the letter from the hospital inviting me to meet up with other parents who had babies the same age as the Little Mister. We were asked to attend a six week course of sorts at the community health centre where we would learn lots of helpful things about parenting a newborn. First, I was nervous about what to bring. I was so new and green with everything so I overpacked the Little Mister’s bag every single week! You would think our session was going to be a camping trip, not a couple of hours! You’ll laugh now, but I had packed so many more bottles than the Little Mister would be able to drink in one day, enough nappies to soak up the Indian Ocean and so many spare outfits in case he had a few disasters! My bag was packed to the brim. Funny thing is, I had planned every outing so that the Little Mister wouldn’t need feeding while we were there. I put a new nappy on him at the last possible moment before leaving home, to avoid having to change him on the change table provided in the room. I was so overawed by my parenting responsibilities!
Before I had the Little Mister, I had heard horror stories of big groups of mothers gathering together. I’d heard of catty comments, competitiveness and the pressure to be with the ‘in’ crowd. I’d heard mothers’ groups could be a horrible experience if you were grouped with the wrong people and that it could get cliquey and stressful. I decided to attend these first meetings with an open mind. I would soak up the parenting information as best as I could, but I wouldn’t put any pressure on myself to become friends with you all or to make myself continue to meet with the group after the health centre meetings ended if it didn’t seem right for me. Of course I hoped it would turn out well, and it did. You won’t believe how much pressure I placed on myself as a new mum (or maybe you will). I wanted to be the perfect parent in every way. I drove myself (and my husband dare I say it) up the wall! As you all may know, I didn’t have the best pregnancy, an ideal birth or an easy time recovering. I believe I had fought off depression a few times (getting perilously close), and although I am so proud I beat those negative thoughts and feelings and that I was strong, it left with me an obsession with getting everything right. So much had gone wrong already and now was my chance to be ‘perfect’ and happy. I had to make everything go ‘right’.
I felt embarrassed because I couldn’t exclusively breastfeed and I dreaded the moment the topic would come up in our first meeting together. I was (stupidly) scared to admit that we were feeding the Little Mister formula because my supply never got to a satisfactory level due to several factors (stress, being separated for three days right after the birth and being sick – on intense courses of antibiotics in the hospital). I now know it wasn’t so bad. In fact, I’m proud that I managed to do what I could despite the circumstances, but at the time I was so fearful of judgement from anyone and everyone! What I’m getting to in my roundabout way, is that the defining moment for me was when you all started sharing your diverse birth stories and various feelings surrounding breastfeeding. Some of you were fortunate enough to breastfeed really well (go you guys!) and some of you, like me, hadn’t had an easy time of it. We talked about the pressure we’d felt in the hospital to breastfeed successfully for the prescribed 6 months (at least) in order to be a good parent and I suddenly relaxed. I wasn’t alone. We were all going to get along just fine! My nerves dissipated almost instantly. Thankyou from the bottom of my heart, ladies.
I love how much we’ve all learnt and grown together. Our Facebook page has been a lifesaver. A sanity saver. Have a question? Ask the girls. Feeling confused about an issue, thinking you’re the only one, someone else will post about the very same thing. It’s been very comforting and we’ve celebrated all those special little milestones with our precious bubs together. I love that there is a way to see some of you just about every week – a way to fill our days together and get out of the house, and it’s been so amazing watching our little ones grow (and steal each other’s biscuits)…
I will admit that sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. Sometimes I just have to switch off from all the mummy talk and take a little break from the Facebook page or various meet-ups. I sometimes forget to nurture who I am outside of being a parent (a stay at home mum curse perhaps?), so I have to balance things out a bit more. What I love about you all is that you give me that space if I need it. We respect each others’ space and busy lives. All of us are so different to each other in so many ways, but I think we each bring something unique and special to the group. I don’t know what my ‘thing’ is exactly (besides leaving the longest comments ever on Facebook – I’m a writer and I’m a chatterbox – I am so sorry!!!), but I hope I am a good friend and that you feel my support.
The fact that we break all those mothers-at-war-with-each-other stereotypes warms my heart.
Congratulations – we’re all awesome and we’ve survived the first year with our first children!!! 🙂
Love (and cuddles to your bubs),
PS. ARE WE READY FOR FIRST BIRTHDAY MAYHEM?!?! IT’S ALMOST UPON US!!!! xoxo
Are you a part of a mothers’/parenting group? How has your experience been? Are you from my mothers’ group? Feel free to say hi!