Support in Motherhood, a.k.a. Mum Friends!
Being a mum-to-be or a new mum is hard. Aside from the joy, excitement, pride, and pure happiness that may be flooding your systems, the journey can also have a few bumps in the road, and what better person to hold your hand as you navigate those bumps but that of a fellow mum who is likely experiencing just the same emotions and difficulties as you?
Often when you are pregnant or a new mum, you become very focused on life with a baby. It can be all-consuming, which may mean that the relationships with life-long friends you've built up until this point alter slightly. And that's ok. It's great to have friends who keep you grounded to your identity before you were mum! However, it is also important to find a tribe of mum friends who you feel comfortable with sharing your thoughts and feelings. Studies show that focused support in the way of mother-to-mother groups reduce levels of stress, therefore improving overall physical and mental health.
It is wonderful if you can build this support network in pregnancy. There's a lot of planning/product advertising/recommendations around pregnancy and birth and it can feel like a minefield of 'where do I start'?! Plus, an established support network can make those first few weeks with baby that little bit easier when nappy changing, sleepless nights and getting to grips with feeding your baby mean that there is little time for finding local mum friends. The old saying 'a problem shared is a problem halved' is very applicable for the motherhood journey - it's amazing how you can feel the weight lift of your shoulders when you realise that it's not just you experiencing these feelings, or it's not just your baby who is keeping you up all night. I've seen these moments first hand in classes - these chats don't necessarily provide the answers and resolution to the problem, for example, babies will keep you up in the night, however to see a mum's tired face light up when she realises that those around her have also experienced it, and maybe have experienced it start to get better, gives her just the boost and feeling of solidarity that she needs.
But just how do we find our band of sisters, the friends that will hold us up when things get tough, who will reassure us that what we're feeling is normal, who will put the kettle on for a cuppa and a chat, or encourage us out in the fresh air for a walk?
Recently I posted a poll on my social media asking how mums met their 'mum friends' and the results were overwhelmingly in two camps. The first camp being Antenatal classes. The second being baby classes (i.e. baby massage or baby groups).
Antenatal classes are a great place to start - I know that due to Covid-19 restrictions these are currently being held online, and whilst it's not the same, it is possible to strike a conversation. This means that you can start to build a network before baby is here; how wonderful. At this point, you still have time to chat, and get to know the person before baby may well take over the conversation (not a bad thing, just different!).
Baby classes, such as baby massage, are also a fantastic place to meet new mums. Babies are often very close in age, so shared experiences are easy to chat about. You will also be guaranteed to see each other each week, so it's a wonderful opportunity.
You can also, in 'normal' times attend many free events locally, such as rhyme time at libraries, or at children's centres. These may not be so consistent as, with them being drop ins, you may only see someone once, so strike up a conversation, ask where they got their babies outfit from or if they go to any other groups.
But what I would say is be brave. In many of the classes (pregnancy and baby) I have hosted, it takes just one person to say, 'Shall we swap numbers' for things to take off. From this simple action, lunch dates after classes are arranged, WhatsApp groups become full of chats and advice and the network is built.
From personal experience, as a midwife I didn't go to antenatal classes. This really worried me when I had my first baby as I had got all the way through pregnancy and knew no-one who had a little one just like me. When you have a newborn, you find that, no matter how busy they keep you, you also have free time to want to get out and about, and you want someone to share that with. So, if groups are not your thing, or you don't have the opportunity to go to antenatal classes, never underestimate the power of going online. There are lots of apps now (please feel free to share your recommendations) to meet local mums, and local groups on social media are fantastic. Head to a local Facebook group and go for it - post to see if any local mums are interested in a get together (socially distanced of course). You could also head to netmums or mumsnet where they have 'meet a mum' areas (this was my success story) and you can get to know people this way.
Ultimately, there are lots of ways to find your tribe. Go for it - have fun. I used to think of it as dating. You may meet a few that you don't click with along the way, and that's fine, but then you'll find those that just 'get you' - and you'll never look back.
P.S. If you'd like to find out more about my Pregnancy or Baby Classes, and how you can start to build your tribe of mummy friends, you can do so here.