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I walked into my first Mother's Group meeting bleary eyed, overweight, lactating and oh-so-tired. My daughter was two weeks old: a small, pink bundle of screams.
I didn't know it at the time, but she had severe reflux, throwing up the contents of every feed right back on me.
My midwife had given me the number of my local baby clinic, and I found out about the six-week session of a 'Mother's Group'. I was desperate for some mummy-friends. I had just moved house, left my job and had a baby. My family was far away and my life felt topsy-turvy.
Just getting out of the house that first day seemed like a monumental achievement: wipes, nappies, spare clothes for the baby, spare clothes for me, pram, baby seat, more nappies … the reality of a baby compared to pregnancy was stark.
I genuinely couldn't see my life past the newborn stage. It felt like all I would do forever more is sit on the couch and breastfeed, be thrown up on, or change nappies. I wasn't depressed, but I was pretty close, and I certainly felt overwhelmed with my new reality.
So in I trudged to Mother's Group, a room of 30 new Mums and their babies, with no expectations about how this would change my life.
We sat through our weekly sessions, learning how to swaddle our infants; the best ways to soothe them at night … how to play with our new babies. We slowly reached out to one another, meeting first at a local club when our official sessions were over, then at one another's homes.
We became friends. Our children learnt to crawl together, then walk, then run. They spoke their first words at each other, and we celebrated their milestones together.
Six months into our Mother's Group and our numbers had largely settled into a group of six. We bravely went out on our first dinner together at Christmas, some of us leaving early for a late night breastfeed.
Our little babies kept growing: play dates at the park became the norm, swimming lessons, and music classes.
Most of us had nothing in common except motherhood: this fantastic bond of instant understanding. It was like a club I never knew existed, and the feeling of being overwhelmed was replaced by a truly awesome support system.
These women have made me a better parent, have consoled me when life's been tough, have babysat my children, have cooked me meals. They have given me advice, understood my exhaustion, made me laugh, made me feel loved.