Do you have a mum gang?

I didn’t go to NCT classes.

For one, it just seemed like another expense in the great line of expenses on your way to motherhood. It’s quite overwhelming really – there is a lot of stuff you suddenly have to face buying. Or do you? One person says the wipe warmer is essential but another says you can make your own wipes. I had 2 options – a free class at the hospital, or an expensive group in the evenings. As I was comatose by 7pm most evenings, and I was happy to take anything free (still am!), I went to the all day Saturday class at the hospital. It was roughly 6 hours of LABOUR IS BLOODY PAINFUL so here are the drugs you may partake in. Everyone sat in stunned silence, probably like me, they were expecting something a little more warm and comforting. Maybe I should have paid for NCT …

 

But another thing held me back (and to be honest, the money was just a happy excuse). Social anxiety. I live in 2 distinct states. In times of anxiety, I want to curl up at home or at most, commit to what I must and see those I love. A room full of people is a NO even if that room is full of people I care about. Unless I am at work – somehow there I can put my work face on. But my job has always been a role I play – that is how I was trained. The second state is much more fun. When the seas of anxiety are calm (which thankfully, they usually are), I like to be social; I love to laugh; I love being busy; I love to party and dance and have FUN. I’ve never been one for straightening my hair – in my 20’s I always loved how my wild waves matched my untamed and fierce personality. I felt like a party animal in its truest sense as I spent hours dancing with my lions mane of hair growing wilder by the minute. Oh to be young and care free. I don’t feel like that so much these days. Age brings wisdom and responsibility and as much as I would love to be wild and free, the mortgage beckons. As does Ocado. And the laundry. But that side of me, the sociable and care-free side, still has a place. I still need social interaction to help me feel fulfilled and happy. You can guess which state I was existing in during my pregnancy. Yep. An anxious ball curled up at home not wishing to talk to anyone that I didn’t already know. Even meeting a new midwife was stressful.

It wasn’t until months after the birth of Boo, when the peri and post natal anxiety and depression was finally under control, that I suddenly realised that there was a very good reason for joining NCT: to find my tribe. I had spent months being flaky when it came to baby groups. After a close friend returned to work, I didn’t feel so confident going anymore. I actually made some really wonderful friends there, but at the time, I was so anxious it was hard to know whether they liked me or put up with me. So I opted out most weeks. Again, I had a happy excuse … Boo was sleeping (it was always during nap time); Boo was ill; Boo was cranky. All true, but really, I leapt on these excuses because I felt safer and more comfortable at home. I took Boo swimming and loved it – but it wasn’t really social. I had to focus so closely on not drowning my baby while in shoulder-high water it wasn’t really conducive to building friendships. Again though, I made some lovely friends here, but it was a slow burner. Any other baby group I happily declined/missed/never signed up in the first place. And so, as the social Kate was starting to re-emerge I realised I may have missed my chance at forming my mummy gang. My tribe of women to share laughs and tears with. The friends to call when the baby has been crying for 4 hours and I need a break. The girls who get it.

 

I hate anxiety. At that moment of realisation I absolutely despised anxiety.

 

You see, if I had joined NCT, maybe I would have had a ready made tribe. I group of gals to share pics with over Whatsapp. Ladies what lunch. Coffee and cake dates galore.

 

Maybe. Probably not. PND is rubbish and now, looking back, I know that even if I had been part of NCT, I would have ignored the calls, made my excuses and stayed at home.

And that is OK. I had PND. I kept my baby safe. I helped her thrive. I poured all the energy that I could muster into nurturing her despite how impossible that felt.

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Prosecco and PJ’s in the days before the anxiety cloud had lifted and I felt comfortable being social
And now I know something else too; I already had my tribe. The girls. They already had their babies but they could always put on a good night and knew exactly what to say. They knew prosecco and laughter cured all. They get it. My work buddy. Couldn’t parent without her. We don’t see each other so much these days but we chat often and I love it when our girls hang out. She gets it. My other work buddy. I love her brood. I love how when I leave her company I feel relaxed and rejuvenated. She gets it. My husband’s friend. She’s not his friend anymore; she is my closest ally. She understands completely. Our children love each other and are betrothed to be wed. She can come to my house when it is a total mess. She gets it. 

 

These friendships have built and changed. We’ve met frequently or barely at all. But these women get me. They love me and I love them. Dearly. They have kept me going and been there whatever state I am currently existing in. They have also given me the courage to like myself; be kind to myself and value myself. And because of this, I now have the confidence to write. To share. To grow my tribe and be there for others who need it. Of course there are others too. Other friends who I love and value just as dearly. I don’t value their friendships less. If I was writing about people who I turn to for life advice or the people I trust with my most raw feelings – the list would change. It’s just that my tribe – my motherhood gang – get me not just as Kate but me as mum. And most importantly, they’ve helped those 2 sides of me – Kate and mum – to learn how to happily co-exist.

 

So to Natalie, Sue, Clare, Emily, Kelly and Vickey THANK YOU. You are amazing. You are all wonder women. I love you all.

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