In July last year, I took my 2 month old daughter to our first baby group. I’d been trying for a baby for several years and our beautiful little girl, Bella, arrived in April 2019. I’m a lawyer by profession and had, many times, had found myself politely explaining to people that I wasn’t ‘putting my career first’ nor was I some Cruella De Ville type character who hated children! It just hadn’t happened for me yet.
It goes without saying that I was overjoyed when my daughter was born. I was also overwhelmed and felt like I was in some sort of prolonged state of shock for the first 6 weeks whilst I tried to navigate feeds, sleep and nappies along with sleep deprivation.
During one night feed, when Bella was about 6 weeks old, she looked up at me and smiled. From that point on, I kept noticing lots about her unique personality as she started reacting to my voice and expressions and I felt my confidence grow. My GP, parents and friends all suggested I try a baby group. ‘You’ll make lifelong friends’ I was told, as well as lots of other well meaning platitudes that it would get me out of the house and socialising.
I should add that I was 38 by this point, and although I didn’t admit it to anyone, felt a little anxious about being an older mum. ‘What should I wear to a baby group’ I found myself thinking. Should I make an effort and wear a dress and makeup, or will I be considered too ‘together’ by the other mums? Will I be shunned if I don’t wear leggings, or will I look scruffy and be considered a bad mother? After several outfit changes I turned up in a denim dress, channeling understated chic. Unintentionally, I had also dressed the baby in a Paddington denim dress and realised on my arrival that we were co-ording like Kardashian’s.
So, everyone sat in a big circle and I quickly scanned the room desperately trying to establish if anyone looked about my age. Was there anything about these women I could connect with, other than the babies, what should I say to them? I noticed that some women had arrived together, and later established that they’d met at NCT classes, which I’d never been to. Some women had jobs in common and paired off, others were very quiet and I struggled to get beyond the usual questions like their babies name, age and birth weight. Over several weeks I found myself chatting to a GP who confided in me that she only came to groups because she felt she had to and would be judged if she didn’t.
I’ve since met lots of women who just didn’t click with the other women in baby groups. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these women were unkind or frosty but it got me thinking that society seems to put a lot of pressure on new mums. You’ve got to breast feed, lose baby weight, look great and make lots of new friends. What if you’re a bit shy or simply don’t have much in common?
I went to lots of different baby groups in the following months. We tried all sorts of activities, swimming, sensory development and music classes. It was just amazing to see Bella grow in confidence and break out in fits of giggles at some of the wonderful class teachers. I discovered that you can’t force friendships. I met lots of wonderful mums and dads, grandparents and carers from all walks of life. Doctors, teachers, beauticians, engineers, nannies, company directors, and stay at home parents.
The best friends I’ve made have had the confidence to ask me for my number, go for coffee or a walk after group. This is where Movement and Bloom comes in. Late in the year, I noticed a free social walk arranged by Natalie. I went along to Birkenhead Park and joined the group of at least 20 other mums with their buggies. As I walked along chatting endlessly, I realised this is such a great way to get to know people. There’s no sitting around in a circle trying to psychoanalyse one another or stressing about what to wear. You can just get out there in your exercise gear and be yourself. Exercise and laughter are a more powerful high than you might think.
My advice to new mums is not to force it, don’t overthink everything. Chat to people, and if you get along, don’t be afraid to exchange numbers and get out there for a walk and a coffee, it’s the best way to to make friends. By the way, don’t wear a dress to a baby group if you want to preserve your dignity, you’ve got to sit cross legged in a circle!