I'm not sure how many new mothers look forward to joining their local "Mothers Group".... I personally wasn't thrilled by the idea... I had a couple of good friends with babies around the same age as mine and I thought that's all I would need.
My son was about five weeks old when our "Mothers Group" was organised by our local nurse. I was exhausted, wasn't confident breastfeeding and I had the preconceived idea a "mothers group" would be really daggy.
I remember nervously arriving, hoping my baby would sleep for the hour so I wouldn't need to publicly feed. It was a very hot day and the room was only big enough for 15 people however 20 new Mum's along with their babies and prams squeezed into this uncomfortable (noisey) room. I looked around the oval we had formed with our chairs and thought to myself, 'other than living in nearing suburbs and having newborns we have nothing else in common - what am I do here? I don't need this added pressure.'
The only mothers I recall speaking were the ones that seemed to have the 'perfect babies' and were the 'perfect Mothers'. These new Mothers weren't tired, they found breastfeeding a breeze and seemed to find their new life easy.
There was one particular mother who commanded most of the attention - she was very confident (loud) and when speaking in front of the group she was either breastfeeding (she had mastered the skill! I was so impressed) or dabbing her exposed breasts with her breast pad. I'm sure she had everyone's full attention because we were fixated as she spoke waving her hands around and one minute the breast pad she was holding would be on her nipple and the next it would be in the air above her head, leaving her dripping breast exposed. I wasn't offended, I was absolutely fascinated by this woman, I envied her confidence and was judging my sorry self very harshly... this new mother (unknown to her) made me feel like I was failing.
Of course my worst fear happened and my son needed to be fed. I had desperately tried to find another way to pacify him, though it was obvious feeding him was the only way he was going to settle. While breaking out into a light sweat, I tried to discreetly unclip my bra, move the breast pad (without dropping it), blindly get my baby to latch correctly under my shirt (without my trusted feeding pillow), while trying to balance on a chair that my feet didn't touch the ground - in a noisey/hot room (I felt like I should have been an act in Cirque du Soleil).
It was an excruciating hour and by the time I heard the nurse say, "well ladies if you haven't any more questions, I will see you all next week", I had made a bee line to the door, and when I closed my car door I looked at the community house and decided 'I'm not going back!'.
I mentioned to my mother how I wasn't interested in the group and had no intention in returning the following week. Thankfully my Mum talked me into going one more time and I would leave Preston with her so I didn't have the pressure of worrying about him. I was glad I decided to take her advice as the following week 5 women hadn't returned; the room was more comfortable and slowly as the weeks passed the group of 20 was reduced to 10. After a couple of years had passed I mentioned to the group how I almost didn't turn up the second week and a couple of other Mum's said they were the same.
It didn't take long until we felt comfortable with each other and we became more 'real', a couple of new Mum's found it easier than others, though no one found the transition into motherhood easy.
This group of women have not only shared one of (if not 'the') biggest changes in a woman's life, we have been there for each other through breast cancer, separation, divorce, a sea change (moving to the country), an international move (moving back to London), a loss of a sister, we celebrated a wedding, one of our beautiful children in the group was diagnosed with autism, we shared the same fears about juggled our first child with our second baby (some their third), then the next phase of change as a mother - juggling children and returning to work.
There are some unspoken rules of my extraordinary 'mothers group' we don't judge each other, there is no pressure (if you can make a catch up AWESOME, if you can't we can't wait until we see you next) we care, we are genuine, we celebrate each other's wins and re-group when someone needs us and we embrace our differences. Most importantly we are all real so there is a trust in the group - if we are doing it tough, we say it as it is, we aren't trying to live to this 'unrealistic perfect picture'. We are very grateful as we have a sister-hood.
Unfortunately, we don't see each other as often as we use to... the once a week catch up's are closer to a few times a year, as we have an understanding life is busy as we are all juggling children with life.
I would urge all new Mum's to join their local Mothers Group and don't judge it on the first couple of meetings. Eventually you will form a unique deep bond that can never be replicated as these women entered your life at a very special time.