Don’t get me wrong, we have been out a couple of times (indeed, you already know this if you read this blog regularly) but I mean those days where it’s all too much, when you just need to leave the house and scream. Maybe you need to scream at someone, maybe you just need to not have to put on a front for a little while. The benefit of family, or old friends is that you don’t feel the need to try. You aren’t worried if they see you broken, heck they’ve seen it all before. You don’t mind seeming weak (or not as much) as you do with strangers or new friends and perhaps more importantly they don’t also have a new baby of their own so they have some time free to help you – remember those days when you could leave the house without 4 days’ notice? No, I barely do either but there are people out there who can. People who could pop over at the last minute to take you out and give you a break, or meet you for a drink on the way home so you can unload some of your stress or watch your baby while you get the hell out of dodge.
Now, old friends are not perfect in this situation either. They don’t fully understand, they don’t understand your stress, your worry, your general exhausted wraith-like existence as you zombie around the planet half ecstatic with your new baby, half broken for the life you left behind and the sleep you haven’t had. Also, having a baby will change you. Your firmly held beliefs begin to crumble as you view them against the context of another life. For example I have never been afraid of death, indeed in some ways I have looked forward to it; what’s to be scared of, no one knows what happens. I’m curious, interested and highly philosophical about it (like Dumbledore said ‘to the organised mind death is just the next great adventure’) but these days that underpinning belief that I have developed over 30 years is becoming increasingly void as the thought of death means leaving my girlfriend and my baby, and all the ramifications that may have. This is the price of letting people into your life perhaps. My point however, before I wandered off there was that your old friends don’t always know you the same way. You change, your priorities change and it can be difficult for people to understand (though they do of course try).
Luckily for us we did the NCT. We were there man, we saw things, and we talked about….well I don’t really remember as I am definitely not the target audience for the NCT so it didn’t really speak to me. But what we did do was meet some great people. We were lucky, I think, in that our group seemed mainly on the same page and took the NCT content with a pinch of salt as a chance to meet other new parents – but also, I have to say, it felt good to have some semblance of knowledge to cling to in a moment of panic. And some of the stuff did come in useful. By the way, any men reading this, if you do the NCT make sure you listen. When your wife is in labour she will not be trying to recall the stages of birth, she will be having a horrible time. You need to remember some of this info so that you can at least seem informed when your partner is struggling, they will take strength in your confidence. You might not actually know shit (I certainly didn’t/don’t) but confidence is 50% of the battle.
So we did the NCT and afterwards we met up with the people, Fergotron has maintained this connection throughout and it has been invaluable. I know that I don’t only speak for us when I say that the network we have built up has been much more than we could have hoped for. Not only for the mums, but also the babies have a small group of friends so they learned from an early age to be social, to interact with other babies. There is also the huge advantage of meeting other parents who understand. No-one judges you for turning up covered in vomit, of course you have sick on you, you have a baby – check out my poo stained jeans chuck, come on in. But for us it was more than that, we liked our group as individual adults not just a parent group to cling to and that’s why, last week we had a joint birthday party for all our babies. We had made it, the first year we had managed not to break. Despite all the ups and downs of the first year we got together and had lunch like old friends. We celebrated the babies and each other. It was a lovely afternoon, there were well thought out presents for all the babies, there was an amazing cake worthy of the British Bake off (I almost never eat cake but even I loved it)
With such a nice group of friends you might wonder why we miss having old friends and family around. The reason is the same reason we all met in the first place: babies. Although all united in the new baby mind-set, still the adult in you wants to make friends and that means trying not to seem completely mental – difficult during months 1-6 of your baby’s life. Nobody wants to be the person who isn’t coping, or can’t keep it together. Of course over time everyone realises that everyone has their days, but in those first few months is when you need a break the most. Also we know that we are having a hard time, so how could we ask someone we know to be going through the same to spare the time or mental capacity to give us a break? If you and your friend lost your jobs at the same time you wouldn’t ask them to bail you out on your mortgage would you. Again, over time this starts to happen once you’re able to put your baby down for the night or have a good routine, but it would have been nice early on too.
Well what have we learned here today? There is far too much contradictory advice for parents out there, so don’t put too much stock in it. Do what feels right and you’ll probably be on the right track. But there are two things I would definitely recommend; sign up for the NCT. It costs a little money, and you might not be so lucky as us to meet such a cohesive group but you will at least be in a room full of people who are a) going through the same thing as you and b) that have elected to take the course so must have some similar motivation somewhere and you never know, you just might make some really good new friends who can be nothing short of a rock through one of the most challenging times you are likely to face.
Remember, new friends are amazing, but old friends already know you and don’t need to learn your cues for needing help. So if you are just starting to plan, just deciding to have a baby then if you can do it close to home and join up that Venn diagram. Your friends and family want to support you, they want to see your baby and you should let them. You need a break, you’ve earned it – so go out with your new NCT friends and celebrate!