I stuck it out for that session but all I wanted to do was go home. I walked out afterwards, relieved to be heading back to my cocoon and I told myself I’d try again the following week, but I never did.
By
Tania Gomez

2 May 2022 - 9:12 AM  UPDATED 5 May 2022 - 10:44 AM

One day when my son was a few weeks old, I forced myself (with the encouragement of my dad who had come over to lend a hand that day) to walk up the road to the local early childhood centre to attend my first mother’s group meeting. I still remember how big an undertaking that felt at the time as I wondered, ‘How do people leave the house with a baby every single day?’ Every time I walked out the door I worried about EVERYTHING – any little peep from the baby was a cause for concern.

I thought I had done everything possible to prepare: I’d fed my son, brought all his assorted paraphernalia and had psyched myself up to attend. As soon as we got there though, my little boy cried, shrieked and wailed the entire time. I wish I could tell exhausted, emotional me that it was all going to be okay, but at the time it was one of my biggest fears realised. I felt so helpless and out of my depth and also worried that people would be judging how good a mother I was.

As I hung out at the back of the room trying to comfort my son, trying to pretend everything was fine, the nurse leading the group kept asking if she could help as she shot me concerned glances. I stuck it out for that session but all I wanted to do was go home. I walked out afterwards, relieved to be heading back to my cocoon and I told myself I’d try again the following week, but I never did. And I kinda regret it.

I told myself I’d try again the following week, but I never did

While I naively thought I knew enough people with babies that I should be fine without the company of other new mothers, in hindsight, being with people who didn’t know me pre-baby and only knew me as a freshly minted mum may have been exactly what I needed.

Becoming a mum was such a process of intense change. I’ve heard it expressed before that the old you has to break in order to welcome your new identity as a mother and that’s exactly how I felt. I didn’t feel like me for the longest time, and being with people who knew pre-baby Tania just made me feel out of sorts even more during that time. There was a sense that I had to live up to who I was before, that I had to act the same to prove that I was still me and nothing had changed. But I had changed. In one of the most profound ways you can as a woman.

Looking back, I think if I’d had people in my life who only knew me as a mum, who didn’t have any preconceived notions of who I was before, it would have helped me in finding my way to who I had become. It would have enabled me to feel comfortable embracing that side of me without feeling pressure to be old Tania, and to work my way through the moments that I didn’t really want to talk about with anyone else. Like the times I felt utterly overwhelmed by the fact my life had been upended so much. I knew babies were hard work, but the sheer force of exhaustion and emotions doesn’t really hit you until you come home with that little bundle of joy, and realise just how different life has become.

There’s nothing quite like having a tribe, and being able to share an experience with others. Most of my friends were beyond the newborn stage and could only relate to my experiences at the time through the lens of someone who had already emerged on the other side. While comforting, it wasn’t quite the same as being able to discuss in great detail the pain of a blocked duct while breastfeeding or the truly baffling things babies do as newborns with someone who could truly empathise as they were in the throes of early motherhood too.

There’s nothing quite like having a tribe, and being able to share an experience with others

I often hear about lifelong friendships that blossomed through the shared connection of mother’s group and wonder if I had deprived myself of that opportunity because I gave up too soon. It would have been nice to establish a connection with someone built while facing those heady days of motherhood together.

Having emerged from that stage of parenting, and armed with much more confidence as a mother now, I think of how much kinder I should have been to myself during that time. That I shouldn’t have let myself feel so deflated by the experience of that first meeting. I’m sure the other mothers there were all feeling a similar cocktail of emotions, all worrying about the same things. I was so busy trying to think about the old me, I failed to consider that perhaps I should have been more focused on giving the new me what she needed instead.

 

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