There are many things that I can attribute making it through the first year of motherhood to: my husband, the breast pump, the bouncy chair, a nice pint of cider after a hard day. But friends, of many kinds, have been one of the most constant sources of support.
Here’s a slightly generalist, more than tongue-in-cheek guide to the five friends you might be lucky enough to count as your own within the first twelve months:
- The pregnancy friend. You could meet this person (most likely to be a woman) at NCT, hospital pre-natal class, yoga, or any other class. But as soon as your raised eyebrows meet across the church hall when the teacher is trying not to make the Transition Period sound like a mini LSD incident, you know they’re your type of friend. She’s the one you haven’t known long but still feel ok talking about what happens if you produce a floater in the birth pool before the baby comes out. She, hopefully for you, will be more than one person. Say what you like about the value of NCT et al, but meeting new people pre-birth who didn’t know you before is a very good idea. There’s something about the anonymity and the clean slate of friendship that can provide you with rock-solid support in those newborn weeks and blossom into a long association of raised eyebrows, and raised glasses, hopefully.
- The one whose baby is almost exactly the same age as yours. Weighing in clinic. Twitter #nightfeed hashtag. Supermarket sanitary towel aisle. You could meet this girl anywhere. But once you’ve opened the Red Book* on this friendship, it doesn’t close. You’re linked. Your babies are so different in every way but you hope they’ll always be friends, don’t you? Until you kind of don’t want to be friends with their mum anymore because she keeps asking if your baby can sit up, or clap, or eat sweet potato. Your baby laughs in the face of sweet potato and only sits up when strategically laid against a sofa corner. Either cut the cord or power on through this bit of the friendship, give each other a chance. The comparisons seem to even out nearer the first birthday once we’ve all realised our little golden Buddhas are as alike as snowflakes.
- The mate that’s always been there anyway. It’s a social probability that at least one of your existing friends will be a mother before you are. This can be hard at first as you sit, drooping sadly on a stool in the pub you always went to together, whilst they are at home knee-deep in nappies and Breaking Bad box sets in some kind of parallel universe. But real friendships can go through these patches and if you also have a baby one day, come out the other side into a bizarre realm you never saw coming. You sit together in some play café or similar, watching your children playing, thinking how much you love her and how much you love her kids. And she’s always got time to help you out when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Because she always had before the kids as well.
- The one who needs you, and you need her too. We can all get frightened when faced with the challenges of a new baby, especially when it comes to the two huge mountains – feeding and sleeping. There’s never any excuse for forcing prescriptive techniques on any friend you care about. Motherhood quickly teaches you a life-long lip-zipping lesson, particularly if you’re as gobby as me. However, sometimes, a friend will really need your advice, or you’ll need hers. I got incredible support on daytime nap techniques from my sister (one of the best friends I have), and invaluable ideas for dealing with wind and colic from women I’ve met through my husband.
- Controversial – the one-way street. Sometimes, I believe you’ve got to give in to the bald truth and realize you can’t get everything done without some help. My help comes in the form of 11 minutes of a tiny animated child from planet CBeebies – Baby Jake. His support is solid gold, letting me get my daughter’s bed, bath and bottle ready every night. He keeps her relaxed, happy and comfortable whilst I leg it around like a freak making sure the bottle is in arms reach of the sleeping bag and the blackout curtain is down before I take her upstairs. He’s been there since she was seven weeks old. His 25 episodes’ experience of blowing the mind of an infant with his crazy songs and odd relationships with glassy-eyed rabbits and dancing penguins demands my respect and gratitude. Whether it’s the Dream Sheep, the Night Garden, The Real Housewives of the OC or That’s Not My Pirate, sometimes, a bit of help with the bedtime routine from another source is much needed.