Making Friends With Other New Moms Saved My Sanity After Baby

mom's group saved my sanity, new moms with babies

I've never been good at breaking the ice. I tow the line between social and anti, equal parts Homecoming Queen and homebody. I throw myself into social situations and immediately regret doing so, wishing I was at home in my comfies on my couch. Then, when on said couch, I'm often feeling like I should have accepted the invitation, shouldn't have rescheduled, should've gotten my lazy butt in the shower and made some effort. (I've never claimed to be sane.)

Three years ago, I'd just settled into a new city and job, lamented about how hard it was to make friends, went on to make tons, then abruptly left the little network I'd built to move back to an old city but new territory: motherhood.

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Thankfully, it was easier to find friends with a little one in tow. It just took a bit of trial and error, which is funny as that's what I'm finding parenthood to be all about. (Is this the best swaddle? Which sippy cup should I use? What finger food can she eat? Is it teething or just a cold?)

After I moved back to New York City, friends with older kids encouraged me to join a mom's group. I shuddered at the thought but reluctantly signed myself up -- and then promptly erased every email that came in. I'm not sure what I was afraid of.

Mom's Group Mayhem

Two days post-delivery, when I was struggling the most, I met a woman in the pediatrician's office with a daughter a year older than my own. She told me about the neighborhood group and urged me to join. That night, I did. I clung to my husband for the next two weeks he was on paternity leave in a co-dependent way I've never known. When he went back to work, at his prompting, I RSVP'd to a mom's meeting. It took me a good hour to get out of the house.

Late, unseasonably dressed (my wardrobe options were limited at that point!) in a wool shirt and maternity jeans while my baby was in a bubble, I ran there, arriving 15 minutes late. Sweaty and frazzled, I was surprised to find an empty restaurant: I was the only one who showed. Exhausted, overwhelmed, and irritated, I caught my breath, cooled down, and texted my husband. Ten minutes later, as I was leaving, a woman walked in sans baby, cautiously looking around and sizing me up, blind-date style. That can't be one of them, I thought. Who comes to a baby group without a baby? It turned out, she did.

It got weirder from there. After a half-dozen or so trickled in over the next half-hour (I've now learned mom's group meetings never start on time) and we were seated, they began talking about their night nurses and nannies, acting astonished when I said I had neither. When I inquired as to whether their children were sleeping well, how much they were eating, or when they were feeding, they said they'd have to ask. One even called her sitter to confer. Another called her nanny to come and relieve her of her offspring.

How were we supposed to bond when we were living separate lives? Wasn't the point of making friends with moms of kids the same ages that you go through it together, commiserate, give advice ... drink? When the conversation turned to how they wouldn't let their nannies use their designer diaper bags, I was out. They'd let them have their first-born but not their Fendi?

I paid $30 for a yogurt parfait that arrived 20 minutes too late, most of which ended up on my daughter's head after trying to rock her while spooning it into my mouth. She had a massive blowout in the bathroom, which was the first time I'd changed her in public, and was screaming her head off. I wanted to cry too. It took everything I had, which was not much, to even get there -- not to mention put myself out there -- and these were not my people. This was not my place.

Back in the Saddle

I spent the next week two weeks licking my wounds -- and continuing to heal after delivery. At the further encouragement of my husband, I tried once more. This time, I opted for a walk (with a different group of women). No overpriced oatmeal, no confined spaces or pretentious conversation. I chose fresh air, exercise, and distraction, something to do other than stare at vacant and vapid faces. The only problem? I was. Out. Of. Shape.

I arrived for a stroll. We embarked on a marathon. Two hours later, I was burnt, blistered, and winded, but feeling better than I had in weeks. I'd found my girls. These women were tough, hardcore, knowledgeable, honest, funny. They were mothers. They knew when their babies were eating and weren't, what they liked and didn't, and how often they slept. They knew their children. They might not have had all the answers, but they were trying and struggling and surviving just like me.

mom's group saved my sanity, new mom friends after baby
The author with her mom's group friends

I met them the next day and the next. As we fought off the pounds and pushed through the fatigue, we bonded. We've walked through 100-degree, sweltering heat and 20-degree frost bite. Snow, rain, breastfeeding struggles, family tragedy, colds, flus, and fallen-down and fussy children. And, along the way, we became a tribe.

Their companionship has meant the difference between being a mentally healthy mother and one who talks to walls. Padded ones. In a cell.

In the end, it's been true for me that making friends post-baby -- and keeping them -- has been easier, but isn't without its ups and downs. You just have to make the effort and keep putting yourself out there, even if it's the last thing you feel up to doing. Find something you're interested in, sign up, and show up. Above all, stay true to yourself. Just get out there. If I can do it, you can too!

How have friendships helped you through the transition into motherhood?


Images © iStock.com/MachineHeadz and via Natalie Thomas

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