My friend Natalie was the first of my closest girlfriends to have a baby. After she gave birth to her beautiful boy in June of 2014, I visited her in the hospital, brought her dinner once, and then dropped in after work periodically to snuggle her baby and catch up. Mostly I’d rant about my full-time job and how exhausting and demanding it was while she listened with a polite smile. Occasionally she’d hint at some of the struggles new motherhood brought, like crying from exhaustion while her newborn nursed all night long.
I felt bad because she’s my friend and I love her, but I couldn’t relate—like, at all. So our visit would end and I’d get in my car, buckle only my own seat belt, and drive home or wherever the hell else I wanted to go because I was childless and I could. Once, she mentioned her new “mom friends” that she’d met at the hospital’s group for new parents. She said it like it was all one word: “Mom-Friend.” I remember feeling vaguely jealous of these new “Mom-Friends.” What was so great about them? What did they have that I didn’t?
Well, babies. They had babies. She couldn’t really describe her bond with them when I asked how, seemingly overnight, they’d become her new tribe. She promised it was nothing personal to her childless friends and offered only this explanation: “Ain’t nothin’ like a Mom-Friend.”
Fast-forward to July of 2015, when my own precious girl arrived after a fast, furious, and foolishly epidural-free labor. Our first week home was (and remains, in my mind) a euphoric blur of sleeplessness and tears. Tears over struggling to breastfeed, over feeling like Jabba the Hut, over dropping my keys—you name it, I sobbed over it. My first car ride alone with my daughter was to the hospital and the same group Natalie had attended a year before. She screamed relentlessly the whole way there. I cried over that, too.
When we arrived (20 minutes late), I sat on the carpeted floor of the classroom praying she wouldn’t get hungry so I wouldn’t have to nurse in public. She did, of course, and I fumbled with my nursing cover (the one with the cute pattern that I’d just had to have) and a nipple shield, flushed and sweaty and yet again on the verge of tears, feeling more vulnerable than I ever had in my life. I glanced around, waiting for the side-eyes and judgmental looks.
They never came. In fact, across the room from me at that exact moment, another mom was whipping out a boob, placing her own nipple shield, and letting that baby go to town. That’s when I understood—these were my people. I was safe here.
Over the next weeks and months, the moms I met in that class became my lifeline. We would meet for coffee before our class each week and talk about everything, really, everything. We talked about our babies—their weight gain, their feeding schedules, their sleep. We talked about ourselves—our weight gain, our feeding schedules, our sleep. We talked about the toll that birthing those sweet cherubs had taken on our bodies, our brains, and even our marriages. We discussed the horror of the first post-labor bowel movement and together faced the fear of having sex again and the reality that our lives, much like our vaginas, would never be the same. We texted and called at all hours of the day and night. We cried a lot, and we laughed even more.
As our babies got bigger, many of my Mom-Friends went back to work, so we see each other a little less these days. We have all grown more confident as mamas, though each new stage has us texting and calling each other at midnight all over again. We’re planning 1st birthday parties and talking about when we’ll try for another baby. We got together a few weeks ago without our kids, and it occurred to me that my “Mom-Friends” are now just…friends.
Together we weathered those tender first days of motherhood, huddled in our black leggings that concealed our wobbly tummies and perfectly matched the circles under our eyes. We held our babies and clutched our lattes, some of us leaking breast milk, others mourning the fact that they weren’t. Now we’re all feeling more or less back to “normal,” but it’s a new normal. It’s a sweet, challenging, blissful, and sometimes brutal normal that we all arrived at together, having survived the days when it seemed nothing would feel normal again.
I hope we’ll remain friends for a long, long time. I hope we’ll watch our kids grow up while we laugh about the old days of breast pads and postpartum hair thinning. But if not, I know I’ll still be grateful for those days and for those women who carried me through the best and worst of times as a new mother. Ain’t nothing like a Mom-Friend.