I have made a number of close friends in my life. Some are from jobs I’ve had over past ten years, some are from high school, a few from college. All were life preservers in rough waters when I was trying to figure out the who’s, how’s and what the f*&$%’s of an intimidating new world.
Becoming a mother makes for quick and lasting friendships as well–there is nothing like the desperation of women who haven’t slept, smell like spit up and are leaking milk from one or both boobs. We need each other; who else wants to sit near us?
When I had my first baby, instinctively I knew I needed to start finding mom friends. When you are seeking out your herd, look where the herd gathers. I made it my mission to make friends with women in the same situation–new baby, not working for the first time, isolated at home, feet still swollen even though we were promised they’d be back to normal by now. I followed women with babies into Starbucks. I went to any moms group, lunch or yoga class I walk my stroller to. Some women I clicked with, some clearly wanted a better catch than I–which did have the familiar sting of rejection. Singles bar.
The women I met in one moms group make up a large portion of my current greatest friends. My oldest was 10 weeks old and we had left the city for greener scenery and a room big enough to fit a human-sized crib. My misery was as obvious as the 40 pounds of baby weight I was still carrying. I had no one outside of a husband, infant and doorman in my new life. I struck up conversations with the barista at Starbucks just to have adult interaction. Every decision I had made seemed wrong. How did I end up alone with a crying, gassy baby all day, watching The View and emptying the dishwasher every hour? (Thank God for dishwashers, by the way. And Barbara Walters.)
The neighborhood moms group saved my sanity, my life and (don’t judge me, but) possibly my daughter’s life. I was a walking, crying, screaming, mess. Between the breast pump and the endless laundry, I was a prisoner in my apartment. My eyebrows were overgrown, my roots grey and I thought I’d never be out of maternity clothes. It would be of no service to anyone to pretend I wasn’t disappointed with the lack of bliss in my domestic life.
Conversation in the weekly group often revolved about returning to work, negotiating holiday time with in-laws and finding a pediatrician who doesn’t make you wait five hours for your appointment. I liked all the women and truly felt we had a bond among us because we knew what being “up all night with the baby” really does to a person. But it was the women willing to break down in sobs at “how was your weekend?” and admit their desire to walk out the door, leaving husband and baby to fend for themselves that I wanted to hang out with every day. Tell me you hate your mother for instructing you on burping the baby and I will love you forever. I needed the authenticity, the empathy and the embrace of other women who were knee-deep in poop and not. at. all. happy.
Memories of the early days of our budding friendships stay with me: five girls overpowering a tiny suburban coffee shop with our babies, breastfeeding, bottles and burp cloths–and always, the stink of dirty diapers and one hysterical mother and infant (not necessarily related). Almost immediately, and with the enthusiasm of someone who has found religion, we signed on to support, listen to, vent with and entertain one another. We had found our soul mates.
Four years later, we are all on our second or third children. One of us has moved back to the city. A couple are back at work. We rarely see each other as a group. Sometimes I go months without talking with one or more of these ladies. Despite our early expectations, we are all reasonably happy and mostly well adjusted to family life. While we no longer have standing playdates or meet at Starbucks with our massive strollers, I know that when I am about to ask my husband for a divorce on Facebook or put my children up for sale on Craigslist, I can turn to any of these women for a laugh and perspective, and without the slightest chance of judgment.