We met at a local La Leche League meeting, all of us first-time mommies, very much “in the trenches.” We commiserated about all-night-nurse-a-thons, teething babies, and judgy in-laws. But soon we became so much more than breastfeeding support buddies.
We started having weekly playdates together, and our kids became close friends – almost siblings to each other in those early years. Our weekly playdates were a sanctuary from the rest of the world. Each of us parented a little differently, but we could share every dirty detail of our lives as new moms. Our doubts, our triumphs, our tears, our IDGAF moments.
And the beauty of it is that none of us judged the other. We all came from different places, different perspectives, but in those raw moments of new motherhood, we bonded from a place of openness – an understanding that this mom thing was totally bonkers and all-consuming. Half the time, all we could do was laugh and say, “I get it, girlfriend. I REALLY DO.”
Our oldest kids – the ones who made us moms and who we schlepped to those first La Leche League meetings – are all turning 12 now. Middle schoolers, which is damn near impossible to fathom. Almost all of those women from my early gang of mom friends have scattered – moved a few towns or a few states away, wrapped up in the world of working full-time, schooling, or homeschooling.
We still stay in touch, messaging each other little questions here and there about how on earth to raise tweens (just as baffling as raising a toddler, let me tell you) and reminiscing about those old days.
I recently came across a fantastic article in The New York Times by J. Courtney Sullivan, a new mom herself. It’s about those first new-mom friends – about how vital they are in getting you through brand new mommy-hood. Sullivan writes about her own experience making new-mom friends, and how she hesitated at first, not understanding why anyone would need a friend specifically to bond over new motherhood.
But when she became a new mom, she realized how essential it was to be connected to women who were going through exactly the same thing she was, at the same time. When I came across her description of her own weekly meet-ups with her new-mom friends, I couldn’t believe how spot-on it was – how strikingly similar to my own experience.
“Our time together each week felt like a small miracle,” writes Sullivan. “I didn’t have to explain my strange new self to them. We were all obsessed with our babies. We were all overwhelmed. If one of us started crying for no reason, the others just passed her a tissue and kept talking.”
Yes, yes, yes, and YES.
Sullivan speaks about the trust you establish with these women – and how in many ways, you can trust them more than anyone else in your life. “We take advice from each other before doctors or parenting books,” she says.
So true, right?
Sullivan also talks about how there is this special closeness you share with these new-mom friends that can’t really be replicated elsewhere. And how eventually, you start to move onto topics other than sore nipples and butt wiping.
“As we’ve found our footing, our conversations have moved to topics beyond babies,” she says. “There’s a built-in intimacy there, and so it feels natural to talk about other important life events too.”
This was the part that really got me – and made the tears come too. When I look back on my friendships with the women who came into motherhood with me, I don’t so much remember all those endless conversations about sleep (or, ahem, how our babies did not sleep at all), when to introduce solid food, or any of the other typical new-mom quandaries.
No, I remember the blunt, difficult conversations we had about marriage, money, depression, anxiety – and the feeling that we were losing our sense of who we were, what our purpose was beyond “mommy.” I remember how we came together to help one of us make it out of an abusive relationship, and how we nurtured another through a mental health breakdown.
I trust these women more than anyone, and even though it’s been years, if I was in a crisis, they would be among the first I’d call.
New motherhood is intense. It’s chaotic. And so many of us feel utterly alone in it. You don’t need a whole crew of new-mom friends to make it through. But, boy, is it helpful to have at least one – online, in real life, or whatever.
Because there truly is something amazing and very particular about going through the shitshow of new motherhood with someone else who knows exactly what you’re talking about. Someone who doesn’t give a shit if you show up 2 hours late to a playdate in a messy, unwashed bun and a spit-up covered shirt. Who won’t even ask what happened, because she just lived it too. And who will wordlessly take your baby into her arms as soon as she sees you so you can run to the bathroom to pee alone for the first time in 48 hours.
New-mom friends are the real thing, a necessity we all need and deserve. And if you have a good one, hold onto her. I guarantee she’ll be a friend for life.