When you have a baby, it’s time to assemble a gang of mum mates. The women you meet at antenatal classes, baby weighing clinics, playgrounds, and, of course, on Mush, are your lifeline through maternity leave and beyond. It’s likely that you’ll have seen their boobs and know their top tips for perineal massage before you’ve found out their surname or what they do for a living. There may be no friends like old friends, but when you’re awash with hormones, drenched in breastmilk and fretting at 3am, every mum needs a pal or two who’d NEVER squeal, ‘TMI!’
Not since puberty will you have discussed your bosom with such regularity. Sore nips, latches, the right bras, the best pumps and that amazing cream, reusable cotton pads vs disposable, engorgement, projectile dairy, mastitis, how much milk does or doesn’t come out, leaks at the bus stop, shields (silicone vs silver) and the miraculous powers of a hot cloth are all are subjects of extreme importance. And when the milk is gone, along with the bounce, at least you know you’re in good company.
If you had a ‘natural’ (ho ho) delivery, it won’t be long before you’re comparing notes with fellow veterans. While the thought of an episiotomy used to make you recoil in horror and blush like a schoolgirl, it’s now topic for group discussion. And if you’ve had a c-section, who else are you going to compare your scar with? My NCT group christened ourselves ‘The Unlucky Vaginas’, although we’ve yet to form a pub quiz team.
Yes, even bums are on the table. So to speak. Post-birth toilet trips are the modern mum’s war story, and that’s not the only issue to tackle. In one fell swoop, pregnancy has transformed you from a glamorous creature shrouded in mystery to someone who sits on comfy chairs in cafes muttering darkly about her piles.
Despite the inevitability, the return of periods after many blissful months off duty is a surprise equal to receiving a gorillagram from Tom Hiddleston on a rainy Wednesday morning and, therefore, worthy of a public announcement. “Oh my god, I got my PERIOD! Did you get your period? I wondered why I was so fat and angry! And guess what? Turns out, I’m scared of tampons now!”
Whether you’re struggling with feeding, feeling overwhelmed, rowing with your other half, swamped with exhaustion or suspect you might be suffering from postnatal depression, sharing with mum friends is a tonic, and a bloody good way to figure out how to get help if you need it.
Equally, when your cynicism chip has broken and you’re wary of irritating those not currently inhabiting a baby bubble with a constant stream of love-struck outpourings, you know that your WhatApp group will appreciate a picture of your tiny genius blowing spit bubbles, and what’s more, they love that little pudding almost as much as you do.
Are you doing it? Is it OK if you don’t want to? Did the midwife say it was OK? Did it hurt? What contraception will you go for in this post-baby world? Did your boobs leak? Did you want to turn the lights off and keep your nightie on or did you swing from the chandeliers (well, the Ikea lampshade)? Sex after a baby is confusing, and sometimes a little bit scary, and whether it’s good, bad or ridiculous, having a laugh (or cry) about it with the girls who know can help.
Motherhood can bring its own set of challenges – patronising healthcare staff, old gits tutting because you’ve got your boob out, young gits tutting because you’ve whipped a bottle out, interfering relatives, ridiculous baby swimming teachers, unwelcome houseguests, celebs Instagramming pics for themselves back in their skinny jeans hours after birth… the list goes on. And while society would like us new mums to be saintly, well, we’re not, and there’s nothing like a good bitching session to put things back in perspective. Amen for girlfriends.