By KATE HUNTER
Or may I call you Kate? You can call me that, by all means.
You might not believe this, but we have a lot in common besides our names: tall husbands, fathers-in-law who’ve been in the military, AND we both played hockey at school! We’re practically twins.
Anyway, I just thought I’d drop you this quick note to wish you the best for the arrival of the little one. I hope all goes well, and that you and William get to enjoy a bit of privacy before the world completely loses its mind because you’ve given birth.
Now, I have three children of my own, so I feel well qualified, along with every other parent on the planet, to offer you a few words of advice on what to name your baby. Also on how to feed, dress, sleep and educate him or her. But I won’t, because you seem pretty smart. Plus, your baby is loved and wanted. Those kids normally do okay.
What I will do is tell you a story which may or may not interest you during those first weeks. Granted, you might find sitting down with a packet of Jaffa Cakes and a Hello magazine does the job perfectly well. Up to you.
Anyway, in 2001 I rocked (or more accurately, waddled), into the Prince Of Wales (!!!) hospital in Sydney to deliver my first baby.
I was put into a room with another woman, also called Kate. Brusque questioning by nursing staff revealed we are both married to men named James, are both christened Katherine (with a K), share the same middle name (Louise) and were born in the October of 1967, three days apart. Our babies were delivered by the same doctor, within an hour of each other.
Really quite amazing when you think of it, but at the time, it wasn’t even interesting. We were about to have babies then no doubt go on to redefine modern motherhood. You’re probably thinking the same thing right now. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but there might be days where you’ll wish you’d got yourself a goldfish.
For Kate and I, the next few days were a blur of learning to breastfeed and trying to sleep. We were in separate rooms by then, but we’d pass each other on the way to baby-bathing class, and smile in an exhausted, terrified kind of way.
Not a lot of conversation happened, but the morning we were discharged (both of us, I think, stunned we were deemed competent to take our babies home) we swapped phone numbers and talked vaguely about, ‘catching up’.
I don’t think either of us thought we’d do it. Why would we need to? Both of us had lots of friends, great husbands and careers we could stay involved in, even during our time off.
Fast forward six weeks. My tears splashed onto my Vegemite toast. I was lonely. I missed my job. Most of my pals were still working, and those that had small children had them of the WRONG AGE.
Stupidly, I’d assumed that all children under three ate and slept pretty much whenever and wherever their mothers wanted them to, so it came as a shock that my friend with an 18 month old wasn’t up for a walk when I was. Her selfish kid liked to sleep in the mornings, while mine liked to either go out or scream his head off.
‘Why don’t you call that Kate-From-The-Hospital?’ said my husband, ‘She seemed nice.’
There was desperation in his voice. This was new territory for us. Normally I could be cheered up with a couple of glasses of wine, a night out and a long sleep-in. None of which were an option for the foreseeable future.
‘Go on,’ he said, holding out the note with Kate-From-The-Hospital’s number, ‘She wouldn’t have given it to you if she didn’t like you.’
‘No,’ I snapped, ‘She’d just had a baby so clearly she wasn’t thinking. And as you say, she seemed nice, so maybe she was being nice to me, but wrote down her number with one digit wrong, like I used to do when a dickhead would ask for my number at a bar – back when I had boobs that didn’t hurt, a significantly smaller arse, and A LIFE.’
He gingerly placed the Post-It with the fake number on the table and backed away.
I don’t know why I called, but I did. Possibly to prove him wrong. Astonishingly, the phone number worked and Kate seemed happy to hear from me. We arranged to meet the next day, and after one lap round the park, two coffees and lunch, she was no longer Kate-From-The-Hospital, but my friend. And we’ve stayed friends ever since.
Kate and her family now live in Philadelphia, but thanks to the miracle that is the internet, we know what’s going on in each other’s lives.
Last week, I was lucky enough to be in New York, and we met up for one of those dinners that takes four hours but feels like ten minutes.
Back in 2001, we couldn’t have imagined, as we scribbled down our numbers in a hospital hallway, that all these years later we’d be laughing our heads off in a restaurant in Greenwich Village. But life’s like that.
I guess, Madam … Kate, that’s all I wanted to say to you. Although a child will be the surprise and delight of your life, stay open to the people who arrive at the same time as your baby. They’re a gift too.
Have you made an unexpected friend when you most needed one?