baby

'I was the first in my group to have a baby. In December, a friend apologised to me.'

Sometimes I think motherhood is bit like that first party you go to as a teen. It’s all new and exciting and the highs are oh so high. Then something kind of weird or crazy happens and the lows are like a gut drop. And really, parenting and partying offer little to no sleep.

And if parenting is a party then I arrived to it early. In 2015 at the age of 32 I essentially pushed a watermelon through a keyhole, so to speak, before my pack had even planted the seed of parenthood.

And I’ll be honest, being the first in the group to become mum was, at times, kind of sh*t.

“My emotions are like a flat line,” and other things pregnant people never say.

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Life is full of dramatic differences when it comes to folk. Just look around you. There’s the one percenters with their wealth while others struggle to feed little mouths. There’s the eco-conscious who pick up the litter of the less conscious. There’s those who prefer their tea as deep in colour as their soul and others we dare not speak of.

But there’s no greater difference in life, or between us humans, than those who have children and those who don’t. And that’s simply because there’s no way in this world that you can understand what the hell parenting is like until you’re right in it.

It smacks of the supercilious, right? It really doesn’t mean to be. Hell, parents would gauge out their own eyeballs and sacrifice them to the parenting gods if it meant their child-free former contemporaries could truly understand what they’re going through.

And let me tell you, that divide is even bigger when you’re the first in your friendship group to have a child. The first to go through pregnancy and wonder what the hell is going on with your body. The first to go through child birth. The first to manoeuvre through fears that sound silly so remain silent.

Before giving birth to my son Max, I stupidly thought I was ready. I had been forewarned by mammas I bumped into (sometimes quite literally) about how my world would turn upside down when my baby arrived.

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first time mum friends
My girlfriends and I at my baby shower. Image: Supplied.

But after giving birth something far scarier happened. My world stayed exactly the same. It was me who was tumbled, twisted and turned in the turbulent transformation from a woman caring only for herself to a woman who had to ensure the continued life of something as small as a bag of flour.

And my friends tried. They were thoughtful and caring and really quite wonderful but they just didn’t get it on the most basic level. Well, how could they relate to the horror of a blood clot the size of a dinner plate falling out your vagina a few days after birth when they’d never been through it.

At the time, I likened it to losing limbs in a horror crash and then your bestie shuffling along the floor for a day to see life in your eyes. It’s a nice gesture but it’s not the same.

I would regularly cry to my husband about this difference, which was as much use as breastfeeding through a straw. “Well they don’t have a baby so they won’t truly understand,” was on repeat for the first year.

And then last December something quite remarkable happened: my best friend had a baby. A beautiful baby girl with dark hair and a cute button nose. And that in itself is quite remarkable because, well, childbirth right?

first time mum friends
It's difficult to 'get' what it's like to be a mum until you get there. Image: Supplied.
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But it was remarkable also because she was joining the party. It was remarkable because for the first time we could talk about something so momentous from the same perspective of shared experience.

And as we savoured this shared status of mother for the first time, my best friend did something that surprised me. She apologised. She apologised for not getting it back then, for not truly understanding what it meant to become a parent and how isolating that time must have been.

And for the first time my perception changed and yes, it made me realise that I’d probably been a self-obsessed monster for the first year of my child’s life. And well, that’s kind of okay because you know, watermelon, keyhole.

But with a kind of shame, I realised that of course my inner circle didn’t suddenly get the intricacies of child-rearing as soon as I had a baby. What did I expect? That it would happen by magic, by an unusual type of osmosis as soon as they saw me with a baby.

But they still turned up. They still listened to conversations that were likely to be uncomfortable and probably quite boring, like dirty nappies and sleep routines, about breasts turning into rocks and nether regions being battered.

They came to the craziest party of my life, even though it was probably all types of weird for them. And really, with the joys of that frustrating thing called hindsight, I realise that being present without truly getting what the hell is going on is truly a special type of friendship, that true variety that lasts a really long time through many, many milestones.

Can you relate to having your friends change after you have children? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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