When I had my first son I was one lost little lamb. I didn’t know how to feed him, didn’t know how to make him sleep and being the first of my friends to venture in to baby-land, didn’t have anyone I could ask for advice.
As the gap between me and my without-baby friends grew I found myself feeling incredibly isolated.
When he was six weeks of age we attended the local mother’s group arranged by the family health centre in my area.
To be honest I didn’t know what to expect and almost wrote the thing off entirely before I’d even got there. I assumed all the mothers would be a lot older than me (my son was born when I was just 25 and all the women I saw around my area seemed to have a few more years on me). I thought they would have it all together, where as I was on the verge of a breakdown most days.
But when I walked in the room I saw a mixed bunch. Some older, some younger but all with the same ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look I’d been sporting since his birth.
At first the sessions were a bit forced. It’s like school where you’re trying to find ‘your people’. All you have in common with these people is that you had a baby at the same time and happen to live close by.
My first mother's group provided me with support and friendship Image: istock
But we kept going. Once the formal sessions finished, the group started meeting informally in the park.
Over time the friendships between the babies (and the mothers) grew and we were able to share concerns, struggles and laughter together. Some of the original group stopped going but a small group remained. In fact, my son is now in preschool with two of the babies from that mother's group, all who recently celebrated their 5th birthdays.
But as some of us went back to work and our schedules changed, the regular meet ups became harder and harder. So when my second son was born I knew that I wanted to join another group and meet some more mum friends.
I noted that I wasn't offered a mother's group the way I was with my first when the Early Childhood Nurse came to do the required checks. After I asked about joining one I was told that generally second time mums aren't encouraged to join a mother's group because it changes the dynamic of the group. If I could find someone to mind my eldest son (who was 2) I was welcome to come along.
Well that was hard. With no family around and no friends available I actually didn't have anyone that could help out with minding him.
I was disappointed but I understood.
I found another group online who met up in my area. I explained that I had an older child and they seemed okay with me coming along but I noticed very quickly that it wasn't going to work.
As the little babies were laying on their backs staring at the clouds; mums enjoying lattes in the sun, I was chasing an active toddler, apologising for his spilt food and trying to remain engaged in conversations. I could tell having an older child there was impacting the harmony of tiny baby land so I stopped going.
Being a mum with two or more small children can be just as isolating. Image: istock
The impact of that was that my middle child is now three and has no little friends his own age.
My first born started preschool with built in friends and always had someone to invite for a play date or to celebrate his birthday. The middle one (and now my youngest too) didn't and as he has grown and asked where his friends are my heart gets heavy that I wasn't able to provide him with that. We stopped doing big parties for their birthdays (they are two weeks apart) because all the kids would be my eldest son's age and no one was really there for the middle child.
I'm not the only case of a second time mum being discouraged from attending mother's groups. I've heard of many other stories similar to mine.
But the impact can be huge.
Being a second time mother can be just as isolating as being a first time mother; there's more to do, more chaos, less sleep, more issues to manage and being able to share the experience with other mothers could be hugely beneficial.
Not only that but I feel for women who are new to an area, trying desperately to meet friends for themselves and their children and being turned away because they've already been on the 'mum train' before.
My eldest has had a built in friendship group since he was young. Image: istock
Perhaps local councils could look at starting groups for second time mums, for those who have to bring their older child with them. That way, no one will feel awkward about a toddler running around and mums could share with each other the new experiences that come with being a mother to more than one small person.
Or at least, don't actively discourage mums who are reaching out, trying to form friendships and feel less alone.
I've heard that this is not the case in every area, some second (and third) time mums were welcomed with open arms into community based groups.
Looking back I feel like I let my middle child down by not giving him the same gift of friendship early on.
Were you encouraged to attend mother's group as a second time mum?