I met my new mum family in the middle of summer, in an old church meeting room with no air-conditioning.
We gathered as pregnant strangers, shuffling on hard seats for long pre-baby night classes and for the first time ever, London actually felt hot.
I would never have guessed that small-talk over sweetened juice and stale biscuits was going to result in real friendships that would help me through some of the long days ahead.
It didn’t happen straight away. We sat through six hot and sticky ante-natal classes and each Wednesday night we talked about our birth plans, the stages of labour and pain relief. It wasn’t until we met up after we all had given birth to our babies that we really talked. Some of us could barely walk.
My little boy with his grandmother at a few weeks old. Post continues after video.
My baby was the youngest out of the eight babies, so I was eagerly listening to the other mums – who had up to six weeks more experience than me. Their experience felt like a like a lifetime away from mine.
Some of us huddled in the corner trying to feed our babies while our partners strutted around with that new-dad grin you just can’t wipe off. The most disinterested man in the group before the baby was born was now beaming, showing off his boy to the other mums and dads.
We were all so proud, so happy and so tired. As a group we had crossed into the unknown together and were lucky enough to come out the other side with eight healthy babies. We’d gone on the journey from women to mothers at almost the same time. The most unoriginal time apparently. August and September babies in Britain is one of the busiest times for newborns – we had been told in class. I am ever so grateful for that.
The babies on a trip to the Tate Modern. I didn't see much art that day. Image supplied.
We walked away with a WhatsApp group and then it began. The late night questions about poo, colic, crying and sleep. The photos. The videos. The swim club - and that's where I really learnt to survive motherhood.
My Wednesday afternoon swim school meet-up became an invaluable source of support. I had no family in London and somehow my new mum's group who were from Ireland, Italy and Portugal became an extended family.
Living in London helped too, every day there was something on for new mums in my area. I met more new mums from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, France and Slovakia and their friendships helped shape one of the happiest years of my life.
Even the days when I was really, really tired it helped to see one of my new friends. They would describe the same levels of exhaustion, the same hurdles and we could laugh about it all.
We went from letting our babies crawl on my lounge-room floor in the winter to meeting up in Hyde Park in the summer. My maternity leave was a walk in the park because of them. Coffee in the Autumn and baby-free night's out in the Spring. I had a four seasons of Monday to Friday support as we watched our babies grow.
Boys in the (posh) hood. Image supplied.
I felt part of the community. I was friends with my neighbours. I'd been to their houses. They had babysat for me, I'd babysat for them. I was in the biggest club on earth, I was a parent and I had other new parents to call on to help me find my way.
When my son was four-weeks-old I went to my mum's group for advice on breastfeeding as the two-hour feeding schedule tried to break me. They helped me realise they were in this breastfeeding hell too. Later on, we booked tickets to a breastfeeding cinema session and only caught a few lines of the film. They understood constant interruptions and were also sometimes unavailable mid-conversation.
I found mirrors of my hardships and celebrations in my London neighbourhood - miles away from my real family in Australia. These new friends were kind enough to share their painful struggles and joys of motherhood with me.
Life was a walk in the park. Image supplied.
We could talk about our punishing night routines, nipple blisters, horror labour stories, and our real mother milestones. I could share the delight of a two-hour mid-morning sleep with some solid understanding and I celebrated in their triumphs too.
We watched our babies sit-up together, commando crawl and eat their first solids - and we were there when our babies fell ill for the first time or got their first jabs or had a cafe meltdown. We understood the fear of a high fever, and the sheer panic of a late-night hospital trip - even if it turned out to be teething.
My new mum friends understood how hard it was to shower and show up somewhere, on time, or go to the bathroom alone. We went to art galleries together and saw little art. Being out of the house before lunch was achievement enough. They knew about the homemade puree effort drama that ended up on the floor.
After I had my baby, I was smitten with a big slice of sheer terror and overwhelming responsibility. My new mum friends helped me get through that. They were facing the same fears. We all didn't know what we were doing yet, but, we were willing to share the little information we had.
Henrietta and I went to a local spa for a night out. Image supplied.
In our swim club, when our babies went under water for the first time, we were all a little scared for one another. With our bursting filled-up new mum hearts - we had to let go and trust. That's what my new mum friends helped me to do.
This motherhood gig is so hard. It sometimes does feel as if you're drowning, but even one good new mum friend will help it feel like it's going to be OK. The similarities I found with them was all I needed to know I was on track.
I don't think this article even comes close to the ode I wanted to write for my all of new mum friends. But it is fitting that I am not quite getting it right. Sharing my imperfections with my new mum friends made me feel like I was doing a better job.
With the help of these warm open, loving friends on my side I felt like I was able to keep my head above water and swim though that first year - or at least dog-paddle.