The friends you make during pregnancy and early parenthood are like no other. You see each other at antenatal classes, where you discuss intimate body parts in a way you never have before. Then you go through those awful few months of late pregnancy, waiting, wishing, hoping and dreading what is to come. After the babies have been born, you see each other in the early days, when you’re full of hormones and struggling to breastfeed.
Then it all settles down. You help each other find your rhythm. Your babies get to know each other. You might meet up weekly, and then less frequently as maternity leave ends. If you’re lucky – usually – the husbands and partners will meet up and support each other through early fatherhood.
We had a brilliant NCT group. The original group of four couples, which then expanded to become a group of six, was a significant part of my first maternity leave. We shared the highs and lows and sleep deprivation of early parenthood. There were tea dates, coffee dates and lunch dates. We went out and drank too much wine on a very snowy night when our babies were just old enough to be left. It felt like these friends were a lifeline, as well as a bit of a rite of passage.
That was four years ago. Since then, our babies have grown up. Most of them now have younger siblings. Some of us have changed jobs, and some have moved away.
But last weekend, we all met up at a 40th birthday party. And you know those irritating memes that you see on Facebook which celebrate friends who don’t see each other for years and it doesn’t matter? Well, that happened.
Even though we hadn’t seen many of our friends for around a year, it was as if we’d only seen each other last week. It might have been the cocktails, or the glamorous location, or the fancy dress, or even just the fact that we were all out without children after 8pm at night. But it was just so lovely to see them all.
I think when you’ve been through those early months of parenthood, when you’ve spoken so honestly about your fears and your experiences, when you’ve seen each other in the lows and the highs, you create friendship that lasts.
And it’s hard to meet up sometimes. I honestly can’t remember when all the adults were last all together. It takes effort, arranging a babysitter and getting in the car. And it sometimes requires 70s flares and afro wigs.
I know I’m very lucky. My Manchester friends make the effort to meet up with me. They’ve come over to visit us. I try, as much as I can, to visit them when I’m in Manchester. It takes effort, but it’s worth it.
Seeing our friends last weekend has made me more determined to meet up with them again. It’s easy to say how lovely it would be to meet up, but then not actually make plans, but this winter, I’m going to make concrete plans.
So, to those friends, who have been my friends for the last four and a half years, from sitting in that strange, pink, church hall, to drinking tea in our living rooms, to drinking cocktails at a 40th birthday party, thank you for being my friends.