We met five and a half years ago. Our babies were actual babies then, tiny, grunting, stretching, gummy little creatures with eyes shut and mouths blindly suckling. We stumbled into that sad hospital conference room, scared and tired and sore. We didn’t know each other then. We only knew we had no idea where to begin.
I remember the first day that I made it out of the house, alone with this baby, to the New Mom’s Support Group at the hospital. I had tried to go the week before, but there was so much stuff to bring. I couldn’t get it all together, and then this tiny little person needed to be fed, and then he needed changing, and before I knew it, we weren’t going to make it anywhere that day, much less someplace specific and on time.
But we tried again the next week, and so I found myself, wandering the halls of the hospital with a newborn buried in his carseat carrier, hanging off the crook of my elbow like a bag of cement. I went to the wrong building first, which is probably some great analogy for the beginning of this whole crazy thing we have. We were all a little lost at first.
I remember walking into that room of new moms for the first time so clearly. I remember the parade of strollers parked in the hallway, the tired smiles, the disarray of extra chairs stacked at the back of the room, waiting for other, new, disarrayed moms to fill them. I remember being so scared that day.
You see, I thought I was ready to be a mom, but then my baby came and everything was so, so different. When my husband went back to work, when my own mom went home, when the dust finally settled, there we were. Just me and this perfect little person who needed me all the time. I’ve never been with someone so constantly, yet felt so alone. I didn’t know yet that you were lonely, too. It was such a relief to be lonely together.
That first day at the hospital, I thought I might meet some moms who maybe knew what they were doing. I thought maybe you could teach me something. It didn’t take long, though, before I realized we were all clueless. Just a crowd of tired, dazed new moms, tripping over each other as we all did our best. So we learned together. And we did teach one another, eventually. It turns out, the hardest part was finding each other. The rest just came naturally.
Weeks passed and as our babies grew, we grew with them. We became the moms who could change a poopy diaper in the backseat of the car using only another diaper as a changing pad, moms who could breastfeed with neither cover nor inhibition, moms who could mix a bottle of formula with one hand while draping a burp rag under the baby’s chin with the other. We started to get the hang of it. A sense of normalcy began to return. We started to smile more.
At weekly lunches, we laughed the way we did before our babies. We talked the nostalgic way that people do when they have changed, that mutual, deep longing for what used to be, but that shared knowledge that we would never, ever go back, even if we could. We didn’t have to say it out loud. We all just knew.
Years passed, and we stuck together. We celebrated their fall birthdays with giant extravaganzas: one, two, three. We watched them learn to crawl, walk, swim, ride bikes. Babies, toddlers, preschool, kindergarten. We went through each milestone in quick succession, one baby after the next. We watched with wonder as they began to talk, began to scribble, began to draw, began to write. There were new babies too, and now our babies, the ones who brought us together, were the big kids. These children, together they taught us to be mothers.
There were hard times, too. There were pregnancy losses, hospitalized kids, aging parents, and marriage problems. Each time, we circled around each other, offering meals, rides, wine, and prayers. We cried together. We put our chins up. We couldn’t stand to see the pain in one of us that we knew could so easily be our own.
Five and a half years ago, we were strangers wondering how we’d make it through this next phase in our lives, but here we are, sharing it still.
We are the lucky ones. It isn’t easy to find your tribe. We are artists and scientists, teachers and businesswomen, long working hours and stay-at-home moms. We are screen-time addicts, screen-free homes, organic eaters, and fast food fans. We had nothing in common except the squirming newborns on our chests, but here we are, together. We are the lucky ones. Thanks for being a mom with me.