Me right before I made 11 new mom friends.
There were 11 of us, each fitting into a unique slot. The Jokey One. The Weepy One. The Neurotic One. The Stylish To No End One. The “I Just Ate My Placenta In Pill Form” One.
I was the Zen Black One, as I was often called (the Zen part; black was a given). We were different in so many ways, but there was a common denominator: We were all mothers to newborns, and we were petrified.
When I joined the new moms group in Brooklyn, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t really care, truth told. After giving birth to an actual human being (by emergency C-section; its own horror movie) in the middle of winter, it was finally spring. With sore everything, vacationing hormones, no sleep, and a serious case of cabin fever, I needed to get some fresh air and see other adult faces, STAT.
We bonded quickly. As in, while walking out of that first meet-up, several of us opted to go for a walk with our mostly snoozy (victory!) babies in strollers and slings. We exchanged phone numbers and emails that day. We scheduled “regular” weekly walks. We hosted play dates (which, at that stage, meant nursing our babies, patting them down for naps and trading whispered “does yours do this” questions).
We arranged to be in the same Mom & Me yoga/movement/sing-a-long classes. We met for lunch and brunch and more walks around the neighborhoods. We were openly stalking each other, and it was OK because we were friends. New Mom Friends — a necessity, much like wide swaddling blankets and good, supportive bras.
It didn’t matter that in our BBL (before baby life), the chances of any of us crossing paths, much more forming friendships, were slim. There’s something about connecting over a shared experience, especially one as overwhelming and momentous as new parenthood, that makes forging friendships seem easier.
A recent study showed that it’s not only your hips that can widen after having a baby (gurrl), but also your social circle. Of the 2,000 women polled, 53 percent said it was “surprisingly easy” to make new friends once they had a baby. According to the research, women make an average of nine new friends when they have a baby. And the new pal pattern continues well into the first year of new mamahood, the survey said. Whereas child-free women typically have 13 friends, the number jumps to 22 once le bébé joins the party.
I’ve written a lot about the importance of having friends-to-the-end types (be it 22 or just two) who would go to war for you, homeys who are there no questions asked or judgments cast, ready to smear on the Vaseline and talking about “somebody hold my earrings.” And when you enter into the motherhood game, with all the self-doubts and guilt and uncertainty bubbling up inside, you need those people in your corner even more.
When I first read this survey, I’ll admit my eyes were slightly angling to the side.
“It’s not like the new mom friends really knew me,” I said, “not like Saada or Nikki or Kisha or Rob.”
They hadn’t seen me at my absolute worst only to champion me to better and back to my best like the true blood Home Team. These just-off-the-bench folks hadn’t grown up with me, weren’t familiar with my history, my narrative, and I didn’t know theirs. So we shared a stance on organic bananas and sleep training. Hardly the stuff of authentic, deep relationships, right?
But I was dead wrong.
With these women, there was more there than a fellowship through a shared experience. There was true kindness, genuine compassion and an investment in each other lives. We rallied, we cautioned, we cared, and many times we stood as the bright light at the end of crazy-making tunnel, waving each other on: “Keep pressing forward, mama. You’re almost there!”
True, we don’t have the same level of contact now. We moved. Some of them moved too. Life happened. These days I might only chat with a couple moms from the Original 11 once or twice a year, but those friendships remain meaningful. They were real and important and essential.
And because of the time we spent, that first year of new babydom, facing down our fears together, I know without a blink of doubt that if I need to talk about anything, I can turn to one of these now-veteran mamas and she’ll offer the ear, the shoulder, the kindness, or the simple “Me too” to help me find my footing. And you can’t get more ride-or-die than that.