Today I attempted, for the second time, to go to a Mum & Baby group. I’m a confident Mum and I don’t often feel that I need help with anything, but I do miss my friends at work and I would like to have people to talk to who also know what it’s like being a new Mum.
The first group I tried to go to was being held in a local cafe and was being held between 10 & 12, but when I turned up at 11 I couldn’t see a pram, a baby or even a woman in the whole place. I sat down with a drink & played with Ted but half an hour later there were still no babies. I tried really very hard not to cry and then went and bought toys.
This time I thought I couldn’t go wrong. I’d been tweeting the owner of a nursery who was starting a coffee morning. I couldn’t go the first week as Ted was having his jabs but I said I’d be there this week and she sent me a tweet saying it would be at 10 every Thursday.
I was a bit nervous as it was at a nursery and you can never get in to them without undoing a series of Crystal Maze style locks and answering a riddle, but when I eventually got in (and got sent to a different part, making me feel like a failure all over again) I was met with a confused face.
“It’s at eleven,” the confused face said. “Unless she’s changed it again?”
Again? It’s the second week! How can it have changed again? I checked Twitter on my phone and she led me to a room upstairs, telling me “we set the room up just in case but we didn’t think anyone was coming.”
Ted was obviously younger than the children they were expecting (I’m not sure he’s ready for a sand tray or glitter glue yet) so Miss Confused-Face said she’d go and get some baby toys for Ted and some tea for me.
We sat down and I read Ted a book. I walked around showing him the pictures of fireworks the children had made. I read him another book. I bounced him on my knee and chatted to him about the colours on his teething rings. And then I looked at the clock.
For twenty-five minutes (actually, I was five minutes early – or is that sixty-five? – so it was more like thirty minutes) I’d been waiting for something to happen and they hadn’t even been back to tell me if it was worth me waiting.
I was upset and cross so I got Ted back into his coat, grabbed my bag and headed back downstairs. There was no one in the office so I found the right button to open the door and went to put Teddy in his pram. As I was about to navigate the exit system Confused Face appeared and asked if I was going. I could hardly speak.
I have a changing bag that clips on to the pram but I just wanted to get out so I was pushing Ted, carrying the bag, dragging my coat behind me and trying desperately to stop myself from crying. I got to a nearby alley and broke down whilst attaching the bag to the pram. Ted just watched me with a curious look on his face.
It may seem silly to be so upset about someone forgetting to tell me they’d changed the time and someone else forgetting to come back & fill me in, but what I was really upset about was being left alone again. No Mums to talk to, no babies for Ted to watch, no support for the tough days or anyone to tell the good bits to. I felt let down and lonely and isolated.
So I went and bought a load of crisps and chocolate. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I was upset I’m now also feeling guilty!
Before I went home – I really didn’t want to go home – I went to the SureStart centre and put my name on the waiting list for Peep-O and baby massage. It’ll be a while before I get to start them but eventually I’ll meet other Mums and Ted’ll meet other babies. I’d prefer something sooner – now, really – but I’m coping okay really.
What I’m dreading is the SureStart centre being closed, as I know is happening all over the country. The other option I’m hearing about is that they’ll make the service open only to those living below the poverty line and those whose children are at risk. I know how lucky I am that neither of those applies to me, but without SureStart I wouldn’t be coping nearly as well as I am.
Adjusting to being a stay-at-home Mum, even when it’s something you want and have always wanted, isn’t easy after working full-time in a rewarding job with people you can call friends.
There’s more to parenthood than learning to manage a budget and making sacrifices. It’s not just the poor or underprivileged who struggle with the changes to their lives.
It may be the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me, but being a Mum is also a massive challenge.
And I’d really like to be able to talk about it over a cup of tea.