Back in 2006 when one of my housemates announced they had something to show me, it was usually a coveted Topshop skirt or a text from the guy from last night.
This time I was doing the showing, brandishing a white plastic stick with two blue lines.
Now you’re probably anticipating panicked tears and frantic googling but the truth was I was (a) happily married and (b) this wasn’t entirely unplanned. I was living in an oestrogen-saturated house with two friends from work, many scatter cushions and a (female) cat. Meanwhile my expat husband was bouncing around the world trying to decide where ‘we’ wanted to be*.
*I would like to point out that he had been in the UK two weeks prior to ‘two blue line day!’
What came as a half-surprise to us though, was a big surprise / small disappointment to my housemates. They’d planned a year of semi-debauchery and Sundays glued to the sofa with sore heads and the Hollyoaks omnibus. What they got was a third of their group converting to a nun-like existence overnight with a 9pm bedtime and bottles of folic acid replacing the Oyster Bay.
For the ten years that followed I was the only one with golf balls in socks for breasts (the cat had been done) until recently when another third of the group succumbed to her own blue lines and we could finally bond over newborn poo consistency. Ten years living polar opposite lifestyles, but also ten years of solid, enduring friendship.
’Scuse me, think I’ve got something in my eye…
Anyway, here’s our story / my tips on keeping the band together when babies happen.
1.Hair-holding back practice comes in handy
All those times your friend scraped back your freshly GHD’d hair when you’d over-indulged and were worshipping the porcelain god are like a dress rehearsal for morning sickness support. Sorry about the carrot chunks C!
2.Going to a scan? Expect confusion re your sexuality / who’s the mama
I was honoured to be mistaken for one of my housemate’s other halves at the 20 week appointment. However, she was a little miffed to be asked to lie on the bed and lift her shirt at an earlier one (NB. she was not rotund, this was only the 12 week scan).
With hindsight, perhaps T-shirts with the slogans ‘Mother-to-be’ and ‘I’m with the Mother-to-be, platonically’, might’ve prevented the awkwardness.
3. A friend in labour is a b***h indeed
When my housemates accidentally visited me during labour (turns out inductions don’t always take hours and you may not be sat around bored, reading Grazia) they were treated to a brilliant exorcist impression. I vaguely recall cautioning them about
“E-VER getting knocked up” in-between gripping the bed rail and barking at my jetlagged husband to fix the TENS machine.
It was lovely to have some pragmatic female support after hours of my husband and dad for company but I fear I prematurely shattered any romantic notions of childbirth for them both.
4. Keep your colostrum to yourself
Once the baby’s arrived, he/she, your husband and even your midwife might be impressed with your lactation abilities but friends (especially those yet to procreate) might prefer a theory over a practical lesson. In those early sleep-deprived days when you’ve already exposed intimate body parts to a host of medical sorts, you might be tempted to let it all hang out around friends. Don’t.
One of my friends almost regurgitated her sandwich during a lunchtime visit when I was attempting the perfect ‘latch’. To her credit she was mighty forgiving when my 6 month old deposited an entire feed of “Vicky juice” on her dry clean-only dress. But her relief was palpable when I purchased a jazzy nursing cover-up and vowed to restrict the exposure of my areolas to other new mums.
5. The breast pump: the BFF’s best friend
With the help of this ingenious piece of gadgetry I managed the odd girls’ night out and one full day’s retail therapy. Shoppers at the Bullring in Birmingham must’ve puzzled over the dairy farm style whirring noise coming from a cubicle in the ladies one day when my daughter was 3 months old. Pumping and dumping, though kind’ve wasteful = freedom!
Unencumbered by prams and nappy bags I tore around the shops, scouting for tummy-disguising peasant tops on a maternity pay budget. Meanwhile, my ex homie slipped her size 10 figure into pencil skirts funded by her disposable income. It all went to plan until the end of the day when a baby cried at the carpark pay station and my mammary glands sprang a leak.
6. Milk the surrogate Auntie role
My two ladies stepped up to this big time. Gifts were carefully-chosen, stories read, swings pushed and high heeled shoes provided for dress-up (my boy had a penchant for the red ones). As a parent it’s always lovely to see your child being fussed over by others and I couldn’t have loved my friends more at those moments. As a child-free person, it’s always lovely to have a nice cuddle…and then hand them back.
7. Have a little patience
Patience and compromise is the key to keeping the friendship flame alive. I tried to put aside the all-encompassing new baby worries to listen to my friends’ career and boyfriend issues (frankly, welcome after 2 hours spent googling skin rashes). In turn, they made an effort to listen to me wax lyrical about baby snot-suckers.
Of course I made gorgeous new life-long ‘mummy friends’ who I bonded with over Mini Boden sale schedules and X-rated Wind the Bobbin Up lyrics. But as well as these comrades in arms, new mums need childfree playmates whose arms are free and clothes un-sicked on.
My original wingmen knew me when my brain still functioned and was full of project schedules and Booker prize winners, instead of CBeebies theme tunes. They took me to hip Camden nightclubs until the hour that my baby usually started his day and schooled me in the merits of shoe boots. They helped fend off mumsiness and kept the ‘me’ in me.
Now I’m at the stage in my life when I’m emerging, lighter from the fog of early parenting, freer to repay the favour in the decades to come. Decades filled with more babies (maybe), more cats (definitely), the same men (hopefully) and more scatter cushions (absolutely). #squadgoals.
A Guest Blog from Vicky Mitchell
Vicky is a freelance writer, mother of two and accessory hoarder. A word fanatic as a child, she’s written them into her adult life wherever possible. She’s been an English graduate, publishing professional, language teacher and journalism student. She’s also been an expat adventurer and inquisitive watcher of people. Vicky’s blog (Girl with a Gripe) covers parenting, lifestyle and travel and is honest and entertaining, while her copywriting style’s persuasive and entirely tailored. She can write features, reviews, menus, website copy, social media updates…anything that involves messing about with words.