Why I'm scared to go to a 'birth club'

<i></i>

I signed up for a 'birth club' recently and endless email threads have been spooling out along the length of my laptop screen as people write back and forth, planning their next meet-up. And then they write to each other afterward to say, “It was so amazing to meet you all!! All 40 of you!! And your wonderful hubbies!” And I am still cowering in my apartment, afraid to step outside because I might get run over by a seriously jacked up stroller. Those things are so technologically advanced now—they’re like transformers. Some of them are probably voice activated. You can fit your whole life in one, if you can only master the mechanics, like an organist, always toeing pedals as your hands move busily above

My mum and I went to Babies R Us and looked at the things that babies are supposed to have. Fleets of bouncy seats with dangling, jangling things attached,  high cloth walls around play sets that will educate your child from birth to college while you’re in the other room, living your life, and hulking herds of gleaming, multi-compartmented strollers. I panicked and bought a stuffed giraffe. I couldn’t face the handlebar innovation. I couldn’t face any of it. I felt suddenly like I needed to sit down, so I feigned round ligament pain.

There are raging debates in this new world of motherhood, over which carrier is worse for your baby’s hips. I thought only German shepherds got hip dysplasia. No, my baby will, too, if I choose wrong. Which diapers are dangerous and which are wondrous? Glider or rocker? Do you even need to ask? What’s wrong with you?

And then there are the mums themselves. These cheerful legions of women in the birth club that I have automatic membership to. These women who will meet all 40 of each other, all at once, and compare notes. I keep thinking of reasons why I can’t go. I’m really busy on Sundays. I have to clean the kitchen. I have to prepare for Monday! I am hanging out with my husband.

I know I’m supposed to go. None of my friends are having babies. I’m the only one.  I’m supposed to be lonelier. I’m not sure why I’m not. My friends are talking about “in three-to-five years….” And my curled up, unborn daughter is kicking me in the cervix, like, “Ready or not!” I ran into this woman who saw that I was pregnant and said, “Listen, there is ONE thing you need to do. RIGHT NOW. Join a mothers' group!”

So I thought, “Yes! OK! I should do that!” Because I am big on taking advice from people who have been there when I haven’t.

But I can’t seem to. I don’t know what my deal is.

I think that part of my deal is that I am not ready to be a mum.

And it’s confusing, because I actually feel totally ready to meet my daughter. I can’t wait. Especially when she’s kicking me somewhere weird. No, especially all the time. I want to see her face. I want to touch her hands. I want to know her. I want to introduce her to my little world. I hope she likes giraffes. I know she’s going to love her dad’s furry chest. It’s impossible not to.

But when I think of myself as a 'mum', I don’t like that. I don’t understand it, except the way it’s been shown to me, in a million gifs and jokes and clichés. In the extreme specificity of my own mother, who I am of course like in some ways and profoundly different from in others. In the stories the young women I know talk about less ambitious women who got pregnant and gave up. And the thing is, it always looks like a whole identity. And I don’t feel ready to shimmy out of this one and pull a whole new self on instead. I’ve fought to get here. I’ve agonised and plotted and cajoled and therapised and cackled with dark glee and triumphed and generally made myself crazy over it.

I may be a mum soon, but I’m not ready to say it yet. I am not ready to join the mothers' group. I am holed up in my apartment, writing a novel about a girl who doesn’t yet know her own power, but she will one day save the world.

Maybe she’ll have a daughter, too, eventually.  Maybe she’ll be a mum and she’ll learn about different kinds of strollers. Saving the world probably wouldn’t prepare her, though, for chaos of Babies R Us. Nothing can really prepare a person for that.

 

This story first appeared on Eat The Damn Cake. Republished with permission.

16 comments

  • There is a lot of conflicting advice and marketing to deal with as a new mum. Everyone's different and introverts may get along famously without mothers groups at all. Then there's the fact that hormones often kick in and instincts are usually pretty reliable for most mums. Enjoy the journey! From a mother of 2.

    Commenter
    Nisha
    Location
    North Fitzroy
    Date and time
    April 11, 2013, 8:51AM
    • I was kindly told by my mother in law that I should join a mothers group to get advice! All because her daughter had attended a mothers group and loved it! And I should do the same as her daughter, frankly I didn't think I needed advice and if I wanted advice or help I would ask my mum or one of my sisters who Already had kids. Plus the mothers group I could've joined was all booked out by the time I got round to inquiring. I agree most women know what to do when they have a baby, natural instincts.

      Commenter
      Cat woman
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 9:14AM
      • DON'T DO IT!!! Mothers groups will turn your brain to porridge!

        You do not need to sit in a room with 40 women and their babies competing about how many times their babies poo. Trust me, you will lose the will to live!

        I was the first of my friends to have kids, and I had twins to boot. I found mothers groups to be the most vacuous depressing experiences. If you get lonely or start to go crazy, get out of the house, arrange lunch/coffee with your working friends, there is no need to expose yourself to endless debates about the best type of nappy!

        Also, mothers shops are a trap! After one awful experience at mothercare Oxford I did all my baby buying online!

        Commenter
        Liv
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        April 11, 2013, 10:59AM
        • It is not compulsory, there are no contracts thanks god. I went to the first couple which included 15 or so couples. I found 2 mums I liked so just caught up with them and gave the rest a miss. There are many groups you will be thrown into as a parent (school, sport etc) and in all of them there are going to be some 'interesting' people. There will be the opinionated, the martyrs, the victims and the competitive but amongst them are some genuinely nice people who will become good friends and a someone to bounce of with kids of a similar age. Do some detective work and find the good ones - I know I am glad I did

          Commenter
          LeeBee
          Date and time
          April 11, 2013, 11:52AM
          • That is exactly right. Mother's groups are about throwing together a whole lot of mums who would probably not otherwise meet and giving them the opportunity to form friendships. It usually means exactly what you have said, you find like minded people and you find social support from other mothers with children of a similar age and then break off.

            The Oh so superior attitude of people like Liv are probably more an indication that they feel too insecure to go along and see if they can make a friend.

            Mothers/new parents need support and mothers groups are just a way of making connections within the local community. It doesn't have to be an intellectual exercise or a discussion about the genius of Patrick White.

            Commenter
            Melissa
            Date and time
            April 11, 2013, 3:31PM
        • Even if you only meet one other like-minded soul in your motherhood journey, you'll be better off than with no one. I thoroughly enjoyed my own company while pregnant (raging introvert here), but as the years ticked over, and more children came, the more I came to appreciate the wisdom and camaraderie of other mothers.
          And I say journey because yes, your identity will be changed by motherhood, but 7 years in I'm finding motherhood is like a series of places you pass through. Although sometimes you feel lost, you always carry around that sense of yourself and she'll appear in the most surprising places, shocking you with how much she's changed and yet still stayed the same.
          Good luck Kate.

          Commenter
          Ms jane
          Location
          Not-quite-Melbourne
          Date and time
          April 11, 2013, 11:54AM
          • Most mothers groups in Victoria are initiated and set up by the local council maternal/child health nurse and they are first time mothers only (so no risk of having some know-all bossing you around). You only start to go once your baby is about 4-6wks old and you can finish anytime you like. (Some mums still meet years after their kids start school!)

            Aside from the potential competitive angle, these groups can be very supportive and community based. For some people, it's the first time they connect with people who live in their neighbourhood. There are some real advantages to connecting with other local mothers -especially as many mothers risk being isolated during those first months of their baby's life while on mat leave. Just catching up for coffee or a pram stroll can be a welcome sanity check. I still remember being able to vent about lack of sleep and sore nipples (!) to these relative strangers in a way I couldn't with closer family. I would agree that not all mums in these groups may be best friend material but I still see a few women from my own group - nine years on! I can also recommend joining your local ABA group - which is a group supporting mums with breastfeeding. My local ABA group used to bring meals to new mums so they didn't have to cook in those crazy early days.

            Commenter
            motherof3
            Date and time
            April 11, 2013, 12:13PM
            • I agree with Liv. My son is now 17. I joined a mother's group when he was born. All they wanted to talk about was baby stuff. It was competitive - I know several of the thought my son and I didn't quite measure up as I couldn't breast feed and he sat like a blob while the other kids ran around! Tried to talk to them once about a movie I'd gone to, the response being "where was your baby?"!
              Having said that, some groups are better than others. Just don't stick one out if it's not your scene.
              PS son doing very well now, despite everything!

              Commenter
              Bumblebee
              Date and time
              April 11, 2013, 12:20PM
              • I have two kids, and couldn't think of anything worse, then (early 90's) or now than joining a mothers group. Even if your friends don't have kids, don't you already have friends? I don't understand why having kids of the same age makes you automatically friends with their parents, same with my kids school friends. No, am not friends with their parents, don't see why I would be? Like being friends with women beaucse they are brunette, like me!

                Maybe it is just a small minority like me? I pretty much object to the name itself whats more - Mothers groups? Noting riles me more than women who define themselves as a mother, to the exclusion of anything else. I find it pathetic, aren't you capable of anything else? Don't find too many men who say their job is just father. 'Mothers' groups perpetuate the idea that you are a just a mother. Why can't it be 'friends I now have because I gave birth around the same time as them, although we have nothing else in common' group.

                Commenter
                kross
                Location
                Brisbane
                Date and time
                April 11, 2013, 12:41PM
                • What an awesome article! I am not pregnant, but am keen to start a family in the next couple of years, and as much as I adore children, love babies, am very maternal and can't wait to have my own kids...I don't want to be a 'mother'. Well, not in the overcomplicated, judge-y, perfectionistic, ridiculous sense that I see all around me. The LAST thing I want is to spend hours fretting over things like what baby sling is more ergonomically correct, when I'm 'supposed' to do things like make the baby sleep in their own room, control cry, introduce solids, not to mention going to play centres, mothers coffee groups, those ridiculous 'wiggle and giggle' baby play classes...oh lord. It is really not my style, but I'm worried I'll be lonely because so many of my friends have become these nazi mothers...erghh. Help!

                  Commenter
                  FreakedOut
                  Location
                  Adelaide
                  Date and time
                  April 11, 2013, 1:10PM

                  More comments

                  Comments are now closed