19 February 2012, by Tan Yi Lin
I recently read an article in Sunday Lifestyle! where the journalist lamented about children driving a wedge between friends i.e. when one party becomes a parent, it is inevitable that lifestyle changes dictate that the dynamics of the relationship also change.
That article held true for me during the early part of our journey to parenthood. Almost everybody seemed to be popping a baby or two while we were trying so hard to conceive. Friends drew closer to one another through “mummy talk” – breastfeeding, milk intake, sleep training, diaper changes, etc. – while I, with nothing to contribute but still trying to show interest in my friends’ new lifestyles, soon felt left out. Photos of friends’ children at play dates and birthday parties soon peppered the Facebook pages and while I was happy for them, that seemed to add to the distance between us – even if the distancing was on my part only.
It was during this time that I started making new friends, outside of the familiar circle whom I went to school with. Since then, I have been either meeting new people or drawing closer to existing friends, who have walked alongside on the path to parenthood and beyond.
IVF Support Group
I never thought that I’d make new acquaintances – much less close friendships – on the Internet. S, Y and myself found one another through our blogs and our friendship has been an amazing one since. We have seen one another through countless visits to IVF specialists, blood tests, repeated scans of our poor insides, twice-daily injections, pill-popping, insensitive comments from other people, etc. We’re not physically there with one another, of course, and although I only see them once every few months, I know that the communication channel is always open and that there will always be two listening ears on the other side whom I can confide in.
Even though I’ve now got Coco and one of the girls is expecting a baby in March, we’re still there for one another, because we all know what it is like being on The Other (childless) Side.
Mummies Chit Chat Group
Way before Coco was conceived, Dan and I hung out with a group of friends, informally referred to as “the social group”, whom we would meet up with every couple of weeks for dinners, coffee, movies, beach outings, etc. The “Mummies Chit Chat” support group came about when three couples amongst the social group conceived and all our babies arrived, roughly two months apart, between June and October last year. Naturally, the three new mums wanted to sound one another out for advice on all things “baby” e.g. creams for diaper rash, how to get rid of cradle cap, how long birthing wounds took to heal, etc. To avoid spamming the rest of the group with too much information on breast engorgement and baby poop, the new mummies started our own Whatsapp group titled “Mummies Chit Chat”, which has proven to be a great platform for sharing invaluable advice and support for one another.
I think it also helps us maintain a good relationship with the non-parent couples in the social group because with the “baby talk” out of the way, we spend group outings talking about things other than parenting, such as work, travel, family, entertainment, general news and happenings, etc. – just like how we used to do before babies came along.
Working & Nursing Mums Group
I think it’s wonderful that the organisation that I work for provides a nursing room for employees. This doesn’t just provide nursing mothers with the privacy that we need. The nursing room has become a space where new friendships are formed between colleagues, where we can come together to talk about the challenges of being a working, nursing, mum – and know that these women whom we share our thoughts with, truly understand and empathise with us. We swap stories about caregiver arrangements, work projects, time management and of course, breast pumps – not just pumps in general, but the most efficient and portable ones, which are the models that working mothers are most interested in.
It’s especially heartening when my colleague comes in midway during my nursing session and exclaims, “Oh I’m so glad that you’re here! I had such a bad day yesterday and couldn’t find time to pump from 10am to 5pm, but nobody will understand how awful that feels – except you.” And yes, I not only do know how uncomfortable engorgement feels, but also how difficult it can be to tear yourself away midway through a work meeting to pump, even though you are practically bursting.
We’re having our first group lunch this coming Tuesday and I’m looking forward to it. It is inevitable that we will gradually stop using the nursing room as we can’t be breastfeeding forever, but I hope that this little group of new confidantes will continue to meet for lunch occasionally just to catch up with one another as colleagues even when we are no longer nursing.
The husband truly is a support group in himself. His love and care all the way from the IVF days until today, have been indispensable. My latest meltdown happened just a few weeks back while he was driving me to work. The demands of work and lack of sleep were wearing me down, and I broke down while lamenting about how little time I have left with Coco now that I’m back at work and how I didn’t like other people competing with us for those few precious hours with her. He listened and at the end of my teary rant, just said, “You know that whatever you want – I will support you. I just want you to be happy.” And that was that.
Some men gift their wife with “push presents” in the form of luxury handbags, watches and jewellery. With a husband like Dan, I don’t need a push present and although this is a stance that I’ve firmly maintained, it seems that he is just as stubbornly insisting that he will give me one, even though it will arrive super late – when Coco turns 9 months old! (More on that in a future post!)
To all the friends – and husband – in my support groups, thank you for being there.
And to others out there whom I’ve yet to meet in person, I hope that this blog has been of help and a form of support for you too 🙂