They say it takes a village, so when I found out that I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to build a mom village of my very own.
I could already see our tribe strutting down the sidewalk in our sleekest yoga pants, taking over Starbucks patios with our giant strollers and hosting playdates where we’d drink delicious wine while our babies would play quietly on the floor. We’d support each other, laugh together and make wonderful mat-leave memories for our children and ourselves.
As the first in my social circle to get pregnant, I craved these new friendships as much as I craved double-chocolate doughnuts and microwave lasagna. But I forgot to account for two factors.
First of all, I was too overwhelmed to leave the house for months after my son was born. This was in stark contrast to the temperament of my baby, who was so eager to enter this world that he arrived a month early and burst out of my nether regions like the Kool-Aid man smashing through a brick wall. Between the pain and my new-mom exhaustion, I couldn’t face socializing until my son was about four months old.
When I finally started to venture out, I realized something rather limiting about my attempted social interactions: I am awkward as hell.
I’m not sure what I expected. Did I think my stroller would act as a homing beacon, drawing all neighbourhood moms out of their houses to join me on leisurely walks, where we’d share our innermost desires while sipping iced coffees? Instead, I’d pace the streets, sweating and muttering to myself. On the rare occasion that I’d spot another mom, I’d just tail her like a stalker, too anxious to say hello.
Maybe spontaneous friendships weren’t going to be my thing. No matter what, there were still plenty of opportunities for forced social interactions. I signed myself up for several baby-and-me classes.
I started with postnatal yoga, where I paid $30 a class to breastfeed in yoga pants while watching the other moms fold themselves into various impossible poses. I made some effort to talk to my classmates when my baby wasn’t chugging on my boob, yodelling during Savasana or rolling into the walls. There was also that time when I showed up late, covered in puke and wearing only one sock, and breathlessly told the class that my son had peed on us both on the way to the studio and I hadn’t had time to change. Namaste.
Mat leave: expectations vs. reality
I also took my son to a weekly nursery rhymes class, where I chatted up quite a few of the moms when we weren’t all shuffling in a circle, singing “The Grand Old Duke of York.” I burned my first bridge when I told a nervous-looking mom that her baby was “teeny tiny.” Lesson learned: The next week, I told another mom that her baby was “cute” and asked his name.
Her name was Hazel.
Next, I tried a drop-in playgroup, where I was shamed by the leader for forgetting indoor shoes…for myself. The same woman who would later delight our children with her melodic singing voice sternly told me that the group had a strict “shoes on” policy, so no, I could not just wear my socks.
She pointed to a bin of communal Crocs. Red-faced from chasing after my crawler in gardening shoes that were two sizes too big and from this unwanted transition into “full mom” fashion (all I needed was a fanny pack), I exacted my revenge by not putting anything my baby had slobbered on that day in the “mouthed toys” bin. I have yet to return.
Karma came full circle at our rock-and-roll class, where all the moms were dead to me until I figured out which tambourine gummer was patient zero in the Great Roseola Scare of 2017.
I swear I’m not a social pariah, but the first year of motherhood can be incredibly isolating. Leaving the house requires the precision and planning of a NASA launch. Even if you manage to make mommy friends, one of your babies will always be sick, teething, not sleeping or possessed. I have a few friends with babies, but we mostly communicate via texts that start with “Oh my God, sorry it took me three days to get back to you.”
But I haven’t given up.
I walked my son to the park last week when I zeroed in on another woman with a stroller. I smiled and she smiled back. I parked beside the swings and looked over to where she was laying out a blanket on the grass. We smiled at each other again because, at that point, we were practically best friends. I unbuckled my son and walked over to say hello to my new mommy soulmate. That’s when she reached into her stroller and pulled out a tabby cat on a leash.
I might go back to yoga.