My preference is hand-crafted, artisan jewelry—not expensive, just unique. I like to wear original pieces that no one else owns—but I break this rule for a charm bracelet that is also worn by eight other women. It holds a place of honour on my wrist and I wear it every single day—not because it’s beautiful, but because it’s symbolic of the women who gave it to me: my baby group.
This essay is more of a story than a lesson, but in the journey toward wholeness and being the best version of myself, this group of women must be acknowledged and honoured. You can insert whatever word needs to replace ‘baby group.’ The point is, we need other people in our journey.
I love my baby group. I need my baby group. I should probably mention that there are, in fact, no babies in our baby group. Actually, there aren’t even that many kids, because most of the babies are now ‘tweens and teenagers. And, truthfully, they are not even invited to baby group most of the time—it’s become a moms only thing. We made numerous attempts to rebrand as “Moms’ Night Out” or “The Muffin Tops” (because…never mind…you know why), but it never really stuck. So baby group it is.
Baby group began with two of us who invited another one, who invited her friend, who invited a colleague from work, who invited her neighbour and so on. Before we knew it, we were a thriving group of moms and babies.
In Canada, we are blessed to have a year of paid (ish) maternity leave, so for a whole year, we met at least once a week, but more often than not, two to three times a week. It was our saving grace during a time when our worlds had completely changed, when we were raw with lack of sleep, and we were constantly wondering what was normal.
Am I okay? Is my baby okay? Is my marriage okay? Am I losing my mind? Am I doing a good job? Am I still me?
We carried on meeting as often as we could, even after many of us had returned to work. Second rounds of babies were born, and then for some, thirds and fourths, rendering our meetings a little chaotic. Some of the connections drifted—not for sinister reasons, but simply due to schedule differences and busy lives. Some of us, however, were not ready to say goodbye and our core group became a stable nine.
The interesting thing about our baby group is that many of us would never have crossed paths without babies as the common denominator. We came from different backgrounds, different professions, different physical locations and different belief structures. What we had in common was that our babies were born at around the same time. What we had in common was that we needed this support network to help navigate parenthood. What we had in common is that we were not interested in faking it.
And so, this initially unlikely group of women became friends. Not superficial, fluffy friends—but true, safe, visceral, gut level, raw, honest friends.
I see the formation of relationships like a living entity that is being knitted together and created. Every interaction shared—whether the discussion of a great recipe or the honest admission that someone is feeling really low—all of these create lines of connection, passing the ball of wool from one to another, until something resembling an intricate web is formed.
When I look back to the beginning of baby group, in my mind’s eye, I can picture us standing in a circle, passing this ball of fine wool or thread between us. Every conversation, every tear, every outbreak of uncontrollable laughter, every funny story, every breast pad tucked away and left behind in couch cushions, every shared insight, every frustrated vent of anger, every word of wisdom and experience, every cup of coffee poured—all of these were like fine threads—not necessarily strong as individual filaments, but wound together and tossed back and forth millions of times, they developed into something hardy.
Early on, I’m sure there were gaps and spaces in our web where, maybe, we worried about precious things falling though—Is my honesty safe here? Can I really say this out loud?—but with enough time spent and the continued passing of the ball, the web became something substantial that could hold heavy and precious things.
It’s a messy, beautiful web of connection that has required an investment of time, truth, honesty, listening and sharing. It didn’t just happen. It was intentional.
These ladies are my people. I love them and I trust them. Together, we have navigated, and continue to navigate, the highs and lows of life. We’ve hashed out our parenting joys and woes at every age and stage. We have prayed for and waited alongside one another for successful adoptions. We have cried together when marriages ended. We have rooted for one another in infertility. We have grieved the loss of babies. We have grieved the loss of parents. We have celebrated remarriage. We have conferred on sex, make up, menstrual cycles, paint colours, spouses and packing lunches. We still ask: Am I okay? Is my kid okay? Is my marriage okay? Am I losing my mind? Am I doing a good job? Am I still me? We have had ‘girls only’ weekends away, family trips together, thousands of play dates and huge family parties that are always a gong show and always worth it.
Our kids know one another. Even those who aren’t close friends (though many of them are) know “that kid is a baby group kid.” They seem to sense that they’re related somehow. And in my mind, they are.
Our baby group sessions (sans kids, of course) are not quiet, reserved, “proper” gatherings. There is a lot of talking and too much food. There are usually Hello Dolly squares, lots of cheese, wine and whatever sad gluten free baking I’ve brought with me. Sometimes we talk all at once and over top of one another. At other times, we jump in and out of the many strands of concurrent conversation. But often, we listen intently to one person, without interruption, as she pours out her hurt or worry or frustration. We’ve all had our turns in this chair. We listen and offer support. We say: “We get it. We understand.”
We had baby group a few nights ago. Like always, we got all caught up on the latest celebrations and concerns. And like always, we left feeling like we might be normal—and like our kids might be normal, too. The next morning, one of the mamas wrote, via group text: “ I always feel more hopeful the morning after baby group.”
And that is exactly it. Solidarity. Baby group only works if all the members are authentic and honest. If members can’t share their questions and failures and darkest angst for fear of being judged or shamed, then all benefit is lost. The last thing any of us need is to feel that sense of competition with one another. In our group, we can brag about our kids’ awesome moments and the group celebrates with you. We can also send out a group text lamenting that our child is for sure going to end up in jail (or we are!) and there’s nothing that can be done, so just cry with me.
What began in the early days as two to three times a week eventually spread to once a month. And now, because our babies lead such busy lives, it’s often much longer than that. But lapses of time do not diminish the safety and affection.
Many of us don’t see one another on a regular basis during this ridiculously busy phase of life (sorry, younger moms—it doesn’t get easier, it gets different), but I know these women are there; solid ground underneath it all. Getting together with my baby group feels like rest in the midst of treading water. It allows me to touch down for a moment, knowing my feet will land on something solid. We remind one another that the water isn’t as deep or as dark as it sometimes seems. We remind one another that we’re not alone.
You need a “baby group,” so gather some people. You don’t have to have everything in common. You don’t even need to have kids! Start sharing stories, holding confidences, telling the truth and being a safe place. Pass the ball of yarn back and forth between the two of you, or three of you, or ten of you. Do it on purpose. The intricate web that forms will be a thing of beauty.
A great piece Ellen. Shows how women need women to go through their journeys. Baby group, bridge group, golf buddies, book clubs, kindergarten pals etc. So important to stay connected. We can learn so much when others share their experiences and wisdom. If only men could have that same opportunity….. well they can but it’s less common. I am blessed to also have strong, interesting, funny and wise women around me. Yeah for all who enjoy “baby groups”. ❤️
PS. You should rename your baby group to WOW. “Women of Wisdom”.
Nancie Stevenson says
As usual it was superb.
Amen to long lasting girlfriends! How would we survive without them?
Yes yes yes!! Long lasting relationships, through thick and thin, are the best!
Yes yes yes!! Long lasting relationships, through thick and thin, are the best!