I’ve just started reading the widely and highly acclaimed The Mothers’ Group. Obviously, this has given me cause to reflect on my own experiences with mothers’ groups.
When Georgia was a baby, I made a proper effort to make friends with other people with babies. I was twenty, and I had no idea how to do things with babies, so I sought others who would tell me what to do. I went along to my Maternal & Child Health Centre with the very, very best of intentions. I signed up for the First Time Mothers’ Group. I went to that group as if it were a religion.
I lived in Brighton when I had Georgia. Brighton is a beach-side suburb of Melbourne, where people are so rich that they don’t have to use indicators and some of them have servants. Neither of these things applied to me, I just wanted to be close to my parents whilst I tried to figure out what the fuck was happening to my life.
The other mothers didn’t like me. I was young and stupid and uninteresting and poor and ugly and I didn’t drink coffee, so we had nothing in common. I had a BabyCo pram and I didn’t drive a car and I didn’t know how to speak to them.
“Which hospital did you deliver in?” they said, and when I told them, they sort of screwed up their faces and said “is that a … public hospital?” like the very thought might render them poverty stricken.
“How was your epidural?” they said, and when I told them I didn’t have one, they laughed with their throats and said “is that because you couldn’t afford one?”
In the end, they started inviting each other to things while I was in ear shot, so I took the hint.
I tried other tactics. For months.
I took Georgia to a Kindergym that I knew the other mothers went to, and feigned surprise when I saw them. “Oh, you go here too?” “Who are you again?” Then, when it turned out that Georgia was no good at Kindergym, they whispered things to each other. I’m sure they were “That woman who looks vaguely familiar has a child that doesn’t know how to do things that our children know how to do.”
I took Georgia to a music class so I could meet new, different Mothers’ Groups. But instead of sitting quietly and clapping in time, she ran around the circle and twirled and took other kids’ toys. The mothers whispered things to each other like “Where did that girl come from, she is so bad at this, is she even from Brighton?”
I took Georgia to a brand new Mothers’ Group in a different suburb and did a baby yoga class. I was rubbish at it, but the mothers were nicer and they even invited me out for lunch. But I guess I ordered the carbonara and they ordered the salad and I was ex-communicated.
Georgia and I didn’t have any friends. And I had post-natal depression. We spent a lot of time sitting on the couch, crying. Me crying, her crying. Often we didn’t go outside. We made friends with the television.
Every now and then, when I visit my parents, I see some of the women from my original Mothers’ Group. They don’t recognise me, and nor should they. But I wonder how we would relate now. I wonder how having a supportive Mothers’ Group might have changed things for me, but especially for Georgia.