The first year as a new parent is hard – it’s full of the unknown, self doubt and sleep deprivation. It’s a massive life adjustment that takes time, patience and a few tears to get used to, but the right support and friendships can make all the difference.

When I was pregnant, I must have read leaflet after leaflet and magazine articles galore, detailing in oh-so-handy-to-tick-off lists about the things we’d need to buy: 6 x sleepsuits, 5 x baby vests, 2 x cardigans… bed sheets, blankets, bibs… car seat, pram, cot… the lists were never ending. But never once did any of these lists tell me to get myself the thing that I really needed most: mommy friends.

Mommy friends

It was only a couple of weeks after I found out that I was pregnant that I signed us up for NCT Antenatal classes (after checking that we’d be entitled to a refund should the worst have happened). I booked because I felt they’d help us feel more prepared and I liked the idea of having a time set aside each week in the lead up to baby’s arrival for us to focus on what kind of parents we would be but mainly, I booked because I wanted to meet other local new parents. On that first nerve-wracking session , I had no idea how much I would come to depend and rely on that room full of strangers.

Through discussing what would be in our ideal labour room (“No mobile phones! There’s no way I’m having him messing around on his phone the whole time.”), learning just how many people might be in the room for a c-section and debating the appropriate responses to different parenting situations, we bonded. We laughed over the different approaches the Mums and Dads had to things (especially when some of the Dads thought that a night out BOWLING would be a good third-trimester pregnancy date option…), and we wrangled with teddies and dolls of all shapes and sizes to try out breastfeeding positions.

NCT Essentials Course

The week we learned about the different stages of labour, what would be happening during each stage, the effects and what our partners could do to help. Pretty sure fainting was recommend!

We were all in it together. We still are.¬†A year later, and we’re in the middle of celebrating our babies’ first birthdays. But we’re not just celebrating a year of their lives, we’re celebrating a year of our lives too. A year of the craziest learn-on-the-job experience, a year of baby classes and nappy changes, a year of incredible friendships that have made the journey a less lonely, less scary one. We’ve not stayed as a full NCT class – there’s one couple that have gone off and done their own thing and we’ve wonderfully gained the friendship of another lovely Mum through¬†Rhythm Time but for seven out of eight of us to still be seeing each other on a pretty much weekly basis is pretty damn amazing, I think!

These women and their gorgeous little ones have become part of my day-to-day life that I can’t imagine having done it all without them. If I have a worry or a wobble, they are the ones I turn to. I look to them for inspiration, for guidance and for much needed reassurance! I celebrate alongside them when a baby sleeps through (not a milestone Pickle has achieved yet!), and I know they’ll understand and empathise if I’m having a frustrating day or just need to offload. It’s the most precious of support networks and I’d be lost without them all.

I’-m so glad that Pickle has a group of friends to grow with. Over this past week, it’s been so heartwarming to see how relaxed and comfortable our babies are with each other. Watching them play together, share toys (and water bottles!), laughing and giggling at god-only-knows-what! Seeing them chase each other up the steps at soft play to the slide with such big smiles on their faces could brighten up the dullest of days. And occasionally trying to poke each other in the eye. I’ll be enjoying this phase for as long as I can before the inevitable happens and they begin to pick fights, bicker and argue once the talking begins!

A flashback photo to the time we thought it would be a good idea to try and walk across a muddy field with pushchairs! We’ve learned a lot since then…

As more of our little group head back to work, we’re entering a new phase of parenting. We may not be able to see each other as often anymore, but I’ll always jump at the chance for a walk around the lake, a coffee shop date or an afternoon at soft play. Because as much as it’s nice for Pickle to get out and about, it’s even nicer for me. I wouldn’t be the parent I am today without these wonderful women, and for that, I will always be eternally grateful.

So here’s to the next year: to the remaining birthday celebrations, to hen dos and weddings, to first steps, first words and more baby and toddler classes. To picnics in the park, afternoon teas and much needed nights out. To us, and our little ones. And for being in it together.