This is an ordinary story, one that happens across the world in many different ways, but nonetheless one worth recounting.
Tonight I’ll be attending the 10th Anniversary dinner of the group of women I first met at an ante-natal class in January 2006. It’s taken us a couple of months to get it organised around school starting, kids weekend activities, commitments with work and partners. But it’s no small thing to have been regularly meeting for ten years, it’s worth celebrating.
That first night of the class, two of us knew each other, but none of us had met any of the others, the only thing we appeared to have in common was our first pregnancies falling around the same time. Our ages ranged from 32 to 41 (at 37 I had been certain I would be the oldest there) and our due dates spanned a couple of months. It seemed that we had very different lives and might simply go our separate ways after the classes finished. But we collected up each others email addresses and arranged to meet, together with our partners, for brunch.
As one by one we started taking maternity leave from our jobs, this turned into a weekly walk (a rather slow and ponderous one given our expanding bellies) for anyone who could make it along. The walks gave way to flurries of emails as each of our babies were born, emails packed with birth stories, comparisons of weights, lengths and milestones, feeding tips, discussions on sleepless nights, colic, reflux and the witching hour. Once we could organise ourselves to manage to leave the house with a newborn, we started meeting again, fortnightly when we could, mostly at someone’s house, sometimes at a cafe, memorably at a restaurant where we were made to feel rather unwelcome with all our ungainly strollers and baby paraphernalia, despite being the only group dining there.
Facing all the same challenges at the same time, those sessions were a life saver (as was the home baking for the breastfeeding mums). We would talk solidly for a couple of hours, comparing stories of teething, transition to solids, sleeping through the night (or not), childcare options for when we returned to work. Our lives were now more alike than different and our bond slowly grew.
As our children grew along with it, some of us returned to work, others bought businesses, more babies were born, lives changed. But we have for the most part managed to stay in touch, to continue to meet every few weeks for dinner. Many aspects of our lives have diverged again yet we continue to know each other in ways that couldn’t have happened in any other circumstance.
I wondered what would happen after Zoe died, as their children continued to grow and mine remained forever a six year old angel on my shoulder. Would it become awkward, would people turn away, would it be too painful to continue seeing them? If anything, I think it drew us all closer. Everyone else is about to celebrate their first born’s 10th birthday. I am counting six birthdays, seven years since Zoe’s diagnosis (just before her third birthday), four birthdays in heaven. And yet I still feel connected to these women in all that we’ve experienced and supported each other through and what we’ve achieved.
The death of an ex-partner
A heart attack suffered by another partner
The loss of parents
The illness and death of one of our precious children
Children with broken bones and hospital admissions
Every day challenges
Every day joys and achievements
An ordinary, extraordinary story of life. Ten years and counting. Here’s to us, my friends.