On Friday I had to say goodbye to a group of girls whose friendship has been monumental throughout the end of my pregnancy and ever since.
There's a brilliant charity here in the UK called the NCT - the National Childbirth Trust - one of the many things that the UK does absolutely right in the maternity & parenting support arenas. The NCT offers prep classes for new parents and many people take them - there are more classes through them than offered by the local surgery and often you can start them sooner than you can with the NHS ones. They were amazing for both M and I - a wealth of information about planning for labor and delivery, how partners could help with pain management and keeping the women relaxed, and much much more information as well for following the birth and the early days of breastfeeding and coping with a newborn. But one of the best things about it is, you get to meet other couples who are in the exact same boat as you are. People about to become parents for the first time, living in the same area, and who you get to know pretty well in the 6+ weeks of classes as you discuss all of your fears and anxieties about the upcoming changes in life. There's a 'reunion' after each of the babies have been born so you get to meet all the little ones.
And if you're lucky - as I was - you get a truly wonderful bunch of women in your group that you actually enjoy spending time with and getting to know, and you become friends. Friends with this unique bond - you may not have been friends for very long, but in the time you have known them, you've gone through the most intense and emotional experience that you've probably had up until then in your life. It's very intimate and personal, and you not only get to know the women but also their partners, and you really get to know their little ones too - because their little ones are your little one's first playmates! And if you do become friends with them, as we did, and they shore you up in those early months of no sleep and feeling like you have no answers and questioning every decision you make as a parent (and hopefully you shore them up too), that bond between you all grows fast and thick. And you watch their babies become toddlers next to your toddler, and watch them play together, and develop personalities together, and start preparing for school together. It's a wonderful, amazing, lovely friendship that develops...which made it really, really difficult to say goodbye.
I think I must have envisioned always having these couples and their babies in our lives - always being Bug's friends and having playdates, always sending the women questions and funny photos on WhatsApp, always meeting at the wildlife park or the petting farm... Even though we've only known each other for a bit less than 2 years, we still have this great connection. And I was fine - as I always am - just pretending it was like any other play date where we say goodbye and then see each other again a few days later. (I can't really handle goodbyes - and being someone whose tears are always at the ready, and plentiful, once they start they don't stop so I rarely risk it.) But as I drove away, realizing that I had no idea when I'd see these wonderful women or Bug's very first friends again, the tears just started pouring, streaming down my face from behind my sunnies, and I had to pull over to try and get myself together. It was a tough drive home - and a tough evening. And a tough weekend, if I'm being honest - there were many difficult goodbyes.
But on this Grateful Heart Monday, I'm feeling incredibly blessed and grateful that we made such hard and fast friends because of our NCT antenatal class. I'm grateful for the nearly two years I've gotten to enjoy their friendship and company, and advice and learnings with their own babes. And I'm grateful that I know we will keep in touch and share photos still, and hopefully take turns visiting each other in the months and year(s) to come. I'm grateful for 4 beautiful women who I will cherish as my friends for the rest of my life.
I wish you all a week ahead full of things for which you can feel grateful too!