I do a very good impression of fitting in with the mums at the baby groups Arlo and I frequent. The changes we have made over the past year are typical of a young family. Got pregnant, bought a house, I even have the ever so popular Bugaboo pram ( a very generous gift from Arlo’s auntie). The not-so-obvious thing with my situation is that I’m still coming to terms with all of these abrupt changes and that they happened rather hurriedly in preparation for Arlo’s arrival.
I was living in a house share when I fell pregnant. Sam was also living with friends. We were happy like this, had a great social life, and had no plans to move in together any time soon. Within a month of finding out about Arlo, Sam moved in with me in my share house in Brixton. Four girls, a guy, and a bun in the oven. We then moved in with my mum for the majority of my pregnancy to save money. Back in my childhood bedroom. Within the space of half a year, I found myself a homeowner, living with Sam for the first time, and being a mother to Arlo. I am very very fortunate to be in such a good position, one that can be called typical of a young family. But that doesn’t mean it has been any easier for me to get used to or that I suddenly feel I fit in with other mothers at baby group.
During one of these groups I unwittingly found myself caught in a conversation about how easy or not so easy it had been to conceive. When asked directly about my experience conceiving Arlo, I half answered with ‘Yep, very easy’, and left it at that. I was a little shocked at myself for my deflection of the question, because I am not ashamed that the discovery of Arlo’s existence had come as a big surprise. I wondered why I didn’t answer truthfully – that I have no idea how long it took to conceive Arlo because we weren’t trying, and I can never know for sure, but I bet the job was done very easily considering we were being safe and thought we had all bases covered (there’s a pun in there somewhere). Partly because I was put on the spot, and couldn’t think of a quick way to articulate my words so that it wouldn’t sound like my life was a big, unplanned mess that I was attempting to navigate my way through. Mostly because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Everyone else in the room talked about conception and getting their ‘BFPs’ as a happy, planned event. No one had a story like mine, full of fear and doubt and not knowing where they would end up. This is why I often shirk questions about what I was doing and where I was living pre-Arlo, why I feel uncomfortable using the juvenile term of ‘boyfriend’ to describe Sam, even though I prefer it to the more formal ‘partner’ or the too dependent phrase ‘other half’. Why I can feel so similar, yet at the same time, miles apart from most of the other mums I have met.
I know that we are not that different really. We are all experiencing new motherhood, most of us for the first time. And there are plenty of stories to share about teething, weaning, sleeping and pooing. But take that away and I am left with a room full of people with whom I would have no idea what to talk about. I would like to have more in common with the mums, I would like to find mums like me. I am caught in a no man’s land between the teenage mum group and the thirty-something planned pregnancy-husband-career group. There doesn’t seem to be such a defined slot for the mum who perhaps didn’t think she would find herself at this stage until a good few years later in life. Maybe there are other mums at baby group like me, maybe I just don’t know because they are also keeping quiet for fear of standing out from the norm.