About 15 months ago, 13 couples sat nervously in a church hall, awaiting the start of their first antenatal class. As we introduced ourselves, we were asked to reflect on what we were most apprehensive about. One said (and I'm paraphrasing here) "I was a bit nervous about who we'd end up with in the group, but just from looking around the room I think we've done alright."
Last weekend, 11 of the original 13 couples and their babies gathered to celebrate the babies' first birthday. It was an informal affair, with most of us taking the opportunity to have a well-deserved beer. The mamas took the opportunity to catch up on the minutiae of motherhood and other gossip (we've been seeing each other every week for a year now), while the dads got reacquainted with each other and each other's offspring.
This event would have passed without mention, but part of it was particularly memorable. We decided to do an obligatory "1st birthday line-em-up on the couch" photo. Previous attempts at similar photos have been notoriously unsuccessful, invariably resulting in a chorus of babies screaming at about 300 decibels. Now that all the babies are very mobile, getting them all to sit nicely together on the couch was never going to be possible. But somehow we wrestled them all into the frame, with some sitting nicely, some standing on the couch and some standing on the floor in front of the couch. The whole thing seemed on the verge of meltdown, with a few of the babies already crying, Milkbaby standing on the head of another baby who'd slipped into a very low slouch from her sitting position, and about four others squished into the corner of the couch. I started to clap and cheer, largely to gain the attention of Milkbaby, and this stunned a few of the babies into silence, and then someone started to sing Happy Birthday. And there we were, a group of 30-somethings singing Happy Birthday to our precious 1 year olds. We were singing for them of course (the incredulous looks on their faces said it all), but in a way we were singing for ourselves too.
If you'd asked me at that first antenatal group if I could visualise myself with a one year old, singing happy birthday together with the people in the room, I would have smiled and thought "nah probably not". I don't think any of us could have imagined it - or any part of this wild and wonderful journey for that matter. At the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, I'd like to publicly thank all the other mums in our antenatal group - our catch ups were the highlight of my week and helped me more than anything else to retain some semblance of sanity and good humour. And I know now that we'll be staying firm friends. I can almost taste the beer and hear the Happy Birthday chorus at the pub in a year's time.