The one about how all this started.
The way this all came about is pretty funny. There’s definitely a hero at the centre of this story, and it’s not me. And, hopefully, it’s going to have all sorts of happy endings.
I’m an only child, and my parents live quite far away. Sebastian’s family are all in Germany. In our group of friends, there aren’t too many kids (though, excitingly a few are on their way). Our little social bubble is pretty small.
We had dinner with friends recently and I noticed that we’ve become difficult. There’s no real conversation over dinner, because in between the general chit-chat, we’re trying to negotiate with a tiny dictator who absolutely, under no circumstances, wants to eat that thing that any other time would be the most delicious thing in the world.
(Before I go on, I’ll flag that I’m not going to add a disclaimer in here: la la la, it’s all worth it. I’ll assume that you know I adore my son.)
I realised that, in becoming a mother, I’ve become a pretty shit friend. And, I don’t know how I feel about that. But, I also know, I just don’t have the energy to try harder, right now. I don’t know when to fit in spontaneous phone calls, or coffee catch-ups. Nights are definitely off the cards. By default, I’m inflexible.
This isolation was so surprising to me. It was the biggest shift I felt once we brought our tiny dictator home from hospital. And, it’s probably had the most effect on me of everything that’s happened in the last 19 months.
Then, one day, I got a Facebook friend request from a former colleague’s wife. We’d met once before, but were otherwise complete strangers. I was always convinced that her husband found me irritating. They had a bright new baby, and I knew she’d had a pretty rough trot during pregnancy.
A few minutes later, a DM arrived: ‘Hello! So sorry for the rando add but I have like zero mum friends and Roland's always talking about great mum rants you post on facie so I'm being a weirdo and forcing an internet friendship. Feel free to disregard x’.
Followed by: ‘I read a great Instagram post from an annoying influencer who said the best thing you can do as a mum is force other mum's to be your friend - in public just go up to them. Which sounds terrifying so I'm doing the millennial version of it instead.’
After about 600 messages, I was completely in awe of her. She’s really funny and smart. And we like the same things. And she has balls. Like, big fuck off balls. What I said before about a ‘rough trot’ is probably the world's biggest understatement. Not only did she have an unbelievable health condition that would have ruined most people, she was met with a health system that couldn’t be arsed. From a complete lack of empathy, through to total gaslighting, the medical professionals tasked with her care absolutely let her down.
But, within the first day of incessant Messenger convos, I learned that she could, and would, do something about it.
It’s not surprising to realise that I’m writing about Caitlin, the co-founder of Panic in the nursery. Those early convos very quickly led to this space: Caitlin totally empowered me to start writing, in the hope that we could help other people who might be feeling like we were. So, even if your bubble was small, you could find someone who knew what you were going through.
It’s pretty intimidating to start writing like this. But, it has been the most liberating and powerful thing that I’ve done. The way I feel now, compared to just before that rando add on Facebook, is like a totally different person. I feel like someone again.
And, it’s all because of Caitlin. She’s the hero of this story.