WTF? The hospital has a leaky roof? Those were my thoughts as I hobbled out of my bed for the first time after having my 10-plus-pound baby extracted from my womb thanks to a natural birth that ended in an unexpected and unpleasant C-section. My beefy newborn was finally sleeping rather than crying, grunting or spitting up excessively, so I took the opportunity to defy the searing pain in my abdomen and pee. But I stopped in my tracks when I heard the sound of something splatting loudly against the ground.
I looked up, but failed to find the source of the dripping water. It was only then that I realized it wasn't water, and it wasn't coming from above. The culprit was my own breasts, hugely and disturbingly swollen with milk. My supply had come in quickly and with ferocity. Yes, I'd always known my boobs would eventually fill with milk, but I'd imagined me blissfully breastfeeding my little one as bluebirds chirped in the background. The for-real sight of my severely enlarged mammary glands dripping liquid totally freaked me out.
Minutes later, a brazen nurse attempted to help relieve the pain. She squeezed one of my bare boobs with one hand and instructed my husband to do the same as she jammed my nipple into my newborn's mouth with her other hand. I surrendered all dignity as the harshness of my new reality set in.
Holy shit, I thought. This motherhood thing is intense.
There've been innumerable holy-shit moments since the boob-leaking-and-squeezing incident, but one of the most memorable, life-changing ones came about two weeks later. I'd been turned into a breastfeeding machine, answering my child's call every 30 to 45 minutes. My home had become a lonely lactation prison, and I looked at the door longingly as I resolved to finally get the hell out of the house and interact with humans who did more than eat, sleep and cry.
With my boobs essentially dangling out in the open all the time, though, I felt completely alienated from the general public. I needed to be around other moms of newborns who wanted to talk about things like squirting nipples, sleeplessness, yellow poo and baby acne.
From that moment, meeting mommy friends—not only moms with kids, but with babies who were around my little one's age—became a top priority. I approached the task with fervor, googling, asking around and tapping into any and every resource I found.
My boy has just turned 2, and I'm happy to report that his life thus far has been packed with ample play-dates. At his birthday parties, which have been filled to capacity, I always get asked how I managed to meet so many new friends with kids. While I wish I could say it happened organically, many of the relationships were manufactured—sometimes quite forcefully.
These days, my first piece of unsolicited advice to new moms is this: Make mommy friends as soon as you possibly can. What follows are some methods—leaving out the more obvious examples of looking for nearby neighbors with kids or meeting fellow moms at parks—that worked best for me. Each recommendation comes with an important caveat: It's not enough to simply show up. You have to be open, willing and brave enough to ask people for their names and numbers, even if it means looking a little vulnerable and desperate.
San Diego Hypnobirthing: My hubby and I went the natural-birthing route and chose to take a San Diego Hypnobirthing childbirth class that touts deep breathing and hypnotherapy as a way to a smooth, pain-free labor. Yeah, some of the hippie-dippy methods sorta helped while I labored for seven hours without pain medication, but the real ROI on this expensive and time-consuming class was the pregnant couples we met—we all had babies around the same time, and some of us remain friends to this day.
Maiden to Mother at Nature's Whisper: Nature's Whisper School of Yoga (4205 Park Blvd. in University Heights) hosts a free Maiden to Mother support group from 12:45 to 2 p.m. on Fridays and a Boobies and Babies group that meets from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays. My first-ever outing alone with my new baby was to Maiden to Mother, and I did manage to meet a cool mom whom I now consider one of my best friends.
Breastfeeding Support Group: Luckily, I didn't have any issues breastfeeding, but during my maternity leave, I often crashed the free, weekly Breastfeeding Support Group, which just moved locations and now meets from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays at the San Diego Breastfeeding Center (3355 Fourth Ave. in Bankers Hill). Sometimes, I just needed mommy friends for a day. This is where I found them.
Baby Garten: I became a baby-class fanatic during my first year of motherhood and ended up taking several courses at Baby Garten (1947 30th St. in South Park). The one that yielded the most long-lasting friendships was the "Playing, Learning, Exploring Infant Development Class," an eight-week series on things like the importance of tummy time and developmental milestones.
Social-media: One of my most favorite mom friends came from Facebook. The artsy New Zealand native and I barely knew each other, but she noticed we had boys around the same age and sent me a message. She's since become the kind of buddy that I can text to say, "Hey, we're bored. Can we drop by in 20 minutes," and she'll say yes. I've borrowed her tactic and have met new friends for myself and connected other local pregnant gals with similar due dates to one another.
Library story times: My mother-in-law started taking my little guy to our local library's toddler story times when he was barely sitting. It didn't take long before the tight-knit group of moms who attend on a weekly basis kindly took me—a fulltime working momma who can't attend—under their wings. Having friends in the neighborhood is invaluable. Most all county and city libraries have story times for kids; the key is finding the one that's right for you (check sdpl.bwcs-hosting.com/cal or sdcl.org).
Meetup.com mommy groups: There are dozens of local mommy groups on Meetup.com. I met up with one geared toward young moms and quickly realized that they really did mean young moms, not moms in their early 30s, like me. None of the meet-up groups I tried ended up being right for me, but they might work for you.
Soccer Shots: In my ongoing quest to meet mommy friends, I recently signed my boy up for Soccer Shots, which attempts to teach the sport to kids as young as 2. While I don't expect my son to learn the finer points of futbol, I do plan to worm my way into a few more social circles.
Annual San Diego Baby Fest: Because all relationships take time and effort, a few of my mommy friends and I make it a point to organize an annual meet-up on Shelter Island. We invite pretty much everyone we know who has kids to a casual picnic party by the playground. The event reminds us of one another's existence and reinvigorates us to continue getting together for play-dates even though many of us have either added a second kid—or are working on it—and juggling naptime schedules seems like a near impossibility these days. If you're a new mom and want to get in on the Baby Fest, just shoot me an email. See, this is how super-serious I am about making mommy friends.