Ever since my junior year of college, this one group of my female friends has had an ongoing, never-ending conversation. Like the arc of many post collegiate millennial friendships, it was a group text before the phrase “group text” existed, and eventually it became an actual group text, and if I leave my phone alone for too long, I will return to dozens of unread messages, especially if Notre Dame football is playing, and double especially if they’re playing underwhelmingly. Which is often.
In college, we formed a fake sorority that would take too long to explain, so I'll just say this: Notre Dame doesn't have real frats or sororities and we were spread across many different dorms, so the fake one we formed started out as this ironic thing we did as an excuse to do Power Hours together and then sort of became effectively real when we all got carried away by how much fun it was to have a fake sorority. The randomness of freshman room assignments and the trial-and-error of transitioning from an 18-year-old who knew nothing about life to a 22-year-old who thought she knew something but actually didn’t brought us together, and, for reasons I can’t nail down, we stuck.
There’s very little chance I would get to know these women organically if we hadn’t met in college. Notre Dame--Catholicism's American Disneyland-- was probably not a good fit for me--an avowed teen feminist who was barely Catholic by the time I hit 17--in the first place. The fake sorority members are now spread far and wide across industries and geography. We do different things with our free time, pursue different passions, read different things, and until 2016 at least, vote for different politicians. (Donald Trump was a real uniter in that way.) We haven’t all been in the same place at the same time in at least a decade–unless I’m forgetting about a wedding that we all magically able to attend, which I might be.
But without them, the fatigue-drenched first months of motherhood would have sucked a lot more.
I told them one at a time after I found out I was pregnant but before I told many other people outside of my husband’s and my immediate families. This is because this particular group of women from college are fairly prolific; at the beginning of my pregnancy, there were 14 children between us, and now, there are 17– three fresh ones in the last six months alone. I also reached out to them first because many in the group have been candid about struggles with fertility, from pregnancy loss to failed cycles of IVF. I knew that no matter what happened in my pregnancy, somebody who had already been through it would be there, like a text message doula who had once helped me paint my arms and legs green before a home football game.
When I thought I’d lost my pregnancy at 8 weeks, I spent the excruciating hours waiting for my OB-GYN to see me texting furiously with two of the women from the group, both of whom had been through it, both of whom knew me well enough to know what to say. Once I hit the end of my first trimester (the 8 week thing was a horrible false alarm– do not recommend), I joined the “mom chat,” a side group text between the women in the group where there’s a lot more talk about children’s bodily fluids than those who don’t have kids would likely be comfortable discussing.
I joined in the middle of a conversation about their respective children’s fascination with poop and butts. “Is this enough poop talk for you?” one of the mom friends asked. Crying-eyes-emoji.
The truth was that I didn’t know if the amount of poop talk was enough poop talk, because I didn't know how much poop talk would be instructive for me. I still don’t know how fascinated with her own butt my kid will be yet. But it’s good to be prepared for many scenarios; I’m not a fan of scat humor, but I am a fan of feeling prepared.
Having this group has been like having a cheat sheet for some of the less discussed aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting.
Because of what one of the women had been through with postpartum depression after a traumatic birth, I was extra vigilant about taking care of my mental health leading up to the birth of my own child and less likely to minimize my own needs in the days and weeks afterward.
Because one of my mom friends had given birth to what she referred to as “little shrimps,” I made sure we had several pieces of newborn-sized clothes rather than following the advice of baby books and baby boomers who insisted I could probably just skip over the tiny clothes since they grow so fast (Juniper was in “newborn” sizes for the first six weeks of her life.)
These women taught me about how to pee after tearing during childbirth (according to one in the group who had it much worse than I did–TWICE– the key was a “wide stance” and warm water in the squeeze bidet), have helped troubleshoot sleeping issues, and provide a non-judgmental place to share frustrations and feelings that don’t feel appropriate to discuss more publicly, because the internet is forever and I try to write and post with the understanding that one day my daughter might read it. The group chat is a place to share photos of my daughter screaming in rage while sitting on her high chair and I’m about to cry because I’ve tried everything to calm her down and all that’s left to do is take a photo of her rage and send it around, or to laugh at a photo of another friend’s daughter hating the taste of pears. We’ve been there to comfort each other when people’s babies and kids have to make trips to the hospital, when extended families grate on nerves, when somebody’s kid does something that is objectively hilarious but the parent cannot laugh in the moment without making things worse– like when somebody’s daughter yells “PENIS” in a crowded public space.
I wish every mother had that. (Not the PENIS-yelling daughter, although I think, given the experiences of this group, that every kid does something along those lines at some point.)
All this is to say that without the friend group text, and more specifically, the mom group text, this experience would be a lot lonelier. I regret a lot about decisions I’ve made in my young adulthood, but staying in touch with that big group bound by mutual collegiate idiocy isn’t one of them. Even though there is an awful lot of poop talk some days.
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