One of our final jaunts before returning to Abu Dhabi was a trip to Bristol to see some of my mummy friends. It all started when, after a particularly challenging prenatal class involving simulated labour and the importance of pelvic floor exercises (does anyone still do them?), a fellow mum-to-be suggested meeting up for coffee. I had no idea, though, that just a few weeks and a couple of dinners with other halves later, my husband would be strapping my new friend up to a tens machine to help with her contractions, while I, with my two-day old baby, and her husband, looked on. How did we get so close so quickly?
No offence to my amazing non-mummy friends, but apparently it's quite common for pre and postnatal friendships to develop into deep and precious bonds that last a lifetime. Looking back, it's easy to see why. We were all at the beginning of something amazing, vital, hugely responsible and for most of us, terrifying. We were all brand new first-time parents. I'm not antisocial, but group activities have never been my thing. Yet, with a newborn and her attendant, often unfathomable issues to contend with as well as - I have to say it - hours and hours of under-stimulated time on my hands, I became somewhat of a new mum groupie. In fact, there was barely a day when I didn't find some sort of mums and babies group to go loiter in. The truth was I needed fellowship and friendship like I never had before. For me, motherhood was a shock, and sharing the burden with like-minded women was the only way I could survive it. Thankfully, I wasn't the only one. Little groups of mums seemed to splinter off and before I knew it, I was part of a group of six meeting weekly to share the highs and the lows of babydom.
Unexpectedly, the mummy friend phenomenon repeated itself soon after my arrival in Abu Dhabi. Pregnant with number two and virtually friendless, I didn't need any persuading when a kind and pregnant stranger, whom I'd seen a couple of times at toddler functions, invited me to a coffee morning she was hosting for a group of pregnant ladies. Needless to say, today this kind stranger is one of my closest friends.
Seven years on, only two mums out of the original Bristol group continue to meet weekly - two of us moved away and two more returned to work - yet for me the afternoon was well worth the annual walk down the M4. My eldest may have barely said hello to her nappy buddies, but my friend's poignant remark as we were leaving at how I "always seem to slot right in" reaffirmed my belief that no matter how rarely we meet, mummy friends are priceless.
Which is probably why, as I pack my cases to return to Abu Dhabi, I'm rather looking forward to it. After all, I've got all my Abu Dhabi mummy friends to catch up with.