I guess it is a rite of passage for every new father. Katie goes to a Mums n Bubs group every week and we end up discussing it over dinner. We talk about what the other babies look like in comparison (it turns out our Theo seems to be a bit of a giant), we talk about how the other mums are getting on and importantly, if Katie is enjoying it. It’s a great community led initiative which we can only recommend fully to all new parents.
After a four week facilitated meeting where new parents are encouraged to meet and discuss day to day existence with a new family member, the group are let loose on their own accord – free to explore the local cafés and lunch spots. It’s here where friendships are made and Whatsapp groups are started. It doesn’t take long before messages fly in at a rate of approximately 300 a day. When I ask if Katie will ever go back to work, I think it wouldn’t even be possible given the amount of messages she has to read. It’s a great outlet for new mums to basically outdo each other on tales of small children and bottom explosions. I’ve read some of those messages and I must admit – there are some dark stories out there! I do like the mums who go to great literary efforts to engage the reader as they throw superlatives and adjectives into the stories of their baby spraying poo all over their cars. Someone should write a book.
The funniest message related moment so far is when Katie introduces the word ‘poonami’ into the Hill household. For those not in the know – it’s a hybrid of poo and tsunami. A pooey force of nature which never ends well for whoever’s holding the baby. The thing is, I think she definitely pronounces it as ‘punani’ which is something completely different…. She starts a long tale about multiple forms of punani. Punani this, punani that, she says animatedly. Don’t worry, I listen animatedly too. “There was even punani on the coffee table!” She says. The mind boggles.
After a few months of this you will inevitably arrive at the moment where the dads are invited. “We’re meeting up on Sunday for all the dads to meet”, Katie says. I, obviously, think of all the things I can do to get out of this. There are moments in life when you realize the seismic difference between men and women – and this is one of those moments. “We’re going to take some food and hang out on the grass near the beach”, she says – as if this is something to entice me. Now, I have nothing against any of these people, but this is just my natural reaction. As my mum used to say – “you’ll enjoy yourself when you get there!” and here I am twenty years later with my wife telling me the same thing.
As it turns out, I do have to work on Sunday, but later on in the day. So when the day comes around we put Theo in the pram and head towards the beach. We have one stop to make in order to pick up some snacks. It’s 11am and we’ve not long since had breakfast, but Katie is insistent we have to bring something. She goes into the local store and comes out with two boxes of lamingtions and a bag of satsumas. Which is odd – given we never eat either of these things. “I panicked!” she retorts when she sees the look on my face. I can feel that perhaps bringing your share of food is important.
Anyway, we get to the meeting place where there is one couple and baby already there. They have brought some bread with them. Good bread too. It’s from Sonoma I notice. The mother goes about chopping up two loaves of bread – leaving a massive pile in front of us. I think to myself “how many people are coming here?!” – just before the new dad says a similar thing out loud. At that moment out comes a huge bowl of hummus which makes perfect sense and makes me very happy. In I dive. Sweet, sweet hummus and amazing bread. A great way to make new friends. I break off with the new dad (Oli) and we have a great conversation. He’s a nice guy who’s interested in surfing. We watch the huge swell hitting Bondi and both recoil as people consistently take a beating in the waves.
After an hour or so, many more mums, dads and bubs arrive and you know what? I’m enjoying myself. What a nice bunch of people all going through a similar change in lifestyle to us. There are two things I immediately notice. 1. There is such pride in everyone’s faces. Everyone gathered on that grassy knoll is completely smitten and in love with their new babies. Whatever the shape and size and however many punanis, sorry poonamis, these bubs have done, they have parents who are totally committed to doing whatever is right for them. The second thing I notice is the quality of the food on offer. “Holy shit!” I think to myself, “someone’s brought Papa’s Patisserie croissants!” Amazing. And then a box of profiteroles arrive. (Whoever bought these you are a genius). And beers are cracked open. And cheeses are opened. And everyone’s having a good time.
I try to introduce myself to everyone and it’s great to swap a few stories with both the mums and dads. All the babies started off asleep but one by one they are woken by their parents and shown off to everyone. A Spanish dad, Carlos, makes my day when I pull back the cover of Theo’s bassinet. “Holy Shit!” He shouts, genuinely startled. “You got a big one!”. In his accent, it’s comedy gold. I take Theo out and yes, it’s fair to say that he dwarfs the others. One mum kindly consoles me that Theo is probably the oldest bub here. After a few questions it turns out he’s the youngest! Ha! I have a giant baby! It’s all good with me.
We take a few photos and mingle some more and I am genuinely gutted that I have to leave for work. As I say my goodbyes another dad arrives, and he too is carrying a box of Papa’s Patisserie products. I am devastated. I can’t exactly introduce myself and ask what’s in the box can I?
As I walk off back home I leave behind a large group of people whose lives have been changed immeasurably in the past three months. Everyone is smiling, eating and making new friends. To all the new dads out there, when it’s time to meet the Mums n Bubs group, embrace it.
“You’ll enjoy it when you get there”