You need friends more than ever when you are experiencing pregnancy and motherhood for the first time. It can be wonderful to have another mum-to-be to share your aches and pains, hopes and worries with. But if you are the first of your friends to go through it - or if you are among the last, and your friends all have older children - you might need to get out there and make some new friends. I found the following sources of support, help and potential new friendship invaluable when I was in that position.
This network of centres, also known as Sure Start centres, is administered by local authorities and available to anyone pregnant or with a child under five years of age. It's a misconception that you can only use Children's Centres if you are in receipt of benefits: they are there to provide support to everyone, although some of the services might be means-tested depending on local funding. I was recommended to check out my local Children's Centre by my midwife, and I found 'new mum' groups, breastfeeding support, baby and toddler groups, baby massage and yoga. I met dozens of other mums with a baby the same age as mine and took full advantage of the classes in the early months at home with my baby.
Antenatal classes and the National Childbirth Trust
Provision of NHS antenatal classes is now fairly limited - my experience was a two hour 'active birth' session and a breastfeeding support workshop. I decided against going to extra classes run by the NCT (at additional cost) but some of my friends used them and made firm friends with the other parents-to-be who attended their classes. You can find out more on the NCT website. I would strongly recommend swapping email addresses or phone numbers with the other mums at any antenatal classes you do attend.
Not quite the same as picking up the phone for a chat or meeting up for a coffee, but if you are in need of some reassurance there are lots of web forums, like mumsnet, netmums and babycentre. Some have birth clubs that you can join to chat with other mums due at the same time, others have a 'meet local mums' section. Useful for swapping stories about aches and pains, what to stock up on ahead of the baby's arrival, what to put in your hospital bag, and so on.
Reconnect with people from your past
You know how your mum sometimes says "you'll never guess who's pregnant!" and you always used to feign interest in her friends' new grandchildren? Well, now is the time to start paying attention and ask your mum to pass on your email address. The same applies to your old school friends who you only see on social networking sites nowadays. Pregnancy and babies are a great reason to rekindle old friendships with people you may have drifted away from after school or college - I'm back in touch with a few other 'new mum' friends that I hadn't seen since we were 18 and it's been wonderful to catch up on old times, compare pregnancy stories and take our children out together.