What it means to be in the Mum Club

By Zoe Walker

How do you survive the first year of new motherhood? The support of a great group of friends helps. Viva talks to five stylish women about the ups and downs of modern motherhood.

(From left) Shelley Ferguson and Flynn, Charlotte Corby and Elliot, Lucy Slater and Ed, Rachel Morton and Johnny and Olivia Hemus and Maggie. Photo / Olivia Hemus
(From left) Shelley Ferguson and Flynn, Charlotte Corby and Elliot, Lucy Slater and Ed, Rachel Morton and Johnny and Olivia Hemus and Maggie. Photo / Olivia Hemus

There's nothing stronger than maternal bonds, but for many dealing with a new baby, growing friendships with other new mums is a happy, sometimes unexpected consequence of motherhood.

There's a reason why coffee groups are so popular, with the support that comes from spending time with other mothers who understand what a new mum may be going through. And though some may take part in pre-organised coffee groups like those through Plunket, or groups that evolve from an antenatal class, some women are fortunate enough to have a readymade group of friends to lean on for support post-birth.

Charlotte Corby, Shelley Ferguson, Olivia Hemus, Rachel Morton and Lucy Slater were one such lucky group of women; friends who had their now seven to eight-month-old babies within six weeks of each other.

The latter four had known each other for years through their various fashion-related jobs before becoming pregnant (Corby is a lawyer; introduced to the rest of the group by Slater) - Ferguson as editor of Cleo and Good Health magazines, Hemus as a fashion photographer, Morton as a freelance fashion stylist, and Slater as a fashion PR and showroom manager.

They had worked together before, and found out they were pregnant at around the same time (Morton and Hemus were working on a photoshoot together when they each let slip that they were pregnant; they continue to work together on shoots now). Now the fivesome and their babies gather each Tuesday at someone's home; sometimes with baking, always with coffee, "the most important part of the group!" jokes Hemus, who is mother to the sole girl of the group, Magdelena, known as Maggie.

Their gatherings began pre-birth, with a fortnightly lunch jokingly dubbed "Foetus Friday", as well as trips to pregnancy yoga. In the days leading up to going into labour, each woman drank raspberry tea - said to aid labour - while sitting in the same spot on Slater's couch. "We've basically gone through the whole experience together," says Hemus.

While the rest of the group are first time mothers, Ed is Slater's second child (she also has four-year-old daughter Pearl), and is thus considered something of an expert within the group - described as "camp mother", "mother hen" and oracle of the group. That knowledge, honesty and support is what each mention as something they value most from their weekly meetings.

Morton, mother to Johnny, says to the group that she would "hate to think what shape I'd be in if I hadn't asked questions and you guys had helped and answered". The other women have changed Ferguson's experience of having a baby too, she says. "We've learned that we all really need each other because we didn't know what to do with a baby ... Each of us had problems with something, so it was nice to have that support.

"It's almost like a forum; rather than Googling, going on the internet, or reading books, we know that someone will be dealing with the same or a similar thing," says Ferguson, mother of Flynn. For Hemus, that early support from other mothers who "got it" was surprisingly emotional. "Those first few weeks, I hadn't seen anyone for a while. The first coffee group I went to, it was the first time I'd been out of the house for three weeks. It was amazing. I think I walked in and burst into tears!" she explains as she feeds Maggie some homemade baby food. "Sometimes we will literally hang out all day," says Ferguson. "We all used to be quite social, and your social life stops a bit. You don't have an adult outlet, but you do this, every week, and that's a good thing."

And while yes, there is a lot of "baby talk", Ferguson says they do try to limit it and talk about other things that interest them beyond their roles as mothers. Corby, mother to Elliot, had attended a few antenatal coffee group meetings, but felt it was "all about the baby", whereas this group is about them as women; talking news, TV shows, people they know, fashion, their careers and future plans as their babies grow.

Ferguson is off to Lake Como in Italy soon to support husband Steven as he trains for the Olympics, while Corby has begun part-time work at her law firm, Slater has begun working for herself managing PR for fashion and lifestyle clients, Morton continues to work with designer Juliette Hogan, and Hemus photographs shoots for the likes of Fashion Quarterly.

"I couldn't have hoped for a better group of girls to share this time in my life with," explains Slater, "They are all such unique, fun, inspiring, successful and genuinely supportive women. I can't wait for my Tuesday morning fix with them and the past year of catch-ups have helped us all get through this crazy time."

Today is the first official Mother's Day for most of the group, except Slater who has already been gifted "the best Mother's Day present ever", an iPad. For the others experiencing their first, the day has a new kind of significance. "Mother's Day has always been about my mum," explains Ferguson, "Just last week, I went 'oh, Mother's Day is coming up, I have get her something!' And then I remembered, oh yeah, I'm a mum!" And while there's talk of gadgets and flowers, Hemus is somewhat more pragmatic as to what she would love come Sunday. "I'd just be happy with a sleep actually ..."

OLIVIA HEMUS AND MAGDELENA "MAGGIE" KIRKPATRICK

The best thing about motherhood ... The enormous sense of pride I felt the first time she smiled.

The hardest thing about motherhood ... The lack of sleep! And breastfeeding, no one tells you how hard it is.

How do you balance motherhood with having time for yourself? My partner and I try to do something every week together (my mum babysits) and I have a great group of girlfriends and we catch up on a regular basis. I think its really important to get out and do something for yourself.

Fashion for a new mum is ... trying to find something in your wardrobe that fits. But eventually getting back to your pre-pregnancy style and jumping with joy when you can squeeze back into those jeans.

I couldn't live without ... Country Road loose-fitting tees that were easy to breastfeed in, and some black leggings that [designer] Cybele made me - I lived in them while I was pregnant and then for about four months afterwards.

The best advice my mother passed on to me ... My mum always said that babies can pick up on your mood, so if you are relaxed and chilled, then your baby will be relaxed and chilled too.

The best advice I could pass on to a new mum ... Choose two people you trust and listen to their advice, whether it be your midwife or a girlfriend - you get so much conflicting advice and it's hard to know who to listen to.

Some Mum-related essentials? TheGlow.com is a beautiful website of mums and their babies in NYC. Nature Baby wraps are stretchy and perfect for those summer months. Merino GoGo Bags are cosy for the winter months. Breastfeeding night bras from Kmart. And Peppin Boutique do cute leopard-print leggings for little ones.

LUCY SLATER AND ED McKEE

The best, most unexpected thing about motherhood ... That we made that! It constantly blows me and my partner away to look at our kids and think that they are actually a part of us.

The hardest, most unexpected thing about motherhood ... As a mum you run the house, everyone always needs you. Throw a bit of work into the mix too and you can feel like you're being pulled a million different ways. I'm often craving a bit of alone time, but as soon as I have a moment to sit on the couch and actually do nothing it always feels a little quiet.

How do you balance motherhood with having time for yourself? I try to get to a class each week at the Astanga Yoga Centre in Grey Lynn, but even that's a struggle sometimes. It's a great opportunity to exercise, re-align my body and give me some time out.

Fashion, for a new mum, is ... all about cotton stretch. There was definitely a moment there where the lines between the pyjama dressing trend and actual pyjamas got a bit blurred.

I couldn't live without ... My iPad. It allows me to stay connected with friends, news and so on while in a bit of a baby bubble. M.A.C. Mineralize Foundation and M.A.C. Zoom Lash Mascara - just enough make me feel like I'm doing a little something for myself before I walk out the door. Marc Jacobs Eliz-a-Baby Bag - it's huge, light, has a million pockets, and was a great investment as I'll use it beyond baby too. Fudge Dry Shampoo - the perfect hair pick-me-up when you haven't the time or energy to wash your hair. Juliette Hogan long cardigan - cute, comfy, and doubled as a dressing gown in those early months.

The best advice my mother passed on to me ... Mum is extremely qualified to give advice as she is a Plunket Nurse and works on PlunketLine - a fantastic free service for all mums 0800 933 922 - however she really sat back and let me figure it out for myself.

Some Mum-related essentials? Minti crawler trackies - ridiculously cute. Suzi Carson Pregnancy Yoga at Four Winds Yoga (Ponsonby). Aveeno Baby Products - wonderfully gentle on my kids' sensitive skin. Kmart - clothing for the kids (and and for me). Levi's jeggings - comfy and a great price.

SHELLEY FERGUSON AND FLYNN FERGUSON

The best, most unexpected thing about motherhood ... How good it feels to be selfless - giving energy and unconditional love to my amazing little man is far more satisfying than thinking about my own stuff all day.

The hardest, most unexpected thing about motherhood ... I'm obsessed with planning and organising, and quickly realised that babies are somewhat more chaotic. Even though I still like to organise my space, when it comes to Flynn I've learned to go with the flow a lot more, which has been great for me.

How do you balance motherhood with having time for yourself? I plan one thing for myself every day. It's usually as simple as coffee with a friend, a walk in the sunshine, an online purchase - or a glass or two of rose when bubs hits the sack. That change of mindset is really important for me.

Fashion, for a new mum, is ... Pretty irrelevant at first due to constant breastfeeding and that sexy post-birth belly. But now that things are a lot easier and I'm getting out more, I'm really excited about fashion again. Sometimes if I'm tired, putting on an outfit I love is the best pick-me-up - even if stains are imminent.

The best advice my mother passed on to me ... Celebrate every achievement your child makes, no matter how small.

The best advice I could pass on to a new mum ... I do chores while Flynn is awake, and relax while he's having a nap. He loves the change of scenery that hanging out the washing and going grocery shopping brings, then I get to read a magazine or book when he's asleep.

What has your baby inherited from you? He adores books, is very focused when he wants something, is happiest outside among nature, and likes a good bottle. He's pretty much a mini-me of his dad looks-wise, so I'll take the credit for everything else.

Some Mum-related essentials? Weleda Calendula Oil and Teething Powder. Miracle Wraps and the Wrap Me Up swaddle from thesleepstore.co.nz - great for Houdini babies. Wooden playgym and feeding chair from mocka.co.nz. Quirky art from etsy.com. Nature Baby organic cotton sleeping bag.

CHARLOTTE CORBY AND ELLIOT JAMES KIERAN CORDEN

The best part of motherhood ... is the contentment and purpose Elliot has brought to my life. Watching my partner James and all our family and friends with Elliot has surpassed all of life's previous highlights.

The hardest, most unexpected thing about motherhood ... Everyone has an opinion about what and how to do something. This can be very confusing. Learning to trust yourself and your instincts even though everything is new is important.

How do you balance motherhood with having time for yourself? My mother. She saw Elliot every day of his life for the first 10 weeks and she only had to stop then because we went to London for a month. I cannot thank her and Dad enough for the amazing love and support that they give to James and me.

Fashion, for a new mum, is ... I have a new appreciation for the capsule wardrobe, everything working around my jeans and T-shirts. Scarves are great at hiding stains. I have always liked a good handbag so instead of the traditional nappy bag I brought a leather handbag. It completes my outfit and I can still take it with me when I'm out without Elliot.

I couldn't live without ... My 365-day book from Kikki K. I bought it just before Elliot was born and I write in it every day. It has been around the world and is now filled with a collection of photos, art exhibition tickets, menus, plane tickets and lots of extra bits and pieces from where he has been.

The best advice my mother passed on to me ... To try to leave the house every day. Even if it is just a walk to the corner it is amazing how much better you will feel with some fresh air and sunshine.

The best advice I could pass on to a new mum ... Relax and laugh. By nature I am organised and like timescales and plans but with Elliot I try to be the opposite and as calm and relaxed as possible. I'm a strong believer in happy mother, happy child.

RACHEL MORTON AND JOHNNY BILTON

The best, most unexpected thing about motherhood ... is how I felt like I already knew him when I saw him for the first time. How different life is now being a family and how I wouldn't change a thing.

The hardest, most unexpected thing about motherhood ... is seeing how fast they grow and change ... they are a newborn for such a short amount of time.

How do you balance motherhood with having time for yourself? I haven't worked that one out yet. I do love the occasional ride around the block on my bike.

Fashion, for a new mum, is ... casual and hopefully smart but mostly quick and easy. Bassike T-shirts and cashmere cardigans, and thank goodness for Karen Walker boat pants. The main thing that's changed is that heels kill me now; I'm so used to running around in flats.

I couldn't live without ... my daily walk with Johnny in the buggy for my early morning coffee, fresh flowers, Baby Group Tuesdays and my husband who is an amazing cook.

The best advice my mother passed on to me ... trust your instincts. I actually always ask myself, what would my Mum do?

The best advice I could pass on to a new mum ... Listen to advice from others but always do what feels right, you and your baby will work it out together. And read Jaquie Brown's new book, I'm not Fat, I'm Pregnant.

What has your baby inherited from you? I just look forward to finding out more about who "he" is everyday ... he makes me smile all day long.

Five Mum-related essentials? Sophie the Giraffe, a great teething toy. Johnny's Room for baby toy gear - Johnny loves the exer-saucers. A Moses basket for the first few months; Nature Baby for their merino wraps and stripey onesies and pants. And a camera, on hand at all times.

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- NZ Herald

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