Forget the brotherhood of man and definitely the old boys' network. If you want to experience true and exclusive gender-based kinship, get yourself an invite into the club of impending motherhood.

I've always been grateful for a very supportive group of girlfriends and even a fairly healthy "good sort" network of female colleagues and clients. When you spend your professional life surrounded by brides-to-be, a certain bond brought about by being part of a female rite-of-passage is inevitable.

But nothing quite prepared me for how overwhelmingly special I would be made to feel the closer I get to what is arguably the biggest milestone in any woman's life: becoming a mum.

In some ways, although it is all about the miracle of life, having a baby is fairly ho-hum.


Millions of them are born every year, most people in their lives will be responsible for the creation of at least one of them, and there's no argument about the fact we've all been there ourselves by very definition of our existence.

I expected a certain c'est la vie attitude from everyone except maybe from baby daddy, the grandies and me.

What I've got instead is a growing sense of shared excitement and support from just about every woman I've been in contact with since "le bump" got too big to hide ... especially from women who've already had children.

Increasingly when I sit down with a client to discuss their wedding day or their own family for the purposes of a portrait session, instead we'll end up yakking about the challenges facing me in the sort of intimate way one would normally only expect when talking to a close friend.

These conversations inevitably lead to the sorts of honest revelations and small but practical bits of advice that you'd never get in a year of antenatal classes or a library of parenting self-help books. This morning a long-term client even gave me a beautiful gift along with more candid insights into how to cope with what lies ahead.

On the weekend, 20 female friends crowded into my living room for a baby shower that was all about celebrating this next phase in my life, and although I got given enough cute onesies to sink a ship, the most valuable thing I took away from that day was the knowledge that each and every one of them would be there for me if I called them in a sleep-deprived melt-down needing help.

Women care about women. Really care. We just don't learn this until we are about to have a baby.

Being the feminist that I am, I've been more than a little ... how shall we put it ... "high maintenance" at home when it comes to discussions over the unfair distribution of self-sacrifice required of new mums compared to dads.

Although it would seem evolutionarily smart in this age of two-income families for men to lactate as well as women, I'm realistic about the fact it is my business and social life set to take the biggest hit. Which, I'll concede, has been hard to accept.

But lately as I come home with yet another gift to unwrap and put in the baby's room, it occurs to me that being a woman gives me a more fuller experience of what everyone - male and female - agrees is the coolest life experience second to none.

And maybe because all women who've travelled that path know this already is the reason why they're all so excited for me, while I'm just plain old terrified.

Eva Bradley is an award-winning columnist.