Let me take you back.

The year is 2017 (a life time ago), it’s April and I have just travelled down to Rotorua with my husband and friends for a well-deserved long weekend.

There’s been a baby in my belly for seven months and I’m finally starting to look it.

I offered to look after a six month old baby while my friend’s (his parents) went out for a mountain bike in the Redwood Forest. I was feeling maternal and all-knowing with this thing in my stomach, plus their little boy was the most chilled-out baby I think I’d ever met, so I figured I’d be fine. What could go wrong?

The next morning we all drove out to the Redwood Forest. I’d packed my bag with a bottle of water, the latest parenting book that I was reading, my sunglasses and an extra jacket. My plan was to head straight to the café for a hot chocolate and a muffin, with the baby in tow, obviously.

“Caleb just needs a bottle and a burp and then he’ll be ready for a nap in the pram” His mum, Nic, said optimistically.

I was sure I looked calm, collected, almost ethereal, but I reminded myself that the last time I had fed something with a bottle was as a five year old feeding a lamb at a Petting zoo. Couldn’t be too hard, right?

As soon as the bikers left, I took Caleb with me to the café, which was entirely outdoors. Pottered amongst racks of mountain bikes, helmets and happy families were wooden tables and chairs made entirely from logs of the Redwood trees. They formed rounded stools and tables that already looked incredibly uncomfortable for me and my pregnant belly to sit on. Nevertheless, I was prepared for a relaxed morning.

I ordered a hot chocolate and a muffin and decided to place the muffin on top of the pram while keeping the coffee cup firmly in one hand. With my other hand I attempted to steer the pram. Of course as soon as the pram wheels hit the gravel path my muffin fell to the ground and my drink jumped out from the cup, splashing everywhere. How did mums do this sort of thing?

I picked everything up and got to a table. I had to feed this baby right away so that he would fall asleep and I could have some time to myself. He was smiling up at me from the pram. I tried to look confident but I was sure he smelled fear.

I lifted him out, sat him on my knee and reclined him to give him the bottle. This was easy stuff! I thought I was nailing it.

Caleb thought otherwise. His smile had faded into a worried concern. He burst out into tears.

I wasn’t sure what to do. For whatever reason, I hadn’t even thought about this sweet little baby (who had been happy all weekend) actually crying. My preggo hormones went into overdrive and I tried not to panic. I scooped him up and tried to shush him awkwardly in my arms.

He cried harder. I wanted to cry hard too.

For the next twenty minutes I tried everything to calm this child down. I tried rocking him awkwardly, I tried putting him in the pram, I tried offering the bottle again, but nothing worked; he just screamed louder.

The birds ate my muffin off the table, my hot chocolate went cold in its cup, and all the people around me just glared. I tried to pack up all my stuff that I’d off-loaded to the table and move to some place quieter, but it was impossible. My jacket dropped to the ground and I struggled awkwardly to pick it up with my big pregnant belly and a baby in my arms.

What was I doing? I didn’t know a thing about babies, let alone crying babies. I wasn’t fit to look after this child; I wasn’t even fit to look after my own child. I was going to be a terrible mother and I was going to fail at being a parent just like I was failing this poor baby boy.

Had I made the worst decision of my life by deciding to get pregnant? Did mums ever get a break?

“Excuse me” I heard.

I turned around, there were two ladies behind me with their eyes wide and understanding.

“Would you like a little bit of help with that baby?”

I completely melted and blurted “yes please!” before loading him into this stranger’s open arms.

“I just don’t know what to do,” I cried.

I’m not over-exaggerating, tears streamed down my face. This mum thing, I had realized, wasn’t going to be easy. I clearly wasn’t a baby-person and in that moment I thought my kid was going to hate me just like this usually-sweet-natured one did.

The other woman rubbed my shoulder. “It’s okay honey, we could tell this wasn’t your baby. You’ve done a great job, we’ll just see if we can get him to calm down.”

In this lady’s arms Caleb started to relax. She held him in a tight, cocooned snuggle and rocked him up and down gently. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Within seconds he let out the biggest burp.

Yep, turns out I’d fed him air along with his milk…

These women had a sixth sense, I was sure of it. One of them turned to me, with a now sleepy baby in her arms, and gave me some extremely valuable advice.

“I can see you’re expecting. When you become a mother, promise me this. Don’t ever feel like you need to go through it all on your own. You’re about to join a new society, honey. If you are out in public and you need help with your baby, remember that there are women around you who have been through it all before. You’ll find that most mothers, young or old, will rush to help you if given the chance. Don’t go it alone.”

I rubbed my belly and let her words sink in.

She was right.

I want to encourage you mothers with the same thoughts. You’re not alone and we’re in this together. We’re a part of something unspoken, something unconditional. When you enter into parenthood you join trillions of others who have done it before you. And we GET it.

We get that there’s no real break. We get that kids will cry when you don’t want them to. We get that no one can comfort your baby quite like you can, but that there will be times even that won’t work.

We’re in a mumsciety. You know, like a society but… with mums. We should aim to help another other mother no matter what (Say that five times, fast). We should also learn to withhold judgement and comparison when doing so.

I know that’s easier said than done but I’m willing to give it a shot because I want to commit my motherhood to raising good children and helping others to do the same.

They say it takes a village to raise a child; well we live in cities now. So these days the village is just a person, or two, willing to help out a struggling mumma (or mumma-to-be) for the benefit of the precious babe at her hip.

With Caleb now sleeping soundly, the group of mountain bikers returned. Nic was so apologetic, but I was just grateful she’d had been able to go biking, even for just a little while.

I understood now how precious and rare that type of thing was.

Rachel Chen