Written by Daisy Leverington


Us swimming hippos keep each other afloat

Motherhood hasn’t come naturally to Daisy Leverington. Three years in and she remains wide-eyed, terrified and in awe of the little person she’s responsible for. Stay tuned to follow her parenthood progress.

Coffee and cake with a mate can cure a lot of problems.

On arriving recently at a friend’s house, mascara hastily wiped off my cheeks, it wasn’t long before I’d transformed back into a functioning member of society over the course of four Viennese whirls.

A friend who knows to get the cakes in and ignore your snot-laden scarf is a keeper. She knew what I meant when I heaved out “code red” between sobs, and left the door on the latch accordingly. (Code red is “I’m about to pack my bags and head to sunny Mexico”, just in case you ever need a name for that feeling.)

I made a couple of these keeper friends while I was pregnant. It was at an aqua-natal group where we regularly flubbed our arses around the shallow end of the pool, looking not unlike those hippos swimming in a circle on the BBC ident. (“How did they get the hippos to do that?” asked my aunt.)

We struggled to get out of the pool, falling back in like exhausted penguins. The young lifeguard watched in horror as he made a mental note to buy more condoms. And double bag them.

The poor lad didn’t know where to look while the midwife leading the session screamed, “Pull up those pelvic floors ladies, imagine you’re hoovering up a lovely big cake with your vagina!”

Meanwhile we – treading water at the other end of the desire spectrum – knew exactly where to look.

Fuelled by pregnancy hormones (and safe in the knowledge we could pick up afternoon tea using only our Valeries whenever we fancied it), the student with the whistle around his neck had become a hulking Adonis.

There was a moment of pure gold in another session when a friend of mine yelled: “I’m sure I’ve slept with him!” above the expected racket of the pool, which at that moment had – unfortunately for her and hilariously for everyone else – been silenced in favour of group relaxation float.

The mothers of all mates. We hold each other up.

Friends were made over cake and bumps, coffee and tears, speculums and sweeps, and these friendships have since evolved into babysitting swaps and nights out while we try to rediscover our motherhood selves.

It was us who gave birth to The 4am Club, a secretive three-strong band of breastfeeding zombies who would be getting milked while everyone else slept.

None of us knew if we were doing the right thing, but we were doing the same thing, which was enough to warrant the club tag, and feel good about it.

During the few weeks just after our daughters were born when we simply couldn’t cope, The 4am Club would unite, boasting at least one member with shoulders absorbent enough to cope with the others’ tears.

I admit in those early days, there were definitely times when I wanted to give up, walk away from my new family and become someone new, someone who had made different decisions, someone who wasn’t leaking and bleeding and crying and failing in every way possible.

One afternoon after my Grandma’s funeral, my baby daughter and I went to a film premiere in London, which my husband had worked on. I was so exhausted and upset I stopped the car somewhere north of Watford and simply walked away. I left a hungry breastfed baby and a terrified husband in the car and hid under a bridge.

There were times when no one could help. But without those early friendships I’d never have returned from that bridge. In hindsight, they saved me and my confidence while I struggled to breastfeed and get my baby to sleep.

Our small band of swimming hippos are the reason I’m here at all. If I were in charge I’d prescribe every pregnant woman a group of women to talk to, swim with and text at 4am.
Sod the post-natal pelvic floor exercises, a good laugh with some great mates is all you’ll need. Oh, and hindsight is a bloody wonderful thing.

Read all of Daisy’s columns on motherhood here.


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Written by Daisy Leverington

Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.