SHANNAN: When my husband Andy and I moved to the coast from the city around two years ago, we knew no one. I had just sold my online business and it was a big shock leaving that fast-paced life behind. I was really worried we were doing the wrong thing!

One of the women from my new local mother’s group called me to meet with her and another new mum, Annie, and that’s when we first got talking. I remember thinking she was like a cartoon character – a beautiful, effervesce­nt and bubbly being. We had weird things in common, too – like the fact we’re both teachers – and we found out we used to live five minutes from each other in the city, as well! I told her where we’d just moved to and her eyes nearly fell out of her head.

As neighbours, we started doing little things like book exchanges for our kids, but we didn’t connect on a deeper level until last year, when I had an ectopic pregnancy. My right tube ruptured and I had to have emergency surgery because I had so much internal bleeding. It was one of the most traumatic things; I really lost a part of myself. It was my reproducti­ve system, a baby, just everything. There was a moment when Annie dropped off a care package at my house and she caught me in the window with tears rolling down. She lost it; she really cried. That was the moment when she felt my pain and I felt like I wasn’t alone. It made me aware of reaching out for help; not to feel like a burden. When you’re isolated, friendship­s are just everything.

From there, we’ve been able to depend on each other, especially during this dreadful year. She’s an angel! I feel so safe with her and she’s been an incredible source of connection and support for me. Annie and her family are part of our family now. We have dinner all together once or twice a fortnight, and it’s such a joy to have Yumi – Annie’s daughter – in the house. She often refers to my son Sidney as her best friend!

ANNIE: Shannan and I have become good friends, not just neighbours. My favourite thing about being friends with Shannan is her positivity – it’s really contagious. From first impression­s, Shannan and I might seem different, but deep down we have similar values and morals. And we’ve been able to be there for each other in some challengin­g times.

When I first saw Shannan in such a vulnerable state after her time in hospital, there was no coming back – that was a pivotal moment in our friendship. After that, we were able to talk about tricky things like reproducti­ve health, which I think a lot of women don’t talk about for many reasons. I have endometrio­sis and have had a tough time with IVF, which is different from Shannan’s issues, but the trauma, pain and loss is similar. It was comforting to know that someone else had been through similar things; that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s healing to open up about your experience­s and say, “I’m really struggling.” If you can find someone to do that with, even if it’s just your neighbour, it’s really powerful. There’s strength in vulnerabil­ity.

If you don’t have family nearby, it’s so important to have a supportive environmen­t in the neighbourh­ood. During lockdown, Shannan and I would try to keep each other’s spirits up. Our kids would have Facetime dinner dates, we’d drop their artwork over for each other, make extra dinner and cupcakes, drop off flowers – just little things like that so you know someone’s thinking of you. My daughter Yumi will eat eggy toast much more willingly if she knows the eggs have come from Shannan’s special chickens!

The dads have become good friends, as well – they enjoy a rum together when they can – and we make sure to organise play dates for our dogs so they don’t feel disconnect­ed. Both our families go on fun scooter dates around the neighbourh­ood – we did Christmas dinner together last year and always share cake for the kids’ birthdays, too. We’ve made our own family and created new traditions together.

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