These days I don’t always feel safe online. It can be overwhelming, and as though I have to have an opinion on absolutely everything, pick a side and shout about it. There’s no room for shades of grey.
These days I deliberately avoid the news because I find it a trigger for my post-natal anxiety, so I’m rarely informed enough to weigh in anyway. I steer clear of the biggest parenting forums, finding the judgement, lack of care for those who are new to the rules of engagement and lack of compassion overall too much to take.
Despite all of this I have found a perfect little corner of the internet that works for me and never gets me down. A place full of friends, warm-hearted people who get on despite their different ways of doing things. Who never criticise and give support, always. Vegans, meat-eaters, new mums, old hands, breastfeeders, bottle feeders, believers, atheists, plus-size, thin, young and older, going out to work and staying at home. Celebrating successes and commiserating in difficulties. Always on my side.
My online birth group.
I had a very difficult conception and pregnancy. Four years of trying followed by IVF followed by nine months of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, in and out of hospital and having to be cared for by my parents. For me there was no NCT, proud bump portraits or baby showers. Getting to the end was the name of the game. Which was why my life during pregnancy was mainly conducted online, my phone a little window to the world and a chink of human connection during a time when I couldn’t even be near my husband because his smell made me ill.
Technically, all we have in common is that our babies were all due in the same month. That’s it. Scratch the surface though and there’s a lot more to it. In just over two years we’ve been through so much together. Bereavements, serious illness, difficulties with our families and friends, exes, and that’s even before you consider parenting tiny people. Along with that are our favourite “distraction threads” and sharing TMI posts that make me laugh and laugh. Somehow this group has been better for me than therapy, and I’ve felt free to talk about things I normally keep bottled up. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of these women in real life and form “real world” friendships with them, but that isn’t the point. The point is I know I have friends all over this country and beyond, in far-flung places I’ve never visited that exist only in my imagination. The point is that we’re there for each other, any time of the day or night.
One of the women is now a close “real-life” friend; we clung together in those early days when she was the only new mum I knew in my area, and we slowly discovered just how much we have in common. When I posted that we wanted to move out of London but had no idea where to, one of the group offered to show me around her town to see if I liked it. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better when we move there soon.
I never thought having a baby would give me all this richness, or that an online group would fill the place vacated by job and colleagues. Whenever I’m having a bad internet day I shut down the noise and hunker down with my friends. I’m looking forward to celebrating our children as they move through milestones, welcoming new babies, vicariously enjoying weddings and staying friends for a long time to come. So if you’re having a baby soon, my one piece of advice is this: find your online birth group.