It’s funny how the minute you discover a pregnancy for the first time, you immediately think of a thousand questions about your new condition. There is suddenly a new world of possibilities you may have considered but have never applied to you as they do now. What can I eat now? Should I lift that? Do I feel that pain because of the pregnancy? Is this safe? What will I feel like in five weeks? The questions don’t seem to stop, even after your dear baby has gestated, birthed, and grown into a child.
Where can you go to have these questions answered? Will you buy a book? Ask your mother? Confide in a friend? All excellent sources of advice and wisdom, to be sure. But many parents turn to a newer form of community, the online support world. No matter what you’re interested in – trying to conceive, pregnancy, parenting multiples, NICU parenting, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, single parenting, high risk pregnancy, sleep and feeding schedules, natural parenting, and countless others – there’s a community for it. You’ll be able to connect with other parents (at 2 AM, wearing your pajamas!), moms and dads just like you (perhaps also in their pajamas!), going through similar situations. There, feeling somewhat anonymous and free from the judgmental eye of those closest to you, parents feel open to asking their most private and serious questions. “I’m afraid my husband won’t love the baby.” “I’m afraid my wife loves our daughter more than she loves me.” “I’m afraid something’s wrong with my baby.” “I can’t believe it, I think I’m pregnant again.” “I think my marriage is falling apart.”
Relationships are formed online because of the raw honesty that comes out in these conversations. Through the course of many discussions, some silly but others serious, moms can begin to feel a bond with complete strangers sitting at their computers halfway across the country. Some online friendships go on for years. They may never meet in person, but they know things about one another that their friends and neighbors may never know.
If it sounds like I’m speaking from personal experience, it’s because I am.
On Friday, I will finally meet several of the moms I have been chatting with online for four years, since we were first pregnant with our now three year old children. We met on the pregnancy and parenting website WhatToExpect.com due date forums but the friendships quickly went beyond the forums to email, Facebook, texting, phone calls, and even meeting in person.
I’m no stranger to meeting people online, I’ve met a handful of people in person that I knew only from online conversations. When I was a junior in high school, I even flew cross-country to spend Thanksgiving with a guy friend I met online. Yes, you read that right. There was nothing romantic about it, he didn’t tie me up and throw me in his trunk, and there wasn’t any time that I worried for my safety. (If you’re really curious, I’ll tell you more about it sometime.) But even with my previous experience going from talking over keyboards to chatting over coffee, this time it’s different and very special.
I can’t wait to hear the laughs of the women I have shared many funny conversations with over the years. I’m excited about seeing their sweet children play with my boys, their children whose ultrasounds we gasped over and names we sometimes helped pick. I’m so happy that I’ll finally get to look my friends in the eye after all these years.
Our whole group of around 140 women won’t be there (wouldn’t that be awesome though?), but small meet-ups like this one have been happening for a while. Some moms found out they only lived across town from someone they were chatting with and others have made (or are making) the trek across multiple states to meet their friends.
We know not everyone understands that community (though different from traditional community and not taking the place of friends and family) can be found online. We know that not everyone would take a weekend out of their busy lives to meet other moms they met online. We even understand that not everyone would commit to learning about the lives about a mom who lives across the world.
But for us, we have found moms who have more than a child’s birth month in common. We found that friends can be found in unexpected places and those friends can make parenting less lonely and offer support you never could have imagined.
Have you made “mommy friends” online? How has it helped you feel less lonely in parenting?