With my firstborn, I had one friend who was due around the same time as me, but I didn’t have close relationships with other new(ish) moms in my entourage.
As much as I felt confident about becoming a mother, having taken care of babies as a (shockingly young, in hindsight) babysitter and having a close relationship with younger cousins, I didn’t really know that much about pregnancy, and I certainly didn’t know what to expect with regard to birth.
It was 2012 and Facebook groups were a thing, but I didn’t really know much about them. I remember a friend added me to a cloth diapering group when I was pregnant, but it was all very foreign to me. There were a lot of abbreviations I didn’t understand, like “PPD.” No, not postpartum depression (which I did know lots about, thankfully), and also not “Pay Pal dollars,” which is what I thought it meant for the longest time. (It actually means “postage paid” in the context of a cloth diaper buy and sell group!) I don’t like to not know things, and I don’t like to come off as clueless (even if I am), so I didn’t ask any questions in that group, and it didn’t really occur to me to seek out other groups where I might interact with other pregnant women like me. Not knowing stuff makes me uncomfortable, so the idea of entering into conversation with women who “knew stuff” about pregnancy and birth and beyond made me uncomfortable.
I read some books, I followed some blogs, I gave birth. In between my first and my second child, of course, my blog was also born. My blog was born because I discovered that lots of other moms just like me really wanted to know stuff, but didn’t know whom to ask, what to ask and were a bit nervous about being judged for not knowing stuff. (Have I said the word “stuff” enough yet?)
I started my blog with a decidedly small amount of experience in pregnancy and motherhood—my son was only about 6 months old. But even being such a new mom, I found I was already becoming the go-to person for cloth diapering questions, and I was already missing the creativity and pedagogy of my teaching career (but not the classroom management).
It was, admittedly, a bit of the blind leading the blind. I’d like to apologize for the times I insisted that soap nuts were getting my cloth diapers clean and for discussing car seat installation when I knew even less about such things than Jon Snow knows about women. Being so disinclined to ignorance and being a teacher by trade, my blog and social media accounts became a way to share everything I was learning about motherhood with other parents like me: parents afraid of being judged; parents curious about what really, truly worked; parents eager to be accepted into a community that promoted no “one true way,” but many. I also loved asking questions to my growing hive mind of followers.
By the time I was pregnant with the twins, my blog had become a business, I’d become a Child Passenger Safety Technician, and I’d moved to Calgary.
One of my readers, knowing I was pregnant, added me to a Facebook group of other Canadian moms, also due in April. This, my friends, is a Facebook Birth Group.
There are groups like this started by pregnant moms every month (perhaps every day) on Facebook, many of them having spawned from similar groups on Baby Centre. Moms due in a given month invite other moms who invite other moms and the group grows like our bellies. My April Birth Group is the community I didn’t know existed and I didn’t know I needed when I was pregnant with my first.
I’ve now been in a group with these women (none of whom I’ve met in real life) for a year and half at least. Some of our members are now pregnant again. Some have gone back to work, some have gotten married—we even had our youngest member (who is killing it as a mom, by the way) graduate high school! We’ve celebrated each and every birth, and now each and every first birthday. (Shout out to Marsha who posted a happy birthday to each member’s baby!) We’ve celebrated postpartum sex milestones, analyzed adult and child bodily excretions, compared how we look as men (thanks to SnapChat), discussed prophylactics for the well endowed and debriefed episodes of Game of Thrones (really, no topic is off limit here). We’ve supported each other through the big stuff like postpartum depression, relationship conflicts, financial hardships, family tragedy and more.
But we’re also there to just break the monotony and share the joys of motherhood, to make each other laugh and to help pick outfits for a special event. Every mama has knowledge and experience to share with the rest of the group, be it our resident dietitians, car seat techs (another member just joined me under that title), our nurses, our style mavens, our second, third and fourth-time mamas, our fox fanatics, our gourmet chefs, our fitness fiends, our online shopping enablers, our GIF gurus, our dirty-minded divas, our twin mamas or our world travelers. The group really helped break the isolation of the newborn stage. We even had an offshoot private chat group where we kept each other awake during overnight feeds.
I know that Facebook and social media in general can be an unkind place, but I really hope that every mom can find a group as fabulous and supportive as my April 2018 birth group.
Did you join a birth group during any of your pregnancies?