An Unexpected Tribe – Finding Support Online
My family is sort of a funny shape. Our first two boys came along right on schedule, almost exactly three years apart. You see, I am a planner and I had a schedule. Life, of course, has a way of shutting that sort of nonsense down. After several years of infertility, double mortgages, cross-country moves and other such nonsense. My third finally came along when his brothers were ten and seven respectively.
It had been a terribly long time since I had been pregnant and now, many of friends were no longer in that having babies/infants stage their lives. It turns out I had forgotten a whole lot about the process. Eventually, I sort of wandered into a reddit group that became a private little Facebook group of women who were pregnant and due within about a year of me.
I was tentative at first.
Finding support online wasn’t an option when I had my others but I felt so alone in this journey this time around. There were hiccups and speed bumps at first but slowly we gelled into a cohesive whole.
We compared our symptoms and our birth plans. We talked about our fears and our excitement. We celebrated when those babies came. We shared sleepless nights, breastfeeding and bottle woes and every little trick we knew or learned that made it all easier. Our babies are all around 2 now. We are still going strong. I “talk” to these women almost every day.
Now there is so much water under the bridge.
Now we share so much more than potty training tips. We are wildly different. We are old and young. We are first timers and experienced old hands. We are well-off and poor and everything in between. We are religious and atheists, Democrats and Republicans and none of the above. We are Americans, and Brits and Kiwis. We are working and staying home. We are completing our families or adding on (several new babies have been born or are coming this year). We are married, happy and not so much, we are single, we are dating. We are all sorts of mothers, relaxed and uptight, crunchy and baby-wearing, free range and over protective. Most of us would never meet in real life,… the distances, literal and figurative, are just too great.
In these just about three years we have held one another’s hands through heartbreak and illness, injuries and assaults, diagnoses and those days when tomorrow seems impossible. We have celebrated babies and weddings, new jobs, new houses and college degrees. We send flowers, cards, gifts and messages of support. Because it turns out, in this journey of mothering we all have so much more in common than we know. We have so many of the same triumphs and the same heartaches and we all have mountains to climb and the climbing is so much easier with a hand up from our friends.
I am lucky to have a great support system in real life.
I have wonderful friends and family, I have church ladies and a book club, all of whom love me and teach me and whom I adore. I didn’t know that I needed these other women in my life. I had no idea that through finding support online, these women would teach me more about love, about compassion and about strength. I cannot have too much of those things in my life.
It seems these days, especially on the internet, that we women are our own worst enemies. We are quick to judge and quicker to condemn. At times we are defensive of our choices because if someone is doing it differently, they must be wrong. You know we have all done it. We have all judged.
What if? What if we could find the connection I have found in my little Facebook group? I mean, what if we could remember all that we share? What if we gave one another the benefit of the doubt? What if we tried to remember that most of us really are doing the best we can with the tools at our disposal? What if we started from a place of love, respect and support? What if we remembered that we are all in the same tribe? Our generation has this unprecedented chance to connect, what if we truly took advantage of it?
What a powerful force for good we could be.
(Guest feature by Angela Daniels)