Tuesday, July 5, 2011
There is one, I will admit, that I frequent more than others. It wasn't long after joining that I remembered when I was little and one of my mom's friends was pregnant. Several women were sitting around our living room, talking all things baby and pregnancy. I forget the subject, but at one point, one rather earnest woman was quite emphatic about a particular way to handle a common baby issue - teething, I think. She left the room not long after voicing her opinion, and the woman sitting next to the pregnant friend leaned over and stage whispered, "Don't do what she just said. She doesn't know anything, her kids are little hellions."
As I recalled that experience of watching women dole out advice and then debunk each others advice in an age before the Internet, I realized that human nature hasn't changed much - just the way it's delivered. Nowadays, instead of 15 people you know from church doling out advice at your baby shower, you can have 10,000 women who are all due the same month as you, doling out advice.
So now that I've spent the better part of a year observing (and yes, joining in) I've realized a few things.
1) Emotions can run high when you're talking about your child. Think about it: When you offer advice based on your experience with pregnancy or baby care, and someone rejects it as scary/stupid/inconvenient, it's easy to think that they're saying your parenting or approach to pregnancy is scary/stupid/inconvenient. The thing to remember when doling out advice and/or receiving advice is that everyone there loves their child. Parenting styles may differ, but the love does not. When you think of that, it's easy to temper your reaction and words.
2) No message board is a substitute for a conversation with your pediatrician or obstetrician. Pregnancy and the first year of a baby's life is fraught with unknowns. Is this back pain pre-labor, a urinary tract infection or just normal pregnancy pain? How much weight is too much weight to gain? Is it an earache or just a summer cold? How will my baby react to his or her first shots? When should I start solids? While message boards are good for commiserating, and even good for making you feel less like a helicopter mom for taking your fussy, congested 3 month old to the pediatrician, they're really not meant to take the place of your doctor or you baby's doctor. Dr. Google shouldn't be your pediatrician or obstetrician.
3) People act differently when given the gift of anonymity and distance. Or at least, some do. Knowing this, surf safely, don't give private information out, and remember that computers can be turned off.
And finally, I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is to look for well-moderated, credible places to make your virtual coffee klatches. There is a forum offered by Texas Health Moms here, and you can also chat on the Facebook page. If you find a particular virtual space interesting, spend some time looking through the message boards of things that interest you. Perhaps you'd like to talk to moms who have had C-sections, because you will probably have one. Maybe you are exclusively pumping your breast milk instead of nursing, and need some support and encouragement. Maybe you'd like to talk to women who are due the same month you are, and then watch your children grow together.
Many of the moms I've met have become good friends. Some of us are even planning to meet up in a few months, if we can. We are all moms with similar senses of humor and parenting styles, and we really enjoy watching our children reach milestones together.
What about you? Have you found a place online you like to frequent? What has been your experience?
Bethany Erickson is the wife of Texas Health Resources web editor Tom Erickson and new Mom to a baby boy.