Some days I adore technology, such as social media and Google. I mean, what did people do before they could mindlessly scroll Pinterest for hours looking for ideas on what to do with all of their empty mason jars? How did you know if you were going to die from the mysterious red bump that popped up on your leg before you could WebMD it? How in the world did moms survive without being able to talk to zillions of other moms online about all things pregnancy and baby?

After peeing on the stick that changed my life last year, I knew I was going to need some moral support. Gross and weird things were happening to my body. I had a billion-and-fifty questions (yes, that exact number of questions) and didn’t want to be the lady that called my doctor every five seconds. I also felt too shy to talk about some things with my close friends or family. Where did I decide to turn for advice? A Facebook pregnancy group, or mom group. The group I chose was meant specifically for other expecting mothers due during the same month as me.

Let me just say, what-the-actual-hell. Who decided that throwing together a bunch of hormonal women over the internet was ever a good idea? Seriously? Who was that genius? They need a cookie. They need a laxative cookie that is sweet at first, but has some nasty consequences. Yep, that’s their prize for what they did to the world.

Seriously though, the group started out harmless enough. The majority of women had either just found out they were pregnant (like myself) or were trying to conceive (TTC for you frequent pregnancy forum readers) and had yet to get that beautiful positive test result. However, it was hard to express my joy when all around me, women were mourning. Miscarriage is extremely common. Throughout the group, numerous women ended up leaving in those first months because they lost their babies. It was heartbreaking and made me terrified for myself. Chemical pregnancies, early losses, no heartbeat… All of their situations ended in their heartache.

Cons of the experience so far? Sorrow. Obviously. Being surrounded by that much loss during early pregnancy is hard. It is something a pregnant woman needs to be aware of before joining these groups. It caught many of our members off guard because who wants to think about the horrors of pregnancies when you just want to think about the beautiful thing your body is doing? Pros of the experience so far? It opened my eyes to just how common miscarriage is. To be honest, I had no idea. I thought I knew a decent amount about the subject, yet somehow I still thought it was a rare occurrence. Even worse, for many of these women, it was not their first loss. It also serves as a strong reminder that miscarriage is not a woman’s fault. None of them had done anything wrong. That continues to be a wildly widespread misconception about miscarriage that needs to be addressed.

As our pregnancies progressed, the group got huge. I think the group peaked at around 600 members. Subgroups formed that broke the month into thirds. I ended up becoming an administrator of my subgroup, which had just under 200 moms. By this time, we were all a few months along and were starting to really get to know one another. We talked all day about everything. We even talked about the awkward moments and questions you have during pregnancy.

Sex. Vaginal Discharge. Hair Loss. Moodiness. Anxiety. Bleeding. Bowel Movements (or lack thereof). Insane Gas. Swelling. Weight Gain. Unintentional Peeing. Breast Leakage.

We literally had numerous conversations about ways to groom our lady-bits around our massive bellies and no one bat an eye. Since I know you’re dying to know what solutions people came up with, we were told to use a mirror, do some yoga poses, ask your partner/friend to help a girl out, or just let that ferocious beast grow. Talk about choices! This was just one of the totally weird-yet-normal subject for us and often a great comedic relief from the struggle that can be pregnancy.

Our biggest strength in the group (the main and the sub) was that it was full of different kinds of moms from all over the world. Young moms, old moms, vet moms, first timers, single moms, married moms, dating moms, single moms by choice (planned to have a baby on their own), moms of heterosexual couples, moms of homosexual couples, moms from the United States, moms from the United Kingdom, moms from New Zealand, moms expecting a single baby, moms expecting twins, moms expecting triplets, moms, moms, moms. We were all so incredibly different, yet were united by our magical baby-making powers and internet-having abilities.

This experience allowed me to meet some amazing women. I’ve had a running message thread with some of the moms from the group for over a year now, almost two! They have become some of my closest friends, and I love them dearly. It is amazing being able to talk to someone about all of the things you might be too embarrassed to talk to other people about and have them completely understand. Not only do they understand, but they are kind and compassionate in return. Then, some of those friendships carry on past the pregnancy and you are blessed with getting to watch their children grow as the same time as your own child. I can honestly say a few of the women in the group made what I’m about to talk about completely worth it.

What should have been our greatest strength as a group, was also our greatest weakness. The various personality types clashed. Many individuals felt as though they were “experts” on all things baby. With so much information at your fingertips on the internet, it’s easy to feel like an expert now days. “Where did you learn so much?!” “Oh you know, I graduated with a masters from I-Know-How-To-Google University.” Seriously. What was worse is that half of the sources these women used were not credible at all. Using unreliable sources on the internet is like seeing a dentist that wants to pull your teeth out with rusty pliers in the back of his creepy white, windowless van. Don’t trust it! It’s a trap!

I watched moms get bullied out of the group due to differences of opinions or by simply being disliked by other members. I just sat there behind my computer or phone screen and watched it happen, something I am completely ashamed to admit. First, it started out slow. Casual insulting comments about parenting choices, people blocking each other and then making posts making fun of those they’d blocked, screen-shots being taken from the main group and being shared in the smaller group to start a conversation about it. It was sickening, but we didn’t do anything to stop it because we weren’t really sure how. A small, but toxic, group of moms began to run the group. They posted all day. They ran the conversation and anyone that didn’t agree with them, or that tried to suggest that they be kinder was immediately shut down and torn to pieces. It was like throwing an injured animal to the lions, they just fed on the poor thing until they couldn’t last anymore.

I won’t bore you with all the icky details. In a nutshell, mom-shaming hit an all-time high. Obstetrician vs Midwife. Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding. Circumcision vs Uncut. Epidural vs Natural Birth. Vaccination vs Unvaccinated. You’d think the judgment would stop at the controversial subjects, but it didn’t. The places people lived, their weight and appearance, their fear for their pregnancies, and basically anything else people did was fair game to be shamed. Mind you, when I say “shamed” I don’t mean a little light bickering. I mean full blown, hateful, word-wars.

I won’t lie. It ruined the last months of my pregnancy trying to admin that group. It was an utter nightmare. What started as a loving, fun group of women sharing their joy of pregnancy turned into a war of hatred and verbal abuse. The messages from group members poured into my inbox asking me to do something. However, when the other admins and I decided to try and enforce a “be kind” ruling in the group, it was met with immediate retaliation from those that found humor in the insults and arguments. The hate posts in the group directed at the admins or those feeling attacked flooded my notifications. I sobbed for hours, you know, like 8-months pregnant women with emotional situations do. Ultimately, the group crumbled. Those that wanted the small, intimate group full of love and support created a fresh page (which has now been thriving for almost a year). However, the heartache of my first mom group experience still feels like a freshly ripped band aid sometimes.

The cons of this experience? There are some bad eggs out there. A few toxic people can ruin a wonderful thing. Kindness and compassion go a long way in my book, and some people just don’t have it. Throw a few hundred pregnant and hormonal women together and battles are just bound to happen eventually. I think it is inevitable. I don’t know why I thought people could learn to be kind and agree to disagree on certain things.

The pros of this experience? I met some fantastic moms. They are strong, smart, and inspiring. They help me to be a better mother myself. They help me see that when I feel like I’m failing, I’m not. Motherhood isn’t easy. It takes a good support system to make it. I learned that when you surround yourself with good people, you can succeed.

Do I regret choosing to be a part of the online mommy group community? No. I learned so much. In the beginning, I needed that support more than anything. Those women suffering losses, needed my support. I met amazing people. I was reminded that it is never okay to belittle others for the sake of entertainment. I witnessed the kind of person I never want to become. My experience taught me to be a better example for my daughter. She is what matters here. Throughout this entire rollercoaster of a journey, she was growing inside of me. At the end of the day, the group didn’t matter. My child did.

If you made it to the end of this article, congratulations on hanging in there! It was difficult for me to write. I didn’t want to go too much into detail, but I also wanted to tell the story.

Be kind. Be courteous. Be the example.

 

Published by Audrey Jo