When I was pregnant with my first, I was so eager to join an online “pregnancy support” group — you know, those due-date message boards or TTC boards that prospective mommies join. I did not have any mom friends in real life, and the friends I did have were not interested in my TTC or ultimate pregnancy journey. Joining an online message board seemed like the perfect solution.
And while these boards can be a good support for some, there are definitely drawbacks too. I’ll tell you my experience and thoughts, and you can decide for yourself if it’s worth it to you.
First, it will depend on where you join a group. My main group was on a pretty mainstream parenting website, with people from all different lives represented. Things might have turned out differently if I’d chosen to join a board on a site that was more targeted for the type of mom I am. But, I was pretty uncertain or mainstream before I had kids. I assumed I’d use disposable diapers, buy baby food, go see an OB and a pediatrician, and pretty much do the “usual” stuff. Which is not how it turned out, but…you know. I had no idea before my kids came along.
Anyway, I joined a group in February of 2007, which is when we decided to start trying. Almost immediately there was a huge fight among the group members. It was a “young and ttc” board, meaning all moms in their 20s who were trying for babies — mostly, their first. There were some moms in the group who were already pregnant (newly), some moms who were in their first few cycles, and some moms who’d been trying for a long time, sometimes a year or more. The fight was over whether moms should be allowed to jump into the group during their two-week wait and then announce their BFP when they hardly knew the group, and if pregnant women should be allowed to stay in the group. The moms experiencing infertility were, understandably, quite sensitive to all the BFP (Big Fat Positive, or ‘you’re pregnant’ on a test) announcements in the group while they experienced disappointment month after month. Anyway, the group split at that time: those who were struggling vs. those who weren’t.
There were a few other big fights, but only a couple. Most of the time people got along pretty well. I posted a lot, usually several times a day, in the early months. I was on a break from school and I didn’t have other kids, so I spent a lot of time online. It was nice to write “personals” to different people, celebrate with those who got pregnant, commiserate with those whose periods showed up or who unfortunately miscarried. It was nice to see how different people were doing things.
I felt, though, that a few of the people on the board whose babies were born first (we were due between August 2007 and April 2008) acted “superior” sometimes. I guess during pregnancy and in the first several months, two or three months’ age difference is a lot! Of course now it doesn’t matter, but it did. As I started to become a bit more “alternative,” we sometimes had fights about that. I wasn’t even allowed to say, “By the way, I’ve made this choice, send me a message if you want more info.”
As things naturally go, it was sometimes hard to discern someone’s meaning or tone of voice over the internet. We didn’t know each other “in real life” and we were spread all over the country. A few moms were having their second or third babies (they weren’t on very much). We were all really different in a lot of ways.
I kept up with the same group for awhile during my second pregnancy, and looked into a few more. But I didn’t have time to form any “new” relationships, frankly, because I was busy with my daughter (and I had “real life” friends then). A lot of us got pregnant and had babies around the same time, between June 2009 and December 2009. But, I left that group in March 2009.
It got so that the “drama” on the message board was nearly constant. I was always stressed out about someone disliking me (and oh boy, a few of them really didn’t like me), or someone fighting (with me or someone else), or feeling like I couldn’t bring up certain issues because it made people mad…. It wasn’t a good fit anymore. It wasn’t worth the stress it caused me. And so, with my husband’s urging, I left. There have been brief times I’ve missed it and a couple of the women I still talk to on occasion, but it’s better all around that I’m not in it anymore.
With this pregnancy, I didn’t even look for a group. I just don’t have the time, nor do I need the potential drama.
So if you’re considering joining a group, let me give you some cautions:
1) They’re a lot better for first-time moms, or those with specific struggles — That is, if you aren’t super-busy with other kids, and/or you’re struggling with infertility or another touchy subject that you really can’t discuss anywhere else, a message board might be a good place for you. If you already have kids and you’re having a “normal” time trying or a normal pregnancy, your mommy friends will listen to you (as mine do) and the message board is kind of…extra.
2) Choose carefully — You don’t have to stick with the first group you try. Read through some posts, post an intro, get a feel for the group. If you don’t feel like you “mesh” well, leave. It’s also a good idea to seek out a site that hosts groups specific to your situation. For example, I’d do better on mothering.com since it’s an alternative parenting site.
3) Don’t get too involved — These are people you can share a certain part of your life with, and commiserate over pregnancy blahs, and celebrate joys. But you don’t have to share everything. And you don’t need to get sucked into any drama.
4) Expect drama — This being the internet, people feel freer to say things they otherwise wouldn’t. It’s also hard to tell what people really mean through a computer screen. This means there will be drama. And since parenting is rocky territory anyway, and everyone’s all hormonal from being pregnant or wanting to be…yeah. It’s a recipe for drama.
5) Know when to leave — If the group is bringing you down more than it’s supporting you, if it’s causing you additional stress, or if it’s taking too much time, just leave. You do not have to stick with it and deal with the problems. Find a different group if you feel you need one, but don’t stay with one that’s hurting more than helping.
Do you join pregnancy message boards or “due date clubs” during TTC or pregnancy? Why or why not?
Top image by surlygirl