Falling pregnant is (relatively) easy. Being pregnant, and then spawning a baby, is the hard part. It’s only until you have this tiny, helpless infant in your arms that you think to yourself “shit, now what?”.
I think I spent my entire pregnancy in denial – under a false illusion that once baby was here I would know exactly what to do, and that everything would magically fall into place. Except, it didn’t. Suddenly, I had this brand new, pink, squeaking, frog-like human in my arms and panic set in. How will I know when to change its nappy. What size nappy? What brand of nappy? When does it eat? How does it eat? How much does it eat? OhMyGodWhenAmIEverGoingToEatAgain?!
And so, I sought advice from the experts. Other moms.
Facebook, with all its faults, does offer us one great thing – groups. And if there’s one thing a mommy loves, it’s a mommy group on Facebook. Before my baby was barely more than some drying wee on a dipstick, I had been added to more Faceook groups than I could remember. Breastfeeding groups, gentle parent groups, Joburg groups, groups about groups, groups abut those groups who group together. You get the point.
My newsfeed was filled daily with panic stricken moms asking for consultations on their baby’s rash, moms asking for reliable family photographers and moms looking to sell little Johnnys ‘barely used’ burp cloth.
At first, I loved it, I sucked in the information like an alcoholic on relapse. Everything fascinated me! No ‘is this poo even normal’ question was too much for my insatiable appetite, no requests for ‘it’s little Julie’s birthday in 7 minutes and I need one hundred million gluten free Frozen themed cupcakes’ could scare me away. Oh no, I was mommy group befok.
Until I started asking my own questions.
They started off innocently enough. One day I asked if anyone could recommend a good book to read during maternity leave (and we laughed and laughed). I also posed on the group the day before my son was born, and the love poured in. Then, I had the absolute gall, the CHEEK, to post about something that required a point of view. Circumcision. Words like ‘baby massacre’ and ‘genital mutilation’ spring to mind. My post elicited hundreds of responses where women, who I have never met and who have never met me unleashed their verbal abuse.
I’m not alone. I have seen hundreds of moms torn to shreds for even mentioning the word ‘bottle fed’ or (gasp!) ‘C Section’. Questions around how many ml’s a baby should be drinking were met with very angry women lambasting anything that didn’t come out of the boob. Cute pics of ‘baby’s nursery linen’ were followed with Internet links to cot deaths and SIDS stats.
Eventually, I started to unfollow most of the groups, and retreated into the corner like a scolded school child. From there, I observed, and watched more innocent ladies fall to the merciless hands of the know-it-all-parent.
I have chosen to remain on two Facebook groups, where abuse is met with a quick removal by the page admin, but having been burnt a few times I am hesitant to post anything more than an innocuous update about something that can’t offend anyone. (puppies running through tulips, and that sort of thing)
Motherhood is fucking tough. We all have our days where we have no idea what we’re doing. I’m still so grateful to the few groups I remain on and the 99% of moms out there who are genuine and helpful, and don’t mind a difference of opinion.
To those moms, the invisible personas behind the profile pictures, I thank you. We may have never met, but you have helped me in more ways than you know.
PS – I still can’t help anyone with a hundred million gluten free Frozen themed cupcakes. Sorry.