Are Mummy Chat Rooms The New School Playground? They can certainly feel like it. The biggest mistake that I made was over sharing. I gave everything and the support I received felt life saving at the time, but, it came back to bite me.
I wrote this post months ago but wasn’t sure if I would ever share it. I’ve hovered over the publish button a few times but decided against it. Now feels right. I don’t in any way want to de value the internet friends that I have made- the exact opposite. I value them more and want these friendships to grow and flourish, I’m just no longer trying to please or seek acceptance from a large group that would never happen. That was my fault. I want everyone to like me, I want to help everyone, I am a people pleaser to my own detriment.
This is my experience. This is not a woe is me post, this is not me ‘getting’ at anyone. If you were in the group, your experience may be different but the world is not black and white. This is how it was for me. I was never the cool one at school. Nor the hard one or the geek. I didn’t fit into a grop but had friends in each gang. Not a good idea. When forced to pledge your allegiance, I never could and so lost friends.
Before you are pregnant, you generally have no idea of this online world that exists, where Mummy’s support, share and laugh.
I knew I was pregnant from 10 days. I waited until I had officiaul conformation from the drs at about 4 weeks before I really went to town with the internet! Once my baby was confirmed, I googled information about pregnancy, what would happen next and what to expect. A targeted advert came up for a site called Babycentre that seemed to hold the font of all knowledge. I signed up for their emails and was told that my baby was the size of a poppy seed (the fruit and vegetable comparisons were amusing we had kidney bean, avocado and I’m sure there was a butternut squash thrown in there one week) and then I was asked if I wanted to join my birth month group? Well, hell yeah! This pregnancy was all I’d ever wanted. I was up for anything! I duly made up my user name and joined ‘January 2012’.
It was fab.
By this point, there were less than 100 women, (These groups can become massive and occasionally contain the odd celeb or two) and it was a glorious indulgement. ‘I’m so tired! Is anyone else falling asleep after work?’ someone would ask. ‘Me!’, ‘Me too!’ ‘I’m knackered’ came the replies. We were all in this together. ‘When are you telling your family?’ ‘Does anyone know about Maternity Pay?’, ‘I can’t stop being sick, Is there something wrong?’ ‘I don’t feel sick, is there something wrong?’ and on went this wonderful indulgement. I was part of the gang. Sadly, a post would pop up ‘I’m leaving the group’ and you would feel torn as to whether you should read this poor ladies painful story of a miscarriage, hope gone, and a deep loss and further escalate your own fears and offer what support you can via your laptop or scroll by and try to block it out of your head. Then one day, at 14 weeks pregnant, this was very nearly me. I ended up in the Early Pregnancy Unit of my local hospital, at 4am, desperately worried that I had lost or was losing my baby. I was terrified. I logged on to the group via my phone whenever I was alone and begged for people to tell me it was going to be ok. That they knew a friend who’s sister had had a massive bleed and now she has a two year old. As more people woke up and logged on, the greater support I had. When my husband left for work, I read and questioned, read and answered and attempted to take my mind of it. The girls were amazing and really helped me through a terrifying event. Oh and yes, I’m one of those women that had a mahoosive bleed and continued for weeks and still got my healthy baby. Try not to worry too much if it happens to you but seek advice.
Friendships began to form. I noticed that when a post about a controversial subject came up (circumcision, inoculations, breast feeding….) , one lady in particular and I would answer with a similar view point. When our pregnancy’s progressed and someone would ask ‘I keep fainting, what’s wrong with me’ or ‘ I fell over and banged my bump. Do you think my baby is ok?, she and I would urge the poster to ignore the ladies saying ‘it’s low blood pressure, just relax’ or ‘that happened to my friend and they just told her to rest’ and say ‘go and get checked out. None of us are Dr’s, we can’t advise you’. She and I, to this day are good friends Its been 4 years and although we had the same due date, her son decided he wanted to squeeze into 2011 and so there’s a few weeks between them but our boys are so lovely together and look forward to seeing each other 2 or 3 times a year. I even spent Christmas day with her lovely family and friend when little man was with his Dad.
Unbeknown to me, a group of ladies had decided to move to Facebook, The platform is easier to use and more mobile phone friendly. It meant that we came out of hiding from our user names but that only enhanced the conversations. This is where I had no clue! We all know about groups in Facebook. Some you can look at and join (public), some you can find but can’t see what is written and so you request to join and then you’re in and you can write things that you wouldn’t usually want your facebook friends to know about (closed) and others are secret. You can’t search for them. You can’t find them. It’s invite only. What goes on in the birth group, stays in the birth group!
Well, that was it. No holes barred, no subject off limits. ‘Who’s still having sex?’ ‘My boyf wants a bj. I think I’ll vomit’ and the like came thick and fast. We all know what its like when you get a group of women together over a bottle of wine! Well, the secrecy of the group was our bottle of wine. As birth came closer, the confessions of hairy lady parts were discussed. ‘Who’s going natural?’ ‘I can’t see, let alone reach, I’m getting a wax’ ‘A wax? Are you kidding me? No way am I getting a wax! My husband is going to have to do it’.
The threads were mostly hilarious. Sometimes a relationship would end and we all felt their sadness and helped as best we could. One day, one of the prettiest and most perfect looking mummy to be, with the most immaculate home and such a kind, caring influence in the group, turned out to be…..an early 20’s girl (troll) who had photo shopped so many photo’s (better than I ever could). ‘She’ had delivered her baby treacherously early. This beautiful baby then was struck down with meningitis, just as one of her older children had. I for one was of the opinion that you couldn’t make this stuff up. It was so unbelievable that it had to be true. We worried. We cared. We sent care packages. People asked their Mum’s to knit preemie hats for the hospital that she was born in. Alarm bells started to ring. In the background, detective work was being done and she was outed and removed.
This really shocked the group and was the beginning of the end. People got their guards up. Held back on their sharing. Suspicion was raised by the poor souls that were having a rough time. We lost a few members over that.
Things regained momentum and all was fun again. We shared a weekly picture of our little ones, moaned about breastfeeding, lamented the loss of our bodies and as our babies grew, the subjects changed. I for one received a huge amount of support when my husband and I split up. It was about that time that about 30 of us all met up in a hired church hall in the midlands and finally got to give and receive real hugs and cement our friendships.
As with any situation where a large group of hormonal women come together, there were flashpoints. Those that were a little unconventional or had strong beliefs tended to end up in the middle of debates.
One such debate ended the group as we knew it. An opinion was stated, a heated discussion ensued and sides were taken. The women left, her supporters were upset and a rift began. Long story short, the group shrunk to half it’s size. A secret group formed. There was a bitchy atmosphere. The original group found out about the secret group. The original group felt betrayed. Friendships came to an end. This all sounds so trivial when you write it back and read it but to us, the members, the ladies that had shared their lives when at their most vulnerable, this was heart breaking. It was all about who’s side you were on and not about our individual friendships. People that I thought I was reasonably good friends with, stopped communicating. We were slap bang in the middle of the school playground.
All that support, that love, that sharing of the most intimate details, it was all forgotten and it ended all because of breastfeeding, or injections, or basically, hormones.
In the midst of all this, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. My divorce was messy and my health deteriorated dramatically, to the point that I was bed bound for a year. I vented, I cried, I shared my fears and my dreams. A lot of women, myself included, managed to stay in touch via facebook, emails, telephone and some lovely friends as I can now call them, travelled half way across the country to visit me. A friendship developed between myself and one of the most popular girls in the group. The funny one that looked so young and always had an ear. When she moved and became vulnerable, we supported each other and found a common ground. I received a lot of care and attention from people and it did me no favours.
Then something happened. The dynamics changed. As this group was smaller, you got to see the stronger bonds that were developing. You knew who was friends with who (although I had no idea about the bitchy secret emails that were going on). People that were struggling behind the scenes, had stayed strong too long. Comments came such as someone would post that they were upset as their partner hadn’t even managed a card for Mothers Day and 10 minutes later, someone else would share photo’s of the amazing gifts that they had received and how spoilt they were. A lady would post of her fears for money and paying their bills and a post would appear of a shopping spree at Next, on things that ‘they didn’t even need’. A Mummy would post at how tired they were and the struggle they were having (1st baby) and a mother of 4 would post that it was so easy with one when the others were at school- ‘it’s a breeze’.
One or two of us who didn’t suffer fools, always told the truth on what we were presented with. Someone posted that they had an 8 week wait for CBT and how ridiculous that was. I replied truthfully that 8 weeks was good for the NHS- that I had a year wait and 6 months was the norm. That won me no favours.
We grouped together to send gifts to people when they had their next baby. Eventually though, it just wasn’t the same anymore. Not everyone can get along. I unfortunately had made the enemy of someone. Although we had had sent supportive emails to each other in the past, behind it all, I wasn’t her favourite shall we say. We dont need to go into details but I left the group in disgust with the way I was spoken to. My heart was broken. My group of friends that knew everything about me for 3 years were gone. I lost what I thought was a life long friend that day, I just didn’t know it. She let it slowly waste away. I had no idea what I had done. Friends turned and more sides were taken. A few took my side but girls that I thought really cared about me, as I did for them, turned.
So what am I saying about all this. What’s the reason for my story?
I think it’s that to hold your guard. Remember the lesson that you will be teaching your child about internet chat rooms. You do not know the person behind the profile picture. Even if you meet them, you do not know them. You share so much that you feel you know them as you would a real life friend but you really do not.
I don’t regret joining the group. I have made some good friends , 5 0r 6 close, that I will have for life. We all have similar beliefs and morals. But I got hurt. I thought I knew people and their morals, but I didn’t.
I’m emotional. I’m a cancerian. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I give my all and I invest my all in my friendships. My warning is, if you join one of these groups, keep your guard up. Don’t rely on the members. Don’t make my mistake. Don’t think that people think like you. Keep something back. You will share the most amazing and wonderful time of your life with these ladies. You will make friends and you will receive support but always remember that its the internet. It’s not all real life. Not everyone is the same as you. It can become the school playground.
Remember also that one day, someone might put all the stories on the internet from your now not so secret group – Swampcrotch and all!
Ps: As part of a blogging challenge that I am taking part in, I have to post a testimonial. Hmmmn, well, as I don’t blog for business, I don’t have any client feedback. The closest I have is my first ever Tots 100 ranking. It ranks parenting blogs every month and in my first ever month of taking part, I have been ranked 516 out of over 8,000 blogs! I’m pretty amazed and was only hoping to be in the 2000’s or so. Thank you to those that read the drivel I write!
Linking on friday with