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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

When Your Village is Virtual.

I originally wrote this post in response to the prompt "Finding Your Village" on The Today Parenting Team, but given the subject matter, I had to share it here, too! 

In May of last year, I received a huge surprise in the form of a positive pregnancy test. It was shocking and I was terrified. So terrified, in fact, that I found myself googling things like “unplanned pregnancy where everything worked out fine.” This led me down a rabbit-hole of mommy blogs.

Before I got pregnant, my knowledge of mom blogs was limited to the stereotypical, eye-roll inducing rants on whether or not you should vaccinate your kids and women wearing yoga pants while arguing over which multi-vitamin is the best. What I found, however, went way beyond that. There were rants, of course, but there was also a lot of dialogue. There were discussions over formula brands and breastfeeding struggles, debates on sleep training and co-sleeping, funny kid stories, and real-life mom moments.

There was something about these blogs that brought me such encouragement in those first few scary weeks. Here were all these women, all in different locations and phases of life, connected by nothing other than the internet. And yet, they were connected. They were sharing vulnerable moments in an effort to help others. They were telling their stories and trading advice.

When I couldn’t sleep, I would “research” (the term I gave reading funny stories about having kids), and I was drawn to these posts. It made me feel like everything was going to be okay, like maybe I was actually going to be a good mom after all. There was community in the comments section.

Fast forward to today and that little surprise is now eight-months-old. We’ve recently relocated to a new town, one where I don’t yet have a village. I don’t have anyone to call up and ask if they’ll babysit while I go on a date. I can’t call in backup so I can go swimsuit shopping. I hope to have a village here one day, but for now, a lot of my village is virtual.

My village is made up of bloggers, of moms and non-moms. It’s made up of women who have planned their child for years, women who have had surprise pregnancies, women who have lost their babes before they’ve gotten the chance to meet them. It’s made up of women who have decided against having babies, women who work from home, women with thriving careers, and stay at home moms. It’s made up of women who share their stories through blog posts, who share their struggles through tweets, who try to capture the magic and craziness of motherhood in snapshots on Instagram.

My village is made up of a few ladies who will never know I exist, but who have helped me more than they know by opening up about their experiences in motherhood. It’s made up of some girls I might never meet, but exchange emails about having a tiny anti-sleeper with anyway. It’s made up of women who have chosen to share, and in doing that, have enriched my early motherhood experience greatly.

There’s a lot of negative things to be said about social media. Over-sharing, bullying, spending too much time staring at a screen. But there’s a lot of good to be said, too. There’s a lot to be said for a space that lets women share their stories and ask questions and find answers. There’s a lot to be said about someone opening up through a keyboard, providing an area for others to say, “Me too, me too, me too.”

So today, as I sit here in my yoga pants frantically googling which multivitamin is best, I’ll text my mom and ask if she has any suggestions. And then I’ll email a blogging friend and ask her. And you know what? They’ll both respond. And because neither one of them will know, I’ll turn to Instagram and blog posts and be provided with a wealth of information.

Sometimes life works out where you have a beautiful village around you, women who are available for coffee dates and babysitting. And sometimes you have a beautiful village you catch up with via email and blog posts while drinking your reheated coffee in your pajamas. Trust me, both are so valuable.
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