The Power of Online Friendships
By Susanne from Ghost Writer Mummy
Thirteen and a bit years ago, I took a pregnancy test. And as the boldest of blue lines began to appear, my world started to shift. It was as though the ground beneath my feet was becoming softer, and I was suddenly more vulnerable, more prone to sinking. Literally everything changed that day and I’ll be the first to admit that it was pretty terrifying. It took a while to get used to the fact that I was growing a whole new person all by myself, and in fact throughout the pregnancy I don’t think I ever really looked beyond the bump and into parenthood at all. I was focused on every kick, every scan, every detail of the impending birth. But I wasn’t thinking about what I was going to do when I finally held that baby in my arms. I couldn’t think that far ahead.
One of the reasons why I found it so hard to visualise myself with a baby was the fact that I knew nobody who had already been through all of this before me. All my friends were still happily at the pub every weekend, free and single; suddenly their lives had morphed into something completely unrecognisable to mine. Instead of wondering what to wear on a Saturday night, I was wondering whether I needed to put towels down on the bed in case my waters broke unexpectedly (four children in and they never once broke at home, although I did always put towels down just in case!). My life was wildly different to everyone that I knew and suddenly I felt quite alone.
The business of being a mum can be really lonely. In the early days when my baby cried, it was my mum I called for reassurance and advice. But I missed- and craved- peer support. I missed having friends who ‘got it’. Friends who would understand when I needed a small cry thanks to yet another sleepless night. Who would happily hold a screaming baby for ten minutes while I took a shower. Friends who had emergency wipes in their bag when I’d either run out or forgotten to bring any. I needed mum friends.
And this is why I started to nurture my online friendships. I joined Facebook and suddenly a whole new world opened up to me. Say what you like about social media, but there have been many 3am feeding sessions that have felt just that little bit more manageable thanks to the availability of online friends.
It started with group message boards filled with ladies all due their babies at the same time, and has now evolved into a world that I hold very close to my heart. It’s not just a bunch of faceless names sitting behind keyboards; online friendships are so much more than this. The ladies who I count as among my best online friends are ladies who are there for me exactly when I need it. Ladies who message me with a friendly smile or a simple ‘how are you doing today?’ just when it matters. Ladies who offer virtual shoulders of support when things are hard. Ladies who get it.
After Luka was born, online friendships took on a new role for me. It wasn’t just about knowing other people who were going through the same things as me when it came to explosive nappies or when to start weaning. It was knowing there were others out there who really understood the trials of motherhood. Going through a traumatic birth and hellish postnatal period with my son almost broke me. The days were dark and the nights were long, but the one thing that stands out for me during this time is the fact that my online friends were there for me. They didn’t falter. They didn’t struggle to find the words to comfort me or back away. And they held my hand through their kind words and beautiful comments on every post I wrote.
Today, my ‘tribe’ has my back. I love knowing that I can log on and find a friendly face almost immediately. Online friendships do not replace the important role that ‘real life’ friends play, but instead they compliment them; they enrich my life and for that, I love them.