When I was pregnant with E nine years ago, internet forums were a big thing.
After I had had N I had become a bit isolated from people, I had no real ‘mummy’ friends. The one thing I found hardest when I had a baby was that my friends who didn’t have kids, just didn’t get it. It is a trend I have seen across a lot of people since, but sometimes having a baby, which is meant to be the most joyful thing that can ever happen to you, can propel you into a world that is a bit lonely at times. Throw into the mix a husband that worked away half of the year and suddenly life became fairly sparse of adults.
I joined a popular mother and baby board one night on a whim. I was pregnant, and I was having some pregnancy niggles so I wanted to speak to other Mums, to see if anyone else could relate to what I was going through.
If you had told me then that nine years later some of them would still be my closest friends I would’ve laughed at you.
I was 22, I was actually fairly shy at that time in the sense that I didn’t really feel as though I had anything to contribute to any group that I found myself in. In my neonatal groups I felt too young to be taken seriously, I couldn’t see why people would want to be my friend. At home, I doubted my parenting skills, I constantly felt like I was doing it wrong, that I was failing.
Suddenly, the forum became like a lifeline. It turned out that was a girl on the same group who lived not far from me. It took us a while to become ‘real’ friends but she is now part of my family, I couldn’t image my life without her. There was another girl, who I remember thinking was exactly the type of parent I wanted to be. She had her middle girl the week before E was born and she is Jess’s godmother. She has become such an integral part of my life that I sometimes forget that we met ‘online’. It also turns out she like to drink, swear and be judgemental just as much as I do and so really we are a match made in heaven.
When my marriage started to fail, my internet friends were the first people I told. In fact, it was easy to tell them things, almost like because we didn’t live in the same place or they didn’t know the same people as me that they wouldn’t pass the same judgement. When I made poor men choices in the months after my marriage ended they reminded me that I was worth more than men who had no real interest in me. It was an internet friend who told me she thought my relationship with J’s Dad was abusive. It was an internet friend who told me she thought I had an eating disorder. It is an internet friend who lives in Australia now who always likes my instagram posts.
These internet friends, these strangers, they know more about me than some of my in person friends. Some of them I haven’t met, yet I know I could call them or message them at any point and they would be there.
We have laughed together, we have cried together, we’ve all had babies together. We’ve survived cancer, and post-natal depression and when one of our girls sadly passed away last year we all grieved together.
When J was born, my ‘started on the internet friendship’ was the first person to meet her. She tells how she went home and quickly let all the others know that celebration was not the order of the day. In fact, prayers were going to make more of a difference. Two weeks later a huge parcel arrived at my house. Filled with memory boxes and tiny tiny neonatal safe clothes. There was also a huge wad of cash with a note to say it was to be used for hospital parking only. For a group of strangers I couldn’t ask for better friends.
It’s true, that they live in my phone or on my computer for most of the time. But I count myself lucky that there are a group of women out there who I know would do anything for me, and likewise I them. I’ve been to some of their weddings, our children are friends, we send each other Christmas cards, when we have bad parenting days they are always there to remind you that actually, you’re just doing the best you can. They have been the best thing to come out of the loneliness of parenting that I could have asked for.
They are not strangers.
They are friends.
Yes, sometimes they are more in my phone than they are in presence but friendships that can endure that sort of distance and never waiver for any real length of time?
Doesn’t sound all that strange to me. Sounds magical in fact.