About two months before my daughter was born, I upgraded my smartphone. My previous brick was on its last legs and I wanted to have a decent camera handy in case she came out particularly cute (which she did, so it was all worthwhile). I had no idea that it was about to become one of my most vital parenting tools.
Not many people talk about how lonely and isolating it is to spend all day alone with a tiny baby. Once the excitement passes, and the visitors fade away, it was just me and her, for hours on end. And although adorable, babies don't talk back. My phone became a lifeline. I used the Babycenter app to educate myself on all the basics and Twitter kept me entertained and connected to the wider world, especially during those long night feeds when I sat quietly in the dark for hours. But above all, it was Facebook that became my best friend.
Babies are the marmite of social media. I decided early on that I wasn't going to post every milestone online because, well, apart from our immediate family, NO1CURR. And not many of my friends have kids, although I genuinely love seeing pics from the ones who do. Maybe I'm in the minority, because a new mum in Australia made the news this week when she received a salty anonymous letter from a group of her Facebook pals, so tired of her ?running commentary? and baby posts, that they put their feelings on paper. ?We can't wait for you to get back to work - maybe you won't have time to be on Facebook quite so much,? they wrote. Obviously too incensed (or dim) to locate the Unfollow button.
For me, it was Facebook's Groups feature that changed the game; it allowed me to find my tribe. There are groups, local and global, dedicated to every area of parenting from breastfeeding to car seat safety, sleep tips to couponing. Whenever I found myself alone and worried about something, often in the wee hours, my phone brought a whole support group straight to me. Whether it was wondering if you can still nurse when your nipples are so shredded they're actually bleeding (you can) to the best laundry detergent for my cloth nappies (Persil is fine), no question went unanswered, no cry for help unheard. Being a new mum is scary, but less so when you can lean on women who've been there, done that, and recently too. The empathy and wealth of information available is just invaluable.
Most parenting groups are closed, and you'll have to send a request to join, but admission is virtually guaranteed. Once you're in, double-check to ensure what you post isn't visible on your own wall. And even if you have no real life friends in the group, remember that Ireland is a small place so think twice before sharing sensitive information. Once you join the conversation, you'll wonder how you ever survived without it.
By Sarah Breen