It's hard to remember, in our media-saturated world, that the idea of reading about parenting is relatively new. Sure, there are some fascinating old parenting guides, but for most of human history you'd just ask your family or local community how to deal with your baby. And then for another few decades all parents had to do was consult the manual of choice, be it Dr. Spock or, more recently, What to Expect.
Now we have pregnancy forums.
During Week 6 of your pregnancy, you're probably not out to the world as a pregnant person. But if you're reading Week 6 of a pregnancy calendar, chances are you've already announced your news to a pregnancy forum or twelve.
Maybe you have a better reason than I did for hanging out in these forums. Perhaps you’re connected with a group of people experiencing infertility, and these people are now your lifeline. Perhaps you’re scared of pregnancy’s many unknowns, and you’re responding to this fear by posting questions about cervical mucus to strangers. Perhaps you’re the maker of one of a pregnancy forum app and you spend your days booting trolls.
Or perhaps, like I was, you are reading these forums out of snarky superiority: all those spelling errors and ridiculous medical claims demonstrate that you’re going to be a better parent than all of these crazies. If hate-reading is your main reason for being in a pregnancy forum, bear this in mind: all parents are a little bit crazy, probably in part because we're all spending too much time reading about parenting online.
There are plenty of times when pregnancy and parenting groups may help you. My goal isn’t really to get you to reject every opportunity for community-building, but before you start posting regularly to a forum, send out one or more of these trial balloons:
Pick out a ludicrous baby name and ask if people in the forum like it. [Note: for this trial balloon it is essential to pick a name you plan never to use.] Wait 2-3 minutes and review the comments. If you can't trust these people to compliment or at least ignore your chosen name, how can you trust them with advice about health and safety?
Post that you need a cup of coffee to function through the day and ask if others think that's okay for the baby. If you receive waves of judgment about how you are too selfish to parent, this is not the forum for you.
Make up a study about pregnancy, perhaps about how stretch mark creams have been proven effective or how ginger candies are increasing miscarriage rates, and share it in the forum. If moderators don’t delete it, ask yourself what other information they’re letting through the sieve.
Getting away from pregnancy forums is just the first step in changing your media diet. Make some extra time for mindless scrolling this week, because next week we're starting a digital detox.