One of the pregnancy apps I have been using has a forum attached, a space for mums-to-be to share their experiences, have a vent if needed, ask questions they might be embarrassed to ask others about in confidence. I tend to flick through every day to see if there’s anything that strikes a chord. I’ve been noticing lately how often women who are asking a perfectly innocent question get pounced on by a mob of judgemental know-it-all’s hiding behind an anonymous profile. I think this has led to the trend of people now opening their forum posts with ‘don’t judge me but….’ How sad is it that they feel they have to do that?
I was driven to write this blog following one post where a first-time-mum had been given some advice on car seats; it was advice that she hadn’t heard of before (not all car seats fit all cars). She went onto the forum to ask how well-known it was and if it was correct and was promptly hit with a torrent of abuse about not taking an expert’s advice seriously; how could she consider compromising the safety of her child etc… It all got out of hand.
In fact I felt the need to wade in, I thanked her for mentioning the point about car seats not fitting all cars because despite being a second time mum, I was never made aware of this, and told her to try not to take overly judgmental opinions personally. This post really upset me, and the woman who had posed the question said she would think twice before turning to the pregnancy forum for advice in the future. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sort of behaviour (in fairness it’s not exclusive to pregnancy forums), but I do wonder when and why did we start being so hypercritical of other women?
Pregnancy is such a vulnerable time for a woman, the hormone overload has you at times feeling all over the place and whether you’re a first-time-mum or having your second, third or fourth baby, you’re still entitled to feel and probably will feel unsure, scared and anxious about pregnancy and beyond. It’s a time when more than ever you need backing from those around you, and for some people a parenting forum can be their only source of emotional support so it’s really unfair to make quick judgments. We should be helping each other, passing on our wisdom in a sensitive way and engaging in a bit more sisterhood and a bit less sniping, especially if someone is asking, “what would you do?”
Over 40,000 women a year experience psychological problems such as postnatal depression, it’s a huge figure and it can leave some feeling too ashamed to seek out help. While PND can stem from hormonal problems, I believe there is a lot we can do to help each other by offering support and encouragement, choosing our words carefully and telling mums (and dads!) what a bloody brilliant job they’re doing. This should start in pregnancy, it’s not easy growing a baby, it’s an all-consuming emotional rollercoaster, and then we have a baby, which we have grown and nurtured from the get-go that is fully dependent on us. We get no manual, we all really make bits up as we go along, and all babies are different. It’s the hardest job in the world (and the most rewarding). So why don’t we make a pact to stop belittling and criticising and start offering a bit more support and praise?
Because how can we learn to love ourselves and recognise how great we are at the job we are doing, if we first can’t learn a little bit of respect for each other?