I am still breastfeeding Judah, who is two on 4th November. I am utterly convinced this would not be the case were it not for my iPhone. Sometimes I think of mothers of years gone by, breastfeeding through growth spurts and all sorts without this little friend and companion. The benefit I have gained from the online normalisation of issues I struggle with alone, such as extended breastfeeding and gentle parenting, has had infinite benefits for my relationship with my son and my family. Having this backup has given me confidence and conviction in my choices even when the people around me are unsupportive.
When my son was a newborn, I googled "is it normal if my baby feeds all the time?"
"is it normal to go five days without a poo"
"is it normal for babies to vomit a lot after feeding"
"is it normal..." etc.
At my fingertips was the most wonderful advice, sometimes contradictory but usually reassuring. Yes, this was all normal. Yes, it passed.
Sometimes I have a longing inside me to return to those days before technology, where I like to believe that I would be part of a mothering tribe, a community of women that would entertain and help each other and work the day long but at least nobody would be alone. You wouldn't have to search for answers to these questions because the people would be right there waiting to tell you.
When your baby is born, feeding them is a miracle. You stare into those amazing eyes, play with the little fingers and toes and revel in the rhythmic movement of their jaw as the blissful oxytocin hit courses through your body. After the 4,556th feed, that feeling can start to wane slightly and half the time your baby has their eyes closed anyway. So what are you supposed to do?
I like to think of my iPhone as my tribe of women at my fingertips. In a moment I can be connected to another mother, seeking help or giving reassurance alternately. This strong community of women online has changed my life for the better. My eyes have been opened up to this vibrant world surrounding birth and babies, and I learned more during those night feeds on my phone than I did in years of formal education.
Women these days are so isolated and some days can go through the whole day without speaking to anybody except their child. Especially those early days on maternity leave, when leaving the house before 12pm is unthinkable and every feed and nappy change is stressful. Talking to other women on message boards and Facebook can make this so much easier.
I know it's become fashionable to joke about the 'boring parents' on Facebook who keep uploading pictures of their mini Shrek (sorry everybody). The idea behind it is that apparently mothers are bragging about their precious darling and need to get a life. But what they don't realise is parenting is really hard and lonely a lot of the time, and chances are that picture that annoys you on your feed is a one-second snapshot of somebody's really long day where things were actually kind of happy and working. If I look at the one beautiful picture I took of my family that day, that becomes the snapshot, that becomes the memory and I feel encouraged to model my behaviour to make these Instagram-filtered moments a more frequent reality.
When I post pictures, I know that my mothering tribe will back me up with 'likes' and comments and I know they see past the momentary perfection and through to the strung-out, tired mother. The social media interactions that keep us afloat all day until we can find the time to meet in person and offload.
Mothers aren't trying to brag on social media, we're lonely and looking for somebody to acknowledge us.