I once posted a picture of myself on Facebook lying down on my living room couch, eyes red and puffy from crying, with a tampon stuck up one of my nostrils.
Let me explain.
I’d been playing with my then 4 year old son, Félix. He was crouched on the ground and I was leaning over about to give him a surprise tickle attack and he jumped straight up into the air. His head, which is apparently made of titanium, made direct contact with my face – specifically, the center of my face – and I thought he’d broken my nose.
Of course this couldn’t have happened at 2 pm on a Saturday. No, it happened around 4 pm on a night when I had to teach. The amount of blood that happens when you have a facial injury of any sort is awe-inspiring and has been known to put many people into a state of panic. My son looked at my face as I leaned over the kitchen sink and did what all smart people who suffer from hemophobia do – he ran upstairs as fast as he could and didn’t come back down until the scene of the crime had been completely cleaned up. Alone, and needing to stop this bleeding quickly, I called my friend Lauren – who just so happens to be an RN.
Everyone in life should be so lucky to have a friend who’s in the medical profession – especially one that lives nearby. Lauren has come to our rescue and saved us many, many trips to the ER over the years. She’s been known to come over when most people are in bed asleep to examine the cuts, bumps and other ailments kids are prone to getting at the most inconvenient times, to help us determine if this is a “Go in and be seen” kind of thing, or a “Wait and see what’s happening in an hour” kind of thing. Seriously, if you don’t already have someone like this in your life, you need to find an RN or an MD and try to cultivate a budding friendship with them. They are a source of calm and can save you big bucks in insurance co-pays.
On the day that I thought my nose was broken, I needed a quick fix to get the bleeding to stop so I could still go into work and teach later that evening. I was having a hard time finding a substitute teacher at such a late hour. I called Lauren and she told me to try an old wrestling trick. In a match, if one of the wrestlers gets a bloody nose (which I suppose happens fairly often!) they can’t get back into play until the bleeding stops. So they do the usual head back, pinch the nose trick – they just add a tampon into the nostril to stop the bleeding from the inside. Brilliant. And – bonus! – it totally worked.
You might be wondering why I felt compelled to post a picture of myself looking like this on Facebook. At the time this happened to me, I rarely posted anything, let alone pictures of myself, on social media. But this was my rebellious attempt to post something real, authentic and not very pretty on a social media site that was all too often filled with the artificial, contrived, and perfect.
I consume plenty of enjoyment from BuzzFeed, so don’t be mistaken that I’m getting all snotty about the content on social media sites. And actually, this past year has been amazing in terms of making real connections with people via Facebook, Linked In and other social media sites. But I think today’s generation of expectant parents are growing up with this lens of social media dictating to them what pregnancy, birth and parenting are “supposed” to look like. They have a level of added pressure that previous generations haven’t had to deal with before.
Not so long ago, I was speaking to a young woman and her mother and I casually asked if she was a grandmother yet. Instantly, I regretted the question. The two women shared a look and then the daughter replied hastily, “No, not yet. Haven’t found the right guy!” Her mother added, “We’re in no rush. No pressure at all.” But I could tell that this was not an easy topic for either of them. The young woman went on to explain without any provocation from me, “It’s just so hard! My FB feed is all about friends finding the ‘love of their life’. And then it’s all of their wedding photos, their honeymoon selfies, their announcement that they’re expecting their first baby. Everything’s just falling into place for them. It’s all so perfect. It just makes me feel like I’m falling behind.”
I knew this was an issue, but just in a couple of sentences, this young woman highlighted what can be so challenging about social media sites. Rarely, do we get to read a post that speaks to the reality of our lives. I think we all know this, but still the images of happiness and perfection start to seep in and it’s difficult to remember: People only post the good stuff. We don’t get to see the REAL stuff. In addition to this, online “communities” that don’t have a moderator to really guide discussions can all too quickly dissolve into sites where personal bias and judgement reign supreme. Anyone seeking comfort and connection can soon feel the opposite if they make a statement or pose a question that goes against what the the majority believes or supports.
This issue of “social media as community” becomes even more important when the community you are talking about is made up of men and women seeking support as they begin their journey toward becoming parents.
This is not just isolated to social media sites. I sometimes look at birth and parenting websites to see what expectant families are currently concerned about and it breaks my heart the number of times I read a post from an anxious pregnant woman leaving her particular worry or concern at 3 am in the community chat box only to see that no one ever responded to her call for help. I know that it takes a lot of time and effort to curate a discussion board and that it’s challenging to staff one even if you are a big, flashy well-known website that millions of people access daily – but come on.
Embarking on the journey to becoming a parent, means experiencing an automatic and high level of vulnerability. These men and women need to have a safe place to land when they feel like they’re falling, or failing, and the internet is not that safe place for parents a lot of the time. I’m hoping that this blog (and my eventual website and book) will all be safe places for parents to land as they try to navigate their own journeys. And in the meantime, I’ll continue to do my part to encourage authentic discussion about pregnancy, birth and parenting and help share the realities of it all. Providing parents assistance in broadening their expectations of pregnancy, birth, parenting, and to shed a light on the reality of living an authentic life as a new family is both a personal and professional mission for me.
And that might mean posting the occasional picture of myself with a tampon up my nose. Not just to post the not-so-pretty, real and authentic picture, but also to provide a tip that actually works! Two-for-one! You’re welcome.
If you’re a new or expectant Dad, here is a website that I wholeheartedly encourage you to check out. Becoming Dad is based in Australia, so the workshops are not possible unless you live in that country. But there is a Becoming Dad “Dads Only” FB group that I know is a community forum that is well moderated, respectful and a place where men of all backgrounds can feel supported and encouraged in their real-life experience of fatherhood.
I’m on the search for just such a website for Mommas. I have put the call out (on Facebook! Hah – the irony is not lost on me…) to see what sites, if any, already exist out there. I will edit this post and add to it as I gather intel. Stay tuned.
Lastly, if you’re sick to death of perfect images of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting and you need a good laugh – please check out “It’s Like They Know Us” on tumblr. It takes stock images of beautiful people wearing blindingly white outfits while holding gorgeous and well-behaved infants and children – and provides hysterical captions that help you break down that impossible image of perfection. I love this site so very much.
Do you have safe places to land on the internet as an expectant or new parent? A place that would feel welcoming to all parents, no matter their pregnancy, birth, feeding or parenting choices? I’d love to compile a list. Please share.