When I was pregnant I made a very wise decision. I banned myself from Google. Well, not from googling anything at all, but anything to do with pregnancy. I decided if I wanted to know something I would use the NHS website, ask someone or consult the comprehensive reference book that is ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. Amazingly I pretty much managed to stick with it. In very early pregnancy I had some light bleeding, which I knew to be normal but was still obviously worrying. I am SO glad I didn’t trawl forums for advice. Can you imagine the horror stories? No thanks. I must admit towards the end I did search for ways to induce labour, and I tried them. They didn’t work, but that’s another post. Anyhow, you’d think that once my boy was born I would have carried on this sanity-saving rule. Think again.
Perhaps not as soon as he was born, but not long after, my search engine addiction began. I read research on co-sleeping; scoured a thousand baby-soothing techniques; searched every little thing to check it was ‘normal’. The weird thing is I didn’t even realise I was doing it; in my sleep-deprived haze it seemed totally reasonable to spend time obsessing about every tiny detail, every little decision, involved in day-to-day parenting. By week 10 I was in a bad place and I’m pretty sure this habit didn’t help matters.
Now, some people find Internet forums very helpful. They provide a community of people who are going through, or have been through, a similar thing to you and can offer advice and, more importantly, encouragement. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about a parent who is alone – maybe awake at 3am for another feed and wanting to occupy their mind – choosing to read through other people’s discussions in the dim hope that some ray of light will shine forth and suddenly they will understand this parenting lark a little bit better. It’s just not gonna happen.
The major problem with spending your mental energy on doing yet more online baby research isn’t so much that you will encounter mountains of conflicting advice that is likely to leave you even more adrift than when you started (though that is a big problem). It’s that you’re not giving yourself any head space. You could be looking at something you are interested in (you know, you, the person who exists in this world not only as a mother but an intelligent human being). But instead you are devoting the little brain power you have left to what you have been focussing on all day, and all night for that matter. It’s as if reading the news, catching up on celeb gossip or even watching silly videos of cats is something you just shouldn’t be doing now you’re a parent. In those first months our babies become so big in our worlds that they begin to be all we can see.
When my boy was newborn I hardly listened to any music. In fact, I did usually switch on the Chris Evans breakfast show each morning and the lively, benevolent company was very welcome (thanks Chris). But I never deliberately put on my favourite songs. This is very strange behaviour for me. I love music. I sing as much as I can and I am an unlikely but very passionate hip-hop fan. I don’t think I listened to any rap at all in those early days, despite it being the music that most pumps me up. I still don’t really know why, but I do have a sense that I wouldn’t let myself switch off from being mum. Whilst this was probably once a useful evolutionary instinct, when we had to protect our children from prowling tigers and such like, it is now highly unhelpful.
What’s more, continuously searching the internet for advice is a very clever way to undermine your own mothering instinct. You may think you know whether you ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be doing something. You may have a quiet inkling that you know what’s best for you baby, but only when it’s been validated by ten different websites will you give your own opinion any weight. Why is that? Us bloggers are emphatically not experts. Forums are filled with opinions but lack fact. Even more ‘official’ websites have their own agendas and theories.
Are struggling with a parenting related question right now? Fingers itching to tap that magnifying glass and scroll away? Stop. Breathe. What do you think? What do you feel about what’s best for your baby? Is your answer kind? Is it vaguely balanced and sensible? Then it’s probably a good answer and that’s the best you can hope for. If you’re looking for the right answer then, sister, you came to the wrong show. Trust me, I know. And if you still feel uneasy why not try talking to an actual person? Radical, I know, but worth a shot. Pick someone you trust and who will listen and isn’t likely to push their own opinion.
I have now reinstated my anti-google rule. In fact I generally try to avoid reading anything ‘advicey’ about babies. The good news is my son doing pretty well and doesn’t seem to have noticed that he is being deprived of any influence the internet might have on his upbringing. I know that when I need help there are plenty of people I can ask. I also know that other stuff is happening in the world outside of my baby bubble because, guess what? I now have time to read the news! (Though that’s less because I’ve switched my internet habits and more because my baby actually sleeps now, Alleluia!)
So trust yourself, you don’t need a thousand other mums to agree with you.
And just to finish I’d like to say that if you’ve googled late at night and somehow reached this page of my blog then I should point out that this is the exception that proves the rule. You are engaged in a totally healthy and not at all energy zapping activity. Carry on as you were 😉
*other search engines are available