I pulled an emotional all-nighter on the fertility forums a few years ago. I discovered that there is a right way and a wrong way to approach these sprawling archives of hypochondria and obsession.
Timing is everything
The subject of your worry undoubtedly occurs to you in the middle of the night, but don’t lose sleep waiting for someone in Europe to answer your anxious forum post at 3 a.m. Their advice usually involves the metric system and a 24-hour time stamp. It’s best to post, rest, and start refreshing your browser once people are waking up in Maine.
Let grammar be your guide
If someone is telling you, “trust me i c u having pain in adomen at 4 mo don’t worry it not ur baby u have gas,” followed by 15 emoticons that include fireworks and a soccer ball (?), then keep reading before you grab the Beano. This person is not an OBGYN.
Use the friend test
Is your concern something that you would share with a friend? If not, post on the forum and feel the exhilaration of anonymity. There are, after all, only a few people whom we can call to ask what the difference is between a hemorrhoid and anal prolapse.
If your concern is something you would ask a friend, start there and then use the forum as a second opinion if you think she is wrong. Be sure to follow up with that friend if you discover that 83 people on the internet disagree with her. She needs to know that you really can be 9 months pregnant without knowing it.
Don’t use your real name
The last thing you want is for your post about how many times per month you obsessively pee on a stick to go viral. Unless, of course, you are prepared to explain to future employers that this behavior demonstrates your determination, your willingness to challenge the assertions of others (“Reliable up to 6 days before your expected period,” my butt!), and your ability to continue making an investment when the return is not immediate. Otherwise, stick to using the name of that former boss you don’t like or your mother-in-law.
Learn the lingo
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to decipher posts that read, “My DH and I are ttc after our DD. I have POS 2x PO, but BFN. Pixie dust, please.” I initially thought this person’s designated driver made a purchase order for something from Tinkerbell. Once you learn the shorthand, you can scan posts efficiently and feel like an insider. There are glossaries. Learn the shorthand and feel like one of the cool kids.
Avoid the snowball effect
If you search for a forum post about “feet swelling during pregnancy,” but land on one so worrisome that it prompts you to start googling “foot cancer” or “gangrene,” back up a minute, go to your bookmarks, and look it up on the Mayo Clinic website. There are always people out there who share their oddball scenario on a forum that just doesn’t apply to 99.99999% of the world.
Just call the #*^& doctor
As my sister would tell me repeatedly during my pregnancies, your OBGYN chose this profession. They signed up for something that requires on-call hours and anxious women. Make them feel useful. There is no way you can possibly have a question they haven’t heard before, and you won’t see them answering questions on forums. This is your one way to know for sure if you are a hypochondriac or not.
Seriously. You can fret and rephrase your forum question over and over about whether your extreme nausea is a sure sign you are carrying quadruplets, or you can make one phone call and get some help with the nausea as a bonus.
I am a fan of forums, and I use them for comfort, as long as they remain comforting. I use forums as a place to gather more questions, but I don’t use them as a place for answers. I can share my pain, my joy, and my hopes without a filter, and the community (usually) responds with support and love.
Not everyone has that kind of support in her life, so by all means- lean on each other, anonymous moms. Then go call your doctor.