7 Ways to Get the Most out of Fertility/Pregnancy Forums

 

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.

Close-up of a positive pregnancy test.  Shallow depth of field.
photo credit: everydayfamily.com

 

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.

I’m Pregnant and Grieving. Again.

During my last pregnancy 3 years ago, I kept Kleenex stuffed up all my sleeves like my grandmother used to do because I was always on the brink of tears. I once sang Christmas carols during my entire hour-long commute because everything on the radio made me cry too much to see the road.

You see, my mother had passed away in 1988, my father in 2008; I lost two uncles, in 2002 and 2008; in the past year, I lost my two remaining grandparents. Losses have a way of compounding, and when pregnancy hormones are in the equation the pain can be exponential. Powerful enough to make Guns ‘N Roses songs tear-jerkers.

I have walked around today in 2015 with my face unnaturally bunched, trying not to cry when I am in public. Now there are no grandparents or parents to call upon for help in the hierarchy of my family tree, and my own little family just moved over a thousand miles to a new city during my first trimester. This pregnancy, the grief promptly set up shop on the left side of our bed where I spend increasing amounts of time

When I look inward to self-diagnose the endless tears, I am reminded of a question posed by an insensitive former friend 6 months after losing my father, “Why are you still grieving?”

Here’s what I’d love to tell him:

Because when I found out the news of my pregnancy, my hand lingered over the phone after I called my siblings. Who do I tell now? There are no phones anymore on the other end of my instincts.

Because when other people have parents fawning all over them during their pregnancy, taking them out for pedicures and buying “My Grandma Rocks” and “Grandpa’s Little Slugger” onesies for the baby, I drive solo to Babies R’ Us to buy what I know we need: tiny fingernail clippers and those awful nose bulb snot remover thingies.

Because watching so many loved ones face death and miss out on the lives of their children makes me terrified it will happen to me. I worry that my beautiful 3-year-old and the one I haven’t met yet will have to grow up knowing too early what real grief is, and I that will miss out on the multitude of milestones that will lead them into and through adulthood. I worry that my husband will be left to try to do it on his own like my Dad had to.

Because my kids will never know these beautiful souls and will only be able to dutifully point to their photos and recite their names and associations.

Because when your loved ones were not lost recently, nobody anticipates your struggle, so nobody asks. It can be lonely.

 

[This is where my chin raises defiantly]

 

So how do I know it will fade (again)?

Because I know to ask for help. I have incredible siblings, friends, and in-laws who answer my calls when I need them.

Because my husband will sit and keep the tissues flowing for as long as I need him to do so.

Because when I held my first son for the first time, that little life became the most important thing to me, overshadowing my losses. I can only hope that in 9 more weeks, the immediate love of welcoming a second child into the world will again replace the pain I feel right now.

Mostly, because every once in a while, my son gets my grandfather’s glint in his eye, or my mother’s focused expression, and I know that they are all right there for me to silently appreciate and it’s my turn to be that person to another human being.

I’ve got this.