Thursday, 7 June 2018

Guest Post - Social Media Parenting

Today I have my lovely friend Kirsty sharing a post on social media parenting - I met Kirsty almost  four years ago when we were pregnant with our eldest daughters who ended up being born a day apart. Kirsty blogs over at Holly's Legacy where she talks about all three of her children, alongside baby loss and parenting after a loss.

I have always been a huge advocate for social media and social sharing. The power to share information within the space of seconds to reach and impact upon thousands is something quite amazing and revolutionary. Social media is beyond powerful and I have done my fair share of sharing online. However, I have always been aware of the 'Jekyll and Hyde' that comes with social media and in 2015 shortly after the birth of my first born, I became victim to what I call ‘social media parenting.’
Being a midwife, I had some understanding of the early days and weeks with a newborn and whilst I knew it looked exhausting, I was all too absorbed in the social media parenting that was all around me. In the lead up to my little ones arrival, I followed various people on social media who shared pictures and stories of life with their newborn. Life with a newborn totally looked doable. Okay so I would be tired and up in the night but no one seemed to be struggling THAT much and so I somewhat naively believed that I would breeze through it too. I saw beautiful pictures of breastfeeding and play dates, not pictures of exhaustion or struggles. 
My first shock came when trying to breastfeed my daughter. I knew that it would be painful to begin with but I always thought that the initial painful latch was suppose to get easier after the magical 10 seconds that we are always told to count to. I was so wrong. I hadn’t seen pictures or heard stories of people struggling online and so I thought I must have been doing it all wrong for it to hurt THAT much. I didn’t realise until my third baby that this painful latch would last for the first 9 days before it started to get a little easier and that was NORMAL. I felt like an utter failure when I decided to bottle feed after a few days and grew so envious of all these pictures shared of breastfeeding. The reality of breastfeeding was not what was being portrayed online. Yes, breastfeeding is beautiful but also incredibly hard work at first.
Then, my newborn daughter developed severe gastro oesophageal reflux disease which resulted in total bottle aversion. Prior to her diagnosis, my daughter screamed in pain ALL DAY for the first 10 weeks. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong because no one else's baby seemed to be doing this. I grew bitter as I saw pictures shared of wonderful baby groups, classes and coffee mornings but instead of going to my own, I sat indoors terrified to go out in case my daughter had an episode of inconsolable screaming in public.
At 10 weeks old my daughter was finally admitted to hospital for almost 2 weeks with an NG tube whilst we taught her to feed again. It wasn’t until then that I finally bonded with her. I hadn’t had that initial rush of love that everyone talked about on social media. I loved her because I knew I should love her but I am not sure how real that was. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t think it was normal to feel the way I did. Social media parenting wasn’t about portraying the realities of becoming a new mum; it was about only showing the best bits. 
I vowed after this point to never again sugar coat parenting on social media. Prior to having my daughter, I had been part of taking the perfect picture and only show casing the positive things but I could no longer do that because I refused to be part of someone else feeling the way I had. So I went on to share our story of reflux hell and my own feelings of bonding as a mother, because it was important for me to let other know that they aren’t alone. I owed it to myself to be honest and not be party to social media parenting anymore.
In 2016 my belief in honest social media parenting continued when my husband and I made the heartbreaking decision to terminate the pregnancy of our second daughter at 25 weeks pregnant. Our much wanted daughter had developed a rare and severe medical condition that was slowly destroying her heart and so we made the decision to take on a life time of pain to avoid her struggle any further. My life forever changed as I became a bereaved mother and although I could never sugar coat my grief for her if I tried (as there is nothing to sugar coat), I still instilled my values for honest sharing of my parenting to help others. My second daughter Holly, reminded me of how social media sharing can be used with such positivity and such love to help people in their darkest times.
The parenting of my third child, my son, has been filled with the difficulties you would expect following the death of a previous sibling. I don’t share that life is now ‘fixed’ but instead that life can still be beautiful even when our hearts are hurting. I hope that my honest sharing of my parenting brings honesty, hope and support to others. 
I am relieved to see that honesty within social media has changed over the years. There seems to be a much greater respect for ‘telling it as it is’ and I really think it is the right way to go. I think that much of what we read and see has to be taken with a pinch of salt but know that there are people out there who have been where you are. We owe it to ourselves to share the happy times and achievements but also to be proud of overcoming the difficult parts. Life is real and I will experience it as a real parent, not as a filtered, edited and final version of someone who doesn’t exist.



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