I Have Scary Internet Friends And I Can’t Imagine Life Without Them!

Several years ago I read a post about “Scary Internet Friends” – you know the ones you made online and may have never met in person.  It’s been so long I can’t find that original post but something about it still resonates with me.

Maybe that’s because I have my very own set of Scary Internet Friends – although I like to call them Unicorns Who Have Allowed Me To Survive Motherhood Friends! One group in particular is pretty darn special to me.  You see, a little over five years ago I was pregnant with Lucas and, thanks to low progesterone, had a tough first trimester. I spent hours unable to sleep at night browsing pregnancy forums and groups.  One day I was scrolling The Bump (yes, that crazy board!) and there was a post from “Christa” saying she had created a Facebook group for Mommas due in March of 2013.  I requested an invite and in a matter of weeks had this awesome group of 300 women there to support me, encourage me and even call me on my BS.

There is something pretty bonding about experiencing a pregnancy with someone – even if it’s only online. Now I know you must be thinking “300 women all in one place and all with crazy pregnancy hormones is a recipe for disaster!” And yes, you’re kind of right.  We certainly had our moments.  Friendships formed “off line” or in more private groups and chats. We had a LOT of differing options and let me tell you a FFFC (Flame Free Friday Confession for those of you not into social media/forums) post can sometimes be far from flame-free.  Then there was the great “JBB incident of 2013” where our group was kinda, sorta, maybe totally got “catfished” by someone. **Although I do want to say that I don’t think the intent of that woman was malicious and was more about issues she was battling, it certainly opened up my eyes to the reality of online friendships.**  We even had a major split after our kiddos were born, although I, thankfully, remain online friends with most of our original group and love seeing their kiddos grow.  There has been drama – lots of it.  But you know what, there has also been support, and love and friendship.  More of those three things than I can even measure.

It’s been over five years.  That original group is close to half the size it was at one point.  As a group we have been through the loss of a child and pregnancies, divorces, mental health emergencies, new babies, new marriages, cross country moves, major health issues (ours, our children and our loved ones), deaths of family members and so much more. We’ve watched our kiddos grow from days old to amazing almost 5 year olds.  We’ve suffered through endless temper tantrums and behavioral issues together and we’ve celebrated major milestones.  We’ve even helped pick out home decor or dresses for a special night out.

And I know you may be thinking it’s nuts.  I mean, how can you bond with someone you’ve never met.  I think part of it is we did have the security of sitting behind a computer.  We could be ourselves and not worry as much about rejection (some will say the opposite is true – that we became who we wanted to people others to see – but we’ve been together so long at this point I just don’t think that’s possible).  We formed real friendships in those moments. This group has made me look at parenting in ways I sometimes wasn’t comfortable with, but needed to.  They have, for sure, called me out when I was being unreasonable and stood by me, unconditionally, when I wasn’t.

Mommin’ is tough – seriously, most days there are challenging moments. And some days, there are ONLY challenging moments.  It’s easy to feel isolated and alone, even with friends living right next door.  This group has lessened that for me, times a million!  Don’t get me wrong, I have an amazing village of women who are local to me as well that I also couldn’t do this motherhood thing without.  The friends who have a house you escape to when you just need a break.  Who seem to have an endless supply of chocolate, cake, or wine. I wouldn’t trade those friends for anything. But I’ll never give up my mommy groups either (I have another, smaller, group of women all due the same month I was with Andrew that I love as well).

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – It really does take a village to raise children.  Sometimes that village just happens to be a virtual one.

And to my March and January Moms: I love you all.  Thank you for your support and love.  Your advice and your compassion.  Your reality checks and your sideline cheering. Here’s to more years and milestones and memories together!  XOXO!

**And one more side note.  In that photo above, I’m actually logging into my March group to BEG someone to help me figure out why my normally sweet and adorable 20 month old has turned into such a difficult child.  I had intended to stage a super cute photo but after a 20 minute lunch battle full of throwing food, hitting, kicking, screaming and crying I was a sweaty and upset mess and just decided to go with it while I turned to my friends for support!

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How Breastfeeding Made Me A Better Mother

Alicia Juniku Photography - www.aliciajunikuphotography.com

Photo: Alicia Juniku Photography – www.aliciajunikuphotography.com

**Before we even get started let me just say this is NOT a formula vs breastfeeding debate. I fully believe that while formula is a medical food and life saving, breast is best.  However, this post is not ranking one over the other – rather taking my personal experience into account.  I’ll say it one more time – I don’t think I’m a better mother because I breastfeed, but breastfeeding has made me a better mother (not than anyone else – just than my base self) for many other reasons.

I am currently in my 28th month of breastfeeding.  When I was pregnant with Lucas I just assumed I’d breastfeed.  I was breastfed and so was my brother – and 30+ years ago that was less common than it is today.  Breastfeeding wasn’t always easy for me, in fact, I’m still struggling a little nursing my 3 month old.  However, I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that breastfeeding has made me a better mother than I would have been otherwise.

1. Breastfeeding taught me how to advocate for my children and trust my intuition as their mother.  In case you haven’t read it, we had a lot of issues with breastfeeding when Lucas was born.  We struggled for months.  We were told by many people that everything was “fine” and I had a pediatrician look at me and tell me that I should just give a bottle instead of pushing through, but I knew something wasn’t right and that there was a problem we needed to resolve.  I also knew that no one was going to care for my kids as much as I do and, that while a pediatrician would never want to harm my child, they do not want the absolute best for them, like I do.  Lucas is only 3 years old (and Andrew only 3 months old) but I’ve already seen this spill over into other aspects of our life, not just healthcare (although I’ve had to do this more than once when it comes to the physical well-being of both boys).

2. Breastfeeding gave me confidence (well, after a while it did)!  I won’t lie, it’s easy to doubt yourself in those first few months of breastfeeding.  Even with all of the training and experience I have now, I still doubt myself sometimes.  But breastfeeding has also given me confidence.  My body alone is able to provide not only nourishment but also comfort and security for my children.  How bad@ss is that?!  It’s a reminder that I was made to be a mother.  And knowing that gives me the confidence that even though I may know have it all together all the time, I really can do this whole parent thing.

3. Breastfeeding taught me to push on.  As a mom you sometimes need to just put your hair in a “messy bun and get things done!”  There have been days (too many than I should admit) that I just want to stop breastfeeding.  For one reason or another I just want to be done but I push on, because in my heart I know I’m not ready to stop, and neither is my baby.  There are days when being a mom is tough too, especially as a Stay-at-Home-Mom who doesn’t always have any adult interaction during the day.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything though, so in those moments (you know, the ones where you have a crying baby and a toddler who is throwing the black beans you are using for your coal mining activity all over the house while waiting for someone to come and give you an estimate on the cost of a deep clean of said house – which was a baby gift, not something we would do on our own – that now has black beans all over the floor!) I remember that, like some of my breastfeeding struggles, this is just a season.  I’ve got my messy bun and I can get things done – even if that’s just surviving until Daddy gets home.

4. Breastfeeding gave me a purpose and a cause.  I got so much help and support while I was breastfeeding Lucas that I wanted to give back and help others like I had been helped.  The lead me down the path of leadership for a very popular mother-to-mother breastfeeding organization.  Being given the opportunity to help mothers as they are breastfeeding has been huge for me.  It’s given me a purpose outside of being the best mother I can be to my boys – and that has made me a better mom.

5. Breastfeeding gave me my village, and I’m a much better mother for being surrounded by these women as we raise our children.  This has probably been the most “life changing” aspect of mothering for me.  Not only are these the women that I go to when I have a question, they are also the women I go to when I have a success and (more importantly) when I’m feeling down and I need a little pick-me-up!  I’ve meet these women in, and then through, breastfeeding groups.  We all parent a little different – some cloth diaper and some don’t, some bed share and some don’t, some are working mothers while other stay home with their littles.  Somehow, we’ve avoided the “mommy wars” though.  We’ve even avoided the “female wars” – you know, the snide comments, jealousy and downright bitchiness we often find among women these days.  Instead we celebrate the success of others and are there with a shoulder to cry on when it’s needed. These women remind me I can do this, and when I can’t, that it’s okay to ask for help.  They are my village and it really does take a village to raise a child.  We aren’t meant to mother alone, although we often find ourselves doing that for one reason or another.  Having my village, which I give breastfeeding the credit for helping me find, has made me a better woman and therefore a much, much, MUCH better mother!

Now I’m not saying I’m the best mother in the world (in fact, if you ask my mother I’m sure she’ll be happy to list all of my faults, like the fact that I don’t wear socks on Andrew or that I “run too much” with the kids) but I really do feel like I am the best mother I can be for both of my boys.  My parenting style is probably very different than yours, and that’s okay.  As long as you are being true to yourself and your child(ren)’s needs, you are the best mom they could ask for!

So tell me, what do you think has made YOU a better mom?!