My hand finally finds it way to the alarm setting on my phone and stops the alarm from blaring. I trudge down the stairs, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, and accept the cup of coffee my husband has thrust into my hands.
“Morngf…” I mumble as I stumble passed him and flop myself onto the couch. I reach for my phone again and mindlessly start thumbing through my Facebook feed as I swig coffee, in an attempt to shake off the bad sleep I had the night before. My thumb wavers over the ‘like’ button as I look at positivity memes, political rants, musings and thoughts for the day and then – like a bullet it hits me – there, staring me boldly in the face, is a lovely, flowery post from a new mother, reminding me that I’ll “never really know love until you hold your baby in your arms”.
Against my better sense of judgement I read on.
And I regret it almost immediately. The feed below continues to tell me that I’ll never know how much I love my husband because I’ll never see him hold our child, and I’ll never truly be born as a woman, or know my strengths, because I will never birth a child or, perhaps, will never be a mother at all. Soon I am a sobbing mess on the couch and my poor husband looks over, not sure what to do he innocently asks, “Was the coffee that bad?” I laugh. It’s an ongoing joke with us that he will never make me a cup of coffee I’ll like. But he tries, several times a day. And for that I love him, deeply.
Would I love him more if I saw him hold our child?
Maybe, maybe not. I love him when I see him carry our injured 140 pound dog to the couch. I love him when he agrees to move 16 tonnes of gravel, by wheelbarrow, because I think it’d look cute to have a fire pit and campground area in the backyard. I love him even when I hate him. But today, as I look at Facebook I wonder if I’ll ever truly love him. After all, that’s what I’m being told.
I get up, head to the kitchen to grab another coffee.
As the kettle boils I chide myself for falling into the social media trap.
You know the one, it’s where you begin to judge yourself based on other’s achievements. We’ve all done it. And even though we know better, we’ll probably continue to do it as well. You know what I mean – Mother’s day memes, trolling your high school friends (or enemies) pages to see if they’ve had kids, looking at pictures of friend’s husbands holding newborns and thinking how great your partner would look holding their freshly born, sweet smelling progeny, grumbling over the good fortune and fertility of friends who seem to get pregnant every time their husband sneezes, reading glowing posts from new mums and dads about their lives finally being complete; their love fulfilled. And then looking at your own, seemingly empty, page. No baby pictures here. No soliloquies on birth and true love. No proud father holding his first, second or fifth child and smiling broadly. No toddlers taking first steps. No high school graduations. No babies. No children. No success.
And once again social media has used it’s influence for evil, or so I feel in that moment of despair. I take a moment, shake it off and try to avoid looking at my phone. I can’t. It is like an accident that I cannot tear my eyes from – no matter how horrible. This is my circle, my social media infertility cycle.
So what’s a relatively smart girl to do?
How does one successfully navigate the choppy waters of social media?
I began by setting boundaries for myself. First I unfollowed any accounts of celebrities, authors, public figures who posted a lot about their kids. I didn’t know these people, why torture myself?
And you know what, that felt great! After a few days of that I decided it was time to move on to the hard part of social media – your friends lists.
I took an objective moment and looked closely at the posts/people (on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc) that came up in my feed most and asked myself these three questions:
Do they have kids?
If the answer was no, great, they stayed in the follow column!
If they answered yes I proceeded to the next question.
When they post about their kids does it seem real or boastful?
I get that this can be tricky, but if we are honest with ourselves we can always tell the difference. If they were boastful then I had to unfollow them.
If they made it through question two, they were up against the most difficult and final question…
Am I truly happy that this person is a parent or am I jealous?
This question was the hardest to ask myself. But it was the most telling as well. If I was jealous then I couldn’t follow them anymore. Sometimes this jealousy was born out of me judging them on their parenting skills, or who they were when we were 15, or their humour – basically anything (I know it’s wrong, but I couldn’t help it). Sometimes it was born out of me judging myself against them and their achievements or successes. These people were, unknowingly to them, toxic for me. I had to stop looking at their photos, quotes, memes – their lives. Did this lose me some friends? Yes. Do I care? Not anymore.
I had to take some time to protect myself.
Day to day life, real life, seemed so much easier to navigate than social media. Perhaps it was less of an onslaught, less “in my face”, who knows. I just know that since I’ve set these boundaries I am enjoying my life a lot more. My morning perusal of social media isn’t akin to walking a minefield anymore, which in turn leads to a better mood and a better day overall. I enjoy the photos and posts I see now – they are posted by people I truly care about and rejoice with. And social media has once again become, for me, what it was meant to be – a great way to keep in contact with family and friends you can’t always see.
But I still avoid Mother’s Day, on social media, like the plague, but we all have our mountains to climb don’t we?