We all know the saying—it takes a village to raise a child. But in today’s harried modern world where everything (including parenting) feels like it’s moving a mile a minute, it can feel harder than ever to actually find the village you need. Your friends are too busy to respond to your texts, your OB spends 15 minutes max with you at appointments, and once your baby is here, it feels like you have a cacophony of conflicting advice in your ears (and on your social feeds).
In some ways, we’re lucky to be parenting in the 21st century, where we have access to endless information and technology to help us raise our little ones. But…why doesn’t any of it actually feel like help? The drawbacks of parenting in the age of the internet are also very real, ranging from overwhelm to fake news to just plain exhaustion.
You deserve a parenting village that not only feels safe and supportive—but also one where you know you’re getting advice and information that’s based on best evidence, not outdated opinions or practice patterns.
And the evidence backs up the use of birth professionals, too—over and over again. A 2017 Cochrane Review (a review of 36 research studies) concluded that doula support may improve several outcomes for both mother and baby, with no adverse outcomes identified. The research on virtual doula support isn’t there quite yet, but it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that connecting with an experienced perinatal professional is going to make for a better experience during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Birth and postpartum experts are intimately familiar with the maternity care system here in the United States and can provide you with resources and recommendations tailored to you and your specific situation, whether you’re a many time IVF veteran who is anxiously awaiting her second trimester or an experienced homebirth mom looking for a fresh perspective on the fourth trimester.
So how do you actually build that virtual village? Here are our tips.
Hire a virtual perinatal coach
No matter where you are in your family-building journey, there is an expert out there who can support you. From just starting to think about conceiving right on through helping you adjust to the first few months with a newborn, perinatal coaches are at the ready with emotional, mental, and informational support that is personalized for you.
The relationship you build with your coach can be a lasting one of trust and affection. Chances are, a perinatal coach will fit perfectly into your virtual village.
Find groups of like-minded parents
Due date groups have been a thing online for years now, starting from the old school BabyCenter message board and continuing on into the Facebook groups frequented by Generation X and Millennials. There are now countless online communities for parents who share the same area, stage of life, values, ideals, goals, and more…even groups based around the same Instagram influencer, author, or podcaster. From babywearing to baby-led weaning, there is something for everyone out there—and we highly recommend you investigate to see where you might fit.
Seeing that stream of questions, comments, and advice go across your feed can be useful, empowering, and yes, a connective way to engage with other parents. Just be careful to take everything with a grain (or a shaker!) of salt. Peer information sharing is great, but there’s no guarantee it’s evidence-based or accurate.
Take part in online community building
Community is being built in so many innovative ways right now, as telehealth booms and creativity abounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can make meaningful connections online as an expecting or new parent—and help those in your IRL circles support you, too.
The Flourish Fund is a unique baby registry where people in your community can gift you with self-care, professional support, and experiences (as well as cribs and onesies).
Taavi is an app that connects you with a hand-selected group of moms at a similar stage of motherhood for instant camaraderie. It’s a micro-community where you can build real relationships. MothershipRising is a platform that helps parents be supported by their existing community in the form of daily texts.
Consider joining an online support circle
Support groups of all kinds have now gone online, meeting on Zoom or Google Hangout. Lactation support, NICU parents, ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network), people experiencing perinatal mood disorders…whatever stage of parenting you’re in or circumstance you’ve experienced, there is a supportive group of people out there waiting to welcome you.
Some online support groups meet weekly and consist of the same cohort of parents, while others are more drop-in style, with different participants. Some are free, others require a membership or fee.
You’ll find your village
Becoming a parent is a big adjustment that affects all aspects of your life—your mind, body, soul, and yes, your social circle. Be proactive in educating yourself and reaching out for support so you’ve got that village ready to go. In time, you will find your people—both online AND off.