Facebook connects cybermums

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Shayna McWhirter (from left) with Frankie, Kate Gullery with Eden, Rebecca Dickson with Sophia, Cat Salt with Lilly, Carly Edwards with Oliver and Shannon Gwilliam with Amelia. Photo / Greg Bowker
Shayna McWhirter (from left) with Frankie, Kate Gullery with Eden, Rebecca Dickson with Sophia, Cat Salt with Lilly, Carly Edwards with Oliver and Shannon Gwilliam with Amelia. Photo / Greg Bowker

On a crisp Auckland morning, a group of mums happily discuss everything from baby sleeping wraps, breast-feeding - and bottle-feeding - gripe water and even stretch marks.

A total of 13 mums and their babies have gathered at a home near Mt Wellington to catch up and talk about their babies, who are all about to reach the 3-month mark.

The women are effectively strangers, having only ever known each other through a Facebook page.

However they share a unique connection, in that they all discovered they were pregnant in November 2010.

Just over a year on there are now around 50 members all around the country who offer each other advice and support in all aspects of their lives as mothers.

Nobody quite remembers the exact name of the Facebook site, but they all refer to it as "the group" and all agree that they would not be able to go on without it.

"It's better than Google," one says - to the sounds of united agreement.

Another says: "When you're searching for something and you're looking for an answer, you get about five answers."

The group has helped answer questions to a myriad of topics and has also seen various items including sleeping wraps, bottles, breast pads and milk storage bags being posted to all parts of the country to a mum who has been low on supplies or house-bound.

They are happy to talk about their experiences with the group and how it has helped them.

Someone asks: "Remember the gripe water crisis?"

Everyone roars with laughter.

Carly Edwards, mum to Oliver, pipes up: "Ah, the great gripe water crisis. I was panicking because I couldn't get any. I went to the pharmacy and they said their supplier had stopped making it.

"So of course I asked the group and I got one saying, 'I've got half a bottle' and another one saying, 'I've got some too'.

"I never would've had access to it if it weren't for the group."

Jacqui Cleary, mum to Sofia Grace, has tears in her eyes as she talks about one mum who lost her baby soon after she was born. The group raised $2000 for the grieving family.

"It was just so upsetting. Here we all were so happy with our babies and then we got news that we'd lost one of them. It could've been any one of our babies, that's what made it so heart-breaking. She was so beautiful."

The group has mums aged between 23 and 40 from all backgrounds.

Many point out that being able to connect with someone who is going through exactly what they were going through - or a mum who had been through that - was very comforting.

They say they will continue to support each other through Facebook for as long as they can.

Sarah Bernhardi, mum to Jack, said the group not only helped mothers in practical terms, it was more important in that it helped mums emotionally. "We've been online to offer support, empathy and humour for the stupid-o'clock feeds when you're exhausted, feeling very alone and wondering if it will ever get better - without a doubt rescuing some of us from the edge of post-natal depression."

- NZ Herald

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