Today’s guest post is an excerpt from The Digital Mystique: How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life—Online and Off by Sarah Granger.
The summer of 2005 found me in a distressing place. I was on vacation in London with my husband—and was six months pregnant with my daughter—when I started experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions. It wasn’t the first hiccup of the pregnancy. I’d had a mild hemorrhage during the first trimester. Fortunately, after an uncomfortable flight, we made it home to California.
The contractions continued the following week, more than four an hour, so I went to the hospital to be examined. Driving there, every possible worst-case scenario ran through my head. What if I gave birth early? What if my baby couldn’t breathe on her own? The doctors confirmed the early contractions, but I was sent home with medication, destined for bed rest. I had cut back on clients as a digital media strategist due to the early hemorrhage that had led to an earlier bed rest during the first trimester, so I found myself in an unusual position of having nothing to do except lie on the couch and worry. Luckily, I had grown up with computers, so my first reaction was to go online.
With my laptop resting on my swelling belly, I clicked away, seeking answers to my questions and comfort for my concerns. What is the difference between Braxton-Hicks contractions and the “real” ones? How do new mothers cope with raising preemies? I found myself on the March of Dimes website, exploring their “Share Your Story” community, a place where pregnant women and new parents blogged about their experiences with early contractions and/or preterm labor as well as premature births.
As I read these blogs by other women like me, I felt an immediate connection. It was as if I were suddenly reunited with long-lost friends. I felt at home, no longer alone on my couch. And although I spent a lot of time feeling fearful of the unknown, crying over the stories some women shared of babies they had lost and some who overcame incredible odds, it still felt better to be in the virtual company of others who understood my concerns. As the weeks passed, I celebrated completing each week with these women, and I edged closer to a safe delivery date. When they were sad, I commented on their blogs with encouraging words. When I shared my fears, they lifted me up. I became a part of this very real, very necessary community online.
Once I reached 37 weeks I relaxed a bit, knowing that my daughter was in the safe zone and that my pregnancy was now considered full-term. I looked forward to giving birth so I could get up off the couch and figure out a new normal as a parent. Little did I know what I was yet to face. My daughter was born two weeks late, and I suffered complications during delivery that injured some major pelvic nerves, causing excruciating pain. So instead of jumping off the computer and into motherhood, I sank into a serious depression. I was unable to sit without feeling like I was on a bed of nails or stand without feeling like there was an anvil in my abdomen. This left me dejected, scared, and even more alone than before while attempting to care for my newborn daughter.
The blog that I had assumed I would easily abandon became a new source of comfort. Because those women knew and understood pain and loss, I didn’t have to hide what I was going through like I did when I spoke with people in my offline life. (Let’s face it— most people just wanted to see photos of my new baby and hear about how happy I was to be a new mother.) Somehow, it was easier to be myself, knowing there was no professional connection that might suffer or personal friend I might alienate.
During the first year of my daughter’s life, I was in so much pain I couldn’t even stand up long enough to wait four minutes for the toaster to toast a piece of bread. It was too painful to walk from the kitchen to the living room couch, so I often opted to lie on the floor. I’ll never forget how humbling it was to lie there, eyes closed, imagining I was somewhere other than my kitchen floor.
So again, in order to have an outlet away from my physical pain, I turned to blogging. A new blog had just launched where I live called The Silicon Valley Moms Blog. I thought, Hey, I’m a mom in Silicon Valley. I’ve blogged before. Why not give it a try? I started slowly, gradually writing about parenting, Silicon Valley culture, daily life, whatever seemed to fit the blog. Then as I became more comfortable, I began writing on other topics like the arts, technology, politics, whatever interested me.
I found my voice as a blogger. The blog was my outlet, allowing me to focus my mind away from the pain. I started my own blog at Sairy.com, based on a nickname a friend had given me in high school (now migrated to sarahgranger.com). Eventually, I started another pseudonymous blog about pudendal neuralgia, the diagnosis I received for my nerve injuries and pelvic pain. I didn’t post there often, but I shared what I could about what I was going through with all of the various treatments I tried that failed and how I persevered onto the next.
I slowly began healing from what would become a long-term chronic pain condition— but the progress was incredibly slow. For each day of a normal person’s recovery from pregnancy, it took me a year to cover the same territory. As my daughter grew into a toddler, I began blogging for more sites and resuming my work advising organizations on how the Internet and social media could help them. I gained momentum blogging for a few of these organizations and for The Huffington Post, and I became involved in the BlogHer blogging network. I made friends, and I found a renewed purpose.
Excerpted from The Digital Mystique: How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life—Online and Off by Sarah Granger. Available from Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2014.