Life as an expectant mother twenty, or even ten years ago must have been a whole lot more simple. You still had the basics that we have now; you knew you’d got 40 weeks give or take a fortnight, you knew you would be meeting certain milestones along the way – as set out by your midwife, friends, family and some useful NHS leaflets, you expect and hope that, despite the heartburn, uncontrollable wind issues and the fact that you can’t stop your trousers from constantly coming down, it will all be ok and you’ll end up with a healthy baby and at least a year or unbroken sleep.
The big difference? You didn’t have a smartphone or tablet. To find out the answer to a burning question you needed to either pick up the phone and ask someone or leave the sofa and boot up a computer – at which point a much slower and less informative internet might, just might, help you in your quest for knowledge. You’d have to really give a shit to bother.
Now, all you need to do is pick up your phone (which, let’s be honest, you were probably holding anyway) and Google away.
‘Overdue last time, when will I give birth this time?’
‘Signs of labour?’
‘Insomnia at 38 weeks pregnant’
‘What is this pain in my foot + pregnancy’
All of these, except the last one, I have Googled mercilessly. Not in the last week, not in the last day, but in the last hour. Obsessed, moi?
And seriously, you could Google pretty much anything, no matter how random, rank or irrelevant, and there will be a discussion thread from Mumsnet just waiting for your name to be added to it. As I’ve discovered, much of the information on these threads is a load of women desperately trying to all find out the definitive answer to the same question. Most of them don’t actually have an answer for you. And when you do find answers, they are usually far from definitive.
Yes, it’s nice to a degree to be part of a huge, confused and anxious community, but it’s also exhausting. Because despite my resolutions to only look at the NHS or official sites, there is so much more on the unofficial, paranoid and desperate threads created by women just like me. And it’s just so irresistible to ask the internet rather than just live with the question buzzing round in my head (until it is replaced by another).
I’ve Googled everything. From unmentionable swelling to baby-friendly haircuts, from sore bottoms to labour induction techniques. None of the answers have actually satiated my thirst for knowledge, because while it’s good to know the truth/potential truth, it doesn’t change anything. And yet I can’t stop.
My current Google fascination is over impending labour. I have asked a lot of questions, and more. And all this, despite me knowing that this baby will be born when he’s born. No amount of pineapple, sex, hot curry or willing contractions to start will make the blindest bit of difference. But that doesn’t mean I will be able to tear myself away from the dreaded search engine and let nature take its course. As a result I have a potentially very long two-and-a-half weeks ahead of me. And the Internet will probably learn more about me and my body than even it wishes.