Disclaimer: This post is going to jump all over the place, and I warn you now that it's loooong. Get comfy.
I don't admit this freely to too many people, because, honestly, even in today's world of on-line dating, IMing, buddy lists, and MySpace, people look at you skeptically when you tell them, "Oh, my online friend..." or "This girl I met in a chat room the other day..."
I inadvertently found a website (100% female-targeted) that was chock full of chat rooms. I could "talk" to people about pets (ie - furbabies!), Rachael Ray's new cookware, 401(k) plans, sex, babies, gardening, WD-40, local restaurants, the World Series -- whatever I wanted to, any time day or night. For a social bug like me, this place was heaven on earth!
So, I created a screen name (which, by the way, was SO cheesy I will not even confess to it now and have since changed it entirely), and jumped right in, posting and replying, and sending my opinion and "expertise" out to the masses via the World Wide Web. How cool was this?
This community of women started to take shape as I began to recognize screen names and "personalities." But the boards became so much more than a hobby when I experienced my miscarriage in February.
I had been very confused about my period and how my body was behaving this particular month, and it was so nice to be able to post my questions and seek opinions and just garner some emotional support while I waited to POAS (read: pee on a stick; ergo, find out if I were pregnant). And after I realized that yes, I was indeed pregnant, but, sadly, that my little bean was not going to stick around, a group of about 10-15 ladies who had all already experienced or who were simultaneously experiencing a miscarriage were there night and day (or, at least someone was there whenever I posted) to help me work through the range of emotions in a way that no one in my real life circle could at the time.
As I recovered from the miscarriage, I found myself less and less (and soon, never) in the various other chat rooms I'd frequented, but rather, daily checking in with my "miscarriage girls." (Jim was so understanding of this, as I think he was secretly relieved that I'd found an outlet to talk, as we were dealing with the loss of our first baby in very different ways.) And to make a long story short, I found a wonderful group of friends. These women are real and supportive and compassionate, and best of all (shallow as this will sound), they liked me!
When Jim and I were blessed to become pregnant again, the sequence of events that April morning were as follows: wake up, POAS, cry (happily), wake Jim up and hand him the pee stick as his birthday present, and then run downstairs to my laptop to post to my girls. There weren't too many of us "regulars" on the board at that point, but I think I still got 20+ replies of heartfelt congratulations that day.
These women -- those that have been there from day one and those that I've only recently met -- have championed my pregnancy in a way that only a handful of people in real life have done. When I was hospitalized in August due to complications, I can't even describe how it felt to "check in" once I was home and see dozens and dozens of well wishes and prayers and "girl, you better not be somewhere having a baby or we're gonna kick your butt!"-type threads, all posted on my behalf. These girls love me, and they love my baby, and even those that are sweetly and admittedly jealous (as they wait and wait and wait for their next positive pee stick) let me know DAILY that I, in a word, matter. (Who doesn't need that?!) And I found them all on the Internet! I marvel daily at the blessing they have become, and how lucky I am to "know" them, even if, for most of us, it never goes beyond these "anonymous" posts on a chat room board.
One of my best friends met his current girlfriend (who I really, really hope is The One) on Match.com. When he told me, he seemed slightly embarrassed, as if the Internet can only reveal the most unsavory of characters. First of all, as months have passed, he (and all the rest of us) of course has learned that his lady love is anything but unsavory. I now know, too, after my own experience of "meeting" people online, that some of the best, most genuine, wonderful, comical, interesting, loving people I will ever have the privilege to know could only have come to me through the socially "squeaky" door of an online chat room.
So, to my m/c board girls, and to my SAL girls, an aside: A handful of things have kept me strong through these past 9 months: foremost, my faith in God, who blessed me with the people I'm about to list; Jim's love and support and patience; our parents, who have gone above and beyond with both emotional and financial support; my incredibly talented, compassionate, and amazing obgyn and his staff; and lastly, but never in a million years least, you guys. You've given me an identity and a place to hang out all day when I'm HGTVed out. You've oohed and aahed appropriately at my shower invitations and nursery pictures. You've helped me wrestle with TNO's real name. You've pushed me to do any number of the following things: call Dr. G when I didn't want to (Daina, you rock!); pack my hospital bag when I didn't want to (Heather, that's you), slow down when I didn't want to (Kelly, thanks for taking over check-in), and look heavenward when I didn't want to (Jill....words don't do justice to the thanks I owe you for that). I am blessed, because of you all. I love you guys.