When I became pregnant in September of 2001, I officially stopped
lurking on the Hipmama.com discussion boards (the online companion
to Ariel Gore’s zine Hip Mama) and became a member.
I had heard about the zine through a friend in town and found the
website after ordering a subscription for my sister. I knew that
if and when I became a mama, I wanted to be a hip one.
The Hipmama.com boards were absolutely radiating with good mama
energy. At my fingertips I had access to all kinds of information
having to do with pregnancy and parenting, as well as activism,
current events, and pure fluff. I was immediately drawn in by the
other members and knew that I had found a place that would make
pregnancy cool and fun, rather than scary.
At the time, I had a desk job, a high speed internet connection,
and lots of privacy. On the Hipmama.com message boards, I met women
from all walks of life. Women I never would have met trapped in
my office 40 hours a week armed with only a telephone and typewriter.
Women I wouldn’t bump into at the local coffee shop or park.
Women that I can’t imagine my current life without.
Hipmama is known for being radical and attracting “alternative” types.
Single mamas, punk rock mamas, sex worker mamas, tattooed mamas,
etc. It also attracted women who were raised fairly middle class,
but who had a taste of the larger world and who questioned the
status quo in American society. Despite looking and feeling rather
mainstream, the more I discussed my plans for my child with my
immediate circle of friends in 3D, the more I realized that the
simple choices I wanted to make were being viewed as radical, even
threatening. Turns out I wasn’t so mainstream after all.
Having lived in Africa for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer,
I lived among women who raised their children without the luxury
of modern day inventions such as c-sections, bottles, diapers,
cribs, strollers, and the like. They raised their children at their
breasts, on their backs, and in their beds. After reading a mountain
of books while pregnant, I found that these concepts were fairly
in line with the parenting style known as “Attachment Parenting.” At
Hipmama.com and other progressive parenting sites, AP was the norm.
Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.
Online, I joined a group of other women who were due in May 2002,
my “Synchro Mamas.” We shared the ups and downs of
pregnancy, our fears and hopes for the future, and the daily minutia
of being pregnant. Now I had seven other women I knew who were
planning a homebirth, five more who were using midwives, several
who planned to leave their sons’ genitals intact, and a handful
of whom didn’t plan on vaccinating their future offspring.
Better yet, I had 15 women at the touch of a finger to tell me
that my boss was an asshat when she said I was gaining too much
weight too fast. We had gift swaps, love fests, and communal rants.
If we would have been menstruating, I’m certain that we’d
have been on the same cycle. Today, I have about 30 synchro mamas
I keep in touch with on a daily basis and 31 synchro babies who
I have gotten to know as well as my own baby over the past 30 months.
We post pictures as much as we can so we all have a really good
visual image of one another. Several mamas have managed to meet
up, but despite living in the distribution center of the world,
I have yet to have this pleasure. At some point we will find a
way to converge in one place, maybe next year or 10 years from
As our children are heading toward the terrible twos, many of
us are working on adding siblings to the mix. We have seen each
other through our first births, the early days when none of us
felt like we knew what we were doing, first steps, first words,
and so on. We support each other’s decisions to work outside
the home, in the home, or not at all. We had one mama have her
home destroyed by a storm, one who left an abusive husband, and
one who won an Emmy. The support we have provided one another is
invaluable. These women, whom I have never met in “real” life,
probably know me and my son better than most of the people I interact
with on a daily basis. The synchros provide me with unconditional
love, a wealth of knowledge, empathy, and entertainment. And thanks
to the Internet, it is instant. Not instant in the sense that I
could confer with them about my child choking, but instant enough
that I could come back from lunch and have a handful of opinions
regarding my son’s frequent wake ups the night before or
the weird rash I discovered on my nipples in the shower.
Having friends and information at my fingertips has allowed me
to challenge the status quo and parent in way that suits my family.
Had I not found the synchros, and the larger online parenting networks
like Mothering.com, I would have never known that progressive Jews
around the country are choosing to leave their sons intact. With
the information I was able to find, my husband and I had a meeting
with our Rabbi and instead of discussing the details of our son’s
upcoming bris or circumcision, we discussed alternate ways to welcome
our son into the world on his eighth day. These online communities
also helped me feel less alone when I got dirty looks from someone
at the park while nursing my toddler or when fielding questions
from concerned strangers on why I don’t vaccinate my child.
Being a synchro mama gives me the courage and strength I need to
stand up for my parenting ideals. Furthermore, I have found a community
in which to spread my wings.
As I made my way around the Internet, I began frequenting Mamaphonic.com,
a community for women engaged in creative pursuits. Mamaphonic.com
opened up a world of mothers who were artists, writers, musicians,
etc. Here I found the inspiration and support I needed to start
writing again. In January of 2003, I put out the first issue of
my zine “Fertile Ground: For People who Dig Parenting.” By
June of 2003, I had been published in 10 other mama zines, on two
parenting websites, and in one real live magazine. In addition
I organized a collaboration between 30 other mothers who do zines,
and together we put out the mother of all zines, “The Mamaphiles.” The
women at Mamaphonic.com not only helped me find my voice, but to
spew it all over the place.
Online mothering communities benefit all mothers with an Internet
connection (or access to one), whether they are in cities, suburbs,
foreign lands, etc. A lot of women who might otherwise be isolated
can log on and find friendship and support in a matter of minutes.
Online communities certainly helped me feel less alone and definitely
boosted my confidence as a mother, especially in the early days.
Sometimes just having a place to vent, ask a question, or read
about someone else’s experience can make a difference between
a really good or really bad day. These communities have helped
me feel like I am not in this mothering gig alone, no matter what.