Last weekend, I flew halfway across the United States to attend a child’s 10th birthday party with a group of woman I met on the Internet.
Yes, you read that right. And yes, I’m aware of how wild it sounds, so let’s back up a bit.
10 years ago, I was 24, pregnant with my first child, and quickly discovering how lonely even almost-motherhood can be. My OBGYN was an older man with decades of experience, but he didn’t have a lot of patience for whining about emotions and other such nonsense, so after a few emotional prenatal appointments he suggested I join an online forum so I could discuss “women things” with “other girls” like me.
I vividly remember rolling my eyes and giggling at my doctor’s recommendation, commenting on how “mommy groups” seemed like nothing but drama. Still, it wasn’t long before my need for female companionship got the better of me and in the wee of hours of a lonely morning in June of 2008, I registered in the November Due Date Club of a popular “mommy” web forum.
I know lots of women who participate in similar groups. Pregnant moms who are due around the same time, moms who have kids the same ages. Vegan moms, Christian moms, and moms who homeschool. Single moms, moms of multiples, and moms who have suffered miscarriages. I’ve participated in several over the last 10 years and while I’ve loved them all, the November ‘08 group was (and still is) something special.
We talked about all the same things as other groups: formula versus breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby shower plans, nursery design, natural births and circumcision. It was a friendly group and I slid into it easily, injecting humor wherever I could and telling silly stories about my pregnancy triumphs and failures.
I’m often asked by members of my other clubs what it was about the November ‘08 group that made us the fiercely close-knit community that we became, and I’m sure there are many answers to that question. We’ve certainly been through more together in the last ten years than I ever could have imagined. However, I think the entirety of the November ‘08 Due Date Club would agree that our sisterhood began with a 1 lb., 3.5 oz baby named Travis.
Our online club’s first “November” baby was born on July 29th, 2008 at only 23 weeks, 2 days gestation. His mother was only 21 years old at the time, and his father was serving in the armed forces.
Frankly, I have never seen a group of women rally together so completely to support someone, which was especially surprising since none of us had ever met in person. 10 years later, we still rally just as hard when we need to. It’s not surprising anymore, but no less heartwarming.
Some of us traveled across the country to attend Travis’s first birthday party. A few years later, when his sister was also born dangerously early, we held a surprise baby shower. We’ve started fundraisers for each other, participated in Christmas ornament exchanges, supported one another through divorce, illness, and the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child. On my wedding day, I peeked out of my dressing room and burst into tears when I unexpectedly saw 3-year-old Travis, playing with my November ’08 “baby” outside. His mom and dad had driven 3 hours to surprise me and watch me get married.
When the November ’08s were five years old, my online mommy group rallied together to attend a funeral and be there for one of our moms through a horribly tragic event. We’ve run marathons together, sent Mother’s Day cards, and gotten kicked off of airplanes. We’ve planned weddings that never happened, chipped in to buy a set of tires or new furniture, taken lots of group selfies and have felt as though our children grew up together… even though they technically didn’t.
Most of us have met in person, some of us still haven’t. There are November ‘08 moms who I’ve never spoken to outside the internet and one in particular who I’m on the phone with literally every day. These women have held my kids, held my hand, and even held my hair back if the situation called for it. They are my people. My friends. My sisters.
On July 29th of 2018, Travis, our micro-preemie, firstborn November ‘08 baby celebrated his 10th birthday. My almost 10-year-old son gasped and told me that Travis is a “miracle” when he first heard this story.
Perhaps it makes more sense now when I say that I took my own November ‘08 “baby” to a birthday party across the country last weekend. Travis and his family usually hold their yearly birthday celebration for he and his sister at Whiskeytown lake near Redding, California, but a devastating forest fire shifted our plans to Sacramento and eight members of our group were able to be there with our soon-to-be 10-year-old kids.
There was a moment during that trip, sitting on a towel in the sand at Folsom Lake with the other November ‘08 moms and watching all our kids play together in the water when I felt like we had known each other forever. I looked around in that moment and realized these women know me better than some of my own family members. We’ve had our ups and downs, but there is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other. There’s no one who could have looked at us in that instant and guessed that we were originally a group of women that randomly met on the Internet.
Honestly, even I have trouble believing that’s how it happened.
Happy 10th birthday, Travis. I found my people because you were born… and after seeing all our November ‘08 babies together this weekend, I think maybe my son has found his people too.