Finding your mom group during lockdown
In the spring of 2020, Brooklyn-based writer Jillian Pretzel was four months pregnant and had a full calendar of birthing classes, support groups, and mommy-and-me courses lined up. You already know what happened next: New York City went into lockdown, and one by one, Jillian’s carefully-chosen appointments were cancelled.
Meanwhile, the baby kept growing — and so did Jillian’s list of questions.
“This being my first baby, I had about a thousand questions a day,” she says. “Are there yoga poses I shouldn’t do while pregnant? Is it true that I can’t sleep on my back? Why does my stomach itch so much?”
I felt like I got to know them. In quarantine, I didn’t get to cultivate a ‘mom group’ but at least got to connect, even in a small way, with other parents.”
With no one to ask for advice, Jillian turned to the Internet but reading articles was time-consuming, and because it made multitasking difficult, there was only so much she could read in a day. So she decided to try another approach. To help her absorb more information quickly, she says, “I looked for answers on YouTube.”
Right away, Jillian says she was hooked on the sense of community.
“Being inside all the time, for weeks — and then months — on end, I loved getting to watch other moms talk about their experiences,” Jillian says. “I got to listen to their stories and see inside their homes. I felt like I got to know them. In quarantine, I didn’t get to cultivate a ‘mom group’ but at least got to connect, even in a small way, with other parents.”
With few other outlets for her curiosity, Jillian watched hours of YouTube videos and by the time her baby was due, she felt as prepared as any first-time parent can be. She says that learning from other people’s experiences helped her decide what felt right for her, from what to pack to how to take care of herself postpartum.
“When the baby finally came, I had everything I needed. I knew to bring snacks and cozy clothes to the hospital with me, I knew to buy some newborn clothes but not too many (they grow out of them so fast), and to have formula and different kinds of bottles on hand just in case breastfeeding didn’t work out,” she says.
Now, as a mom-vlog connoisseur, Jillian is happy to make recommendations for other parents-to-be. She points out that no one YouTube channel has all the answers, so finding the right fit really depends on your personality.
“Personally, I really liked watching Jessica Hover because she reminded me of my friends, so watching her videos felt like hanging out with someone I knew,” Jillian says. “I think it’s less about who you watch and more about your willingness to try watching a bunch of different channels to see what works for you.”
While there’s no substitute for meeting face-to-face, this past year has really shown how important it is to find your people — even if they’re online.
“I don’t know if I got an especially easy baby, if I was super well prepared, or if I just got lucky,” says Jillian. “But I do know I wouldn’t have been as confident as a first-time mom without YouTube.”