It takes a village… a virtual village.

With motherhood literally moments away, I’ve been lost in thought – a privilege I am enjoying while it lasts. Days have been spent gazing down over my big belly, feeling the wriggles and squirms of my unborn child and wondering – what sort of parent will I be? We are not your conventional couple my husband and I. We are embarking on this whole experience with a rushed breath and a solemn prayer – we have no home, in fact we don’t even know what country we will call home in a months time, we don’t have any idea where we will end up – we are confidently bluffing our way through it all… hand in hand… one baby step at a time.

We don’t have the mini van, the appropriate sized car, the job, the finances or the nursery set up with all the lovely trinkets. We don’t have family gathered around us day and night, we don’t have weekend social events planned or long lists of people who will visit us at the hospital. But what we do have is a temporary little room in the back of my mothers house, a second hand cot that we picked up for free and a whole lot of love for our little bundle who has very affectionately been called Howie for the past nine months.

As much as I love the lifestyle that I have chosen for myself and as often as I have preached about the freedom of living without ties – I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier if we were more conventional. I can’t help but wish some days that things were simpler. I can’t help wish some days that I had all those things, that I had that stability, that I had somewhere to hang my hat. It can get awfully lonely out here in freedom land.

It takes a village to raise a child, I firmly believe this. But what if you don’t have a village? What if all you have is fragmented pieces scattered around the globe, and fragmented ideas scattered around your mind? How do you assemble all of this and build the foundation you need on which to raise an independent, confident, kind and compassionate young person? Can we really do it alone?

I have a virtual village – something I never really would have imagined. But I have a group of 100+ women who are all sharing the same journey – the journey of motherhood. I’ve never been one for internet relationships… I tried it once as a teenager and it didn’t work out so well. But when I fell pregnant I was living in West Java, in a small village with nothing but an endless horizon in front of me and behind me nothing but jungle. I needed support, and with my dodgy internet connection I found it in the most unlikely of places. I found my very own village.

We (my virtual sisters and I) have shared the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, the loss of friends, the fears attached to premature babies, a hundred plus wonderful births… we have shared husband troubles, teary nights, friendship breakdowns and real world financial woes, deaths and heartaches. These women have sent real world gifts monetary and other to each other in times of need, we have had real coffees in real places, we have sent real gifts and cried real tears in times of great joy and in times of great sadness. These women, as virtual as they may be, are 100% real. I consider these women my friends, my comrades in this crazy roller coaster journey and I wonder – is this virtual village just as good as a real one? Or is it an escape from reality?

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to nurture a woman on her journey through pregnancy and into the beginning of motherhood – it’s a bloody hard journey, and I’m only just starting to realise this now. I’m eternally grateful for my virtual village and for the empathy in their sighs and the honesty in their stories. I know that myself, my husband and my child will have gained so much from the relationships that I have forged over this invisible plain. I am more patient, I am kinder and I am more generous with myself because I have a safe place to vent and a large group of women standing behind me, next to me, holding my hand when I need them to and drying my tears when I cry. I have women who laugh at my jokes, who revel in my successes and comfort me in my failures. I have sisters, 100+ of them, and every day I am grateful that they are right there, only a click away.

Is virtual reality the new reality? I don’t think it’s a substitute for face to face friendships, but I don’t have those close to me right now – but it certainly comes in a very satisfying second place.

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