It all started with a surprise -the happiest kind of surprise, but the most life-changing, too: what they call in the business (for lack of a more technical term) an 'oops' pregnancy. Erik and I got married, and three months later - oops, I was pregnant.
Was my first reaction joy? Excitement? Nausea? A heady combination of all three? No - it was more along the lines of...panic. My mind reeled, my stomach churned with all the questions, all the worries - all the thoughts of gin-and-tonics, coffees, and assorted medications I'd unwittingly shared with my well-under-age embryo before discovering she existed.
If knowledge is powerful - and I believe it is, especially empowering when you're pregnant - I was definitely running on empty. Back in the days when pregnancy information came from a handful of books, an occasional newspaper article or well-meaning but misinformed mother-in-law, auntie, neighbour, or friend)- answers to my questions and reassurance for my concerns weren't easy to come by.
So, I became a mum on a mission - a mission to help expectant parents sleep better at night than Erik and I had. And literally two hours before I went into labour with Emma, I delivered the proposal for What to Expect When You're Expecting.
Pregnancy hasn't changed all that much in the 30 years since (it's still about 9 months long, you're still queasy and bloated and constipated) and neither have babies (they still don't come with instructions, they spend a good chunk of their days and nights crying, they still smell amazing). But the way expectant and new mums and dads experience their pregnancies has evolved - and how they access the information, the support, the empowerment that they crave has changed...a lot.
And today, there's an app for that. Make that, hundreds of apps, so parents can tap into information on the go. Message boards, Twitter and Facebook all allow mums to swap insights, experiences, and baby bump photo with other mums. Personally, I've exchanged posts and tweets with mums and dads from one end of the earth to the other - Cairo to Istanbul, London to Sydney and Singapore to South Africa. And if there's one message that resonates in each: no matter what a parent's socioeconomic, racial, religious, cultural, or geographical differences, the bond we share is so much greater than what divides us and at the end of the day - we all want what's best for our babies.
So what's trending among UK parents? Hashtag: technology. Pregnancy apps mean that information and support are always at your fingertips, no matter where you are. In a survey of 1,000 British mums we conducted for the launch of WhatToExpect.co.uk, we found (and no surprise here) that 45% of mums in the UK count apps as one of their most valuable resources during pregnancy.
And mum's the word on social media, too. It takes a mum to "get" a mum - and nobody knows this better than social networking mums. Today's mums can cast a wide social net - making hundreds, thousands, even millions of virtual fellow mum friends who are going through the same experience at the same time - through sites like WhatToExpect.co.uk. Just knowing that you're not alone in what you're feeling (whether it's a seemingly random pregnancy symptom or frustration over a baby who won't take "sleep" for an answer) doesn't necessarily make those feelings go away - but it helps you cope with them so much more effectively.
What else is trending among UK families? Dads. Our survey showed that mums, while still doing the lioness's share of parenting, aren't going it alone anymore - at least when it comes to all the many choices expectant and new parents have to make. In fact, 79% of couples say they share parenting decisions, compared to the 43% of respondents who feel their own parents did back in the day.
Childcare is more likely to be divided more equitably between parents too. Many of our mums commented that their partners are more involved than their dads were when they were growing up - and others noted that the shift towards greater sharing of the baby care workload is inevitable, given that most mums (as dads) are juggling parenthood with a career.
I'm often asked whether becoming a mum (or a dad) is different today than it was when my sweet little oops, Emma, made her way into the world - and into my tentative arms. Different today, now that Emma has her arms full of her first baby Lennox (still managing, of course, to use her one-handed iPhone skills to keep in touch with her WhatToExpect mama friends).
Different? In many ways. The same? In many more. Challenging and life-changing...mind-blowing and heart-melting...frustrating and fulfilling...exasperating and exhilarating...in other words, the hardest job we'll ever love? Without a doubt.
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