Monday, January 12, 2009

Too much information, but then again, not enough

A friend of mine who is pregnant called me the other night. She lives on the other side of the world from me and we don't get to chat very often, so it was really fun to catch up with her.

We talked alot about her pregnancy. She is about 7 weeks or so away from her due date, and getting nervous about the delivery.

"I've been doing all kinds of internet research. I've read so much about the experiences of other women. I just want to know what it's going to be like. What was it like for you?"

So I told her all about my labor and delivery. We talked about epidurals and pain and what it's like to push and all of that.

"But," I added, "it's different for everyone."

"I know, I know," she replied. "That's what's so frustrating. I don't want to hear that it's different for every woman. I just want to know."

"Honey, I can totally relate," I told her. "Believe me, when I was pregnant, I was on those pregnancy sites every day, reading article after article, thinking that somehow I would happen on the one that told me exactly what it would be like for me. But of course I didn't. There's no way of knowing. All you can do is prepare, take a child birth class or something. The one thing I kept reminding myself was that whatever it was like, it would be over eventually. It was an event with an end. And it was long and difficult and part of it was painful, but then it was over. So here's my advice to you: stop doing research. Stop reading articles. It's only going to make you crazy, and the answer you're looking for isn't out there."

And the truth is, that kind of uncertainty is rarer and rarer these days.

I am an internet addict. And a Google addict. As Kathleen can tell anyone who asks, I have this compulsion about knowing the answer. When she and I worked in adjacent offices, we would talk to each other through the wall. Occasionally, she would yell over a question -- about a word definition, a historical point, whatever. Sometimes I knew the answer. But sometimes I didn't, and it would be quiet for awhile.

"You're googling it, aren't you??"

Having a wealth of information at your fingertips is mostly a useful thing. Looking for a recipe? Try Need to print out postage to mail something, and you don't feel like going to the post office? Do it online. Basic medical question? Try WebMd. Look up words at or Need to shop? Everything you could possibly need, you can get online. Missed this week's episode of Friday Night Lights? (Fucking TiVo!) You can watch entire episodes online for free.

I look back on the days before I started using the internet regularly -- probably around 1995 or so -- and I honestly don't know how I functioned.

But there are downsides. One is that all of this information has made us into a nation of amateur diagnosticians and psychologists. The University of Google can make you feel like an instant expert in anything. And there is alot of valuable information out there. But there's also alot of crap.

And for me, the biggest downside is that having the universe of possible answers at your fingertips can make you think that every question does, in fact, have an answer. That if you look hard enough, you can figure everything out.

I learned this when I was pregnant. There are a million websites, like, that provide information on everything from calendars helping you track the baby's development to tips on how to deal with swollen ankles or where to buy a great maternity pillow. You can do research about the different types of genetic screening, ways to alleviate morning sickness, whatever. And it's great. When I was having Zeke, I was on the website all the time. But like my friend, the real answer I was looking for -- i.e., exactly how would my labor go and would the baby be perfectly healthy and fine -- isn't out there to be found.

Like most people, I hate uncertainty under the best of circumstances. Being in between situations, or having to wait for something to determine your fate, without any way to know, is torture. And now that I'm so used to being able to find the answer to just about every question I could have, it's doubly so.

I'm supposed to hear this week from both of the firms I interviewed with in Denver. I'm so nervous, it's killing me. There's no amount of research I can do, no amount of checking my email over and over, that will provide me with the answer I want. So I just have to wait.


  1. Michelle LeGault7:09 PM

    Crossing my fingers and toes and thinking good thoughts about the Denver opportunities.

  2. Thanks, babe. I really appreciate it. I need to give you call -- it's been too long since we caught up. xoxo

  3. I can't even tell you how much I relate to this. D is forever teasing me about having to Google everything and not being able to handle not knowing the answer.

  4. I cannot ever, ever resist the amount of information available at my fingertips. And speaking of fingers, mine are so crossed for you!

  5. What a silly friend you have...EVERYBODY knows that every labor is different---bwahahaha...(i also heard that "friend" also saw 10 centimeters in scale a few days ago and is officially over the whole "research labor" thing for the time being....)

    And mainly everyone on this side of the world is thinking all sorts of good and happy thoughts for all of you guys. So stick your head out the window and catch our good ESPs floating your way.

    (Though we're also all sure that you don't need them a bit...Just hang on a little bit's all going to be good.)