Blog, baby, blog!

Want to share each step of your pregnancy with your loved ones without resorting to mass emails and repetitive phone calls? Finding it hard to keep in touch with family and friends now that you're a new parent? Trying to keep track of your toddler's milestones, but keep forgetting where you put that elusive My First Five Years book? Blogging may be the answer, writes Ellie Gwilliam.

One of the many relatively recent technologies afforded us by the internet is blogging. Initially embraced by only the truly cyber-savvy, blogging is now a mainstream method of communication used by all walks of life. Your neighbour, your best friend, or even your grandmother may have a blog!
     But if you, like me, have chosen to ignore this seemingly mysterious activity, writing it off as "something that other people do", it's time to see what we've been missing out on.  We recently set up blogging capabilities on the OHbaby! website
, and, as I have discovered, blogging is not only a convenient and easily accessible means of communication, it is also enlightening, encouraging, and highly entertaining.

But first, some technical terms
What is a blog? A blog, an abridgement of the term "web log", is a series of commentaries from an individual, maintained on a website. Usually taking the form of an online diary, blogs are a way to communicate with your friends, family, complete strangers, or even just yourself, in the sense of journaling your thoughts and experiences for future reference.Don't worry if this all sounds a little foreign and needs further clarification. As a fellow "blog-virgin", you probably need me to spell a few things out. "Blog", while it is a noun to describe the online commentary, is also a verb - one can "blog", meaning to maintain or add content on your blog.
     And if that isn't enough, the word "blog" has also developed an even looser meaning - to express your opinion, or simply talk about something.
      "Post" is another multifaceted term you will see - one "posts" an entry on a blog, and a blog entry can also be referred to as a "post". Blog entries are not limited to text. You can upload photos, videos, and even music. Blogs and posts are also interactive, meaning that other people can post comments on your blog, developing a sense of online community and building relationships.
     Unlike the OHbaby! messageboard, where people leave short comments, blogging is more focused, allowing you to expand ideas and record more detail. A blog post is like a journal entry, as opposed to a dialogue - or like having someone over for coffee, as opposed to a chat over the back fence.
     A moment of truth: I had never visited a blog before, let alone "blogged", but I was relieved to find that the OHbaby! blog function is really easy to use, and already busy with other first-timers like myself.
     Once you're inside a blog, the vernacular can continue to confuse. I had to stop and think a while to work out what an SAHM was ("stay at home mum"), or what TTC was referring to ("trying to conceive"). This is an inevitable side effect of a content-themed blog site - with a lot of focus on similar issues, words, and terms get abbreviated. Be prepared to take a little time deciphering, but once you've got it figured, you're  "in the know", with all the confidence of being in the cool group at school.

Why bother blogging?
This highlights one of the special features of OHbaby! blogging: 
It is a convenient way to share your journey and experiences with other like-minded individuals. You have a common ground with other bloggers, and will probably recognise aspects of your life in their reflections. Which is encouraging, like when you learn that sleep deprivation does not last forever, or that you are not the only one who can't find a pair of matching socks anywhere in their entire house.
      Reading OHbaby! blogs feels like a privilege - blogs can be extremely personal, with bloggers often pouring their hearts out. The sense of community is unmistakable, the encouragement via the comments function illustrating a tangible bond among bloggers. But it is not voyeuristic, because bloggers are happy for you to read their posts, as is the nature of blogging.
      Blogs are a fantastic medium for communication. Avid bloggers are using the technology to keep family and friends up-to-date with the goings on in their life. Never is this process so valuable as when you are posting news on the changes and developments of your precious offspring!
      This is especially useful when family and friends are far away. Like expat Kiwi "Mrs T", who is posting updates on her pregnancy all the way from her new home in Norway. I would never have known that Norwegian women happily eat sushi while pregnant, but, due to the risk of radiation leftovers from Chernobyl, are warned to steer clear of reindeer for dinner. But now that I've found her blog and added her to my favourites, I can share the journey with her, despite the thousands of miles between us!

     My memory is definitely not as sharp as it was pre-baby (apparently this is quite normal), making it even more important to commit my precious memories to virtual paper. Blog about those special occasions, domestic excitements, or delightful first words and moments of mischief. The record can then be shared with others, or referenced by you in later days, when your recall of events is a little hazy!
      Blogs stay listed online indefinitely, although you are able to delete your own blog or individual posts if you wish. Who knows - perhaps our children will be able to check out their early years by reading our blogs 20 years from now!

How to create your own blog
So now I have convinced you and you can't wait to create your own blog, right? Here's what you need to do:
1.  Go to the OHbaby! website ( ). If you're already a member, make sure you're logged in; if you're not a member yet, sign up (it's free!) and log in.
2.  Membership gives you access to all the extra online community features of OHbaby!, including the forums and blogging. So once you're a member and logged in, click on the "Blog" tab on the menu at the top of the page. Once the new page loads, scroll down and click "Create your own blog", in the bottom left corner of the page.
3.  The first step is to create a proile for your blog: A blog title, a few details about yourself and the content of your blog, even a photo if you so desire. You can edit this proile at any time by going back to the "Create your own blog" function, and selecting "Edit Proile" in the "My Proile" menu. After you have written a title and some details about yourself, you can select categories for your blog to appear in. This means that your blog can be easily referenced according to category, where it will be archived chronologically with other blogs of a similar theme. Blog categories are listed on the left of the blog page, but blogs are also stored in chronological order regardless of category, under "Member Blogs".
4.  You also need to select your preference for blog access. Unless you choose otherwise, consider your blog open for public viewing. Sharing your blog entries with the OHbaby! audience is theoretically like sharing with a group of friends and associates, but bear in mind that the blog can be viewed by any OHbaby! browsers. You do have the option to create a private blog, however, whereby you will be issued with a unique URL address that you can then copy and send in an email to your family and friends, allowing only your selected audience access to your blog.
5.  Now that you have set up your proile, you are ready to post a blog entry (your first "post"). You can give each entry a title and also upload an image for it if you wish. Then you simply type up your entry's content and click "Post". As simple as that, you are now a published writer on the OHbaby! website! The only question remaining is what to write about? The answer is, simply, that you can write about whatever you like. My first entry was on the domestic excitement of supermarket shopping - for no other reason except that that was what was on my mind at the time. Such is the beauty of the blog - you can now log on to the OHbaby! website, look at my blog, and find out how I select my groceries.
6.  To post subsequent entries, you can either go directly to "Post Blog Entry" on the "Community & Blogs" menu on the right of the home page, or first to "My Blog" and then "Post Entry".

I have a suspicion blogging can become highly addictive. I will definitely be back to jot down some thoughts and compare notes with others. If nothing else, it will be good for my sense of perspective, reminding me to cherish and celebrate the journey of parenting. And quite good for the ego too, just quietly, I can write material and people can read it!

Two final tips: It can be a little intimidating posting a public blog; it feels a little like someone reading your diary. Try a "nom de plume" if it makes you feel better. And for the pedants out there: If the thought of publicly exposing your writing without a thorough spell-check makes you feel a little vulnerable, you can write your blog entry in Word first, spell-check it, then copy and paste it into Notepad. Finally, copy and paste it one more time into your blog - error-free and ready for public analysis! 


Ellie Gwilliam is OHbaby! Magazine's sub-editor and mum to one-year-old  Johanna May.


As seen in OHbaby! magazine Issue 3: 2008

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