Here’s something I don’t want to see in my Facebook feed: your vagina. That’s why I cannot embrace the idea that Facebook should change its policy and allow naked or graphic birth photos to be posted to the site.
Milli Hill, founder of the Positive Birth Movement is currently having a barney with the social media site after she posted this awe-inspiring image of a woman giving birth (we have cropped it on this page but you can see it in full here [NSFW]) and Facebook suspended her account until she took it down.
I am one of the thousands who have criticised Facebook for applying this same approach to images of women breastfeeding (a policy they seem to be in the process of rightly dismantling after widespread protests) but I think the social media giant have it right with this particular rule.
Explicit birth photos can be beautiful and powerful to look at but they do not belong in my feed. I’m not talking about those taken immediately after the birth. Those are fairly standard (even though I know many people who are uncomfortably squeamish about any photo showing a newborn still coated in its mother’s bodily fluids). Facebook’s ban doesn’t apply to them – it’s about explicit photos taken DURING the birth.
The hard truth: as miraculous as it is, not all your Facebook friends want to see a baby emerge from your body. Those loved ones who do want to see the details were probably either at the birth itself or can ask for a private viewing. They can even watch the video of the birth some new parents proudly brandish on their phones. I looked at a friend’s birth video like that once. It was amazing and a privilege to see it. But she didn’t say, “Hey, wanna see a funny video of a cat?” and then spring her vagina on me. She offered to show me and I said yes. There was consent involved.
I would confidently argue that nobody wants a surprise viewing of their friend’s vagina.
Giving birth is a lot of things. It’s incredible and life-changing and the times I’ve done it have been the most exhilerating, joyful days of my life. Off the richter scale intense. But birth is also graphic and messy. There is always blood and in many cases there is also poo. No, I know that’s not in the brochure but if you give birth vaginally, all that straining can push out things that aren’t a baby.
It happens. Which, frankly, is one of the reasons I’ve never been tempted to have a water birth. Think about it.
Of the birthing image she posted and her reasons for sharing it, Hill writes:
We just don’t normally get to see images like this. The woman, whose name is Natalia, is smiling and watching with awe as her baby emerges into her own hands. She looks strong, confident, powerful, and the picture of health. And there is poo in the water. Poo! That most feared element of the birth process for the modern woman, the ultimate symbol of the loss of control involved in bringing forth new life – and Natalia, quite rightly, is oblivious – or just doesn’t give a…monkey’s.
I’m happy for Natalia. Truly. The image was taken by birthing photographer Jane McCrae and today I spent quite some time looking at the other photos on her site [NSFW] and I recommend you do too if you’re interested. They are quite simply stunning. But to appreciate this kind of imagery beyond shock value, I think you need to make a choice to look, not just have it sprung upon you.