I am careful with personal news. I am careful who I share things with, who I confide in. This privacy, I imagine, will be more important to me than ever when I am ready to have a baby.
The news that myself, and my partner, are trying for a baby or expecting a little person all-too-soon should be ours to share. I would want it that way. Non negotiable. News of the first ultrasound, the gender of the baby, his or her weight, the date of birth. These are moments that I would want to share, first and foremost with my partner, family and closest friends in private. Others will know later. On our terms, when we’re ready.
Problem is, not everyone is going to be on board with this plan.
Once you tell one person. The news can spread like lightening.
This happened recently to a new father who took to Reddit to vent his rage. He raced to the waiting room of the hospital. Bursting with the news that he and his wife had just had a baby girl. (They hadn’t known the sex before hand). He was devastated to learn their paediatrician, who was also a friend, had already told the waiting crowd.
“I’m not gonna lie – before I knew of what our friend had done, I looked at that moment as easily one of the top five experiences of my life,” he wrote.
I know, I know. The news was shared out of happiness and excitement. The friend was elated and not intending to steal something precious. But I don’t think the new father’s frustration is misplaced. It was his moment. And sharing news in a moment like that makes it all the more special. All the more powerful.
The worst case scenario however, is through social media.
The Telegraph shared the story of Louise Ball, 31, from Cheshire in the UK.
“I went into labour at just past midnight, and finally gave birth just over 12 hours later, at 12.45pm,” she said. “I couldn’t get onto Facebook because my daughter was born in China, where access is blocked. Three days later, I went to my computer with glee, ready to announce our big news. But I was met by a gaudy pink picture posted on my page by an auntie, congratulating us on the birth of our ‘beautiful little girl’.”
“When I checked the time signature, I realised that it had been posted when my daughter was just three hours old, and this auntie isn’t exactly my closest relation – she must have jumped on Facebook literally the moment she heard,” Ball continued. “I wasn’t that bothered at the time, but when I reflected on it there was a real niggle there. I was still dazed in my hospital bed when she told the world our news. I made my own announcement anyway, and it certainly wasn’t the end of the world – but it did make me mark her card as someone who valued attention over my feelings.”
And that, right there, is the problem. The craving of attention.
Running into the waiting room in the heat of the moment is one thing. But sharing an image of another person’s new baby through social media is something else entirely. That’s making another couple’s moment – the happy, heart wrenching, terrifying moment of becoming parents – about you. When you are likely 100 miles away, sitting in your living room and your own kids are off at university. That’s not loving. That’s attention seeking.
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In the world of clicks and comments and likes, there needs to be some etiquette. Some understanding of, and respect for, privacy.
I know one woman who refused to let people photograph her baby. She didn’t put any pictures of her daughters’ faces on social media until they were both toddlers. She asked that everyone else do the same.
Another woman, Emma Dent, 40, who had the news of her son’s birth shared over Facebook by her sister-in-law, says there is a clear rule family and friends should follow: “Unless you’ve specifically been told to tell people, you shouldn’t say anything,” Dent told The Telegraph.
Usually, though, it comes down to the parents-to-be to make their wishes known.
Asking politely that no one share news, or images, until the people who need to know are informed. This saves the crazy Aunt living in the country from being offended she didn’t receive a phone call.
It also ensures the news is delivered in the right way, in the right moment, from the only people whose news it is to share.
Yes, putting an embargo on your pregnancy news or baby photos seems crazy. But is there ever a more important time to protect yourself than with the birth of a child and the beginning of a new family?