Welcome back to Parental Advisory, where I answer all of your social media and IRL parenting etiquette questions. This week, let's talk about the timing of pregnancy announcements on Facebook.
"I have an acquaintance who's my friend on Facebook. She has been trying for a long time to get pregnant. The other week she announced she is pregnant. She and her boyfriend are thrilled. Thrilled! Then she says that she literally posted the news five minutes after a positive test. Hadn't even been to the doctor yet. Is essentially two weeks pregnant at this point. OK. She then proceeds to get VERY angry (in public posts) about friends who have suggested she wait to share such news. Maybe the friends were harsh about it, I didn't see their comments, but... I don't think they were wrong to make that suggestion.
So I guess my question is, does the first trimester unspoken rule still apply, that it's safest to wait a bit until announcing? I have seen the pain of friends who had to backpedal and make "un-pregnant" announcements when they miscarried at five weeks, two months, four months — or in the case my aunt, who miscarried at eight and a half months. I would hate to see if anything 'happens' with her pregnancy, but part of me will wish she had kept it secret, for her own sake, if it does."
There are a few different approaches to pregnancy announcements on social media, and I'm not talking about the difference between a simple text update ("We're having a baby! Due in March!") versus an elaborate photo shoot complete with props, Photoshop and heart hands. I'm talking about the timing of the announcement.
Whether or not a couple chooses to announce with a picture of baby shoes sitting by the fire next to a framed ultrasound photo is irrelevant to the timing of the announcement, which is the element I tend to pay attention to. This is partly because I have so many friends popping out kids, I need to keep track of who's pregnant, who I need to buy a gift for, who's due in June and who's due in August, etc.
I think most people over the age of 30 (or 19, if you're from the South like I am!) have this mental Rolodex in their brains now that we're all on social media and suddenly feel like we "know" thousands of people, as opposed to the days before social media when you really only had so many friends and acquaintances to keep up with. Instead of getting daily updates about a classmate you haven't seen in 15 or 20 years, you'd get the highlights every few years. You wouldn't know that your lab partner from sophomore chemistry was pregnant or had morning sickness or did an underwater maternity photo shoot or had her cervix dilated or ate her placenta and so on — and that worked just fine. But now that we have all this information to absorb and/or dispense online, the approaches we take to announcing a baby may differ from our friends and acquaintances.
For some people who have suffered miscarriages in the past, the pain of having to, as you say in your email, "backpedal and make 'un-pregnant' announcements" is too hard to potentially go through again, either online or in real life. I have friends who have waited until the day their baby was born healthy to make any Facebook announcement at all. (Those posts are always met with, "Holy shit! You guys had a baby?! Congrats, had no idea whatsoever!" like it's the craziest secret anyone has ever kept. If you're an extremely patient person and enjoy surprising everyone you know with a single Facebook post, I recommend trying this method!)
I also have friends who announced a pregnancy in the first trimester, but in most cases, they'd already had a healthy baby, so they felt "secure" announcing baby No. 2 earlier than baby No. 1. No one wants to have to make an 'un-pregnant' announcement (and it's worth considering that even if someone does, there's no guarantee all of their friends will actually see it), but the point you're making with your question is that if the vast majority of miscarriages (80 percent) occur in the first trimester, why not wait to announce? The chances of having a viable, healthy baby increase considerably around week 13, so why do some people opt to pee on a stick, immediately take a picture, apply the Valencia filter and upload it to every social platform they use?
In most cases, the intoxicating combination of personal excitement and online attention are simply too much for parents to contain. They must share the news ASAP because they've seen the love other parents receive from friends when they've announced a pregnancy, and they want in on that. They've yearned for those likes like a baby yearns for his mom's boobs, and they might have waited years before finally having any announcement to make (such as in the case of your acquaintance).
The only thing that really differentiates people who share baby news in the first trimester from each other is that some of them do so with complete optimism, never thinking that suffering a miscarriage will be that much harder if an announcement must be made online, while others share the news knowing full well that the chances of miscarriage are higher in the first trimester, but don't feel threatened by the prospect of making an 'un-pregnant' announcement. They would rather share their joys and their possible sorrows with their friends, possibly to aid in the destigmatization of miscarriage or possibly because, for them, social media is about complete transparency and consistent updates.
But even as an advocate for the destigmatization of miscarriage, it's hard for me to rationalize posting about a pregnancy on Facebook in the first trimester. There are ways to normalize how we talk about miscarriage, or the representations of miscarriage we see on TV or in movies without announcing one's own miscarriage in real time. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with announcing online that a pregnancy has sadly ended — if anything, it could be therapeutic — it does seem unnecessarily risky to take that chance in the first three months when history and science have shown us that the risks are reduced in the second trimester.
That being said, I can't condone someone suggesting that a friend wait to share her news any more than I condone the early sharing of said news. Raining on someone's parade, no matter how tempting, is a shitty thing to do in real life and an even shittier thing to do online in front of someone's entire social network.
If everyone knows this friend has been trying to get pregnant for a long time and she finally announces a pregnancy, it should probably be assumed that she understands the risks. I don't disagree that she should have waited, but maybe those people shouldn't have spoken up — unless she got very angry with friends just because they were surprised to hear she's only 2 to 4 weeks along. Most people do not expect the answer to the question "How far along are you?" to be "Oh, about 96 hours. I took a test!" which is yet another reason people should consider waiting to announce and/or not get upset with their friends for expressing shock. It's a lot less surprising to hear "12 weeks" than it is to hear "12 days," and this woman should know that.
But you don't have to take my word for it. If you're looking for a good resource regarding how to do things online, look no further than Felicia Day, who posted a baby announcement this week for her 2.92 million and counting Twitter followers and 1.4 million and counting Facebook page members:
OK, so most people don't have millions of rabid fans or another similar reason to withhold a baby announcement for this long, but nonetheless, the response to Day's late-stage third-trimester surprise announcement was overwhelming positive.
See what I mean about people loving that unexpected third-trimester surprise? It's real. Her announcement even started giving some people ideas:
Now that sounds truly radical. In the future, everyone will announce a new baby either in the first trimester of pregnancy or when the kid starts college. Done!
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