Welcome back to Parental Advisory, where I answer all of your social media and IRL parenting etiquette questions. This week, let's talk about "baby bump" pictures on Facebook.
I'm 8 months pregnant. Let me start out by saying that I am not that person that uses social media as a cry for help/sympathy, political stances, or to say "never forget." I just use it for fun. You won't find many selfies of me. My pics are mostly of the city or my dog, and once I have my baby girl, I'm sure there will be pics, but in most of them she will have a stupid hat on, or adult sunglasses. I never wanted to put pics up of my ultrasound, the same way I never wanted to put engagement pics up, or even have them taken. It's the same reason why I won't put up a bump pic. Actually, I'm lying, I do want to do one because at this point, my husband and I have just about the same size gut, but he's not going for it. I would just do it in jest or in a self-deprecating way, because why not?
People ask me, actually ask me, "Where are the bump pics?" There is one picture of me 5 months pregnant from my cousin's engagement party. I posted it because I was wearing a great dress. I'm 5'9' so I didn't really start to show until about almost 7 months. I had someone comment, who was at the party with me, and ask why she hadn't seen any other "bump pics." I told her it was because I don't want to put them on Facebook. Mind you, I can appreciate the excitement, don't get me wrong. I'm not a Mommie Dearest type, but it's just not in me to react the way she wanted me to, or the way she would have. Maybe I don't like the attention, maybe I just don't want it. I'm not about crying out, "Look at me, I'm pregnant!" I definitely have some pictures that I have taken, but those are for me to send to my husband or sister, family, etc...privately.
When people have questioned me, I am proud to tell them that I don't feel the need to do it. Maybe it's out of spite for every idiot that I have to deal with on Facebook on an almost daily basis, pregnant or not. You always hope that people would respect your answer and opinion and I stupidly think that people will share my thinking, that it's a breath of fresh air that I am not caving in, but no, it's where the shaming begins. "Why not?" "You have to!" "Don't you want everyone to know?" My question is: When did Facebook become the end all/be all? When did people start living their lives by it, as well as the lives of their unborn child? I missed that train.
In many ways, K., your questions are a reflection of what so many of us are thinking but dare not say on Facebook. To criticize how people use Facebook today is to admit that you're not entirely comfortable with the highly performative aspects of social media, which is a sentiment that drifts further and further away from acceptability. Perhaps 10 years ago, Facebook didn't so closely resemble a theatrical production, with everyone "playing their parts," but it's since blossomed into, essentially, a 24/7 soap opera in which we are all the players. Some people have leading roles — we all know who they are — while the rest of us remain in minor roles until something big comes along, like a job promotion, a cross-country move, an engagement, a wedding or — everyone's favorite! — a baby announcement.
Most people are bit players in the never-ending Facebook production of our lives, and they seize the opportunity to rise in the ranks. They've been meagerly liked, always anticipating a big announcement or "reveal" of some kind, and they've been waiting for their time to shine. They want the likes, the praise and the 35 comments that all say, "Congrats!" and they cannot, and potentially will never, understand why anyone in their right mind wouldn't carpe diem the shit out of a pregnancy, which lasts a whopping nine months. Even if a woman doesn't announce her pregnancy until the second trimester (which I personally recommend, and which was discussed here), she has ample time to (over)saturate Facebook with belly pics and soak up all that superficial love. Who wouldn't want in on that, right?
And yet, there are actually a lot of women just like you, K., who are turned off by the hype, feel awkward about being celebrated (on Facebook, at least) just for getting knocked up and who don't necessarily want to share images of their bodies just to rake in all of that fleeting adoration. You're certainly not alone in recognizing that this is all a dog and pony show; it's just that we haven't yet entered the era in which people can be critical of such things aloud without suffering some kind of consequence.
If you say out loud, "Bump pics are stupid," or, "I think bump pics are a cry for attention," you're at risk of offending a large percentage of your Facebook friends. After all, the original target age group that's grown up with Facebook is the demographic that's been procreating like crazy for the past decade. Mark Zuckerberg himself now has a baby, and his sister Randi, who was a Facebook executive for years, has written a children's book and now speaks about "modern day etiquette on the internet" after becoming a parent. Everyone and their mother (soon-to-be grandmother!) has or is having kids, and many do choose to participate in over-the-top pregnancy announcements, baby bump pictorials and/or elaborate professional photo shoots. Some people even update Facebook on behalf of their fetus, 'cause they know all that self-promotion has an end date (i.e., the start date of a new cycle of post-birth baby spam), and they want to savor those moments right up until the minute their water breaks.
The issue, as you said, is that you'd think more people would be in favor of a friend choosing not to amplify her pregnancy by shining a literal spotlight on her belly. And it's possible that day may be just around the corner. We've really all seen plenty of baby bumps by now, haven't we? Even Beyoncé couldn't resist a maternity photo shoot, and not just because she's Beyoncé, but because it's what the internet demands. I assure you, if Beyoncé hadn't released a series of images that include being surrounded by piles of gorgeous flowers and swimming underwater draped in chiffon, her own friends would've been like, "Hey, Bey, you gonna do a photo shoot or what?"
No one can escape the madness of the bump pics. That said, I do believe there's a lurking, undeniable desire for fewer bump pics, and certainly not more bump pics. Sure, your mom friends or friends from high school or whatever might be encouraging you to post a new belly picture each month, but if the inherent honesty of internet memes is any indicator, the majority of the people you're friends with can go the rest of their lives without watching their friends' pregnant bellies expand on a month-to-month basis, day after day, year over year.
Therefore, I think you're doing everything right, K. You're "living your truth," which is not to draw extra attention to the baby you're about to give birth to simply because you're not into it. Sticking to your guns during the pregnancy will serve you well, because if you think people are on your ass to post more photos now, just wait until you have the baby. People will try to convince you to post a new picture every day, if not every hour, because they're... I don't know... bored at work? Really into pictures of swaddled infants? Happier to see an innocent child in their newsfeed than stories about our new nightmare administration?
Even if these reasons are all valid, you don't have to succumb to pressures on social media, and it's helpful that you already know and practice that. People can continue to revolve their lives around Facebook and judge others based on how little or how much they reveal about themselves or their kids, and you can just sit back and watch without reservation. You also have a unique opportunity before you, which you can choose to take or not, to freak out your friends to the point of wishing they hadn't bothered to ask for bump pics in the first place. You're almost full-term, so if the mood strikes, don't be afraid to take the bump pic of all bump pics as a hearty response to all those lingering requests.
Sometimes in life, we must be careful what we wish for.
Congrats on embarking on motherhood, K.! Good luck fending off your future baby's fans.
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