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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

July 20, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Aren’t you in labor yet? Birth in the age of Facebook

(Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

(Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

The British royal family has been in full PR mode for the birth of the royal baby. For new mothers on social media, that’s a familiar experience.

(The Duchess of Cambridge is in labor, according to a royal family spokesman.)

I had my media strategy pretty well figured out when I went into labor with my son a year ago Friday. I wouldn’t tweet I was in the hospital. I’d asked family not to post details of the labor. And I’d made sure that my mom, who spends more time on Facebook than I do, understood that under no circumstances could she scoop me and my husband on that all-important post announcing the baby’s birth.

Whether you’re the Duchess of Cambridge or a mere commoner in Seattle, becoming a parent is one of the biggest stories of your life, and there will always be loyal subjects who can’t wait to hear it.

I stalked the Facebook pages of at least four pregnant friends this year alone, hoping to catch early hints of a new arrival. It wasn’t a weeks-long stakeout at London’s St. Mary’s Hospital, but it was pretty exciting. And the payoff was so, so sweet.

“Like this if you’ve stopped by Mónica’s profile for the express reason of checking to see if she’s in labor yet,” a close friend wrote on my page days before my due date. Twenty people liked the post. As my due date came and went, friends reminded me I wasn’t the only one going mad with anticipation.

“This may sound weird,” another friend wrote, “but I keep waiting for you to NOT be on FB, because that will be the first sign your little one will soon be arriving!”

The first sign and the only sign. Why didn’t I post I was in the hospital, at least? Because — and this is where I sigh and get serious — birth is intense, personal, scary and risky, and it doesn’t always go according to plan, never mind the fairy tales we tell each other that are two words more real than the stork. Plenty of women decide to post live updates from their hospital (or home!) and find it adds to the experience. That might have been fun. But I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I’d have to disclose widely details that, for the time being, at least, I’d rather keep close.

I was in natural labor for a night before we realized baby wasn’t coming out on his own and showed serious signs he needed to come out fast. Much later I hovered over a picture of my husband in scrubs in the OR, a clear sign we’d had a C-section. Should I include it in the public Facebook gallery of newborn pics? Couldn’t the questions and assumptions it raised be my own gentle antidote to the fairy tales we tell about pregnancy and delivery?

But that tiniest of burdens was no match for the one sleeping in the bassinet at the foot of my hospital bed. The whole story was the real story, and I’d tell it, but not yet. That day I could only focus on him — aah, look at him! — and sharing that first photo with our small piece of the world gave him as warm and wide a welcome as I hoped.

The royal baby was always bound to be brought into the world with more pomp, more fame, more cameras, and certainly more merchandise than any baby that’s come before (“Born to Rule,” reads the blockbuster onesie). But every birth is a headline to someone.

As the new heir becomes the spectacle he or she was doomed to be, I can only hope William and Kate can keep some control over which parts of their lives they want to publish.

When we can make even our smallest new stories big, we all deserve at least that.

Mónica Guzmán’s column appears in Sunday’s Seattle Times. Got a story about living with technology in the Northwest — or know someone she should meet? Send her an email, follow her on Twitter @moniguzman or send her a message on Facebook.

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