Having made it more than halfway through a fairly public pregnancy, I have discovered a few things that have surprised, shocked, and dismayed me. The world is an interesting place, to be sure, and I feel like times of transition are times when the interestingness becomes a little more apparent :-)
I am active on Instagram, using hashtags that help connect me to currently pregnant moms, moms of twins, women in the trenches of infertility, and women pregnant after infertility, and my account is public to make connecting easier. I have also been very public about our fertility struggles, process, and treatments on my personal facebook. The benefits of sharing in these venues have far surpassed the downfalls, but let's talk about those downfalls for a sec, shall we?
I cannot flipping believe I am saying this... but I've been hit on when sharing pictures of my bump. Yeah. Fortunately, it's been pretty mild for me, but I've seen some pregnant women get a LOT worse. I've had the occasional, creepy "gorgeous" from a random dude... you just know he's trolling the #pregnant hashtags looking at all the bellies. And then there was the poet who simply commented "Boobs belly" followed by a zillion laughing emojis. Yes, yes, I have both of those things, and they do both seem to be growing a bit... seeing as how I'm carrying twins. There are whole Instagram accounts dedicated to "sharing" or "featuring" pictures women have taken of their pregnant bellies, and the comments on those can get fairly aggressive. Most pregnant moms I follow have been asked to submit their pictures to these, or if the account can go ahead and share a picture they like. I've clicked over to see some of these accounts... a few of them seem to prefer full or mostly nudes.
This is why in every photo you have ever seen, and will ever see, of my baby bump... I'm dressed. I realize that when I upload photos to Instagram, I lose a degree of control over them. While I have seen some pretty and tasteful pictures of bare pregnant bellies, and would honestly like to have some for us to keep at home, I don't want any pictures floating around of me that can be perverted in this way. It's bad enough that I get "belly boobs" comments on fully-clothed pictures!
One of the biggest upsides to following so many twin moms-in-the-making online is that I can compare my experiences and my bump with theirs. One of the downsides... I compare my experiences and my bump with theirs. There's an adorable lady I follow who was 29ish weeks pregnant with twins, also after IVF, and she shared a collage of some of her bump pictures a few weeks ago. I looked like her 24 week picture... when I was only 18 weeks. Granted, she probably weighed about 100 pounds before she got pregnant, and I weighed, um, more than that, so we clearly have different pre-pregnancy builds. But the temptation exists to compare our bodies in a way that has mine coming up short. And it is tempting to feel bad about that.
I think this is something that would bother me a lot more if I didn't revel and delight in every tiny growth spurt my belly has. ;-) I like to say that I worked HARD for this bump, and I'm going to enjoy every inch of it. And I'm glad that I started showing early, because it maximizes the time I'll look pregnant, and what I've wanted most for five years was to look (well, BE) pregnant! But if you're the type (as I am when not pregnant) to feel bad when you compare your figure to someone else's, you may want to reconsider tuning in to and following other pregnancies. Seriously, this is a time for complete and utter joy... cut out anything that threatens that!
Yeah, it's not just for the kiddies. People on the internet of ALL ages find boldness in the relative anonymity behind a keyboard, and use it to criticize any part of a person's story or self that they can. A couple of months ago (I was about 16 weeks pregnant), I saw a picture of a young girl on Instagram, showing off a cute outfit accessorized with a certain brand's purse. With her permission, a fan page of that brand that I follow shared it. And one of their other followers (whose username states that she "lives to run" - sad life!) commented that "fat girls shouldn't wear high heels or skinny jeans." This girl may have been a size 10 or 12, but she carried it well and looked phenomenal (which is beside the point - the comment was still cruel and unnecessary). Anyway, my school counselor and impending-mom-ness kicked in, and I commented back that the tendency to tear someone down for their appearance generally reveals deep insecurities on the part of the bully. Which was not smart... I should've left well enough alone... but I can't. It's me. I felt defensive of the beautiful young lady who just wanted to show off her awesome outfit. Anyway, this bully (who looked like she could be anywhere between the ages of 30 and 60... and not healthy) told me that EVERYone loved HER body, and she could tell from my profile picture of my face that I was a fatty too. Then she must have popped over and checked out my pictures because next came "16 weeks prego? You look overdue!" And she kept going and going until I could get through the steps to block and report her.
Fortunately, I'm an adult, and have come to terms with what my body looked like pre-pregnancy, and as we've discussed, I'm overjoyed with how it looks now. So I could file that cruelty away in the little file in my head titled "people suck." It did put me in a funk for a few hours, and I may have cried a little - not about how I look, just about the fact that people suck and really shouldn't. Seriously, how much harder is it to keep that junk to yourself? And... keep in mind, this was an exchange between two adults. I opened myself up to the bully by defending that girl, but my public profile with pregnancy photos gave her so much more ammunition to try to use against me. Something else to consider if you choose to publicize photos or other aspects of your pregnancy... even grown-ups can attack with all the viciousness of a sixth grader, and it doesn't take much to set one off.
The Sensitivity Factor
This last topic probably applies more to the infertility community than the general pregnancy community, but it is the one that really shook and hurt me, so it's worth mentioning. I think we all can understand that reading pregnancy announcements and updates can be pretty brutal for those who are in the midst of a fertility battle. I've written about it myself several times. I've been there. And I know that not everyone is as "out" as I am about their infertility, so I knew that there were likely people I was friends with on social media that were going through their own private battles that I knew nothing about. I'm also a fairly nice person, so it was important to me that I try everything in my power to mitigate the pain that any of those friends would feel if our IVF was successful. I made an announcement long before it was time to test that I would be announcing a positive OR negative result on a certain date, and not before. I explained that this was so anyone who needed to could unfollow me, hide me from their newsfeed, or just prepare their hearts for the possibility of a pregnancy announcement on that date. I've never seen anyone else do this, but it was so, so important to me to try to protect my infertile "sisters," and this was the best way I could think of to do it. I personally have hidden a lot of people from my newsfeed while they were pregnant, so I know that this is a really effective way to protect yourself from things you don't want to see!
Unfortunately, at least one of my friends didn't see the announcement or didn't do anything about it. A couple of months ago, she sent me several facebook messages that broke my heart for the obvious hurt behind them. She accused me of being insensitive to my friends who are still trying or may never be successful in having children, which absolutely devastated me. I tried so hard to be sensitive in advance of our announcement... I do post a lot of little pregnancy observations and bump pictures and nursery progress pictures... but I hoped that the people who would find those painful would have taken my advice before I was pregnant. Or at least hidden me once it got to be too painful. The second-to-last thing I want is to hurt anyone... but the VERY last thing I want is to hide my joy over a pregnancy that was never sure to happen, is high-risk, and is likely my only one ever.
So I guess I'm trying to say that if you're getting ready to announce a pregnancy, realize you may inadvertently hurt somebody. And if you keep posting updates, you may continue to hurt somebody. But there are ways they can protect themselves, and they should know them. Celebrate your joy, try to keep complaints to a minimum when you can... if you see an opportunity to be extra-gentle (like if everyone knows you're doing an embryo transfer, use my strategy. Or ask your infertile friend what would be the easiest/least painful way for them to find out.) take that opportunity... And if someone calls you out on your "insensitivity," try not to take it personally, remember the pain behind that response, and perhaps kindly recommend that they unsubscribe or unfollow you. (I'm mostly talking online friendships here... in-person interactions are a little different, and you might need to limit your pregnancy talk. But that's a whole 'nother blog!)
Thanks for reading the world's longest blog entry! I hope I've given you some food for thought when it comes to how much/whether to share your pregnancy online, what pitfalls to expect, and how to mitigate them :-) Have you shared details of your pregnancy online? Did you regret it? Are there any potential pitfalls I missed?