Social Media Parameters for BB

I’m not a very private person (said the woman with a blog about childbirth…) though I had grand plans while pregnant to keep my baby’s stupidly adorable face off the Internet. I aspire to be one of the parents who rarely posts about their kids. One of my high school classmates has had three kids and never once posted a pregnancy announcement– they just kinda show up in her family pics like, “oh, we had another one.” I envy that kind of non-sharing! I’ve loved going through my parents’ collection of old photos to find pictures of me as a kid I’ve never seen before. Will our kids have that?! Or will they just expect that all kids have had their picture taken thousands of times before they’ve even started kindergarten?

My husband calls me a luddite in that I think it’s SO F*CKED how much we rely on technology and how kids’ (and our) brains are warped by social media. For someone who spends a lot of her time and work hours on Instagram, I’m fully terrified of what it’s doing to our society. I cringe when I see birth announcements featuring the baby’s full name, birthdate, weight, etc. Might as well tell everyone their social security number, too! I’m friends with a lot of peripherally work-related acquaintances who don’t need (or probably want) to see my son jammin’ up their Facebook feed. On one hand, I can see him growing up like, “So there’s hundreds of pictures of me online that strangers have had access to?” and on the other, he’ll be like, “Um, duh– it happened to every one of my classmates; that’s totally normal that you wanted to share about me.” Dilemma!!

There are non-Facebook apps that you can have family members download and share photos with that are allegedly more secure (because remember, you don’t actually own any of your own content on your social media feeds! How are we so cavalier about this?!) but my older family members have trouble enough sending a coherent text, let alone downloading a completely separate app with a password they have to remember to log in to occasionally. We decided to have a private Facebook album for family & close friends who are invested in this kid’s life where we do a photo dump of his most adorable moments every couple of weeks. I’ll post a timeline pic of him occasionally so all other parties know he’s still alive (aka my god, Brittney had the cutest kid in the world???) but to my average Facebook friend, there’s not too much baby out there.

Instagram has become another story because apparently I’m the stereotypical Millenial white bitch who loves coffee and her overweight five-month-old. (He’s not fat; he’s sturdy!) The kid is in my stories probably at least once a day, and I feel… fine about that. Turns out, your social media habits pre-kid are probably going to be your habits after they’re here, too. It is absolutely braggadocious for myself and my peers to be putting up pics of our kids on Instagram, but isn’t that why we’re on the platform? I do wrestle with sharing about our joy when I know we have couples in our circle who are experiencing infertility. A person in our community due about a month after me experienced a stillbirth just before 30 weeks and I think of her ALL THE TIME when I’m posting about my baby. I know you shouldn’t edit yourself to accommodate others, but a little sensitivity and self-awareness doesn’t hurt anyone.

The pandemic is one reason I’m more lax about putting my baby online. This parenthood thing can be lonely! Our family members are thrilled any time they get an update about the baby, and it’s much easier to throw it in a Facebook caption to 30 of ’em than send out individual texts (because ohmygod if you’re still replying to group texts in the year of our Lord twenty twenty-one, your phone privileges are revoked forever, GRANDMOTHER.) Including my baby when sharing my mom joys and struggles on Instagram stories has been a true lifeline to a community of support I can’t currently access in person. I’m surprised I didn’t lose hundreds of followers in the first four months when all I did was complain about our lack of sleep. (Apologies, loyal fans. I am a more interesting person than that, I swear.)

If you’re still expecting, make sure you and your partner are on the same page about this stuff. You AB-SO-LUTE-LY will need to have a conversation with your parents and family members about what’s ok to share and what’s not. It is not uncommon to threaten people’s lives if they put information about the birth online before you do. Shut that shit down right now, and if you’re more stringent than me about your baby’s face not going online, you might have to really get tough with those you love. If you’re already a mom and living part of your life online, please join in me not including just the cute milestone moments. Occasionally throw in a selfie after you’ve gotten spit up on. We all know you think you have the cutest kid in the world. I wanna see those postpartum bald spots!!

Early Pregnancy Advice

If you’ve recently found out you’re expecting for the first time, congratulations. My number one piece of advice as you begin to tell others the news is: lie like a damn rug about your due date.

If your EDD is 10/19 (me!) tell people that baby’s due date is the first week of November. Give yourself at least a two week buffer, but not because first time babies often arrive late. This is to protect your sanity and your relationship with those around you in those final few weeks of pregnancy.

Sometime around 38 weeks, the texts will start. They’ll seem innocent at first– of course people mean well. “Just checking in!” “Any signs of baby yet?” Maybe you’re a nicer person than me (most everyone is) and you’ll think it’s so lovely that people care. But maybe you’ve been isolated for most of your pregnancy due to a pandemic and really thought this baby would be coming early so your fuse is shorter than normal. This is why you lie from the beginning.

If you’re still pregnant a week before your actual due date and you haven’t taken my advice, the texts become phone calls. “When’s that baby coming?” I DON’T KNOW, GRANDMA. Shut off your phone. Just shut it down. Absolutely nothing constructive will come out of your mouth after 39 weeks. You will not need reminders from everyone around you that you’re pregnant. Did people do this in the olden days before instant communication? I doubt it. Pretend it’s still 1954, Linda, and don’t waste a phone call on, “You had that baby yet?” You are 100% allowed to get snarky as hell. “Oh shit, there’s a baby coming?!” Save a Google images photo of a baby of a different race than yours will be and text it to people, “He arrived last week. Forgot to tell you!” (Is that problematic? Probably.)

My frustration came from: 1- if you’re close enough to me to inquire about the status of my uterus, you will be told when it’s empty. It’s not like we’ve kept the pregnancy from you; why would the birth be any different?! and 2- No one, and I mean no one, Mother, wants this baby out more than me. I want to meet him. I want to see what he looks like. I don’t need you reminding me every day that he’s not here yet. The WORST is when they follow it up with “Oh well, he’ll come when he comes.” THEN WHY DID YOU ASK. I don’t want your platitudes, I want an induction!!

Tangential advice to anyone with a pregnant person in your lives, if you hadn’t picked up on it already: don’t ask. Don’t ask the due date from the beginning. Don’t ask towards the end where the baby is. You’ll be told when you’re told. All I know about Natalie’s baby is that it’s allegedly arriving in March. Am I fully in my rights to start texting her the last week of February since NATALIE HERSELF violated all of the above rules and bothered me late in my pregnancy? I am. But I won’t because I’ve been there, and I know that she doesn’t need a reminder from me that something very big is about to happen. If I haven’t heard anything by mid-May, I might pick up the phone.

Fed is Best

Natalie texted me a question this morning about breastfeeding. Instead of keeping this very personal and sometimes sensitive topic between friends, I decided to post the answer on the Internet where people are known for being totally reasonable and respectful, especially when it comes to stuff that is absolutely no one’s business like how you keep your child alive!

When I was pregnant, the plan was to 100% breastfeed my son for a couple reasons. 1- I am cheap and formula costs more cash money than breastmilk. (I’ve read you’re not supposed to say “it’s free!” because, as I learned, you’re paying a LOT in time, mental energy, did I mention time, oh yeah it takes up so much time, time time time. But we’ll get to that.) 2- I fully believe in the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby. It’s super cool that your body knows what specific antibodies your baby needs based on their saliva. That’s science!! 3- Bottles, formula, foreign stuff in my kid’s body- no thanks. Just whip out the boob for me, easy peasy!

I did a ton of reading, I got a breast pump, I got a hakaa, I got milk storage bags, I got nursing friendly clothes… you get it. Thankfully I wasn’t completely naive, and when people asked if I was planning to breastfeed (can we talk about THAT, by the way?? I know they’re just trying to be… I don’t know, helpful? But it’s weird. Don’t ask people that.) I would say, “If we’re able! That’s the plan, but I’ll do whatever we need to get him fed.”

After he was born, we did the golden hour of skin to skin and he did what so many newborns have biologically done before him & he wriggled his little brand new self down and latched like a champ. Success! I felt super lucky that it came so easy for us– he was a great eater in the hospital and we were on our way to my dream of exclusively breastfeeding for at least six, if not 12, months. What follows are a few things I’ve looked back on since and wondered if they contributed to the fact that I’m writing this next to a kid who’s been exclusively formula fed for over a month now, but I’ve had to accept that it doesn’t really matter. I can’t go back and change the past. I can learn from it if we have a second child and I want to try again, but in all the ways the fourth trimester have handed me my own ass, I choose to not let this be the thing that breaks me.

When the hospital lactation consultant came to visit, our son wasn’t in the room with us. I was a little concerned that she wasn’t actually able to assess him eating, but the nurses all reported things were going great, and the LC encouraged me to do follow up after we got home if we needed. He wasn’t in the room because he was getting circumcised (there! I said it! If you comment anything about our decision that doesn’t affect you AT. ALL. I will <insert empty threat here.>) This is important info, though, because after this procedure, babies are VERY TIRED. A newborn that is very tired will choose sleep over eating.

I was already pretty distraught that day because they told us the procedure would be happening that morning, then they said maybe not til the afternoon, then they came and got him for it just before 11 a.m. He was due for another feeding around 11:30 and I said, “Uhhhh isn’t he supposed to eat?” and long story short, he missed this feeding and wouldn’t wake up for his next one so he ended up going for like six hours without food. Six hours without food for a teeny tiny one day old baby is too many hours without food. He ended up finally waking up just enough to eat, but that night when they weighed him, the nurse said he was “close” to having lost 10% of his body weight and asked if were ok with them supplementing him with formula.

I knew from all my reading that this was a possibility, and I didn’t want to say, “No, please don’t feed my son if he needs it” so I agreed. They supplemented him with a couple mL of formula and no one died. He was just fine in the morning so he didn’t need any more supplementing. I found out later that the nurse was just being preemptive and that the hospital pediatrician never had a problem with his weight. A lesson for everyone doing this for the first time, ask questions! “Close” to 10% weight lost is not actually 10%. Turns out it was closer to 9 and while that doesn’t sound like that big of a difference, apparently it is when you’re only seven pounds.

ANYWAY– we get home, things are fine, then it’s nighttime on his third night of life. Around 10:30 p.m. it becomes apparent that our happy breastfeeding situation has come off the rails. Kid is HUNGRY and I don’t have enough of what he wants. I’d heard tales of women waking up nearly needing a new mattress after their milk came in, but mine just… never did. There was no, “Ta da! I’m here! We’ve officially switched from colostrum!” It did change to regular ol’ breastmilk, but in paltry amounts. Like, if we were on the prairie in the 1800s and I was his only source of food, this kid would have died. (Am I being dramatic? I don’t know!! I’m sure in the 1800s my body would have done what it needed to and hopefully ramped up production? But it didn’t in 2020!)

Thankfully before we had left the hospital, we had three little Similac sample bottles in our bassinet drawer from when they had supplemented him, so I just threw ’em in the diaper bag (Natalie, take everything in that hospital room that’s not nailed down. Seriously.) As I’m trying to comfort a screaming, hungry baby that first night home, my husband asked if he should go get one of those bottles. Every “Breast is best!” and formula-feeding horror (shame) story I’d read flooded my brain, but I was too tired to be proud in vain. I said yes, we popped that bottle in the kid’s mouth, and I promise you that was the most content I’d yet to see him.

I don’t want to make this long story longer, so we did combo feeding for two months. We would still breastfeed and I would pump, but he also got formula. I’d say about 20% of his consumption was breastmilk. Some breastfeeding zealots reading this are probably thinking, “Well duh, your body never made more milk because it never needed to.” i understand that if we had done a 24-hour lie in where I did nothing but offer the baby my boob for a full damn day, my body likely would have responded by ramping up production. But reader– I didn’t want to. Ooh it feels so spicy saying that aloud! Do you know how much time of your life is spent breastfeeding if that’s how your exclusively feeding your kid? A LOT. I’m not saying this to discourage anyone– I have so many friends who are doing it and they deserve a million dollars and a year’s vacation. I’m just telling you because I didn’t know. You can hear the statistic that you spend 40 hours a week breastfeeding your newborn, but until you’re living those 40 hours, you can’t yet feel them in your exhausted bones and soul.

Finally, a note on pumping. Again, it’s not evil, just want you to know that it’s not always the breezy set up the breast pump companies want you to believe it will be. It took me a few tries to find the right sized flanges for my pump, and I had a real not-loving relationship with it. I learned about myself that if it’s 3 a.m. and I’ve been up twice already since going to bed, I’m going to choose sleep over pumping every time. If I had a 40 minute window when baby was napping, pumping didn’t win out over feeding myself and showering. Of course I had a ton of guilt around this, and I felt shame when people (family… it’s always family) would ask how breastfeeding was going or offer tips to increase my supply.

I had to consciously work to reframe the narrative and think, “I’m giving my son what I can, and that’s enough. I’m proud of what I’m able to produce for him. No one’s story looks like anyone else’s story.” I’m thankful to have a very supportive partner who never pressured me either way. If anything, he felt thrilled he could contribute when we added bottles of pumped milk and formula so he could bond with the baby while feeding him. The overachieving part of my brain reads through this and sees the places where I “failed” or made choices that maybe could have produced a different outcome for our feeding tale, but I’ll never know. I had to let go of the dream of having a freezer stash of breastmilk, and instead be grateful for the reality of the (now very chunky) baby sitting in front of me. He’s happy and healthy, no matter how he came to grow that way.