"Of course not," I said, and I have honoured this promise. But the fact is I post a lot of status updates, and most of them are about the baby.
Recently, my baby was sick with a fever and throwing up, and sitting around looking spaced out with her eyes not quite open and not quite closed. It turns out it was just a virus, and she's fine now. But at the time time it was scary enough that we took her down to A&E at Royal Darwin Hospital, since that is the only place you can really take a baby here for an urgent check in the middle of the night. The staff there were lovely, but the doctor was worried because she didn't seem to have gastro or a cold, and speculated that perhaps she was incubating something more serious - that in the past these kind of symptoms without a cause were associated with the start of diseases like chickenpox or measles. He encouraged us to get her checked again if she still had the fever the next day.
When we finished up there I posted a status on facebook about what had happened and where things were at. The next day she was still sick and we were back to A&E. This time we decided to get a urine sample to test for a UTI, which had to be done via catheter, and after we left the hospital I posted a status about that.
Unfortunately, my mum read my status updates and was worried enough to not only try to call my sister and I, but called my mother in law to try and get hold of us. My mother in law rang my husband, who was out fishing, who thought my mum was panicking and was upset that I was making people panic by posting status updates about Bethany's condition on facebook. I didn't have any missed calls on my mobile, but later I saw my mum had posted on facebook that she was concerned, so I gave her a ring. She says she wasn't panicking, but as my husband pointed out she had been worried to the point she decided to ring my in-laws rather than leave a message and give me a few hours to phone back.
Anyway, all this hoo hah to say I ended up in an argument with my husband about why I felt the need to post Bethany's medical information on facebook at all.
The answer is that I was looking for moral support, advice, and to share what was going on with friends and family, particularly other mums. I live thousands of kilometres away from most of my family and some of my closest friends, and facebook is one of the way we keep a sense of what's happening in each other's lives. I am also friends with a number of mums online, and sharing our experiences via facebook is one of the ways I have mitigated the isolation of being a new mum.
I tried to explain this, but my husband just cannot understand what possible benefit I would get from sharing the information. He thinks it is attention-seeking behaviour.
Well, I suppose on one level it is. I obviously didn't post the status update because I wanted to be ignored. I was hoping people would post me well-wishes and reassurance, and they did, and it made me feel a lot better. Is there anything so wrong with that?
He asked would I post a status update if I had a catheter, and the answer is I probably wouldn't. I would feel this information was too private. So why, then, should I post it about Bethany? I suppose I did not think it mattered so much, because she was a baby. I have to change her nappy, and deal with all her bodily fluids, and I don't think she considers these things to be violations of her personal space. I don't think it would bother me to know my parents told people I had a catheter as a baby, as long as they didn't harp on about it at dinner parties or anything. It's not like I'd remember it happening or associate it with any sort of humiliation.
But if it's ok for babies, what age do you stop posting that sort of stuff? I suggested age 2 or 3, because that's when children start to feel embarrassment and shame etc, and when they also start to remember key things that happen to them. Then again, it's not like your 2 or 3 year old will know what you're posting on facebook. Perhaps it's a gradual winding back, so the information you post becomes progressively less sensitive and personal.
I'm afraid I have more questions than answers on this one, despite the fact that I am now working 2 days a week handling privacy complaints, and providing training and policy advice on issues of privacy, which covers these exact kind of topics, although to date I have not seen any discussion of the issue of parents posting about their children.
The ever-enthusiastic Victorian Privacy Commission's latest campaign.
A while ago there was a discussion on my mother's group about posting photos of nekkid bebbies, and views were mixed. One mum pointed out that it doesn't worry her, since her kids run around without clothes on at the beach and it is a kid thing. I suppose the difference is that unlike that day at the beach, which fades into the mists of time, photos and other information you post online can stick around forever. I don't really want Bethany to have people digging up those photos when she is going through her teenage years, or applying for a job interview, or if she decides to run for parliament or anything like that. Then again, would she really care? I can't say I'd be overly worried if someone published a photo of me in the bath from when I was two, because I was two and what does it matter? Still, I'm not sure so (with the exception of one newborn bath photo where you can see her bum) Bethany always has at least a nappy on in anything I post online.
My husband feels I just don't get it. In one sense he's right - I don't understand why sharing my life on facebook bothers him so much. But in a broader sense, I do get it - I understand that it does bother him, and that it is like any behaviour that is taboo in one subculture but not taboo in another. I surround myself by people who post about their lives online. He doesn't. Most of his closest friends and family think posting personal information online is weird. Most of mine think it's normal. Most of my friends and family think it's a bit odd that he likes to go out and shoot pigs, but most of his friends and family think it's normal. He doesn't need to shoot pigs any more than I need to post personal information online, we just like to do these things. And why not, given that from our perspective it's not only normal but part of socialising with our friends? I guess it just becomes difficult when circles of friends with conflicting values overlap.
I rang my mum to talk about what had happened, because I had got a garbled message that she was upset by me posting things about Bethany on facebook. She said: "No, that's not what I said. I want you to post these status updates. That's how I know what is happening you with you and my granddaughter. It's how I feel a part of your lives. Please don't stop posting on facebook!"
So, I don't have any answers, but I'm interested to see if anyone else does. Do you have any rules or limitations when it comes to posting information about your baby online?