A child’s privacy – when does it begin?

Privacy has been on my mind a lot in the last couple of days. It all started with one of my Facebook friends posting the occasional picture of one of the babies she watches pretty regularly. All of the pictures are completely appropriate (and adorable), but it still made me think about whether the baby’s parents are aware of – and more importantly, okay with – her sharing photos of their child online.

It’s new-ish territory; after all, social media makes sharing more instant and public than emailing a select group of family and friends or, *gasp*, actually mailing photo prints of the little one’s recent accomplishments. None of us is a stranger to privacy debates, but for me it’s one thing to consider how much of myself I want to put out there and a completely different thing to think about in terms of our child. I am an adult, with the capacity and resources to control my online presence and take steps to correct any abuses of my name, likeness, etc. My husband has the same capacity and resources, but Kid A does not. Even in our tech-centered world, it’s a little strange to think that even before he has taken a breath or experienced gravity that he may already have his own online presence.

Admittedly, we have taken liberties in that department – we created his online presence the day we announced the pregnancy via social media. We have given the Web world his name, a guesstimate of his birth date, and even his first two pictures. This whole blog, while not always focusing on him specifically, came into being because of him. We will use the Internet to tell the world when he becomes a part of it, and in order to reach our nearest and dearest who are farthest away we will also use it to share the milestones I mentioned earlier. So, it falls to us as the creators of that presence to responsibly curate it until he is old enough to begin taking on that role himself.

The issue of posting pictures on Facebook was the center of my concern. Who has the right to post pictures of our son – grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends? How much veto power should we exercise over those decisions? What about sharing pictures that we have posted? After some discussion at the dinner table last night, I think we came up with a pretty safe set of best practices:

  • Who has the right to post pictures?  Grandparents and aunts and uncles, I believe, should have the right to share pictures that they take while A is with them. With that power comes great responsibility, of course, but he is an important part of their lives and vice versa and we can certainly trust our closest loved ones to treat his privacy (and ours) with the same consideration we do. Outside of immediate family, express permission should be given.
  • Veto power: On that note, there are certain pictures that Brian and I agreed would never be appropriate. Bath time pictures are just unacceptable in general – I would honestly be angry if I even knew these pictures were taken. Diaper pictures are not as bad, but should not be shared on the Internet. Basically, A should be clothed in shared pictures. Beyond that, as amusing as the idea of the “we’ll pull this out when he’s 16” picture may be in theory, nothing that potentially hurtful to his dignity should become public (even pseudo-public) fodder. Those are the pictures that should remain safely in the family’s hands.
  • Sharing our pictures? Ohhhh, but this is a much easier question than I originally thought. My concern, like so many others who share pictures on Facebook, was that any of my friends could share our pictures and thereby open them up to a wider audience than we intended. However, Facebook’s privacy settings (when used properly) don’t allow that to happen. If you, my Facebook friend, share a picture I posted, then only our mutual friends will actually be able to see the picture – everyone else will see a notification that the picture is restricted. And let’s face it – anybody who should be seeing those pictures is already my friend as it is.

This will obviously be a work in progress, but I’m willing to do what I can from the beginning to preserve A’s privacy online so when he is old enough to curate his own online presence he doesn’t have to go back and undo any damage.

On that note…

One of my Huffington Post reads this morning is a timely piece of kindling for the privacy fire. What I Found in My 5-Year-Old Daughter’s Diary is blogger Kim Bongiorno’s ode to her little girl’s capacity to love – and also, in my not-so-singular opinion based on the comments she’s received, an inappropriate violation of her little girl’s privacy.

Facts, based on the post:

  • Bongiorno’s daughter requested a diary; when she received it, she took specific steps to maintain her privacy (wearing the key on a ring and giving vocal warnings about her intent to write, specifically)
  • Bongiorno, curious about her daughter’s writing, opened and read the diary
  • Touched by what she read, Bongiorno snapped photos of various pages and attached them to her post

Bongiorno describes specific thoughts she worried her daughter was having, and admits that “curiosity got the best of [her]”, though at no time does she mention ever sitting down with her daughter and just asking – whether about her thoughts or for permission to read her diary. Instead, she took it upon herself to unlock it and read. Then, she posted her daughter’s writing for the world to see – again, without any indication that she asked for permission to do so.

I can understand part of the motivation here, though I don’t think the situation was serious enough to require breaking trust with her daughter. If a parent is concerned that their child is engaged in harmful thought patterns or behavior, and talking to them fails, it is understandable if not entirely kosher to look for guidance in her/his more private thoughts. But going a step further and sharing those thoughts with potentially millions of strangers is completely unacceptable. I don’t care that she’s five, that she’s working on her spelling or that her innermost thoughts are innocent and pure and just make you want to go “awww”. They are her thoughts, and clearly she has reached an age where she boasts at least a basic understanding of privacy.

Several commenters on the original post mention that their privacy was violated in similar fashion by overly curious parents, and even years later they have trouble coming to terms with the repercussions of that behavior. I consider myself lucky that my private thoughts remained so, but that makes me even more dedicated to making sure we do the same for our kids.

I’m not Kim Bongiorno. I don’t know her and do not know how her family works. Maybe she’s completely right in her comments that her daughter will be “tickled” rather than tormented when (and it is a “when”) she sees her childhood diary pages in the eternal history of the Web, and maybe she isn’t. And disagree with her though I do, I don’t want this to be an indictment of her personally. All I can really say is, this is a prime reminder to me of how not to build trust with A and his potential future siblings.

 

32 weeks!

I think somebody has been spiking my meals with Miracle-Gro. I’ve tripled my initial pregnancy weight gain in just the last two months (bringing us to a grand total of 9 pounds gained…at least until next week’s appointment), and there is certainly no mistaking my bump for anything other than a healthy growing baby. I didn’t realize just how spoiled I was at my minimal weight gain until it started to pile on, or until our second childbirth class last week when the instructor started talking about losing that “20-25 pounds you took 9 months to gain”.

Otherwise, we appear to be progressing quite normally. One big change is that I’m sleeping (mostly) through the night again, except for periodic tossing and turning to take the pressure off of my legs. Our bed is going to become one large pillow nest before this pregnancy is over, but try as I might there just isn’t enough cushion for my damn knees. I feel like an 80-year-old woman with the joint pain…and the rest stops I take halfway up the stairs…and the fact that I need a nap to recover from my napping.

I feel good. I’m excited to meet Arthur, and I dare say we’re almost ready. The baby shower is in just under two weeks, at which point we’ll have (or know) what we need to finish off the nursery and every other room in the house. The next two weeks will be shuffling furniture between the spare bedrooms so they’re set up for an influx of pre-shower company (I hope the downstairs shower is working!), and generally getting things into a semblance of order that I can handle. I’m definitely ready for the nesting phase to kick in.

I’ve also been incredibly frustrated over the last two weeks – disappointed that, once again, I seem to have misplaced my trust in other people. I’m caught between wanting to have it out and simply not having the energy to sustain the confrontation, not to mention a sinking suspicion that any confrontation won’t really change anything. I can only change myself. My mom, meanwhile, went from echoing my anger to counseling restraint. As she says, these pregnancy emotions have already led me to (rightly) end one relationship, and she doesn’t want to see me end one that has “always kind of been this way”. As I said, I don’t have the energy to have it out as it is; for now, I’m going to just let things ride and concentrate on the people in my life who need and deserve all of me – first and foremost, kicking Kid A.

(Fun change in the “kicking”: since Arthur is now head-down, there’s significantly more movement toward the bottom of the bump – some of it rather painful. His kicking and twisting, meanwhile, has taken on the feel of one of those massage pads that you might buy at Brookstone for the couch. It’s like he’s placed one of those pads across the front of my uterus and turned it on, making the massage ball just press and roll across the surface. It’s a curious comparison but it seems to fit.)

There’s nothing earth-shattering to report, which is for the best. Hopefully the next few weeks continue to go smoothly, and then we’ll be on baby watch!

 

Antepartum Depression

There’s an unfortunately common refrain in my family about my reaction to pregnancy, particularly in the last couple of months: I’m a bitch. I’m mopey. Pregnancy agrees with me physically but psychologically it has turned me into my own evil twin, a shadowy reflection of myself that my mom promises Brian will “disappear…hopefully” once Arthur is with us. I’ve hinted toward it in previous posts, but I think it’s time to confront the possibility head-on. Maybe it will help me come to terms with my own feelings; at the very least, it may help other expectant mothers who think they’re suffering alone.

I’m afraid I may have antepartum depression.

Really, it’s a thing. Just Google “antepartum depression” and you’ll find a wealth of first-person accounts, as well as far too little insight from psychological organizations. It’s a “thing” that resembles the normal hormonal symptoms of pregnancy (mood swings, changes in sleep and eating patterns, etc) so it can be difficult to distinguish from just “being pregnant”, but as with any clinical psychological issue there are some characteristics that make this something more than normal (symptoms and triggers below, among others, from American Pregnancy Association’s “Depression in Pregnancy” page):

  • a family history of depression (check)
  • persistent sadness (check)
  • difficulty concentrating (definitely check)
  • anxiety (check)
  • feelings of guilt and worthlessness (are these people spying on me??)

Turns out my fears of losing control are legitimate.

Some days, all I do (or all I want to do, if I’m at work) is cry. Cry over nothing, cry over everything. I stepped on my cat’s paw Saturday night and it unleashed a torrent of sobbing over the thought that I had hurt my precious furbaby – if I can’t even keep him safe, it must be a sign that I’m going to screw up the rest of my family too. I cry that the dishes aren’t done and that I want to want to do something (anything) but that I’m so tired and all I can muster the energy for is slowly climbing the stairs to go back to bed in a monotonous routine. I’m a terrible wife and does that mean I’ll just be a terrible mother too?

There have been fleeting moments when – and I cannot believe I’m about to admit this to anybody but Brian – I considered that things might be better if we just hadn’t gotten pregnant. That thought makes me feel like a monster, never mind that I love this little guy so, so much and couldn’t imagine actually losing him. I hated myself for allowing the thought in, and I hated myself for looking my husband in the eye and voicing it out loud. And, I hate myself just a little bit for writing it here. But I can’t be the truest version of myself and deny that the thought ever existed. I am not a monster, despite these sometimes monstrous feelings.

Every day isn’t awful – in fact, some days are downright fantastic. I’m down-in-the-gut thrilled to meet Arthur, and even on the horrible days my rational brain is pounding at the door of my crazy brain to step aside and let in the light. That contradiction has kept me from fully entertaining the possibility that the bad feelings could be anything but normal hormones, but I have to confront these feelings for what they may be – for Arthur, for Brian, for myself. I may not be strong enough to get over it on my own, but by reaching out I hope that it’s something we can overcome together.

(And yes, I’ll tell my doctor – always mention important things like this to your OB!)

Week 29/30: Ultrasound #3 and dropping…

We’re in the home stretch! (Or for me, the home don’t-stretch-too-much…) We’re going to a shower in less than four weeks (26 days, to be precise!) and I can’t begin to imagine how real it will feel once we get there.

Not that it doesn’t feel real now – some days, it feels all too real. I never stopped to think about how much strain other non-midriff parts of my body would take in carrying our little boy, but my legs are staging a pretty constant protest at this point. If you know me in the real world you will understand the tragedy of my biggest issue: I can’t find shoes that are cute AND comfortable. Of course, there’s more: though I’ve always been a tosser-turner in my sleep, I imagine I make quite the spectacle now with my roll-over productions. I can’t stay on one side for too long or my knees start to groan and my calves threaten to cramp, so when I finally have to turn I have to take it one painstaking move at a time so I can also transfer the bump without incident…or falling off the bed. 🙂

As I mentioned in my last post, we were scheduled for an additional ultrasound last week to determine Arthur’s size. He is a fast-growing, healthy boy for sure! As of five days ago he measured at the upper end of the normal growth range for his age, and weighed in at a whopping 3 1/2 pounds. All of his organs and limbs are working perfectly, and I even got to watch him punch me in protest over the ultrasound tech’s invasion of his peace and quiet. Strangely enough, once the doctor came in to take over he decided it wasn’t worth the argument anymore and just lay there, little heart a-chugging. We’re still on schedule for a final ultrasound the week of Memorial Day to see how big he’s grown, but if my earlier predictions are correct then the doctors can just measure Arthur on the outside! (We shall see…)

Arthur continues to collect adorable stuff and things that I can’t wait to display in the nursery. For Easter, my in-laws gave us a basket of goodies: socks, a crib sheet, cute onesies and of course, some elephants! (I may have to appropriate the Horton plush, he’s just too cute!) In the meantime, my mother is teasing me about the “thing” she bought for Arthur that she won’t tell me all about…something about waiting until the shower, when she knows that patience isn’t my strong suit. Perhaps the lesson is part of the gift? How very Zen.

We also received a surprise package over the weekend, baby gifts from a good friend who won’t be able to make the shower. (Your thank-you card is in the mail!) One of the gifts was a memory book for the first five years (okay, so really everything in the first year and then a two-page spread for each of the subsequent four years) – I picked it out not just because of the cute little turtles on the front but also in hopes that, you know, we will be good about chronicling this stage in our lives and his. Like a good little worker bee, I started yesterday! It’s fun but also a little overwhelming to see the little details in print; like planning for the shower, writing this book makes things that much more real.

I can’t believe we’re just about ready to count down the weeks in single digits. Can’t stop now!