We all have that friend who announced her pregnancy on Facebook, complete with cute baby bump pictures and updates (or “bumpdates,” as I called them). We followed along waiting to finally hear of the arrival of her new baby, to see pictures, and learn what name they picked. We “liked” the posts and went about our day. Our friend, now a new mom, continued to regularly post pictures and status updates. We liked as many as we could, but then it started to get excessive. We didn’t need to know what color her baby’s poop was or how she just learned that newborns can projectile vomit across the room. And please don’t tell us about your cracked nipples from breastfeeding. TMI! We started to think she might be in parental overshare mode. There’s even a trendy word for this phenomenon now:
What I think we should consider when we see a new mom oversharing is that, although this mom may seem single minded (which, let’s face it, she probably is, babies tend to do that to you), there may be more to the story beyond vanity. Before we judge new mothers for posting too much and get in debates about whether or not you should even share pictures of your child on the internet, let’s think about what that mom’s state of mind might be after the birth of her child. Isolated? Terrified? Alone?
I remember the feelings well and I promised myself that I wouldn’t forget, because I always wanted to use my experience to be more thoughtful when interacting with other moms. After the birth of my daughter in 2013, I felt completely isolated. My husband had returned to work a week after our daughter was born and my family and friends lived several states away. I was alone and had no idea what I was doing. It was terrifying.
In addition to feeling alone, I also felt disconnected from “the real world.” My world consisted of diaper changes, breastfeeding on demand (two words: cluster feeding), rocking, bouncing, frantic “what does that sound mean?” inquiries, and zero sleep.
I was also not thrilled with taking my newborn outside, for fear of killer germs and too much jostling of her head in the car. Oh, and the screams and choking sounds from the backseat due to her horrible reflux issues weren’t great motivators either. I thought of my life before baby, but it seemed like a distant memory. I knew the world kept spinning, but I wasn’t moving with it.
Staying connected on Facebook was one of the only indicators and proof that there was a world beyond my sleep deprived days. I liked seeing people’s updates on their lives and it was a welcome distraction. Because I felt so isolated and, in many ways, trapped in my house, I wanted to feel like I was interacting with this so called “outside world.” I posted pictures of my baby and little anecdotes to stay connected and, because my family lived far away, it was one of the easiest ways to keep them updated, too. I felt like I was participating. It was almost like I was saying, “don’t forget about me, guys. I’m still here.”
I’m sure someone thought I was oversharing, but at the time it was the best I could do to keep up. I knew that most people didn’t care as much for the overshare on my baby’s sleep habits or my breastfeeding struggles, but that was literally all I did. My days were consumed by these details. Prior to having a baby, I was used to measuring my success by the feedback I received from bosses, teachers, or grades. In taking care of a newborn, there is no feedback. There is no way to tell if you’re doing it “right” or doing it well. The lack of feedback can be discouraging for recovering perfectionists like me. Hearing “you’re doing a great job” from a friend online or in person can go a long way.
So let’s return to that new mom who keeps posting pictures and updates on Facebook. My experience can in no way speak for all moms, but maybe this mom just likes pictures. Maybe she thinks her baby is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Maybe she had a tendency to overshare before her baby was born, so this is just a natural outcome. Maybe her family is pressuring her to post more, so they can feel included. Maybe this mom, like me, is struggling with feelings of isolation, baby blues, or the early onset of postpartum depression. The truth is, we can’t know for sure. What we do know is that most likely that mom is seeking connection and looking for encouragement. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to extend kindness and support to someone who has just experienced one of the most life-changing and miraculous events of her life. Next time, instead of judging this mom, it might be more helpful to try and think about how we can communicate our care and concern for her. A simple “like” could be the needed encouragement to make her day.