This past week I've been suffering from an internal monologue so disturbing I've only just, five days later, been able to put pen to paper on it. It was set off by someone I went to school with but who now barely clings to the edge of my Facebook friendship circle. The story actually begins last week when I was casually grazing my timeline and it appeared - a picture of the latest 4D scan of said 'friend's' unborn baby.
Now, posting of baby scans is something I've always slightly winced at but it was the accompanying text that set my teeth on edge: "Patrick Elliot Smith being a cheeky little boy and not facing the camera for mummy and daddy". This worries me. The poor, high risk, barely formed little ball of flesh and rubbery bone is already being given a name, personality and a reputation for trouble.
This post was quickly followed with another image that to me looked like nothing more then some trapped wind, this time captioned: "Patrick Elliot Smith, 20w 6d". Now, someone please help me here - am I going mad or is everyone else? This foetus is still four weeks one day the wrong side of abortion and has not only had his photograph plastered across a world about as real as the one he's currently living in but he's been NAMED. Yes. Named. Without ever having taken a breath, without being glanced upon for a single second, not even during the scan (you'll remember what a cheeky boy he was being with his back to mummy and daddy). How can you put a name to something that whichever way you look at it is yet to really exist or be as you'll know it?
Aside from the obvious elated string of comments below these posts by every man and his dog there was one right at the top. The most poignant of all: "Halfway there, Best of luck!!" Best of luck, what does that mean? Best of luck, I hope his name turns out to suit him? Best of luck, I hope you manage to get a picture of his face next time? Best of luck, I hope there aren't any complications? What it actually means I'm not sure, but I think it was probably just in case of what actually happened to another couple on Wednesday.
It was on Wednesday at about 2.30pm that I was yet again grazing my Facebook timeline only to be greeted with a picture from one half of a completely different couple to the one I've just been talking about. It's the same back story, she'd spent the last four months with a rotation of baby scans as profile pictures, he'd posted his handy work in the unborn boy's new bedroom and let's not forget the baby shower 'event' and subsequent pictures of flush mum surrounded by little bunty socks and baby grows. Not a great deal could have prepared me for what I was about to read.
"Baby Nathan Jones was born on Sunday at 11am weighing 7lb. He was diagnosed with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CHD) after a four hour fight he grew tired. Mum and Dad bathed him, dressed him and held him in their arms until he fell asleep and grew his wings. Our little man was loved and will always be remembered."
This post, disturbing and upsetting as it was alone, was accompanied by a picture of a very blue-lipped, tiny baby - so unhealthy looking I'm hard pressed to say whether said photo was taken pre- or post-mortem.
I'm not saying I think that sharing the joy of having painted your baby's room is wrong, nor am I saying that Facebook should only be kept for good news and positive stories. I know it's a world where many of us live out our lives in a way that we can (to a degree) control. What I'm saying is that some things are too precious to be so frivolously flaunted and taken for granted. The creation of new life is a wonderful thing but when it goes wrong the grief is a lot to deal with and having hundreds of people commenting, or worse still 'liking' a post about your dead baby isn't how we we're supposed to live, surely?
And where does it stop? Do we start a petition for Facebook to extend the new timeline to include conceived as well as born, that way we can have a Facebook profile four years before we've worked out soiling ourselves isn't the only option - someone invented a toilet.
I really do feel so sorry for people who suffer such awful losses and I feel more for those who suffer them so publicly. Some things just aren't meant for Facebook. I'm aware I'm not one to decide the moral and ethical code of the world's biggest social networking site. That said I think you'd be hard pushed to find someone willing to announce the death of their newborn to a room of hundreds of people they kind of know.
Facebook is a wonderful support network for many people. It's a platform where help can often be found with just a few clicks. It's also the place to shout about things because everyone hears them. I've seen many people grieve and receive support through Facebook, but it's all so public.
To anyone who shares life so freely all I'd say is be careful, protect yourself and the day you find yourself contemplating bad news and if it's too soon to post it to Facebook, give it a miss and make a phone call or two, the sound of a familiar voice far outweighs the sympathy of 200 people you haven't seen or spoken to for as long as you can remember.
This may sound trivial but - five years ago I found out my childhood pet dog had died by my brother posting to Facebook. Occasionally that post somehow crops up and every time it does it's a little poke about the dog having to be sent off to the kennel in the sky but more so it's about the way I found out. I can't imagine the pain and constant reminder a lost child would bring
I hope that couple one in this story fair better than couple two did - I almost feel compelled to send them a note: "Halfway there, Best of luck!!"