08/12/2011 12:22 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Is Our Interest In Other People's Birth Stories A Little Bit Much?

Woman in labour

I was on Twitter when Rebecca went into labour, and when she posted that her waters had broken, I actually clapped. Then I tweeted my congratulations, posted to Tumblr about how excited I was, and wondered on and off for the rest of the day how the birth of her twins
was going.

So who is Rebecca to me: sister, best friend, woman whose children I'm adopting, perhaps? Nope. She's just one of my favourite bloggers, who has no idea I exist. And she's the fourth blogger this year whose baby pictures I've cooed over.

For writers who already share so many details of their personal lives online, it's not much of a leap to talking about stretch marks and episiotomies, especially as some of the people reading will be their close friends and relatives.


But what about the rest of us? Are we maybe being a bit... creepy? When one of my Facebook friends pointed out that baby scans are essentially snaps of an internal organ, I started to think we might be. The internet has given us unprecedented access to the most personal moments of some people's lives but isn't there a voyeuristic aspect to our interest?


"Perhaps," says Dr Aimee Morrison, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, Canada, who has been researching and writing about the mummy blogging community since 2008. "But it's not voyeurism, strictly speaking, if the writers have chosen to publish the information you access. Many women, in fact, explicitly break taboos in recounting the 'gory details' of their birth stories: these are powerful, life altering experiences."

That was certainly the case for Jordan Reid of popular lifestyle blog Ramshackle Glam, whose pregnancy I also followed this year. She knows who I am - we've exchanged occasional emails - but prior to the internet, I never would have known about her mixed feelings about gaining baby weight or been privy to photos of her giving birth.

She says, "I think labour is a topic that women fear discussing because there's so much pressure to do everything 'perfectly'. I wanted to show what my experience was as honestly as possible."

On the award-winning Not Another Mummy Blog, Fern Tracy has shared everything from how she feels about her body post-pregnancies, to the black humour that helped her cope following the devastating stillbirth of her daughter.

While she says her blog comments are always supportive, she has received unpleasant emails, including one that blamed her for her daughter's death. But they haven't shut her down: "I still try to be as open as possible. People like to see the ups and downs of life, not a sanitised version," she says.


But considering I'm childless and don't intend to give birth any time soon, is it weird that I get so involved, to the point that I worried when Rebecca Woolf's babies were in intensive care, and shed a tear when I saw their first photos?


Psychologist Graham Jones says not: "Before blogs came along, we were interested in all kinds of gossip. We're programmed to be interested in other people."

He says that I could also be subconsciously working out whether having kids is for me: "Even if you're not planning to have children, you can learn from other people's experiences what that might be like. It's a kind of defence mechanism that lets us prepare for things in a less
anxiety-provoking way."

Most interest in bloggers' lives may be harmless, but some still prefer to hold back when it comes to their children. Jordan Reid has chosen not to publicly reveal her son's name. "His life is not open for discussion the same way mine is," she explains.

Meanwhile, Cally Taylor may be the most secretive mother on the internet. She normally
blogs about writing books (her latest is Home for Christmas) and has been happy to share the
details of her journey to publication. But when she became pregnant, she felt too superstitious to spill the beans, telling her readers only that she had a "secret project" under way.

She's since posted a couple of baby photos but won't be disclosing her son's name or much
about him. "I figure it's his decision if he wants to be Google-able or not," She says. "And he might not appreciate his mum sharing info about his childhood with the entire web."

It might be unusual, perhaps a little paranoid, to think about a child's digital legacy when they've just been born, but we won't know the consequences of children growing up internet-famous for at least another decade.

Graham Jones says it's important to consult kids about their online profile as they grow up and to consider making especially personal blog posts private.

But some mums would rather let it all hang out and hope for the best. Fern Tracy says, "I think for every creep online, there are about 50 people who are quite normal."

I just hope I'm one of them.