Verity Johnson: Parents please don't share your birth photos

Verity Johnson: Parents please don't share your birth photos

OPINION: The first time I learnt about how giving birth can tear your vagina I was in a work meeting.

For some reason we'd gotten around to discussing childbirth and suddenly everyone was getting animated. There were many, many horror stories of friends who couldn't sit down for months after, friends who needed stitches and always the cheery reminder, "it'll happen to you one day, Verity."

If anything would ever make me really determined for it not to happen then it would have been that conversation. That and the flood of Instagram snaps I've seen recently of birth photos. I didn't even know taking a photo in the birthing suite was allowed, let alone a popular fad.

But after some digging and interviewing some pregnant friends I learnt that this is apparently an expected pre-birth discussion point. Not only do you now have to discuss the merits of various names ("But I love the name Rudolph Mungo Beetroot!") but now you have to decide if you want photos of your baby's head leaving your body.

I don't know if it's because I'm too young, have no kids, or just have the maternal instincts of a scrubbing brush. However I just don't like the idea of taking photos of someone giving birth. But if you insist on doing that, which is of course your right, then I like the idea of you putting them on Facebook even less.

The problem is Facebook and Instagram are pumping out content to a very large, diverse audience. Some of those people you're only friends with because you drunkenly pashed them once in a bathtub at a party. Some of those people, namely me, do not want to see placenta. And some of those people, namely me, are so highly squeamish they can't even say the word "poo". This means that while some people may love seeing your birthing photos, some people really, really don’t want to.

And the issue with social media is that you can't control what photos you see. Social media just dumps content indiscriminately on you. I mean, of course you can un-follow someone, but that only generally happens after you've been scarred for life. And don't tell me it's not scarring because it's natural and therefore beautiful. Lots of natural things aren't beautiful. Take pubic hair. Or ant eaters.

In real life, you would not go around to everyone in the office with polaroids of your placenta. You just wouldn't do it. You'd show people who asked to see them. That's fine. But you would control who you showed because you acknowledge that some people would be grossed out.

So why do it online?

It seems part of this set of weird social media rules where it's ok to be rude, shocking or explicit in ways it's not ok to be in reality. I'm not just talking about trolling. I'm talking about putting up racist jokes, or taking a photo in your g string, or sharing photos of mangled bodies in car accidents.

In real life you'd pause before you did this because our lives are governed by subtle social rules. And these rules would say, "Um, people might find this rude/weird/uncomfortable. Do you really want to do this?" On Facebook you just chuck it up and justify it with, "well it's my body/opinion/humour so I can do what I want with it." Well you can, but there's a reason you'd be more hesitant in real life. You don't want to be rude.

So I'm not saying don’t take birthing snaps if you want.

Just put them in a private folder which people can click on to view. Don't just chuck them up publicly. There are some people out there who might have sensitive stomachs or be eating something tomato-based at the time.