Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Is It Necessary to Include Ultrasound Photos in Announcements?

Last night was not a good night. Yesterday was a good day, being the last day of school with students and that dichotomy of best day/worst day, saying goodbye to everyone and knowing that at this time next week, summer will officially be here. But last night? A disaster.

Pregnancy announcements generally don't upset me as much any more, not the way they used to. I have learned to "like" them, and to never, EVER comment directly on the post. That results in a flood of notifications and then I'm reminded for days of just how much congratulations you get for achieving pregnancy, and of how awful it is to see varying iterations of the comments "welcome to the club" (that I'm left out of), "you'll never know a love like this" (maybe that's true in a way, but does that mean my un-mothered love is shallow???), and others that I don't need to see over, and over, and OVER. I either leave it at a shallow "like," or I post right on their page.

This one, however, was different.

It was weird that it affected me so much, because I knew it was coming. The mama-to-be in question is a cousin of a friend of mine, and my friend let me know the happy news weeks ago.

But it broke something inside me when it was official on Facebook, and I'm trying to figure out why.

Is it because I was 13 when she was born, I remember her beginnings as a baby and now she herself is having a baby?

Maybe.

Is it because I'm going into summer no closer to being a mama myself than at the beginning of the school year and I'm particularly sensitive due to that fact?

Maybe.

Was it the celebratory last-day-of-classes margaritas that made me a little weepy on a day where I was already emotionally drained from all the goodbyes?

Maybe.

These things all contributed, I'm sure. But I think I know the kicker.

The photo announcement was perfectly cute -- a couple with their adorable dog, signs saying how the dog was so good that he's getting a human for Christmas. Adorable. Pin.terest-worthy.

But then...she also proudly held up her ultrasound. A small black-and-white picture, a circle of dark fluid, and a bright white little blip, a sac.

It wasn't the biggest thing in the announcement photo as a whole. It wasn't as blatant as someone I know who announced the sex of her unborn child by, I kid you not, photoshopping a princess crown on a second trimester ultrasound picture. Is this a feature in Sna.pchat? What the hell is going on?

It caused a swiftly downward spiral. I wasn't surprised, I knew. It wasn't the announcement of the news itself. It was that goddamn sac ultrasound.

I couldn't help but think of my own picture, of a much smaller sac, but similar dynamics--smaller black void, smaller white blip, and then knowing that that was the ONLY picture of something growing somewhat normally inside of me I'd ever, ever have.

It hit me like a smack to the face with a two-by-four, this image that multiplied like a zillion Warhols, like the way a fly would see an ultrasound picture that was mine, one that ended not in a gender reveal but in bed rest that didn't work, in plummeting values, in animal sobs so loud I wondered if the neighbors were going to call the police. An image that is the only proof that once I was pregnant in my uterus, that once I had hope this could all be behind me, and that was the only experience I ever got. And that picture was taken on the day I bled, to prove maybe it would be okay. It wasn't.

I got real silent and weird at our Mexican restaurant. Bryce asked what was making me so sad and I told him, rather snappily, that I didn't want to talk about it there, in the restaurant. And when we got in the car, I cried. It started quiet and silent, and then just built up to this crescendo of sorrow, this overwhelming feeling of grief in what could-have-been, and I couldn't stop.

I cried for an hour. I cried until I couldn't breathe. It was like mourning that loss all over again, but now with the added slashes of having ended treatment, pregnancy impossible...waiting through adoption and having the one-year mark fast upon us without a match...having our profile with the couple who Snowflakes sent us and waiting to see if they choose us, if they choose our embryos to complete their family. It's a lot to mourn.

Did people used to share early ultrasound pictures before Faceb.ook? I remember seeing one on a friend's fridge, but that seems so much more private. I wonder if anyone ever considers that there are so many women out there who have seen that picture, only to have it ripped away. I don't quite understand this growing trend. Thankfully it doesn't appear to be the profile picture, because that really gets me. Then I don't have a choice, I have to see it, unless I forgo social media (which is seeming like a better idea all the time).

I don't even really like the later ultrasound pictures, especially the creepy 3-D ones. Those I've always hated, not just because I'm bitter but because for some reason, I feel a baking baby is not supposed to be seen in such detail. They look alien. You can sort of see their face before they're born, and people have conversations about noses and eyes and resemblances that really stymie me, because I often don't even see those when the newborn is out and about in the world. Maybe I'm weirdly traditional in this way.

The early scans, though...I feel like there should be more sensitivity. I don't want to take away someone's joy, but is it necessary to include the insides of your uterus, the unrecognizable-as-human blip in the middle? Couldn't that live on your fridge? Why share something so personal, so fragile?

I almost included my own picture here, as a contrast...but that would be hypocritical, right? What if my picture triggered someone else? Mine isn't a joyful image. It isn't a picture of promise, of parenthood to be. It's a representation of impending death. It's a could-have-been, not a what-will-be. And it's personal.

I want to live in the bubble where these things don't happen, where a sac is a photo of promise, not one that was broken.

No, I don't, now that I think on it. It's an insensitive bubble. Not wittingly, but born out of this idea that everything will work out, as I hope it does. It's just that sometimes (more than sometimes) it doesn't, and for those people an ultrasound picture like that triggers all kinds of emotions. To be oblivious to the possibility of that pain is to be oblivious of the possible pain of others who have lost.

I don't want to spend my Friday night wailing about how my uterus is a killing field. I don't want to be reminded that that will never, ever be for me. That once I had a picture not too different from that one, and it was all I had to cling to when I sobbed and sobbed after the dream was lost too soon.

These are the unintended consequences to a joyous announcement, one that might not have caused this level of angst if not for that tiny 3x5 black and white photo. To me, it's an unnecessary addition...and announcements without those grainy pictures of early life are beautiful on their own, maybe even more so. You don't need it like forensic evidence in the shot. We believe you without it.

23 comments:

  1. Jess, I'm so sorry. I agree...those pictures feel like too much. Especially if you once had one. Holding you in my heart this weekend.

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    1. Thank you...it was surprising the impact it had. I wonder if it was a later one, if it would have had the same effect. Ironically, while the princess crown one was ridiculous, it didn't trigger me.

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  2. This is why I never posted a single ultrasound photo or belly shot while I was pregnant. Even though so many preached about how it was normal and tried to convince me I somehow "earned" it. I knew that it would trigger someone unnecessarily. Be they newly diagnosed or in the process of resolving. I didn't want to add to that pain.

    I'm so sorry that you were triggered. That the person making this announcement did so carelessly. I wish infertility and loss on no one, but I wish the message of sensitivity was much more widespread.

    Thinking of you.

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    1. It's funny -- the belly shots don't bother me, even though that will never be mine either. They are external and unavoidable when just walking about, so a picture highlighting the belly doesn't get me the same way as those internal pictures. I feel like ultrasounds are great for family emails, blog posts where you know that there will be a shot like that either from the title or a heads-up...but why they have to be on facebook I don't know. I feel like the decision to share those things or not to is personal. It's a hard line to walk, wanting sensitivity but also not wanting someone to feel fettered. I was totally going to do a maternity photo shoot had I been able to have a belly, but I'm not sure I would have widely shared those photos. Hard to say, never having gotten to that point myself. I like to think I'd have been as sensitive as I wish others would be. :) I appreciate yours and your thoughts! (Also, the person who announced is a lovely individual, just probably oblivious. She'd most likely be horrified to find that that picture caused pain of any kind.)

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  3. I'm sorry Jess. I really am. I hope today finds you feeling a little better.
    I have a lot of thoughts on this. My first is to say that I hate social media for the very reason that people over share everything all of the time. I am no longer on fb, but one reason I got off of there was the general over sharing and not so humble bragging and the ability of a website to make me feel like shit about myself at any given moment over so many ridiculous things. So glad I left and don't miss it at all. The world was better without it, in my opinion. But that's just my soapbox.
    But suffice it to say that the very existence of sites like fb is that people no longer have a real gage about what is too personal...it's almost like everything is fair game. Everyone seems to do it and people sort of expect, and accept, it.
    My second thought is that truly, unless someone has gone through IF or loss, they have NO idea at all that something like a sono pic would trigger someone into tears or worse. I can say for certain that I did not understand the pain of having a miscarriage until it happened to me. I never would have understood that an ultrasound photo, or baby picture, or birth announcement would hurt someone. I had no frame of reference for that, even though while TTC I would feel insanely jealous over pregnant bellies and feel pure hate toward the pregnant one, whether or not I knew them. I wouldn't expect them to understand just the act of waking past me would make me seethe with jealousy. It's easy for us to stand on this side of things and point out all the ways people are insensitive about IF/loss and the like. It's also impossible for someone on the outside to really understand. And the reality is that you probably post something that upsets someone...there are a gabillion things people could find upsetting or offensive or hurtful. There is no way any individual could post something publicly and manage not to offend someone somewhere. It's unavoidable.
    In the age of social media people broadcast everything. It's almost like a right of passage anymore and nothing is sacred. The good, the bad, the ugly, the deeply personal, it all gets shared. It's everyone's right to post what they want, and social media has desensitized us to what might be too much, what we should keep to ourselves, what might bother someone else.
    Oh Jeeze, sorry I wrote a novel. I could go in and on, but I hope you get what I mean.

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    1. I so agree with you on the evils of facebook--especially the "humble brag." It's a funny thing, that there's people who believe if it's not on facebook it didn't really happen (and so every little thing is up there from doing laundry to pictures of every possible thing, so that people are experiencing everything with a phone in their hand). I'm sure that I am guilty of some of these things as well, and I am positive that I have posted something that was offensive to someone else or hurt them, completely unintentionally. I also hate when facebook is a complete nonreality--a whole bunch of the "perfect," of the wonderful, with none of the bumps that make us human. It's not healthy. (There are good things, too, but it's getting harder to pit them against the harmful when it comes to facebook...I like the community and connection with people I don't live near anymore, but I hate what it's done to communication and I hate how different a facebook presence can be from your reality.)

      However, the ultrasound picture didn't offend me. It just struck me as unnecessary, and caused a very specific reaction in me that probably isn't the majority of the people 's reaction. It returned me to a time of trauma, and that wasn't the intent, but is it really necessary to include that picture in an announcement? I wanted to share my reaction to the photo, and my thoughts on how all of a sudden sharing those early photos is fairly commonplace, while miscarriage is also fairly commonplace, and it doesn't take an overly sensitive person to get the connection. I think maybe I'm getting old, and the way that the younger people are cataloging every moment of their life online bothers me...and I do see the irony in this when I write a blog about the most personal things possible. :) I think the difference is that I don't put my blog on facebook all the time, just select posts every once in a while, and you'd have to take some effort to read through the personal things I share here. A photo is instantly burned on your retinas. I just don't like the trend of including the ultrasound in what otherwise is a lovely announcement. I don't harbor resentment against the person who announced...I harbor resentment towards this bubble of obliviousness and this culture where widely sharing your insides when it's not even clearly a baby shaped thing is acceptable and even encouraged. Unnecessary, in my mind. But like you said, people don't have a litmus for what's private anymore, and privacy is largely an illusion now anyway thanks to the internet.

      I really appreciate your thoughts, and you've made me think! I don't mind a long comment like that. I enjoy the conversation.

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    2. Yes, unnecessary. (The ultrasound photo in the announcement) But the large majority of what's on fb/social media is unncessary! Which was my long winded point!
      And I really hope you are feeling better. Even though you have "moved on" to adoption, your heart will probably never be done grieving for all you have lost. So triggers are going to pop up from time to time, sometimes in the oddest of ways where you can't quite put your finger on why. And that's ok! It happens to all of us-you are in good company!

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  4. To answer the question posed in your title: No.

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    1. Right? I guess it's personal preference to do it, but it seems to me to not add anything to do it.

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  5. I am so sorry that it was such a trigger and so upsetting. In some ways I am thankful that my miscarriages were so early that I never saw anything on an ultrasound as I think for me that would have been even harder and felt more real. I agree that's it's totally unnecessary for people to share ultrasound pics with the pregnancy announcements. In the old days you would just hear so and so is pregnant but these days with facebook you can't help but see every single announcement of even people you barely know which I think just rubs it in our faces more!

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    1. I think that's the thing--it's the shift where all of a sudden everything is out there, for everyone. You can't avoid it so much on facebook if you participate. I think for me the reason why those photos (apparently) upset me so much is because my picture like that came as I miscarried--I could easily have missed it had I not gone in until the next day.

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  6. Ultrasounds are not needed anywhere in a pregnancy announcement- especially when they are really early ultrasounds. Don't get me started on the weird 3D ultrasounds too- I don't understand them and think that every baby on them just looks freaky!

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    1. Right? It's not like you would send out a birth announcement and include a picture of the actual birth. Maybe that's not the best analogy, but hey. And yeah--3D ultrasounds definitely fall under freaky.

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  7. I'm so sorry, and I had a similar experience and couldn't logically or emotionally reconcile it either. I knew this friend was pregnant for months already, but when she posted the official announcement with a picture of her daughter holding the ultrasound photo, I lost it. A four hour long panic attack. I thought about it for days. I have had two pregnancies, one of them made it to 12 weeks, and I have never gotten a photo to take home. The only ultrasounds I have had are the kind where the hide the screen from you and then go and get the doctor. Yet the other day at that same friend's house the photos were on her fridge and I was okay. I think when you're in their home, it feels less in your face. Innocently scrolling Facebook, you don't expect to see it. Even if you know it's coming. By all accounts I'm happy for this friend. She had infertility treatments for their first and then this baby is one of those post-IVF miracles. But the ultrasound photo on Facebook. Ugh.

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    1. Oh, Amy, I'm so sorry. It is so hard to be caught off guard like that and then be brought to a time that is awful and have a hard time coming back to the present. I agree, I think on the announcement it carries more weight, it is more unexpected and then throws you for a loop. I think the fridge is a fine place for photos like that, or even in your purse if you want to show people in person (who have the right to say, "oh no thank you"). It's definitely the unexpectedness of the Facebook scroll. And the link to your own loss. (They gave me the photo as a way to feel connected during my bed rest, to see that there was still something there...unfortunately not for long though. Somewhat traumatizing, that.)

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  8. I have to say that I don't quite agree with you. I too have had my fair share of losses and we have always posted the ultrasound pics on FB. Not because we wanted the attention, but in our eyes, every single life should be celebrated. I have always loved when people posted their ultrasound pics on FB. When we were going through our years of loss, I was hurt because we weren't getting pregnant, but I would never want to take away someone else’s happiness. People share things on social media sites for many reasons. For example, my husband and I share pics because we have family and friends that live too far and sometimes, it's easier to post on FB then to call each and every single one of them. I think everyone has the right to post pics on FB. After all, a baby is a baby no matter how small and every single one deserves to be celebrated. We still post about our three that we lost, but we also post about the one growing in my belly. After all, it's not just the person who wants to celebrate, but many family and friends want to celebrate with them. I can understand to a point where you are coming from, but at the same time, when you get your miracle (however God sees fit for you to get him or her), you will want to post to your hearts galore. Not that you don't remember the losses, not that you don't remember the fellow TTC sisters, but simply because that is your miracle and you want to scream it to the world how thankful, grateful, and blessed you are. When we posted about our previous pregnancies, we NEVER ever imagined that we would lose them, but with every single one, we had hope. We knew that if it was meant to be, God would make it last and if not, then He would do as He needed. When we conceived our son (who is due in just 8 weeks), we were shocked! We had given up, stopped all treatment, stopped all plans for adoption, and stopped everything baby related all together. To our HUGE surprise, we got pregnant with him, but does that mean that we forgot the horrible losses? The horrible and traumatic D&C procedure I had to endure with our very first? Or the one we lost in Jan of 2015 where I bled for days straight and it looked like someone had cut me open even though we had just seen the growing sac? What about the twin to our growing baby boy that we will never have t? All of them are 100% remember and we will NEVER EVER regret sharing their short lives with those that surrounded us with love and support. I pray that you can open your heart and see that people who post on FB are not doing so to intentionally hurt you or anyone, they are just happy. Just as you might post about your pet, husband, or anything else that makes you happy. I'm so sorry that you are feeling this. I pray for you daily that you will get your miracle. I pray that you never give up! It's not easy to wait, it never will be and we often get lost in the sea of hatred when in the TTC world. I know that too well! But I also know that I had to put that away and at least be happy for others because I knew when and if my time ever came, that I would want that same happiness to be given in return and, you know what, it was! Please know that I am praying for you!

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    1. I appreciate your perspective and the good wishes in your comment, and I am very sorry for your losses (and happy for your new joy). However, we are going to have to agree to disagree. I don't think the ultrasounds are necessary on facebook, but that doesn't change the fact that they are there or that people will do it and be oblivious to the effect it may have. Of course its anyone's right to post whatever they'd like. The unexpectedness of coming across that affected me, and my post was about the effect that it had on ME, and my personal opinion. But, I respect that you see things differently. I shared pictures of my embryos with people in person because I wanted to share those little bundles of cells that could be babies with those I loved, but I would never have done it on facebook. But again, that's my personal choice. Everyone else of course may do what they want, but I think it's important to voice what may be an unintended consequence of that choice. I am actually very happy for other people. I just don't want to see a close up of a uterus with a sac in it unexpectedly, in what would have otherwise been a very cute announcement.

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  9. My heart hurts for you, and to a lesser extent, for me (the only pictures I got of my uterus were of a gigantic 13cm cyst that obliterated half of my equipment). For the grown babies in the world, the photo is part of their story. Sharing that personal story on Facebook is completely inappropriate in my opinion, but it is out of my control. When I do see them, I usually can't tell where the mote actually is, and that's frustrating on top of everything else (like those 3D "Magic" books where you're supposed to screw up the focus of your eyes).

    The instant-access no-holds-barred culture of Facebook seems to have bastardized societal notions of what is acceptable.

    Thinking of you,
    -Mandy

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    1. Thanks, Mandy. I appreciate the thoughts!

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  10. I've had a post written (but not published) for a year or two about scan photos, but so far I've not been brave enough to post it. Maybe I will, thanks to you.

    Oh yes, and in case you hadn't guessed, my answer is also "no."

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    1. I thought it might be, "no." I would love to hear your perspective on the scan photos. It's been interesting in real life and here to get reactions to my reaction... it ranges from "I get you" to "You're heartless and bitter" to "I don't understand that, but whatever." All from a photo that didn't used to exist at that stage of development until fairly recently. :)

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  11. I am so, so sorry. Ultrasound photos seem like the new "thing" these days, and it is tough. I don't think they belong in pregnancy announcements, and FB is the worst - you never know when they're going to pop up suddenly in a news feed and be a trigger.

    I suspect that the ultrasound photos simply weren't as prevalent a few years ago - it's only more recently that people have early or routine ultrasounds at all. And of course, social media magnifies all of the sharing. Which, frankly, sucks sometimes.

    Personally, ultrasound photos tend to upset me as well. I have never gone into an ultrasound without severe anxiety and some of my absolute worst memories are staring at that screen. I can totally relate to why that announcement would be a huge trigger.

    Thinking of you. It's hard.

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    1. That's it, exactly...the sneak attack popping up is the WORST. I get that these photos exist, I get wanting to share them with close family or friends, I just don't see why it has to be attached to the announcement or in such a public venue. It really does suck. I feel like for so many the ultrasound is not a good experience, and while I don't want to take away from someone else's joy, it would be nice if it was considered that so many people see empty uteruses where there should be something, or something gone awry, or a lining that won't grow preempting a chance to get something in there, or whatever other horrors the ultrasound room can bring.

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