The miracle of birth in 140 characters or less

A woman Twitters her way through the delivery room: #toomuchinformation?

Published August 12, 2009 9:13PM (EDT)

Back in the old days (2005), we raised our brows over the trendlet of inviting people, people other than doctors and doulas and daddies, to witness the miracle of childbirth. Friends, in-laws, colleagues: live, right there in the delivery room. Pull up a birthing chair!

Now, through the miracle of YouTube, said guests no longer have to worry about what to wear to an epidural. They can watch the birth -- or not -- from the comfort of their own iBook.

But today, of course, even that is old-school. I mean, it's not even live! Welcome to the micro-trend of micro-blogging the blessed event in real time -- otherwise known as #twitterbirth.

As CNN recently reported, Sara Williams -- wife of Twitter CEO Evan Williams -- herself tweeted during labor and delivery ("Timing contractions on an iPhone app."). (Reports make it sound like she chronicled every birthtastic moment, but after all that, her feed contains just a handful of tweets. #publicitystunt?)

Still, Williams is far from the only one. CNN also mentions birthTwitterer Terra Carmichael, who said: "I coming down from a really painful contraction and...saying, 'Give me my iPhone,' and [my husband] would be saying, 'You are weird. Why are you doing this?’ Some of it was for me. It just felt kinda good to get that out there, put that out to the universe so it wasn't just my pain, so other people could feel it for me and feel it with me a little bit."

Sure, it's tempting to go all Warren-Beatty-to-Madonna on TwitterLabor ("Why would you say something if it's off-camera? What point is there in existing?"). And as psychologist Renana Brooks told the Baltimore Sun (quoted by CNN): "I think it's terrible. One of the few rituals we have, in terms of giving each other undivided attention, is that time in a delivery room. To be spending time writing to someone else destroys the whole ritual."

CNN doesn’t clarify that Brooks was actually speaking specifically about tweeting by babydaddies. But even so -- and though I understand what she’s saying -- I call harsh. First of all, it's Tweeting about labor, not tweeting about work.  I also see -- at very least -- how Tweeting, or working your way through each contraction by mentally composing your next 140 characters, could serve as techno-analgesic, an electronic doula of sorts, a way of both focusing on what's happening and taking yourself away from the worst of it. So I say hey, whatever gets you through the HOLYFUCKINGSHITTHATHURTS. (And, bonus, leaves you -- never mind your Tweeps -- with a real-time log of your experience.) And ultimately, who is anyone to say you and your BirthBerry “destroyed the ritual?”

More broadly, of course, one might see TwitterBirthing as the ultimate proof that we live in the Age of the Overshare. And fair enough. But I still sense a difference between a personal Twitter feed and, say, under-examined confessional journalism, over-examined celebrity lives, various forms of TMI TV, all of the latter (arguably) diminish the gravitas of discourse, substitute voyeurism for storytelling. And perhaps the former is a product of the latter. But at least the former is authentic. (Just one caveat. Anyone with a Kickbee: consider yourself unfollowed.)


By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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