This morning I overheard a conversation in a café between two people who were lamenting the change in their Facebook feeds from drunken house party photos to baby pictures. It’s a common, now clichéd complaint about the social media site – it even lead to the creation of Unbaby Me, a web tool that replaces baby pictures on Facebook with photos of cats and sunsets.
I know that over the past few years, my own newsfeed has morphed from documenting parties to parenthood, my husband and I becoming part of the baby photo posting set. As for the photos of my friends’ and relatives’ babies? I knew I’d be excited to see them, but I didn’t realise how my fingers would itch to hold and squeeze my dearest friends’ newborns, to tickle their chubby thighs in pursuit of baby giggles. I've been surprised by how much I’d savour their photo updates, especially those living interstate and overseas. I just love seeing their pictures, watching their babies developing and growing into little people.
It makes sense, of course. I adore my friends, the people I’ve collected from primary school, high school and university, from casual work and full-time jobs. Watching them become parents and searching their children's features for traces of the people I love is something I find overwhelmingly special.
When a friend from school, someone I haven’t spoken to for years, posts a picture of her newborn baby girl, I remember sitting with her in PE class, her teasing me about my “balletic” run. And I think about how lucky her daughter is to have such a cool mother, and wonder if she’ll be sporty like her mum. And if she’ll have a dry sense of humour, too.
Another friend has posted a picture of herself with her son snuggled to her chest like a koala. Her last few years been marbled with grief and the light in her eyes brings tears to mine. I see glimpses of her baby’s dearly missed older sister in his sweet and chubby face. Every photo she posts tugs at my heart; visiting them fills it.
There are the photos of my new niece, who lives in Brisbane and who I’ve only met once, and those of my sister-in-law, one of the most beautiful mothers I know, squeezing all three of her children with a smile that says “I’m deliriously exhausted but so, so happy.”
Then there are the pictures of my best friend’s baby boy who one week looks just like her, and the next like his gorgeous father – he’s an adorable little chameleon, and the perfect mix of their calm and cheeky personalities.
I delight in seeing the photos because behind them all, there’s a story. There’s love and loss. There’s success following miscarriages and infertility, grins that say “it’s finally our turn.” There’s triumph after crippling postnatal depression and anxiety. There’s that toothy smile that helped a mum get through a grizzly-for-no-reason day. And pride in milestones like sitting, walking or simply making an adorable tiny human.
I also love seeing the pictures because they propel me back to milestones past, and give me insight into those to come. Baby announcements remind me of the first time I held my son, the flurry and chaos of visitors and text messages in the precious hours and days after his birth. The dad with baby carrier photos, the chocolate covered Easter pictures, the first day of school, the first haircut. All cherished, proud moments, cataloguing everything that life with a child is about.
So, my friends, keep posting those baby pictures – the beautiful, the funny and the ridiculous. Keep sharing the mess and the magic that is parenthood. I love watching your babies grow and seeing the joy (and upheaval) they bring to your lives.
And to those bothered by the baby photos: just keep scrolling. Cute kitten pics, if that’s more to your taste, are never far away.