I remember vividly telling my loved ones about my first pregnancy. I waited until I was 18 weeks along to share the news, because I’d had serious complications and didn’t know until the 18-week scan whether my baby would survive. By then I had quite a noticeable bump, which I hid under baggy clothes until that wonderful day. And then I had some friends over to dinner, took the hands of two of them, and placed them on my belly.
“There’s a baby in there!” I cried.
Their shocked and delighted faces made the trauma of the past four months melt away. It was a beautiful moment.
Today, by contrast, I saw a video on YouTube of a couple announcing their pregnancy with a Coke-related short film (you can watch it at the bottom of this article). It is witty and clever and obviously took a great deal of thought and time (and editing). I’m sure the couple had fun making the video, and I’m sure their friends and family enjoyed watching it.
But elaborate pregnancy announcements – like elaborate marriage proposals – don’t sit comfortably with me.
Pregnancy is about creating a new life. It is about family and love and hope. The sharing of pregnancy news is an interaction between two people. Yet – again, like proposals – this intensely personal moment has become almost an industry. And this says a great deal about the society we now live in.
To me, the whole phenomenon speaks of desensitisation. We are no longer sufficiently moved by the wonderful news of a pregnancy. We need more excitement, more titillation; we need the announcement to be bigger and brighter and wittier. We need special effects and pyrotechnics and showgirls and dancers. We need lights and cameras and action, and we need the whole thing uploaded to YouTube so we can share it with our friends.
We have become stimulation junkies. The unenhanced joy of human experience, the simple pleasure of sharing our happiness, is no longer enough.
I remember watching the documentary In Bed With Madonna back in 1991. In one scene Madonna declines to speak to her doctor in private, choosing instead to do it in front of the cameras. Her then boyfriend, Warren Beatty, was prompted to say, “She doesn't want to live off-camera, much less talk. There's nothing to say off-camera. Why would you say something if it's off-camera? What point is there existing?”
I remember thinking that she was outrageous. I remember thinking how strange it would be to live like that. But Madonna was a massive celebrity; she was one of a kind.
Well, 25 years later and we are all like that. What’s the point of announcing your pregnancy to your friends off-camera? What's the point of being pregnant if you can’t document every minute online?
I spend a great deal of time on the internet, and I am certainly not here screaming about the dangers of the online world. I am grateful for the age we live in, where so much information and socialisation is accessible online. But I am concerned that we are losing sight of the small wonders of life. I am concerned that we feel that life only has meaning if it is played out on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest.
What’s more, announcements made over social media are inevitably impersonal. Though the loved ones watching the YouTube video might laugh and smile and be amazed, you, the poster, won’t see their faces. You, the poster, won’t hear their laugh. Sure, you will get a response on social media – an email or a text, or even a phone call – but it is not the same as delivering the news in person.
What we need to remember, too, is that ultimately, the joy is no different. A clever pregnancy announcement shows how clever the expectant parents are. But it does not increase happiness for the prospective grandparents. It does not increase the joy of loved ones sharing the news.
A witty video is a bit of fun. Let’s just not forget that the true joy is in the pregnancy itself.