Family Matters

‘Expected: Child': Facebook Welcomes Fetuses to Social Media

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It’s probably long overdue, but Facebook has just made it easier for expectant parents to announce their burgeoning bellies via their social network.

To introduce your growing gametes via Facebook, simply click on “Edit my profile,” then “Friends and Family.” Alongside the standard choices to identify your kin, like Mom, Dad or Grandma, you’ll now find “Expected: Child.”

The new category may be yet more proof of our cultural penchant for oversharing, but it’s hardly groundbreaking. For years, women have been obsessing over how to break the news of their expanding waistlines creatively via Facebook; “Expected: child” is simply recognition that the observant folks at Facebook have noticed users doing this.

Perhaps the new category was also a reaction to parents-to-be creating unsanctioned Facebook pages for their unborn children. This summer, Facebook apparently deleted a profile page for Marriah Greene, an as-then unborn baby who had already accumulated 268 friends as of June 2, a week before her due date. Her parents had used the page to issue updates about Marriah’s development in utero, offering insight into the infant’s identity. Her page advised that she “Studied Labor and Delivery at Tummy University” and plays soccer (“I am quite the kicker”).

MORE: T.M.I., Mom. Parents and Adults Overshare on Facebook Too, Study Says

But making an unborn child part of your Facebook family tree may backfire if a pregnancy doesn’t proceed as planned. After all, every pregnancy does not necessarily end with a baby. “People need to take a deep breath and live life with a certain amount of privacy and dignity,” says Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician and author who wrote CyberSafe, about protecting kids in the digital world. “What if things don’t go right? You don’t want to answer questions from all your Facebook friends.”

Larry Rosen, a professor who researches the psychology of technology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, thinks expectant users will flock to the new category because it will help them feel supported and connected during pregnancy. “I think it’s cute because it’s spawning the idea of when is it appropriate to do this, and are there certain people I should tell first before I post this?” says Rosen.

But spilling the beans on Facebook is not always the best way to go about divulging a pregnancy, Rosen concedes. He points to one of his former students with whom he’d grown close, who called him to say she’d given birth before posting on Facebook. “She wanted it to be special,” he says. “She was saying there’s the Facebook way and there’s the more personal communication way. People are trying to figure this out.”

MORE: Should Kids Under 13 Be on Facebook?

Until now, many pregnant Facebookers have announced their “with child” status by changing their profile pictures to an ultrasound image. Others have brainstormed witty phrases to hint at the news in a status update (my fave: “…My eggo is preggo”).

Baby Bump Diaries suggests:

•                …is craving pickles.

•                …is nurturing her inner child … literally.

•                …is tickled pink!

•                …is going to be a baby mama!

Or if brain-teasers are more your style, the site recommends: “Riddle: What gets a shower but doesn’t get wet?”

Last week on BabyCenter.com, a mom of three solicited ideas about how to announce she’s expecting a fourth in March. The responses she got:

1. Post up a spaghetti sauce “prego” jar as your profile pic

2. Post a pic of a bun going in the oven (a friend of mine did this — too cute)

3. The pee stick

Post a picture of a urine-soaked pregnancy test? For real? That feels a bit excessive and overly intimate — but isn’t that kind of like Facebook itself?

Bonnie Rochman is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @brochman. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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