Family Matters

A Baby Is Born. His Mother Dies. Read About It on Facebook

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We are a world powered and consumed by technology. What that means is that plenty of people who don’t know us very well are now privy to lots of intimate details about our personal lives that used to be kept private. Entire pregnancies, from conception to contraction, are chronicled on Facebook, for example.

Sometimes, it’s amusing. In September, for example, Oklahoman mom-to-be Marcy Woodson — a self-described “sucker for technology” — relied on her iPad to time her contractions. She waited a little too long, though, and her husband wound up doing the heavy lifting when it came to delivering baby Graham. (More on Facebook Says You’ll Break Up Before Spring Break)

Paramedics showed up just as the 6 pound, 10 ounce babe was about to make his appearance, catching Graham, then bundling mom and baby into an ambulance. Not about to leave her iPad behind, Woodson used the trip to share on Facebook about her unusual delivery. “Posting to Facebook from the ambulance. I think that we definitely made use of all the technology, didn’t we, bud?” Marcy asked baby Graham, according to CNN.

Woodson’s ordeal ended happily. But another situation chronicled recently in The Washington Post had a far more somber ending. Like Woodson, Shana Greatman Swers, 35, was addicted to Facebook. She’d post the minutest of details and found the social networking site the perfect venue to update friends with news about her pregnancy. (More on Can an iPhone App Save Your Marriage?)

Like baby Graham, baby Isaac was born in September. Unlike Graham, however, he arrived the usual way, in a hospital, which was fortunate because suddenly and unexpectedly, Greatman Swers’ foray into new motherhood spiraled out of control. She developed peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare pregnancy-related disorder that caused her heart to fail, and died Oct. 31, leaving behind a husband and her infant son, who lay in his stroller, crying, during her funeral service. (More on In Zahra Baker’s Case, Postpartum Depression Exacted a Heavy Toll)

Her family decided to share her journey from pregnancy to death, allowing the Post to excerpt her Facebook updates and friends’ related comments. In an early post, she wrote:

Shana Greatman Swers had a chocolate malt with dinner because, well, because I’m only going to be pregnant for another 10 days or so.

September 12 at 8:31pm via iPhone • Like • Comment

After Isaac’s arrival, she posted:

Shana Greatman Swers Isaac Lawrence Swers was born on Wednesday a little after 8:30 in the evening. He is 8 lbs 4 oz and 20.5 inches long. He has a full head of dark hair. He is, of course, perfect. Thanks for all the good thoughts you’ve sent our way for the past nine months. We feel truly blessed.

September 23 at 2:26am via iPhone • Like • Comment

Four days later, she followed up with another update:

Shana Greatman Swers apologies that she and Jeff haven’t been able to keep everyone updated on the events of the past 48 hrs – and that this note is really impersonal, but it is the fastest way to send word… after a very scary weekend that involved post-partum cardiac myopothy, I have turned a corner and will be fine. I’m still in ICU, but feel 100% better.

September 27 at 7:31pm • 

Greatman Swers’ subsequent messages make it clear that she may not, in the end, be fine, but it’s still jarring to read of her death from her own Facebook account:

Shana Greatman Swers passed away Sunday, October 31, 2010 shortly before noon. She was surrounded by her loving family and friends. Information on services will follow.

October 31 at 11:56am via iPhone • Like • Comment

Some readers might consider the public sharing of life and death a posthumous invasion of the new mother’s privacy, a voyeuristic window into a stranger’s tragic saga, but knowing how Greatman Swers felt about Facebook, she probably would have been pleased.

Related Links:

Study: ‘Hyper-Texting’ Teens More Likely to Have Had Sex, Tried Drugs

Facebook Says You’ll Break Up Before Spring Break

A Single Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays