Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Privacy, Protection and Publicity

Pregnancy update: My cervix is stable! I had a negative fFN! And the boys are all looking great, practicing breathing and I have a growth scan on Friday.

A few months ago, I read an especially appropriate post by Cassandra at Baby Smiling in Back Seat about using images and identifying information of oneself and one's children on a blog or other Internet-based forum. The question she posed to us: Do you/will you post images of your children on your blog? Facebook? Why or Why not?

At the time, I was at a loss. I have read many infertility-followed-by-healthy-baby blogs and always pictured myself following the progression of many of these. The entries sometimes begin with the IVF protocol (or the pregnancy), move to ultrasound and nursery images, belly shots and then when the miracle of the birth occurs: baby pictures! Sometimes pictures of tiny ones hooked up to wires in isolettes and sometimes bigger babies sleeping on a parent's warm chest.

Because I am 28-ish weeks pregnant with triplets, I seem to be especially excited to see photos of these threesomes when they come out on others' blogs. It is helpful to me to see what babies born at 29 weeks versus 34 look like so I can prepare for the birth of our own boys. (Aside from that, it is insanely cute to see triplets snuggled together in their crib.) Perhaps I am looking to see that they can really be born and come home into our family, which I still struggle to believe. At any rate, I look forward to these photos, and I somehow assumed I would post photos to share with my readers.

Cassandra's post, however, caused me to reevaluate this assumption. As you all know, I have a three-year-old daughter whose name or image has never been revealed on the blog. I have posted a picture or two of her back, but have protected her face, just as I choose to post headless belly pictures of myself. I made a conscious decision to never show the face of any of my family members. I do not refer to my husband or daughter by name, either, and never plan to.* Yet I somehow had imagined announcing the birth weight and name under a perfect picture of each of our babies.

Why the contradiction? Why did I assume that I would share photos of the babies, while protecting the likeness of everyone else in our family? Do I think it is some kind of reward for readers who have followed our journey, and support me immensely? Perhaps I felt that people would not want to follow our lives anymore if there was not photographic documentation along with my words. What I have come to realize is, once these boys (God willing) make their entrance into the world, I will be as fiercely protective of their faces as I am of my daughter's and I will not post pictures of our sons.

While I will want to shout from the rooftops and the Internet, "I had real babies! They survived! You want proof: here they are!!" if the boys do arrive safely, my desire to protect these innocent faces will override my desire to share pictures. I understand completely why parents would choose to share these images, also. Our friends and families read my blog, checking it for updates on the pregnancy, and it would be a very simple way to share pictures of the boys, and how they are changing. I personally love to see the adorable images of babies as they grow, and blogs are wonderfully easy to access (usually) and anyone you direct to your blog can see them.

What frightens me is what can happen to the images once they are online. I know how easy it is to "right-click" on an image and save it to my hard drive, allowing me to do with it what I wish. I never want anyone to have a picture of my child's face whom I do not know and trust, and the only way to avoid that is to not put them on my blog in the first place.

Many have suggested alternatives: use Facebook or another social networking site. Create a new blog and make it invitation only. I think for now, we will plan to share images of six little feet in snuggly socks, or a tiny hand curled around a grown-up finger, but not the identifiable faces attached to them. Unfortunately, this means the people whom I do trust and know, many of you, will not get to see their little faces.

This leads me to the next conundrum I am pondering: what will happen to this blog if the babies arrive safely? It could remain my home, and morph into a parenting-after-infertility blog, one that tells the story of our family as a novel with the many chapters of miscarriage, infertility, treatment, pregnancy and (hopefully) parenting multiples. I could also write somewhere else but leave this blog intact as a resource for anyone who many find it useful. Obviously, these musings warrant another post on another day.

What are your thoughts on the changing nature of an infertility blog? Should bloggers continue to tell their story, wherever it leads, from their original URL, children and all? Does a blog need a label like "Infertility" or "Parenting Multiples"? Should they set up shop somewhere else to spin a new narrative? What have you done? What would you do?

*I have realized how awkward it is to refer to my daughter as "A" and my husband as "My Husband", so I will be coming up with more appropriate pseudonyms for each of them. The babies will also be given some nicknames which will only emerge after I have the pleasure of getting to know them outside the womb a bit. Mel at Stirrup Queens has maintained nicknames for her children and it works seamlessly as it allows her to share stories and updates without revealing identifying information. Much to consider.


  1. I am a cautious person and had conniption fits about showing my cat on my blog. The way mel does it, i feel connected to her folks without really knowing anything about them.
    I will not post pictures on my blog if kids ever arrive. I will on facebook but we shall always remain anonymous on the blog. just never know.

    As for post birth - if you have any time and energy to blog about your family I will be one interested reader!

  2. While, I admit, I'm sad I won't get to see pics of your boys (when they are born, at 34+ weeks! ;)), I totally understand where you're coming from.

    My thought is that if I blog about someone who has no say, I won't share personal info. My real name is jill but I won't share the real name of my husband (R) or my sister (C) on my blog because I don't want to violate their privacy. I am still up in the air on whether I will ever share identifying pics of myself but I don't think I will ever share pics of anyone else (including any possible children) based on the same thoughts. Of course that may change but that's how I feel currently.

    However, if, for example, my husband had a blog of his own and chose to share his name, with his permission, I would share his name on my blog as well.

    My blog's label is just "my life", so I don't ever plan on changing it, no matter what life brings. If I continue to deal with IF and end up living childless, that's some of what I will write about. If I actually conceive, give birth, and raise a child, that's some of what I will write about. All on the same blog, no need for different blogs based on life situation.

    VERY happy to hear about your cervix and negative fFN!! YIPPEE! :)

  3. I totally respect your decision. I do post pictures of my son, but I wonder if I should stop. I keep our names anonymous, but like you said, people can use the pictures however they please! If only the world was a safer place (yeah, I'll keep dreaming).

    I say keep blogging, keep this web site. Life changes... your blog will reflect that transition.

  4. Loving the news of 28 ish weeks and growing. Very nice.

    I post pictures of my kids... I wonder to myself if i ever should have.. but i do. i think maybe i should have password protected.. but I think i might be the only person in the world that looks at my blog, with the exception of friends. I do not refer to them by their real names, and the same for the husband. The only real name is mine.

    As far as your blog, this is your life story. It's your museum of life. What happens today in your world will be history tomorrow.

    I go back in my posts now.. and think.. WOW... holy COW.... look how the chicklets have grown, and then laugh at the important "word of the hour" for that date in history.

    Enjoy your world as it is... because it is yours!

  5. Yea for a good appointment!! I haven't thought too much about sharing the pictures on the blog, but I will post on Facebook. You brought up a lot of valid points, so I will be thinking about this a lot now. I am usually a bit too trusting of people-now is the time to change!

  6. Congrats on the good news! Can't wait to hear how Friday's scan goes.

    For what it's worth, I actually tend to find pictures superfluous on infertility/baby blogs. Maybe it's just me, but I'm way more into reading about the experience of a procedure/birth/etc. than I am into seeing pictures. I think a good writer can share the experience AND maintain their privacy. In your case, for example, I'm less interested in what you end up naming your boys than how you went through the process of figuring out what to name them.

    As for the "what next?" question, I'm invested enough in your family's story now that I will read whatever you choose to write, whereever you choose to write it! Again, maybe just me and my experience, but I think it's cool when an IF blog morphs into a pregnancy/parenting blog...I mean, aren't all of us who go through infertility invested in the idea of happy endings to the struggle?

    Anyway, just my musings for the day.

  7. I chose to keep our names private, but I imagine that if someone wanted to, there is enough information about us that anyone would be able to figure out who we are, or at least who I am. I do post pictures of us, but I wonder about pictures of future children. I have only ever posted one picture of someone who I didn't have permision from first, and that was the pic of my FIL after he passed.

    As for your changing road... I enjoy blogs where I can look back and see what shaped the author's life and point of view. Once your precious boys are here, you will still be you... someone who understands what it's like to deal with IF and has experienced these highs and lows. My opinion, keep your blog here... celebrate the new direction you are travelling, and honour the road you have walked to get here.

  8. I sometimes wonder if I should be more careful about this. No kiddos to consider yet, which obviously elevates the level of concern, but I've used my name, my husband's name, and family photos throughout my blog. I'm not sure whether I'll change that behavior or not once a child enters the picture. It's a tough question--possibly I'm too trusting and naive, but I figure the folks who come to my blog do so out of concern and care for me and my family, so the risk is pretty small. Hopefully I'm not too off-base on that assumption!

    In your case, those who visit you here have come to care about you and your children without ever having seen your face or your daughter's, so I can't imagine anyone would expect anything different from you regarding your sons (and in fact we'll undertand your desire to protect them in whatever way you feel you should!).

  9. it's your choice of course. but i am happy to have pics of my nearest and dearest on blogs and facebook. i don't really understand WHAT the evil person who gets hold of a picture can do with it.

    the fact is, we are all photographed without our knowledge dozens of times a day, by CC TV cameras: in shops, malls and on the street. what if some bad person was a security guard whose job was to look at these images? the reality is, you have no control over these images of yourself or your family members.

    i think the urge to protect your kids is natural and shared by all parents, but i think the threat from pics on the internet is very minimal.

    statistics show that the real threats to babies and young children stem from mundane, everyday things - like car accidents, or falling into swimming pools. i think stressing about a perceived risk from posting pictures on the internet is a way of feeling like we're protecting our kids from harm, so we don't have to think about the real, tragic harm that ordinary everyday things can do if they go wrong.

    it's interesting that tertia, another infertility blogger from south africa, once wrote that she doesn't care about posting pics of her kids on the internet because she lives in a country where there are major risks of violent crime like carjacking and murder that people face every day, so some nameless, vague threat from the internet seems pretty non-existent to her (

  10. I made my blog private a few months back because I had been posting photos and names without concern and one day just got very freaked out about it all! So, I went private and asked my readers to send me email address to add them to my reader list. I didn't have to create a new blog, just made it private.

    I feel much better about it now - and I can fully disclose things because I know everyone reading (at least I have vetted them thru email and frequent blogging).

    Good luck - I was hoping to see your boys, but I completely understand how you feel!

  11. As the original intent for my blog was for family & friends to keep tabs on the girls, I, perhaps naively, put pictures on there when it began.

    So while I do post pics (not of their birth / early days as I was not blogging) - there aren't any close face shots of me or the hubby though. We use the girls' nicknames and don't put much besides our general location. I'm not supposed to be on the google search engine / harder for just anyone to "happen" upon my blog and when I remember, I'm going to have a more savvy friend write a script to disable the right-click and other such problems.

  12. I too totally understand the situation with sharing photos! I think I would continue on the same blog, if anyone wanted to read a part of it for special topic of interest, they could just go back and refer to it... I don't know, it's a hard one, but I think it may just make it easier for you to keep on sailing on this one... Either way, take me along for a ride, I can not wait to hear the stories that will surely keep on coming :)

  13. Personally we've decided to have names and pictures on our family blogs, although this makes me rethink that a little!

    One option is to put a password on posts you only want friends and family to see...

  14. I have to admit I am a little disappointed, but I also totally understand your decision.

  15. First, FYI to Jennifer: sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but when a blog used to be public then becomes private, the old posts aren't really private. Posts are cached in search engines, often for years (maybe forever?). As a test I just checked to see whether I can get into any of your old posts, and I could -- including some that have photos.

    The message to take away from this is that once something is posted, it's online pretty much forever, even if you try to get rid of it later.

    Therefore my initial instinct is to be very protective of private information.

    My second instinct is to say why bother. There is no privacy anymore so who cares.

    For my infertility blog, I am not as paranoid as I used to be, but I am very careful not to post identifying info that would allow people from my real life to find this blog. I'm less concerned about my blog readers knowing my real identity, but still it's rare that I tell blog friends my real name etc. -- usually only when we're going to meet in person.

    I think I've decided that I'll be fully open with the babies' names and photos on my real life blog intended for friends and family, but that on my IF blog I definitely won't post names ever, and maybe photos only when they are first born.

    Oh and for me, Facebook is much worse than posting pictures on my blog. At least with my blog I retain my own copyright. Unlike Facebook, Wordpress won't sell my photos (see my post to which Carrie linked at the top).

    Oh, and Carrie -- yay on the cervix and fFN!

  16. Great news about reaching 28 weeks and everything looking positive for more weeks to come. Way to go!

    As to photos, I love looking at them, but I don't put many of my own family up. Once up, they're out there for all to see, and possibly manipulate, forever. I'm not comfortable with that.

  17. Well, you'll never get shit from me because that would be the pot calling the kettle black :-) I don't think there's a real threat, but I do feel that I made the best choice at a gut level, and for me, that's all I need to know or justify. It just felt right not to share images beyond their backs and to keep their names off-line.

    That said, I quake in fear every time the Wolvog asks me for his own Facebook page and Twitter account. I keep telling him he can have one when he understands the consequences of posting things online. So maybe when he's 30? :-)

  18. Thanks so much for your blog! I too am pregnant with triplets after IVF in Utah. My name is Summer and I'm so excited but totally nervous and I love to read your blog to see how you are. It gives me hope for myself. Thanks again. You are welcome to visit my blog too - it's

  19. When I had a personal (infertility/loss) blog, I never posted pictures or used full names, or, if I did, I would close the entry to "friends only". Now, I have an image-heavy (baby) blog and I post very little personal words or identifying info, nor do I allow comments. I didn't really think about how the images could be used (until now that you mentioned it!). I think instead about all the strange & hurtful things people say in comments when cloaked in anonymity.
    My infertility and loss put me in a very dark place and I found I just used the personal blog to vent that darkness. And then I stopped because I felt paranoid that I was inviting the evil eye by sharing even the darkness.
    Then, my daughter was born, and, now, I see light. I post happy images of her without messy words and all is well with the world. I don't really need to vent anymore. (yes, I could use a vent or two on the day-to-day frustrations of motherhood but I'm crippled by guilt when I complain about missed naps or tantrums...a guilt that only a post-infertile can know)
    But, gosh knows, I've sought out others' words (and images) and they have helped me tremendously in both dark and light times. So I do feel a bit selfish for not sharing my story anymore.
    All a long-winded way to say: you do what feels right for you! :)


  20. ive been following your blog for a while now , ive just put my self as a follower . i lookk foward to your weeekly updates .

  21. First, Yay cervix!!! You are going to hit the 30s! I just know it!

    I love evolving blogs. I actually get kind of sad when people create new blogs after babies, etc, because I need to see the progression (and I feel like other people need to also, while they are going through something similar to something we've gone through).

    I often thought about the privacy thing, but when push comes to shove, if someone wants to find something out, they will. And, on top of it, I am so far from my family that the internet is our saving grace. We have family all over the world and having a blog where they can hear news and see pictures is a godsend. It has kept us connected in a way that we otherwise wouldnt be.

    But to each their own. I also understand wanting some anonymity. It is strange googling your name and getting a blog that discusses your whoohaa and the joys of IF...