A few weeks ago, our family invited a beautiful baby girl into our life. Unless you had met us face to face you would not have known about our pregnancy. I had elicited my wife’s compliance with the idea that we would not mention the existence of my daughter to the world through social media until after she had been born. Perplexed at the demand, my wife participated in family photos throughout her pregnancy in ways that didn’t reveal her expanding front. I nearly made people swear they would not even hint at the idea that we were pregnant on social media when we met them in person. But why, oh why, was I so ardent, almost neurotic, about this secrecy for eight long months?
It could be that I am a part of the growing number of parents in our day that just doesn’t want my children plastered on the internet. It could be possible that I am a parent who seeks to protect my children from the glaring overreach of technological use. While I do control, quite strictly, my children’s interaction with technology it wouldn’t be true to place me in this category. My older children at nine and seven already know how to type, they are learning coding as a part of homeschool curriculum, and they know how to use Netflix and Hulu to find shows for the family to watch together as we prepare for family movie nights on Fridays. They’ve known how to use our phones for emergencies since they’ve known numbers. In fact, they learned all their numbers and letters with toddler apps bought on iPads. No, I am not a idealistic protector of my children from technology.
It could be that I am simply a contrarian to my generation. While most of my generation, or at least a good portion, likes to project their life continually online, I am a Spartacus of sorts fighting the currents of society. This one is a bit more true than the last option, but in no way do I have the revolutionary conviction to give up technology in my own life. Almost a decade ago, our firstborn son’s pregnancy and labor were broadcast every step of the way. I used Facebook to its fullest extent as a twenty-year-old experiencing the wild ride of become a parent, and I was sure the internet wanted to know about every detail. Our second-born son’s pregnancy, just a couple of years later, was a more toned down experience for us. We didn’t get so excited. We felt mature; we’d been down this road before. Granted, the labor was still broadcast to the internet for all family and friends who might be interested.
When it came to our daughter though, I have to admit, I enjoyed not telling the internet. Relishing the secret of her life as we prepared ourselves for her did feel like we were choosing to live against the currents of our society; rejecting many of the norms now taken for granted. There was a driving part of me that often asked the question, “If I don’t declare the life of my daughter to the world through social media, does she really exist in our world?” When I posted the fateful picture of her to the internet many of my hopes for shock and surprise were fulfilled! My experiment had “worked” in my eyes. I was critiquing, through my daughter’s life hidden away from the sight of the internet but open to anyone we would meet on the street, that our contemporary lives are entirely curated on this virtual world even as we act like connects us together. If I can hide one of the most obvious and beautiful things in human life, something you couldn’t miss in a conversation face to face with us, then what else are you and I hiding from the world? A world that thinks it knows us through the internet and social media.
But I digress, while this was a major reasoning behind hiding my daughter from the internet, this was not my most basic one. To understand that you have to know my wife and I a little better than the curated existence we project through the internet. We don’t mean to hide this part of who we are, but as humans who know the virtual world is just that, fake. We simple do not post the things people would be uninterested it. Or put better, we naturally have never put out in the public of social media the things we believe people would find uninteresting in our own lives.
You see, before our daughter, my wife and I had had four pregnancies. Two of which ended in the deaths of our children and two that gave us our sons, but not before both of them nearly died as well. These experiences were also staggered. Death, terrible complication bringing us near death (for both baby and my wife), death, and tenuous pregnancy that ended with a near-death complication just after birth. We were young when all of these pregnancies happened. We were told that we should not have any more biological children. We accepted this, but without insurance for most our marriage some sort of “final” birth control procedure was not an option for us. The birth control pill, which we had been on at the conception of all four of our children, was what had to work for us. And it did, at least for seven years.
Back in January our family was trying to settle into our new apartment. We had just moved two days before Christmas. In a Chicago winter. And this was our fifth (yes, you read that correctly, fifth!) move in three years. My wife had not been feeling well for a week and she woke me up one morning weeping because she believed she might be pregnant. For my wife, on account of our former experiences, this is about as bad a medical condition we could receive. Pregnancy for us means death. Death for our children and the long, tedious process of grief again. A not-so-cheap pregnancy test proved my wife’s worst fears to be true.
Thankfully, for the first time in our marriage we had insurance. My wife’s job at a local school meant she actually had really good insurance that covered most costs without much of a demand on us financially. The first trimester was brutal with sickness on my wife, but the first week of her second trimester she felt great and was able to eat normally again. As we went into the third trimester everything was going well. In fact, every single test and measurement, for both our daughter and my wife, was coming back as hyper-average.
Then came, and went, the due date. A week after the due date my wife had still not felt a single twinge of labor pain. We scheduled an inducement. The day before the inducement was my wife’s last checkup. On her way home after the appointment, my wife began to feel unbelievable amounts of pain. After her forty-five-minute commute home her pains were not subsiding so we decided to head for the hospital. A normally short twenty-minute drive to our hospital was elongated by rush-hour traffic to another forty-five-minute trip, in which my wife was losing her ability to interact or breath on account of pain.
Finally, arriving at the hospital my daughter was born an hour later before my wife’s epidural could even kick in! The labor was so fast that the doctor, who my wife had been at an appointment with just an hour and half beforehand, couldn’t make it to the hospital in time on account of the traffic. He came in at the last moment to witness the end of the birth and stepped in to assess the situation. He told us my daughter’s birth was one of easiest and quickest births he’s ever witnessed. Our daughter then passed every test perfectly, she peed and pooped immediately, and nursed in the first couple of minutes. Because my wife didn’t have any medicine to filter out of her body and the labor was relatively easy on her, we were released after twenty-four hours rather than being held for the normal forty-eight.
After hearing this story, why did I hide my daughter from the internet? My shame and my guilt. You see, on account of had happened in our first four pregnancies we were just waiting for some doctor to drop the line about a terrible complication that had evaded their tests or a sudden change in the health of our daughter. There was an inevitability to the suffering this pregnancy was bound to bring into our lives. But this apprehension and anxiety wasn’t my guilt or shame.
More than just that, our family situation had changed just enough that my wife had gained the freedom to find a job and begin to work towards her own career goals. This might destroy that. We are struggling financially to survive as we pursue the calling we believe King Jesus has placed on our lives and adding another baby to that didn’t seem to be too helpful. I was so uncontrollable angry at King Jesus for creating this child. So much disruption to our future plans, my wife’s opportunities, and our finances! I wasn’t even sure if I could give enough care to another child as much as I think I struggle to love my two boys as it is! But this overwhelming anger was not my guilt and shame.
Then the moment when the brokenness within me appeared. It was this instant here, that for the briefest period of time, I thought to myself how I just don’t want this pregnancy—How might this be reversed! This was my moment of shame and guilt.
My anger and self-righteous delusion had driven me to hate my own child. I knew that if I took my desire and simply typed it into a Google search I would find page after page of pregnancy ending options before me. I knew my emotions had led me down a path that many men and women have trod over for millennia. Somehow a selfishness had settled deep into me. A selfishness that would seek to encourage my desire to control every outcome and future of our family’s life. A control that would seek to sacrifice this child’s life for what I have been culturally taught to be the optimal size of a family or a responsible future.
I hid my daughter from the internet because if I had come to the internet in that moment of shame and guilt it would have empowered me to give into my own evil to kill her.
I confessed my sin of anger to my pastor that very week. I asked for prayer and I made my “no internet” rule for our friends and family. I spent months upon months serving my wife for the good of our daughter through her, and slowly learning to anticipate my daughter’s coming in a positive way. But it wasn’t until we had all returned home from the hospital and we were lying in bed, I was watching my daughter sleep and broke down crying. I was crying at how good the experience of this pregnancy had been and my mind was beginning to let go of the anxiety and apprehension. Crying felt like exhaling a deep breath that we had been holding for months on end. There had been no complications, there were no health problems. The labor was fast, everyone was healthy. All was well.
This goodness, embodied in this little girl, overwhelms my memories full of apprehension. Her goodness floods all of this guilt and shame with a redemption that creates a joy I have no way of expressing and is incomparable to anything I’ve ever experienced. My wife gave me the task of coming up with the names of our children. Our daughter’s name is Sophia Diana Mae, which means “wisdom springs forth godliness”. Sophia is the embodiment of my own growing in learning how to live. I will learn this life of godly wisdom by loving her, forever redeeming the guilt and shame of that moment were my selfishness sought to turn me against her.
This is the truest reason I hid our daughter from the internet. I was not seeking to protect her from evils of technology, though they are many. I was not simply being a contrarian to my generation seeking to live a critique against the norms of a society struggling to know the difference between the virtual and the real. No, I hid her from the internet because I didn’t want to talk about her in the fake, virtual world of curated recognition. I did not want to imitate the empty joy social media could offer me so I could ignore my own brokenness. Instead, I needed to receive the slow growing redemption that would only come by loving her and serving her, especially when I couldn’t receive anything from her in return.