Star-Ledger: When Melissa Skabich gives birth to her third child, she expects to have an audience of hundreds, maybe even thousands.
As she sits in her hospital bed this weekend, draped in a gown, Skabich, 32, of Cedar Grove, plans on posting updates on Twitter. The service allows people to broadcast short internet messages -- called tweets -- about their lives.
"I thought it was something fun to do to keep my friends and family and coworkers - anyone who cares to follow me - updated," she said.
Skabich, who is soon to become part of the NJ.com Parental Guidance blogging team, is one of an increasing number of wired moms using the service to share perhaps the most primal and dramatic moment of a woman's life. Experts say the live updates are a natural progression from the stork on the lawn, the announcement in the newspaper and the videotape of childbirth.
"It's the newest manifestation of these basic psychological needs to communicate with other people," said Sam Gosling, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. "You take that basic preference, and you put that in a modern world."
Skabich, who works in public relations for Coyne PR in Parsippany, began gaining followers on Twitter at a rapid clip when others wrote about her plans and she mentioned it on her blog, Fitsandgigglesblog.com. The larger audience has made her more cautious, but she said she never intended to go into the gory details.
"I wouldn't necessarily want the CEO of my company to know what's going on when I'm pushing, but I think it would be cool for him to know at 8 o'clock I had the baby, and he was 7 pounds, 3 ounces," she said.
The idea of tweeting the birth strikes some as too unorthodox, and Skabich has already taken flack from critics online. They say she should keep her life private or stay focused on her baby. One even called her an Octomom wannabe, Skabich said.
They don't get it, she says. For one thing, people are choosing to follow her updates and can opt-out. Besides, a mom in labor can spend hours and hours of just waiting.
Killing time is just one reason moms would use Twitter during labor, said Chandra Turner, executive editor of Parents magazine. Turner, who sent text messages in her lead-up to labor last year, said she can understand why a woman would want to tweet the experience.
"You just feel isolated from the world when you go into the hospital," she said. "I don't want to invite my friends into labor and delivery, but they are curious how I'm doing. It's a really easy, quick, fun way of communicating."
Turner expects to see more moms tweeting labor pains as the publicity and awareness grows. For example, Erykah Badu, a soul and R&B singer, tweeted her daughter's birth in February. It will become popular, accepted and maybe even expected.
The lines of what is private, what needs to be shared and what is too much information have been blurred or broken down, said Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
"Now it's almost an expectation by your peers that you would make updates, for instance, regarding your relationships," he said. "It shows something has really changed, and this technology can be used everywhere, literally, and also to share very, very personal things with others."
Even things that might seem shocking.
Amber Watson-Tardiff, 25, of Moorestown, sent a tweet while still in the doctor's office after learning she had miscarried. While that might seem the wrong moment and the wrong medium to break that news, she said it was cathartic and helpful.
Watson-Tardiff had been shuffled into another room and was waiting for a doctor. In the meantime, she was panicking.
"I said, 'I just lost my baby. I'm freaked out. I don't know what to expect,'" she said. "Within seconds, I had direct messages and e-mails from everybody who's ever had a miscarriage telling me exactly, play-by-play, what to expect, the choices that I would be given."
The advice calmed her as she grieved.
That's an example of how blogs, social networking sites and Twitter are bringing childbirth back to being a more communal experience, said Julie Fennell, an assistant professor of sociology at Central Connecticut State University.
Until the mid-1800s, women and midwives gathered together for births. But as delivery became more of a medical and scientific procedure, with the inception of obstetrician-gynecologists, deliveries were more of a private affair. Fathers were kept out of the delivery room, and women were sometimes even unconscious, Fennell said.
That has changed.
"Later in the 20th century, there was a movement more away from that," she said. "Childbirth became a family focused activity. Now, fathers are expected to be present during childbirth."
Skabich said her husband will be there, and he will have to deal with her on her BlackBerry. But there is a limit, she said.
"When things start to get intense, I'm putting it away," she said. "My main concern is this baby, and his health and my health."
Skabich expected to have doctors induce labor today, but they decided to wait until Sunday. That's the plan, anyway. "This baby has plans of his own," she said.
Of course, we'll all be able to find out when Evan Alexander Skabich arrives. Just go to http://www.twitter.com/mommyblogger76.
other tweets about labor:
@MaegMaeg Motivation! The nurse said the faster i have the baby the sooner i get to eat. Mmmm ice cream! 10 hours ago May 1
@kcsponge epidural finally administered - dr just broke my water - I'm at 6 cm - gonna have this baby today! :) 9:08 a.m. April 30
@Mrpeanut09 Water broken, feeling pukey and thirsty 10:40 a.m April 29
@kingdomfirstmom: Update: not dilating, finally started some pitocin since there was meconium in the water, hopefully things will progress now April 15 2:45 a.m.
@kingdomfirstmom: 10 cm, woo hoo!! Bring on the pushing!! Next tweet will be delivery update... stay tuned April 15 5:42 a.m.
@Fatbellybella (Erykah Badu): morning im in labor contractions are 3 mins apart....breathing
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