Sunday, November 1, 2009

The baby's coming -- and the internet is invited

Plenty of first-time parents have questions about what really goes on in the delivery room. And plenty of mommy bloggers document every detail of their pregnancies on their blogs. But Lynsee, a 23-year-old teacher in Minneapolis, is taking things further by sharing her entire first pregnancy -- including the birth of her daughter -- with the internet via Moms Like Me.

“We wanted to document the pregnancy and create a one-of-a-kind memento for our baby to have forever,” Lynsee told KARE-TV 11, which is partnered with Moms Like Me and is also covering her pregnancy. "You'll be at some of the doctor's appointments... You'll be there in the delivery room, tastefully, but you will be there.’’

About 900 Moms Like Me members are following Lynsee's journey to motherhood via a discussion group called "Watch Lynsee Grow!", which will have a live feed from the hospital when the time comes. (Only members will be able to leave comments, but the feed is open to anyone who wants to watch.)

Of course, you can't log off when you're the one in labor. And you certainly can't script a birth. Viewers won’t see any graphic details -- an experienced camera crew will be at the helm, Twin Cities Moms Like Me site manager Cindy Chapman says, and a team of people will be monitoring the shoot as well as the online chat. Chapman, who will be at the hospital with Lynsee, adds that there is a "massive crisis plan" in place, just in case.

In October, MomsLikeMe.com asked their members for their thoughts on the couple's decision. About 60 percent of moms said that they do not want anyone besides their significant other in the delivery room but, in another poll, the same percentage responded that they would be interested in watching a broadcast of a live birth. "You never know when you start projects like this, how they’re going to go,” Chapman says. "The response has been overwhelming, very supportive, very positive for Lynsee."

Thinking back to my own first pregnancy (and the 30+ hours of labor leading up to an emergency C-section) -- I can't imagine having a camera crew in the room at that time. I can see why some people would be glued to the screen, though. Is it compelling? Yes. But coming off of the Balloon Boy saga, one may wonder whether this is just another example of society's obsession with reality TV-type programing.

Moms Like Me representatives insist that Lynsee and her 24-year-old husband, Anders (who have requested that I not publish their last name, for privacy reasons) aren't in it for fame or fortune. Though there are a few corporate sponsors on board and KARE-TV helped throw her a baby shower/promotional event at the famed Mall of America, all gifts were donated to charity and Lynsee is not being compensated for her participation in the project, according Chapman.

With her due date rapidly approaching, Lynsee took the time to answer a few of my questions:

Some of your early posts in the "Watch Lynsee Grow!" group mention your being exhausted at work. What type of work do you do, and do you plan to return to it (or stay home, or switch jobs) after your baby is born?

I’m a teacher, I teach Family and Consumer Science and so I’m on my feet a lot. I do plan on going back to teaching next fall, but I do want to have some time with the baby first.

When is your due-date?

November 19th

Are you planning a home birth, a birthing center/midwife birth, or a hospital birth? Did you have to get any special permission to set up the webcam in the delivery room?

I’m using a mid-wife and will have a hospital birth. Yes, we got special permission from the hospital but since they’d worked with MomsLikeMe.com’s partner KARE11 so many times in the past they were comfortable with them and had no problems signing the release.

As the big day approaches, are you having any second thoughts about broadcasting the labor and delivery live?

No – it’s the final part of the journey. It’s the one big moment and the special part and it’s what I’m looking forward to sharing with everyone the most.

I know a lot of women want their moms in the delivery room with them, and some want their best friends and siblings too, but there are lots of people who can't imagine having anyone besides their husbands in the room while they're in labor. Do you think it would feel different having several people in the room, as opposed to having people watching via webcam?

I honestly don’t think I’m even going to realize it. I think with the support of my mom, husband and mid-wife I’m going to be able to focus on my delivery and not even pay attention to the cameras there.

Where did the idea for "Watch Lynsee Grow" come from? Did you approach Moms Like Me, or did they approach you?

Cindy Chapman (the site manager for MomsLikeMe.com) put up a post on the site asking if anyone was pregnant. I emailed her right away and she filled me in on the project, I talked with my husband and we were excited about it!

How is showing the birth live on the internet a memento for the baby (as opposed to video taping the event but keeping it private)?

It will be special because it will be broadcast live… something that’s never done before. I will also have all the support from the mom’s on the site while I’m having the baby. Just knowing they are there during labor means a lot to me.

What do you hope viewers get out of watching your experience?

Just the sense of how special this is – even though millions of women give birth every day. It’s so miraculous and special because each birth is different. If I were in a classroom, I would be teaching about childhood development, so I feel that I’m using myself as a textbook to teach others about pregnancy and delivery and those on the site are my classroom.

Have you ever attended a birth?

I have not – I’ve seen plenty in movies – but I have never attended a live birth!

2 comments:

ben said...

MediaCurves.com conducted a study among 303 viewers of a news clip discussing a woman who plans to broadcast coverage of her giving birth on the internet. Results found majority of viewers (75%) reported that they would not watch the coverage of the delivery. Furthermore, the majority of viewers (53%) did not think there was educational value in broadcasting video coverage of child birth on the internet. In addition, the majority of viewers (60%) did not think it was ethical to put such video content online.
More in depth results can be seen at:
http://www.mediacurves.com/NationalMediaFocus/J7622-OnlineBirth/Index.cfm
Thanks,
Ben

andy said...

Web casting, or broadcasting over the internet, is a media file (audio-video mostly) distributed over the internet using streaming media technology. Streaming implies media played as a continuous stream and received real time by the browser (end user). Streaming technology enables a single content source to be distributed to many simultaneous viewers. Streaming video bandwidth is typically calculated in gigabytes of data transferred. It is important to estimate how many viewers you can reach, for example in a live webcast, given your bandwidth constraints or conversely, if you are expecting a certain audience size, what bandwidth resources you need to deploy.

To estimate how many viewers you can reach during a webcast, consider some parlance:
One viewer: 1 click of a video player button at one location logged on
One viewer hour: 1 viewer connected for 1 hour
100 viewer hours: 100 viewers connected for 1 hour…

Typically webcasts will be offered at different bit rates or quality levels corresponding to different user’s internet connection speeds. Bit rate implies the rate at which bits (basic data units) are transferred. It denotes how much data is transmitted in a given amount of time. (bps / Kbps / Mbps…). Quality improves as more bits are used for each second of the playback. Video of 3000 Kbps will look better than one of say 1000Kbps. This is just like quality of a image is represented in resolution, for video (or audio) it is measured by the bit rate.