I'm Sad That My First Baby Was Born Before Smartphones

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and SanyaSM/Getty

If you’ve had a baby recently, you’ve probably taken hundreds, if not thousands of pictures. From the moment that child entered the world, their life has been painstakingly documented and shared. All you needed to do was grab your phone and the moment was captured forever. Whether via text, email, or social media, you have been able to easily show the world your beautiful baby. It is such a blessing.

My youngest is five and I have a picture of her from nearly every day of her life. During my hospital stay with her, I took 266 pictures. Those were just my shots, not my husband, her grandparents, or any other visitors who came to meet her. I have more photos of her from the first few days of her life than I do for the first few months of her oldest brother’s. That makes me kind of sad. But it certainly wasn’t intentional. He is just the victim of circumstance.

My oldest is 13, eight years older than the baby, with two more brothers in between. He was born in 2008, long before phones and social media ruled our lives. My husband brought his giant camera to the hospital to capture special memories of our firstborn son. We took a few pictures here and there. They are our treasured memories. It never occurred to me to take hundreds of pictures of him. You just didn’t do that back then. And “back then” really wasn’t that long ago, but it is a lifetime in terms of how we chronicle our day-to-day activities. I didn’t take dozens of the same shot looking for perfection. I spent my time gazing in his eyes and breathing in his fresh scent.

Most of photos that I have of him as a baby I can remember taking. My husband got me a new shiny red Kodak Easy Share camera as a gift. It was a big deal. We didn’t have a lot of money back then and I was so grateful to have my own camera to document his life. It was amazing to me that I could take his picture and then download it onto my computer. If I were feeling particularly proud, I’d post it on Facebook. Our digital world was simpler then. But looking back, I wish that it had been more advanced.

True, it was a blessing not to have been bogged down by the demands of social media. I wasn’t competing for likes or trying to impress anyone, but I also wasn’t getting his life on proverbial film. I don’t have 20-second clips of him taking a few steps. When he said a word in a funny way, I didn’t have him repeat it after I hit record. I have to rely on my own brain for those memories. Sure, there is something to be said about being present, but it doesn’t make me wish that I had more of his earliest memories to look over any less.

As I had more children, the better technology became. I got my first iPhone shortly before my second son was born in 2010. Even then, I wasn’t taking the pictures and videos that I do today. But, there is much more of his early life in the vault than there is of his brother’s. His first bites of food were recorded, as were videos of him giggling as a pudgy little elf. I have him singing along to “Call Me Maybe,” at two.


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I was able to take so many more pictures of him and I love them, but it still isn’t that much in comparison to my other younger kids. Luckily, there are lots pictures of him as a baby with his big brother in tow. They were the best of friends and I have captured so many of those moments and I love that. But it doesn’t change the fact that my oldest son’s life began to be truly documented at three, I feel like I missed so much.

Baby boy number three has video from the hospital. Born in 2013, he debuted on Facebook within hours of being born. It was when he came along that I really began taking pictures and videos of my kids nearly every day. I was blogging and writing and posting to Facebook and Instagram multiple times a day. But, so was everyone else. I wasn’t a phenomenon; it was a way of life. And it still is.

My kids have appeared on my social media feed daily for more than eight years, with things positively exploding in 2016. Having a girl after three boys was a big change. Her sex, like her brothers’, was a secret to all of us until birth. My entire pregnancy, people made bets about who she would be. When I announced her birth, the post got nearly 500 likes. That was a big number for me. And as she grew, my followers wanted to see her. I put her in bows and gowns and everything girly that you can imagine. My feed was flooded with pictures of this little baby girl and her three darling brothers. It became a way of life and it hasn’t stopped.

When my children are older, I hope that they will understand the disproportionate amounts of footage that I have from their childhoods was not from lack of love or interest, but because of archaic technology. I don’t love my oldest son any less because I have fewer pictures and videos of his baby and toddler years. As a matter of fact, I am probably that much closer to him because it was about sharing moments between the two of us and not the whole world.

If technology were a tad more advanced in 2008, there would be so many more recorded moments from my oldest son’s babyhood. If social media had been just that much more prevalent, I would have captured more. I don’t know if that is a blessing, or a curse. Am I sad that I don’t have as many pictures and videos of him? Absolutely! But am I sorry that I didn’t crave the validation that I received from social media as my other children came along? Not one bit. His early years were the most pure of all of my children’s. Sure, he made me a mom and there is true magic in that, but it is so much more. I wasn’t consumed with taking his picture and sharing him with the world. My photos were for my family and me. I feel like that makes them so much more special.

I don’t begrudge smartphones and social media for what they have become. If it weren’t for these changes, I wouldn’t have the job that I love. So for social media, I am grateful. But I can’t help but be melancholy as I look back at my memories and see that my older boys just don’t have the presence of their younger siblings. I cannot change the past or technology; I have to be thankful for what I have and rely on my own memory. Music and scents and sounds can easily take me back to my time as a young mom in the mid 2000s. I will always cherish those days and those memories — I may not be able to pull them up on my phone, but they live forever in my heart.

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