my coworker showed us an explicit slideshow of her baby’s birth

A reader writes:

This happened years ago, but I still wonder what (if anything) I should’ve done. I was teaching at a small independent school. I had a colleague, Maria, who was in her mid-twenties; she was enthusiastic, upbeat, and a fine teacher, really good with the kids, and I liked her personally, as well as appreciating her professionally.

Maria had a baby while I was there. We were all delighted for her, and even more delighted when she dropped by a faculty meeting — with the baby! — while on her maternity leave. “I have some pictures to show you!” she said enthusiastically, and set up the video system in the classroom we were using so she could display them. “They’re a little PG rated,” she added, “but that’s okay, we’re all family here!” And then the slides started…

….and they were not, as I had anticipated, pictures of the new baby and the smiling parents. Rather, they were pictures of the baby’s birth. They were not in my opinion PG-rated at all, as among other things they showed a number of parts of Maria’s body that frankly I would rather not have seen. I found the slide show inappropriate for the workplace, and while I wouldn’t say I was offended it certainly made me uncomfortable.

In the moment, though, I wasn’t sure what to do, and looking back at it, I’m not sure either. I could’ve gotten up and left the room, but because of where I was sitting I thought that would attract more attention than I wanted. I was her peer, not her boss, and I wasn’t running the meeting, so I didn’t feel I had standing to ask her to stop. After the third or fourth picture I simply ignored the pictures and concentrated instead on some work I’d brought with me. I kept half expecting that my boss, who was a wonderful boss and a wonderful human being with outstanding interpersonal and diplomatic skills, would do something to stop it, but that didn’t happen.

Anyway, in the general scheme of things this was not a huge big deal, but I do think about it from time to time. Was there something else I could have, should have done, or was focusing on my work folder in fact my best bet?

Ooooh, your manager should have spoken up! Even if everyone in the room seemed comfortable with the photos, it’s a manager’s responsibility to realize that people won’t always indicate when they’re uncomfortable with explicit content because they don’t want to create awkwardness. We know at least one person in the room wasn’t comfortable (you) and your manager should have accounted for that highly likely possibility.

There’s also just the basic principle of “don’t show photos of your naked body at work, period.” With birth photos, those lines do seem to get blurred for a lot of people. But the principle remains regardless.

Ideally your manager would have said something like, “These are amazing photos but more than everyone might be comfortable with at work — we’d love to see the baby herself though!” Or, “Since we’re at work, we need to keep it G-rated.” Or, if more appropriate for their relationship and the vibe of the room, just approached Maria and quietly asked her to show only G-rated slides.

I’m guessing the fact that you were teachers might have played into this, in that the culture in teaching can assume a comfort with all things kid-related (in the same way a group of teachers might be presumed — rightly or wrongly — to be more comfortable with a colleague breast-feeding a baby at a meeting than you’d expect in, say, finance) and that statistically speaking, because you were teachers it was more likely to be a heavily female group, which sometimes carries an expectation that you can cross boundaries you wouldn’t cross in a more mixed group.

In any case, I think your strategy of focusing on your work instead of the photos was a reasonable one. You did have standing to say it was too much or to just discreetly leave, but as her peer in a group where no one else seemed to be objecting (and in fact might have been oohing and ahhing because A Baby, the miracle of life, etc.), I can understand why you didn’t!

{ 364 comments… read them below }

  1. bamcheeks*

    One of my partner’s colleagues was on the local version of One Born Every Minute! That’s a lot of information to know about someone and it took her a while to forget. Actually putting it on in a staff meeting would have been another level, though…

  2. ThatGirl*

    I can completely understand being dumbfounded in the moment and have no idea what to say. But I would like to HOPE that if I were ever in a similar situation, I would say something like “Maria, your baby is darling and I’d love to cuddle him/her, but these hospital photos are a bit much for me, can we stick to G-rated ones?” or something along those lines.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m pretty sure most of us would think that in the abstract, but in the moment be like “… Maybe I will just let this be a one-off awkward thing, rather than raise the already-high discomfort level.”

      This would seem particularly likely to lend itself to being a one-off.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I fully acknowledge that it’s easy for me to say from this perspective, and that most people probably wouldn’t think of it in the moment. But I am not known for being a shrinking violet, hence my hopefulness :P

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In many contexts, I am glad of those people!

          Just, it’s way easier when it’s hypothetical. Like riding stegosauruses.

          1. Wintermute*

            I love that analogy.

            The one I use is that people tend to run by rote scripts, just by nature. When something that happens that’s wildly outside of expectations it’s like a computer having to abort program and prompt the user for input.

            The example I use is if you ask someone “would you like coffee?” you expect yes, or no, maybe with a request for sugar or cream. If they ask for tea you might be thrown a little but can probably handle that with a slight interruption.

            If they get up and start screaming about how coffee doesn’t exist and you must be part of the evil barista conspiracy… that is so far out of your expectations you are not going to have a response ready for that situation. There are so few business situations that involve pictures of your coworker’s business end that there’s no way most people will have a mental program/script ready for THAT one.

            1. Jackalope*

              This is such a good analogy. It’s easy to think you’ll have a response ready in the moment (and I will say that having read this blog regularly has given me a lot of unexpected moments to mentally prepare for!), and sometimes you do. But guessing that all of us have had something come up that’s so wildly outside of our frame of reference that we have no idea what to do. Looking back on it you can maybe think, “Oh, this would have been the right response!” But it can be hard to think of that on the spot.

            2. Random Dice*

              I think I would have either kept my mouth shut and frantically wondered what the heck to do, or let out a startled “What the eff!”

            3. goddessoftransitory*

              Perfect analogy.

              In yesterday’s Dear Prudie, Prudence advised a LW to “tell the truth” about a family estrangement if anyone asked after the person, and my first thought was “….ohhhh, could you not?” Because it’s one thing if it’s family or a friend, quite another when you ask a business acquaintance “how’s the family?” and get turned into an impromptu therapist.

              Obviously not quite the same as a huge blowup over imaginary coffee, but yeah, boundaries! They are a good thing!

              1. Former_Employee*

                I stopped reading that column after Emily Yoffe left and it seemed to take a direction I didn’t care for. I can’t imagine sharing “family estrangement” with an acquaintance.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Yeah, unless she really couldn’t read the room and a year or two later out comes the projector for the second set…

        My dad was fond of showing us slideshows of construction sites interspersed with normal holiday photos, as if power plants and bridge pillars were normally included among vistas from the top of mountains or mum making dinner outside the tent. But he was at least not sticking his camera where it wasn’t wanted…

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m relying on there being a lot fewer photos of the second child than the first.

    2. Anonys*

      I’m squeamish so if there was any blood/goo involved (and photos of the actual birth usually would have that) i don’t think I would be able to hide my reaction of “ugghhh I can’t look at that” which to be fair is not great but likely what i would blurt out

      1. Random Dice*

        My kid’s birth was genuinely incredibly traumatizing for my husband, I almost died. I can only imagine how he would feel, being shot straight into PTSD land at work, like that.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          A VERY good point. Birth is visceral and can be very traumatic; just dumping a slideshow into people’s laps could really be a trigger!

        2. allathian*

          Yeah, this.

          I wasn’t in danger during my son’s birth, and not in unbearable pain either thanks to an epidural that worked, but at one point I had two midwives and an ob/gyn working on me and I doubt the view was pretty. It didn’t occur to my husband to take any photos until I had our son in my arms, and I’m so glad that there’s no tradition here of the whole family including in-laws being in the birthing room. Even before the pandemic, most hospitals didn’t allow more than one support person for the birthing parent, usually the non-birthing parent of the child or a doula. In some cases they might allow two. At least in the hospital I was in, the birthing room was so small that with the medical staff, there wouldn’t have been any room for more than one or two other people.

          I’m not sure I’d be able to behave in a professional manner if I had to face such blatantly unprofessional behavior at work. And exposing people to potentially traumatizing pictures of the birth of your child without their explicit and enthusiastic, freely given consent would be unprofessional in any environment I’ve ever worked.

    1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

      Same. I mean, neither is great for work, but there’s a big difference between some boobs and downstairs parts.

      1. MikeM_inMD*

        And one sign of that difference is you resorted to a broad euphemism for one, while settling on a slang term for the other.

        1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

          Eh I did that mostly for comedic effect, but also because saying vulva/labia/perineum gets cumbersome. And boobs is just a good word.

    2. BubbleTea*

      “Pictures of the baby’s birth” either means vulva or incisions and internal organs, and neither is appropriate at work.

      “Would you like to see my vulva?” is not a sentence you should ask in a work meeting, and you can’t assume the answer is yes I’m any situation!

      1. bamcheeks*

        It could be, or it could mean, “newborn seconds after birth snuggled skin to skin on parent who is obviously not wearing a top”, which is a pretty normal birth photo, and I could see how someone would think that it was OK to share at work and someone else could think it was extremely NOT OK to share at work and I wouldn’t say either was obviously wrong.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          I dunno, the skin to skin pictures seem more akin to “happy parents cuddling the baby” while LW says the photos were of the “baby being born”. Which makes me think the camera was downbelowdecks during the happy event.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Really depends on things like the angle, whether you’ve got a blanket, how big your boobs are, all sorts! Some of those photos I’d be very happy to share with colleagues, some very much not.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          I’m on team “work colleagues’ babies magically spring into existence wrapped in hospital blankets wearing little hats.”

          I mean, I wouldn’t make a big deal of a photo like you describe, but I’d think that’s not really the best photo to send around at work.

          1. AnonORama*

            I’m on team EVERYONE’s babies magically spring into existence wrapped in hospital blankets wearing little hats!

            1. AJoftheInternet*

              Most of my babies NEVER wore hospital blankets or little hats… but you can’t really tell by the pictures. ;)

            2. Feckless Rando*

              Yes! Unless you are my partner and you’re actively giving birth to our baby, then the birth is not not something I want to see!! I am however very happy to see everyone’s fully separated and dressed babies.

            3. Chirpy*

              Same, and if I ever have kids, I will straight up ban all photography equipment from the room, because I don’t want to re-watch that portion of the process myself, let alone share it!

              1. Elizabeth West*

                That reminds me of my friend’s second child birth video (no crotch shots, thankfully) and right in the middle of it, she bellowed, “THIS IS HORRENDOUS!”

                My reaction: 0_0

                She then said, “Oh you forget about it as soon as it’s over!”

                1. MM*

                  I had no idea people were taking pictures, let alone MAKING VIDEOS, of the birth itself. I already thought it was wild that (as I gather from Reddit) various family members other than partners or an invited parent or sibling of the birthing parent seem to expect to be in the delivery room. It’s not a social event! This is one of those times I feel like an alien who just dropped in from Andromeda.

              2. Emmy Noether*

                I have given birth (and am currently pregnant), and you can be certain that no-one is recording me in any way, shape or form during birth. Personally, I’d rather forget as much as possible about it.

                But I’m also not one to chirp about the “beautiful, powerful experience” – attitudes about giving birth seem to vary widely. I’m also not interested in hearing other’s “birth stories”, or telling mine.

              3. Rainbow*

                I only learned from this post that people (outside of like, One Born Every Minute) take photos and video during birth. Why on earth would you want to look back on THAT moment when you will always look back on the one after?!

              1. Former_Employee*

                No matter the topic or situation there is always an appropriate line to be found in “The West Wing”, probably the best series ever made.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Like, it wouldn’t be auto-appropriate even at a meeting of gynocologists/obstetricians! And they literally make their living taking care of those areas!

    3. Drago Cucina*

      My husband went through this at work (retired anesthetist). One of his coworkers came in with a video of his new baby. Oh, ah, it’s going to be a video of baby and smiling parents. It was a video of the baby’s birth. With zoom shots of the major action. All set to the Rocky theme song.

        1. CowWhisperer*

          I was a HS science teacher. Birth photo without adequate warning would make me throw up.

          Setting the PowerPoint to the Rocky theme song, though, might amuse me enough to keep me distracted.

          1. Former_Employee*

            They showed a childbirth film when I was in HS in what I guess was called “Health” class. One of the students passed out and toppled over. I believe her desk went with her as we were seated at those all-in-one chair/desk units.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Did you pick that user name for this post? Cuz that’s kind of awesome. If it was already your thing, that is mad awesome.

        1. Drago Cucina*

          Me? No, it’s a long-time user name. I made the avatar using a very old clip art program.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I’ve a friend who does birth photography professionally, and her work is full of pictures of naked people in a birthing pool, naked people squatting and being supported by their partners, babies being cuddled skin-to-skin, and so on. Lots of bums, boobs, chests, backs, thighs, etc, but no vulvas or crowning! I’m sure there are some people who want those shots too, but they aren’t the ones she shares publically.

      I think it’s completely legit not to want to see those photos in a work meeting! But I don’t think it’s the case that “birth photos including body parts I’d rather not see” necessarily means shots of her vulva.

      1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

        Yeah, those kinds of photos are where my mind went. Some people consider them really special and share them widely, but they can be graphic in the sense of showing really raw moments, even if the nudity content is on par with a beach photo. They’re still not okay for work! But it’s a lot easier to understand how a smitten new parent/someone with already iffy boundaries might think those are okay to share.

      2. CheesePlease*

        Yes these sorts of photos (even when everything is covered or the angles are such that you don’t see more than you would otherwise) make it hard to ignore the fact that your colleague was half naked and presumably grunting in pain birthing a baby that came out of their body. And that is understandably uncomfortable.

      3. Change name for today*

        Thank, I agree that is a possibility. I think the photos you describe could still be consider “PG” to to her and “not PG” to others.

        You are right doesn’t really change any of the advice, and clarification would only help me understand how far off Maria’s judgement is.

        1. Chirpy*

          PG/PG13 rating des not include any part of downstairs in the front. That’s an automatic R rating for movies.

          1. Lellow*

            I mean, I definitely remember watching an educational video on How Humans Give Birth in year 5 (so aged 10) which contained a lot of close-up of the baby coming out! (All of us were obviously reacting in loud performative horror until our teacher told us to be more mature, haha)

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              They showed us a natural childbirth film in high school. It was then that I decided I wanted nothing to do with birthing no babies. Instant contraception! Nope, nope, nope. Looked painful and messy.

      4. Rainy*

        Mr Rainy is a digital editor in the private sector, and one day about six months after he started his current job he came home and said “Can I just say how happy I am that we’re childfree?” Apparently that day’s quota of birth videos was Too Much. And that was a few years ago.

    5. cabbagepants*

      I am also extremely curious about this.

      The very first photograph I have of my daughter was taken seconds after her being delivered. When I look at it all I see is my beautiful daughter and if I didn’t think twice I might happily share the picture without stopping to appreciate that the pink thing at the bottom of the picture is the inside of my uterus (C-section).

      Not saying it’s ok at all, just that more detail could help give me a picture of just how bad the person’s judgement was.

      1. Siege*

        I’m curious why there are shades of offense? All I want to see of my coworkers is conventionally-uncovered skin such as hands, lower legs, arms, etc. Any photo that can be described as PG isn’t appropriate for everyone you work with, whether or not there are gushing fluids or open incisions in the image. My coworkers and I do not have a relationship where sharing any photos whatsoever of active birth (and it’s extremely clear that this was not post cleanup swaddled baby and tired mom) is appropriate. At very best a PG birth photo is something to share with coworkers you are personally very socially close to, not a group of all your coworkers in the middle of a meeting.

        1. cabbagepants*

          I’m not arguing the main point. I agree with the main point!

          I’m just curious about how severe the lapse of judgement was. It doesn’t change the advice.

    6. Letter Writer*

      Letter writer here. Since i was busy doing work through much of the presentation, I’m not entirely certain just how far things went. The first picture showed Maria from the waist up only. It was taken from a few feet away. No, I don’t know by whom. Maria was of course wearing nothing at all, and there was no blurring or covering or anything else of her breasts. It was…unexpected. The second picture was from a greater distance and showed that she was in a birthing pool. The water was clearer than I might have wished. I don’t suppose I could make out a vulva, exactly, but it was evident that one was there, if you know what I mean. I was grateful for the presence of the water. A couple more pictures from similar angles went by, and that’s when I decided that immersing myself in my work was a better idea than watching Maria immersed in the birthing pool.

      So I don’t really know how, um, detailed the pictures eventually got. But it would not surprise me to learn that some of the later pictures were about as graphic as it got.

      1. CowWhisperer*

        Recently, I shared lodging with other educational professionals from my current job for a week for a training. We managed to avoid seeing body parts usually covered by clothing while sharing a bedroom and bathroom.

        I… can’t imagine trying to deal with pictures of a colleague naked.

        1. CowWhisperer*

          I’ve taught in several schools where the total number of staff ranged from 8-30.

          Education comes with stricter behavioral expectations for staff than most other jobs because your clients are minors whose parents are off-site and the students have minimal to no choice in choosing what school to attend and wherever to attend school.

          If a teacher finds it appropriate to show frontal nudity pictures of themselves to staff “because we’re like family”, I am very concerned about the teacher’s understanding of professional boundaries and equally concerned about a principal who was unable to cut off the PowerPoint rapidly.

          After all, I taught some teens for 4-5 years of high school. A few said I was like a mom, aunt or big sister to them. A few were over 18. One could say we were like family – so do nude pics of me become appropriate in that setting? The answer in the US is “No!” – and the fact that this teacher missed that worries me.

    7. Lily Rowan*

      My first boss asked if I wanted to see ALL the pictures from her baby’s birth, and I was like, sure? And it was, in fact, the baby crowning. I was NOT PREPARED.

      Honestly, I was barely prepared to see her bare breasts!

    8. LouiseAnn*

      Good point… illustrates that… this is cultural. People… have different… cultural values…. Comfort with baby is cultural… people stop all the judging and hating of Maria in comments. Make your point… without judging

      1. Random Dice*

        Nobody’s hating.

        But there are agreed-upon business norms, even internationally, and this deeply violates them.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, I agree. It’s one thing to potentially share pictures from the delivery room with your family members, if you indeed have that sort of relationship with your family. Completely another to share them with coworkers, who generally don’t have much choice in who they’re expected to be able to work with, except by changing jobs.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          I’m hating. I hate that Maria put her coworkers in this position. I hate that their boss didn’t call a halt to it very early in the program. Maria has enough awareness of US cultural norms to use movie-rating designations, and still did this. Yeah, I’m hating.

  3. Decidedly Me*

    Honestly, I wouldn’t want my work colleagues to see this stuff….

    We had a similar-ish issue happen during a show and tell sort of thing. Someone was presenting things that were not work appropriate. Several of us there (myself included) really should have said something, but I think we were all too stunned to honestly. It was a mistake and one I would not make again. If anyone else had spoken up, none of us would have said that they didn’t have standing to say something – anyone would have!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      My favorite podcast, Sawbones (A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine) did episodes where they discussed the births of their two kids right after they happened. In one of them, they mentioned that ahead of the birth Syndee totally didn’t mind that she had interns/med students that she had been supervising attend her c-section but then someone else decided that maybe they’d better not have them attend and she admitted that after the fact she was glad of that decision. She thought it would definitely be weird to then have to supervise them again later after they’d seen her mostly naked in surgery. So yeah, even medical people don’t want their colleagues who are also medical people to see certain parts of their bodies!

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Oh, man, I was so careful to spell her name in her unusual way and not the standard way, but I still got it wrong. It’s Sydnee, not Syndee. Anyway, still my favorite podcast either way.

      2. Llama Groomer*

        I am glad for her! weird role reversal which it would I imagine be hard to come back from!

      3. Distracted Librarian*

        This is giving me flashbacks to the time I attended a work meeting that included the doctor who’d done my most recent pelvic exam. Oh, the joy of being a medical librarian :-)

        1. Empress Penguin*

          I’m also a medical librarian! My boss averts her eyes and walks the other way whenever she sees her midwife coming down the corridor

      4. Random Bystander*

        Yes–before the company I work for was sold twice (my department at least), there were two linked hospitals located about 25 miles apart. It seemed to be universally the case that except for ER visits, everyone who worked at Hospital A went to Hospital B for major medical procedures and vice versa.

      5. Holly Godarkly*

        Oh yes, I am currently part of a mentoring team for the doctor who did my hip replacement. So I was naked and he used power tools on my body. It’s weird when I think about it, so I just pretend that didn’t happen.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Ugh, yeah; really out of left field, “never occurred to me that X would ever be a topic/on display” stuff does exactly that–leaves people stunned into silence most of the time.

  4. idwtpaun*

    Maria may be very nice, but she’s also extremely self-involved, at least as far as her child is concerned. Even if these were just pictures of her and her family with the baby, how many people want to sit through someone else’s family picture show? And the baby is right there anyway!

    But I’m not sure what you could’ve done, OP. If it were one on one, then there are ways I can think of to let the other person know you’re not comfortable, but a group display like that really holds people hostage to the situation.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This. What made her think that her colleagues were so disappointed at not being in the birthing room with her that they’d be excited to sit through a (god help me) SLIDE SHOW about it?

      1. Mensa CW*

        I’m actually grimacing at this post.

        Hijacking a faculty meeting to set up a personal slideshow of any kind is obnoxious, I think. Crotch shots are a whole other level of madness! It’s easy for me to say this as an onlooker but I can’t imagine sitting through this, as either staff or manager. What kind of manager lets this happen?

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I was thinking I’d be pretty annoyed if a colleague walked into a meeting and took over, to show personal photos, even if they were something completely harmless like their holiday snaps. That just…isn’t what staff meetings are for and to be honest, most of us want to get staff meetings over as quickly as possible and don’t want to spend time on anything that isn’t necessary.

          Of course, I don’t know the full context here, but I’d also be pretty annoyed if I were the person speaking and was interrupted. Hopefully, she at least didn’t do this in the middle of somebody’s presentation!

          I know that kinda pales into comparison compared to the presentation itself. And as regards the “all family here,” um, I wouldn’t want to see photos of my sister giving birth to my nephew either.

          1. Letter Writer*

            To be fair, I think Maria didn’t just barge in and “take over” an existing meeting, though it would have been entirely in character (she really was a neat person, and I enjoyed working with her, but you will not be surprised to learn that boundaries were not her thing). I think she set it up with my boss to come in and take a little time for the meeting agenda. I do doubt that she made it clear to my boss exactly what she had in mind…

            And again to be fair, our meetings tended to be long and meandering. It was one of the things that drove me faintly crazy about that school; sticking to an agenda seemed very difficult for people. As a general principle there was too much talking, much of it with no point or little point. So the arrival of a baby was a welcome sight, not just because it is always wonderful to see a baby, but because it at least temporarily derailed the really rather awful meetings!

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Exactly! My boss has sent a few photos of her twinsies and she came with them to the end of one of our in-person mtgs when everyone was in town a couple of weeks ago and we were all so excited to see her and the babies!!!! But absolutely NOT would boss have even considered showing us photos of the birth, NO WAY. And yeah, who even considers that your colleagues want to see those body parts of yours???? NOPE.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I can’t even imagine who would want to be the camera person on that project! (And it sounds really annoying for the staff trying to, you know, safely deliver a baby.)

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’m absolutely imagining the non-birth parent doing the filming while the doula tries to comfort and encourage the birth parent and all the professionals try to ignore them.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, I don’t blame you.

                My husband sat at my head and tried to comfort me for much of the time I was in active labor.

            1. Dog momma*

              I am surprised that filming is allowed when a woman gives birth, in this litigious world we live in. bc things can go south in a heartbeat. which actually happened to my sibling.
              photos of mom and baby after, but not during. and I’m A retired nurse, thankfully ICU and not L& D

    2. Susannah*

      Glad you said that. I’m not anti-baby, but why on earth does anyone think I want to see photos of the birth? Blood, people in pain and a view of a woman’s vagina? Not interested. Yes, birth is an amazing part of nature, but it’s happened before and it will happen again. Any photos/video of the event (and I would KILL my husband if he did that) should be for immediate family (and probably some of them don’t want to see them).

      1. idwtpaun*

        “Yes, birth is an amazing part of nature, but it’s happened before and it will happen again. ”

        I think this is the part that eludes the kind of people who think others want to see their birthing photos and videos – they think that because something is monumentally important to them, it’s monumentally important to everyone and that’s just… not how the world works.

        My cat is one of the lights of my life, but her world-shattering cuteness is constrained to my instagram and occasional shares with friends who have similarly world-shatteringly cute pets that they’ll share back.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I have a friend who will interrupt mid-sentence during a call to proclaim that her cat is being adorable. When I ask what the cat is doing, it’s always “she’s just sitting there!”

          I have adorable cats too, so it’s not that I don’t understand, I just think that should stay in one’s inner monologue (or told to the cat).

        2. Letter Writer*

          Letter writer here. I think you’re exactly right. I had seen one birth in person before this slide show. It involved a child of my own. One was quite enough, thankyouverymuch!

          1. Double A*

            And I didn’t even want photos of myself giving birth!! There was a mirror, I have my memories and that’s plenty.

            1. KimberlyR*

              I didn’t even want a mirror! 3 kids later and I’m happy I have no visuals of the events. I have worked in hospitals and have seen all bare body parts so I’m not squeamish-it’s just not something I want to see (mine or anyone else’s)

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          I will look at all the kitty pictures you care to flash before me, but I doubt my workplace would be cool with viewing her birth!

    3. WellRed*

      Yes, the minute she set up a projector or whatever was the time to intervene. No one wants to see slideshows or home videos of their coworkers kids.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes! I would be genuinely happy to see Maria and the baby, and one or two photos; AFTER the meeting.

      If I’m in a meeting, my mind is on getting Meeting Stuff done. No matter how cheery the subject matter derailing uses up time and energy that have to be recouped later and can throw off peoples’ schedules pretty severely.

  5. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Not one person WTFd or “dear lord, no-ed.”
    That is the truly amazing part of the story.
    She really thought everyone was so vested in her child that they’d find this interesting? That anyone of her colleagues thought, “wow, wish I could be in the delivery room?”
    Oh look, there I go, blurting.

    1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Seriously! I couldn’t have controllled the, “Ew, NO MA’AM!” that would have come out of my mouth at the moment that started. Birthing a baby is gross in the sense that there’s bodily fluids coming out everywhere, there’s screaming.. whoooomst thinketh this is appropriate to share in a work setting?!

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This is a great case study on how people are really hesitant to speak up on socially awkward group situations even when it’s pretty clear that a significant portion of the group is going “WTF” throughout.

      1. Letter Writer*

        You know, I never actually talked to any of my colleagues about this incident later on, so I don’t know how they felt about it. I do think Alison is right that a group of teachers would react differently to Maria’s presentation than a group of people in finance. It would not shock me if some of the people in the room were just fine with it. Still, I take your point–and I can’t believe I was the only one who felt that this wasn’t appropriate? Surely?

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          The fact that it Was Never Spoken Of Again (that you know of) probably underlines that plenty of people were similarly gobsmacked and simply chose to employ brain bleach.

    3. Ashley*

      This is the definition of professionalism. In a casual setting or with the right people I would have no problem blurting out something like stop. But depending on the politics I get not being the first one to speak up and say something. This why managers really need to speak up even when people appear cool.

      1. allathian*

        Eh, maybe I’m not professional enough, but I hope I’d have the presence of mind to call out blatantly unprofessional behavior regardless of my position in the organizational hierarchy. I have the privilege of not working in an at-will environment, so blurting out something like “gross, I don’t want to see that” and getting up to leave the meeting wouldn’t get me fired or even written up. It might cool my relationship with the oversharer a bit, but frankly that wouldn’t worry me much, an oversharer like that gets the chilly scrupulously professional treatment with zero warmth from then on.

    4. Phony Genius*

      I’m going to assume some people quietly walked away from the situation. (LW does not say if anybody did, or how many.)

    5. Misshapen Pupfish*

      I wouldn’t have been able to professionally hide my shock, either. I would probably blurt something like “uaugh!” and sprint from the room. This subject matter gives me a near-instant panic attack. A coworker recently started to describe her daughter giving birth to a grandchild to me and I had to frantically wave for her to stop.

  6. Alex*

    Sometimes I just don’t know what is wrong with some people.

    I never want to see a picture of someone’s crowning baby. I want to see the pictures where the proper response is “awww how cute!” and that does not qualify. What is the proper response to that picture? I wouldn’t even know what to say. (OUCH does possibly come to mind?)

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’d assume that the overall freshman class reaction to such a (video) picture would still hold as the default response for most of us. Yep, generation of “here watch a baby crowning” and “here look at photos of these nasty STIs” followed with “and here are what we use to help prevent all of that”. General squeamish sounds and noises, lots of hands over eyes-peeking, etc. Like I said, we were about 14-15.

      Oddly none of us who had that particular teacher had kids while still in high school.

      1. Sic Transit Vir*

        Oh god, flashbacks of my grade 7 class being shown a childbirth video. Scared us all straight it sure did.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          I’m laughing at “scared straight” because I’m pretty sure that kind of sex ed info made young lesbian me that much more inclined to pursue other girls.

      2. Just a girl*

        You too! It always seemed like my fellow classmates blacked that out when I tried to say don’t you remember that video we were shown in health class? They would just glaze over and stare at me. In our health class it was a full video – from the couple going on a date, having unprotected sex, the pregnancy, to the birth of the baby! And the camera was front and center of the action of the baby being born.

        Strike another one down for, “and the older generation wonders why we don’t wanna have kids.”

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I think I saw (and then went on to show) that same video. Was it narrated by Jon Lithgow, by chance? If it was, I remember peeking out between my fingers thinking the action was over and it was time for cute baby shots, reader, it was not.

          Nowadays, when I show it, I always stop before things get, ahem, and ask the class if they want to go on, which they always do with many cries of Ahh! Gross! (ah, middle school).

          1. Just a girl*

            I don’t remember the narrator. I remember it was presented as them being “normal teens like us”. The guy was in a red and white letterman’s jacket. It was interspersed with some cartoon and some real medical footage throughout. Like sperm moving along, ultra sounds of the baby, etc. And at the end once the baby was there it did a pause and rewind to point out how all of this could have been avoided if they had just used a condom and showed the teens buying some in a gas station.

            That thing has been SEARED into my memory. I wish I could black it out.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        How lucky were we that we were told ways to prevent that besides “never hug a boy”? Some of my friends’ sex education classes were either extremely deficient or straight-up lies.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          The district in which I live requires abstinence only, meaning “basically nothing”.

          It is ridiculous.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Especially because abstinence-only education actually increases the rates of teen pregnancy over *not having any sex education at all*.

            It’s like how the D.A.R.E. programs that emphasized standing up against the peer pressure to do drugs like everyone else… convinced kids that everyone else was doing drugs, so they should too and increased drug use among teens. *facepalm*

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Exactly. “Glad you’re back from your quadruple bypass!” is not a reason to be shown rib spreaders and scalpels.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Family just rushed in to see what was making me laugh so hard while I’m supposed to be working.
        Thanks, Myra, that’s an absolutely honest (and hilarious) reaction!

      2. ReallyBadPerson*

        You almost owed me a new keyboard, but I swallowed my tea just before getting to your comment!

    3. SoloKid*

      My response would’ve been “These are a bit personal for my taste! Do you have ones of just the baby?”

    4. Jackalope*

      I’ve had formal doula training and have participated in a handful of births (because of the unplannable nature of labor and delivery I could only fit it around my “real” job for people I was close to). During my training I saw many, many videos of babies being born, including all of the various stages, and showing all of the important bits. So unlike others I wouldn’t be immediately grossed out by this, and would probably ask vaguely professional questions (the second someone finds out you’re a doula they want to tell you ALL about their birth story, so I’ve heard it all). But I’d still be weirded out by a coworker bringing in a slide show to share with the whole staff. Even having Maria take me aside and show me the exact same photos would have been less weird than a staff meeting with this!! I never had anyone that I knew whose birth I did NOT attend come to me with photos of the birth moment itself, even if they came to share vivid stories with me.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, indeed. I don’t object to the video itself, just that it was shown in an inappropriate setting where the coworkers didn’t get the chance to either give their enthusiastic consent, or more likely, to opt out gracefully.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      If the proper response can’t even come to the level of “Oh! A…baby! That there’s a baby, all right!” the picture should probably be kept private.

  7. Peanut Hamper*

    I knew this would be a problem the minute I saw “but that’s okay, we’re all family here!”

    No, we’re not. But even if we were, I would not want to see this.

      1. Lady_blerd*

        I was present for my sister’s first child and I was shocked then although I should have expected this. I definitely would not want to see my colleagues hoo-haa no matter how close we are.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          And you were invited, generally understanding what to expect and agreeing.
          And actual family. This is so bizarre.

      1. Siege*

        I don’t know about you, but my family doesn’t hang out by showing each other gory videos of our medical moments. Perhaps we are weird.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        In a surprising twist, the woman who had the baby is also the mother of everyone else at the staff meeting, but everyone goes to great lengths not to let on.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        “So are groups of cousins and sinister uncles who are all hanging out in a mansion waiting for Great Grandpa Evil to die and the will to finally be read so they can start shoving each other down the cellar stairs–but I really don’t think we should run the finance department that way.”

      1. Jackalope*

        I love m’y sister and was her labor support for both babies so I saw everything, but I STILL wouldn’t have needed to see photos of, say, babies crowning, after everything was said and done.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Yeah, that is code for “Wait For Inappropriate Thing!” 9.99 times out of ten.

      And at least 99% of those times, it’s stuff I would either never or very precisely share with actual family members. Like, would talk about stuff with my sister that I would not with my father!

  8. squirreltooth*

    If I accidentally showed a coworker a picture of my bathing suit zone, even for a millisecond, I’d rip myself in two and sink into the ground forever like Rumpelstiltskin. I can’t imagine any scenario where I’d do it intentionally.

  9. Delta Delta*

    I would likely not have been able to stop myself from saying something like, “what is actually happening right now?!” if I saw this slide show. I like Jane, and I’m happy for her that she had a baby and they all seem happy and healthy, and yes, I understand how this happens but no, I don’t need the visual.

  10. Hills to Die on*

    I didn’t really even want my husband to see that – much less all my coworkers. My former SIL played the birth video at the baby’s first birthday. Most people left the room and didn’t watch. I do NOT understand people who do this.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      The video for Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” is women getting to live out their dreams. One’s dream was for her (adult) son to see the video of his own birth. I still don’t know how the son’s reaction wasn’t “pick a different dream or I’m moving to Fiji and cutting off all contact, Mom!”

  11. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Holy Hannah I’d have run screaming (tokophobic). That’s just…beyond what normal human interaction should include!

    Fully at a loss for words. How on EARTH could anyone think showing graphic pictures of childbirth is appropriate at work! Your manager should have gone ‘whoa, TMI’ and pulled the plug on the power.

    Just when I thought nothing on this site could shock me. Wow.

    1. Pippa K*

      Thank you for the word ‘tokophobic;’ I now have the correct descriptor for how I feel. Yikes.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I would LOVE the manager’s take on this. Was she completely OK with it?
      Did she think that new mom’s status trumped everyone’s else’s?
      “I can’t stop her because “working parent.”
      Or “If anyone has a problem, they are free to leave. They know that.”
      Or “I’m retiring this year. Not dealing with her starting a battle about freedom of speech, we’re family, women in the workplace.”

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I could be wrong but I think it was one of two options:

        1. Total lockdown brain freeze of ‘did…did that just really happen?’

        2. The annoying ‘it’s a miracle and you should feel blessed to witness it!’

        Personally I hope it’s the first.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      As someone who is also tokophobic I’ve found that normal polite assumptions about how humans behave go completely out the window when it comes to childbirth. I have learned to throw up the stop sign early – which offends people but I do not care.

    4. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      THERE’S A WORD FOR IT OH THANK GOD. Yeah, honestly I’m not sure how much of mine is Gender Related and how much is “parents maaaaaybe shouldn’t have let me watch Alien at the age of 5” but I would have noped out of that meeting at Mach 3.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I seriously find the idea of pregnancy terrifying- which is why I react really, really badly to people doing the ‘oh you’ll change your mind!’ thing. No. I won’t. And yep, it reminds me too much of the Alien films too!

        1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

          Yep. I’m 49 and trans and terrified of the whole idea of pregnancy and I wish both my uterus and the “you’ll wish you’d had kids” people would just shrivel up and blow away.

    5. Enai*

      We don’t actually know which of Maria’s nsfw bodyparts were seen. Might just be her boobs with a newborn attached.

      Still. I haven’t seen pictures of my sister during or directly after birth, and she’s my sister. I would have attended, had she asked (by which I mean come to be with her during the birth, not in a medical capacity. I’m not medically qualified).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I think if it was a baby nursing there wouldn’t have been *quite* the ‘wtf’ nature of the letter. I’m pretty much assuming it was stills from the baby crowning or something which hoo boy NO.

        1. Enai*

          I heartily agree with the “Do NOT Want” – ness of a crowning baby picture, but the neo-puritan anti breastfeeding crowd cannot be discounted.

          1. Enai*

            Nevermind, the letter writer just confirmed it’s the scenario you feared. Clearly, I was wildly overoptimistic about Maria’s good sense.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            There’s still a difference between breastfeeding in public (which is something I’m all for, along with formula feeding or whatever – how you feed a baby and where is up to you) and taking photos of it and showing it to your coworkers.

            One is essential, the other is not.

  12. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Nobody blurted “aw hell to the no?”
    Cuz I would have blurted something a lot worse if I was told I’d be seeing baby pictures.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I can handle baby pictures all right but as soon as the camera switched to Maria’s underpants region, I too would have blurted something loudly and profanely.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Yes, like that. No, not your comment. Me spitting soda on my computer screen after reading your comment. You win.

  13. really*

    When I was in high school (70s) a biology teacher had a baby and her birthing video was shown in classes. Don’t know how graphic it got. I didn’t take Biology in high school so never saw it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I recall watching a birthing video in health class in the late 90s (one teenage boy passed out) but again, it wasn’t someone we knew!

        1. AnonORama*

          We had those too, same era. At least in our school, those were designed to make teenagers decide against having sex. That and the “disease” pictures definitely made some of us think twice, although not everyone, haha.

      2. Clisby*

        I saw one back in the late ’60s in a high school health class.

        Weirdly, it was a health series that started with the premise that you were in a fallout shelter after a nuclear disaster. So the lessons were things like “what to do if someone dies in a fallout shelter”, “having a baby in a fallout shelter”, how to stop bleeding (in, you guessed it, a fallout shelter).

        Other than being Cold War propaganda, I’m not sure of the point of this framing, since there’s no difference between doing these things in a fallout shelter vs. any other place where you might be stranded (like being snowed in during/after a blizzard, or being cut off from everyone after a hurricane, or whatever.)

        I actually found the video kind of fascinating. Years later, when I was a reporter at a small local newspaper, I did an article about a woman who was having her baby at home. She had had her first baby in a hospital, hated that experience, and the next 4 were at home.

        But, obviously, neither of these involved a person I worked with.

        1. JustaTech*

          Oh my goodness I think I saw that same video in my college first responder class!
          The local Red Cross only let our class check it out because a bunch of it was out of date (mostly that now the protocol is to lay the baby on the mom, not immediately stick it in a box).
          But very Cold War bunker vibes.

      3. Phony Genius*

        Also saw one in the ’90’s, but it was very carefully edited so that we couldn’t see the woman’s parts. All camera angles were blocked by nurses, so all we saw was her face, and then a pan over to a one-second-old baby being handed off by a nurse.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        1980s at school and they showed a video and I know I was fully into my ‘no I am NEVER having kids EVER’ stance afterwards.

    1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      I was subjected to one freshman year of high school in August of 1990, and when I tell you my 14 year old ass COULD NOT. It was a nightmare, and basically my Netherlands audibly locked up tighter than Fort Knox. I am 47 and have never had a child, that video ruined the very slim chance I would have reconsidered having kids (I decided I never wanted kids at 12). There was NO POSSIBLE CHANCE I was doing /that/. At all. Understand, my monthlies were terrible already, so a birth video looked like ancient torture to me.

  14. Frankie Mermaids*

    Up until the day I gave birth, I tried to convince my husband to wait in the car…. I can’t imagine taking photos/videos of the main event let alone sharing them with coworkers!

    1. Coverage Associate*

      An exception proving the rule: my mother is an obstetrician and has a photo of my sister right after she was born in Mom’s office. It has been a useful sort of teaching aid with patients, but even my family, all very comfortable with that area of medicine (We have all worked for Mom at some point) has no idea how the photo was taken. Like, everyone in the delivery room either didn’t have that view or was a medical professional with no time to take a photo. (It was in the days of film cameras when taking family photos was for special occasions.)

        1. Coverage Associate*

          None of the people who weren’t health care professionals had a mirror in the delivery room, but that sister has a small birthmark, so maybe I can check. You couldn’t tell about a mirror from her face or anything. Babies change so fast.

          Mom has trouble telling her daughters’ baby photos apart, into the toddler period. Sometimes we figure it out by location or clothes, though hand me downs make it hard.

      1. Hudson*

        Similarly, my mom is a midwife and we have photos of my birth and my siblings’ births in our home. Not prominently displayed, but not hidden. Obviously, birth photography isn’t appropriate for work, but that doesn’t mean birth is automatically a disgusting even that no one wants to see pictures of. And indeed, while this slideshow was not appropriate for teachers, I am 99% sure that a workplace of birth workers would have absolutely loved it.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          As someone who firmly refused the mirror offered when giving birth to my kids* and whose husband remained firmly at my shoulder facing me I completely get all of the comments of “grooooosss”…I agree with you. These types of photos and videos are absolutely not something that I want for me, but I can logically understand why other people might want them (much like I can logically understand that some people enjoy mushrooms and actually eat them on purpose). It’s not gross that Maria has the photos, or gross that a photographer took them. Unfortunately Maria just carried straight on to “so therefor no one can think this is gross and in fact they definitely want to see it unexpectedly!” Oh Maria.

          *AND studiously read my textbook during the video in health class in the aughts AND scrolled Facebook when the video was shown during the birthing class I took when pregnant with my first.

  15. Kristinyc*

    Oh noooo… That’s totally inappropriate. Even people who have had babies and love babies probably don’t want to see that. Especially at work. Even if it’s a room of women who have all given birth before – it’s possible/likely that at least one of them has some birth trauma they may not want to revisit during a work meeting.

    The only reason I even have pictures like that of when I gave birth is because one of the nurses grabbed my husband’s phone and just started taking them. There are a few really sweet beautiful moments she captured that I’m glad we have (like, us holding our son and looking at each other affectionately), but there are also a lot of him crowning/coming out that I can’t unsee and maybe didn’t need. Also – my iphone sometimes has those pop up on my home screen in the “memories” module, and I always find that hilarious. While it was a memorable day… some moments don’t need to be on home screen.

    Later when I went back to work, a coworker who was pregnant asked to see what the umbilical cord looked like – I specifically cropped a picture so she would just see that part and not where the rest of the cord was going (which was still inside me….).

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      The birth trauma point is a really good one. I did not have a great experience with my twins’ birth, and while everyone was fine in the end I really prefer to choose where and when I engage with detailed birth stories and discussions. Many, many people have Feelings about aspects of their labor and delivery experiences that they might not want stirred up in a work context, even if it wasn’t traumatic.

      1. Anon in Aotearoa*

        Yes, excellent point made there, Kristinye. I’ve had one traumatic birth and one subsequent far less traumatic one, and you’d think that later experience might have made me more able to think about the first one and childbirth in general, but …. no. No it hasn’t. Don’t make me think about childbirth when I’m in work mode. (She says, typing from her work desk….)

  16. Juicebox Hero*

    Oh hell no. I already know where babies come from, and since I’m not your doctor or your intimate partner I have no need to see your privates. I wouldn’t be able to look at this coworker ever again without picturing the full monty.

    I’d bet that your boss was just as gobsmacked as you were and had absolutely no idea what to say. And what DO you say without offending her? I can understand the urge to keep quiet and hope like hell she never does anything like that again.

  17. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

    Yeah, I don’t want to see my coworker’s vag – whether or not it’s got a baby coming out of it.

    I for sure would’ve made some sort of vocal outburst if that had happened to me.

  18. Jinni*

    My (ex) husband *is* still angry I wouldn’t let him film the birth of our kid. He’d have come home from this meeting all jealous that *she* had photos and we didn’t….

    The only time I’ve seen birth videos was in my natural childbirth class. Outside of medical training, or sex-ed, I’m not sure there are too many contexts for this.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      ” Outside of medical training, or sex-ed, I’m not sure there are too many contexts for this.”

      I did make the assumption in reading this, that if any of those contexts applied and it would make it “not quiiiiite as weird”, they’d have been mentioned. So yeah. Hard agreeing, this is weird.

      Strange for him to still be angry, since it wasn’t HIS bits involved during the action…but then again, he’s an “ex” for a reason.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      I was so grateful that my husband was totally on board with “stay with me up near my head and hold my hand.” I didn’t even want him watching that close up. (I’ve heard too many horror stories about partners of a person giving birth being traumatized and not wanting anything to do with that part of their body again for a long time, if ever.) He was even MORE on board with that when it turned out I needed an emergency c-section: he did not want to watch me getting cut open any more than I did.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        My L&D nurses were very understanding of my not wanting a mirror but pressed my husband slightly…until I told them he has a history of fainting (true!) and none of us wanted that!

  19. Run, Quick*

    I think in that situation I would have gotten up and walked out, because I have anxiety about seeing things I can’t unsee, and it sounds like those photos would have been among them. So unless it was possible to completely avert my eyes and not see the photos even in my peripheral vision, I would have left.

    But that got me thinking – could quietly leaving the room somehow have backfired on OP? Like could that be taken as somehow discriminating against pregnancy or mothers, or in some other way not respecting your coworker’s preferred way of expressing themselves?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I think the coworker’s calibration on what’s appropriate is sufficiently out of whack that trying not to offend them in the process of leaving is an exercise in futility.

      If the manager thought that leaving was a problem, there are much deeper concerns.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes, this. People get very easily offended about their recent childbirths, whether you don’t want to see pictures or don’t want a bunch of graphic details or whatever it is – I’ve been scolded more than once for being rude. That’s fine. I’ll be rude.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, especially as the people who are sharing their birth stories (with pictures, no less) without explicit prior consent are the ones who are being rude. Sometimes it’s good to be the bigger person, but equally at other times rudeness simply begets more rudeness, and deservedly so.

    2. Anon for this*

      No, no she’s in the clear. It isn’t sex-based discrimination to refuse to look at birth photos. Even if you’re down with knee surgery photos.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      could quietly leaving the room somehow have backfired on OP?

      I’m not a lawyer, but my thought is no, not in a legal way.

      In a social norms/group dynamics sort of way? Unlikely. Most people were probably uncomfortable and would understand why their coworker left. Others would be oblivious or assume they left to go to the bathroom/get some water/take a phone call. There may be some workplace somewhere with terrible dynamics where offending Maria is a Cardinal Sin and anyone who leaves during the slide show will be ostracized but (as I should really pick a name said) there are much deeper concerns there.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Not sitting through your personal slide show is not discrimination, even if you’re in a position of power. No worries there.

    5. just a random teacher*

      In some schools, leaving during a staff meeting would be a Big Deal, because that particular principal is from the nose-counting and seat-warming school of principalship. Sometimes school norms can be skewed pretty differently than office norms, because what we expect from the actual students is pretty different than hat we expect from adults. So, just like there are schools (or individual teachers) that make a big deal of students not leaving during class unless its an emergency, there are principals who carry that energy over to their staff meetings even though everyone there is a full-on adult who should presumably be able to behave appropriately unsupervised.

      This can also create a Cycle of Suck, where the principal treats staff meetings like classes, with the teachers as the students, and insists on filling every minute of the time allotted just like in a class, and then the teachers start trying to avoid the meetings or multitask because no one actually cares about the filler selected today, and then the principal starts treating them like an unruly class of reluctant students, and it’s just generally a bad vibe.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Letter writer here. Well put! While I can’t speak to the question about discrimination (I expect there would have been no legal issue here, but I am a teacher not a lawyer so take this with a shaker full of salt), I will say that this school (and this principal) was not like what “just a random teacher” is describing. I was a respected and valued employee and doubt I would have gotten into any kind of “trouble” had I left. I THINK the only reason I didn’t leave is that because of the seating arrangement it would have been very obvious THAT I was leaving, and probably very obvious WHY I was leaving, and for whatever reason I didn’t want to call attention to myself that way. I don’t know if that makes sense! But I think that’s what it was.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Makes sense to me! My threshold for “can I step out of this meeting?” (for things like the bathroom, grabbing a water bottle) depends on where in the conference room I’m sitting. I’m much more likely to leave if I’m sitting in the back and near the door and less likely to leave if I’m sitting in a spot where I’ll need to walk by many of my coworkers before I reach the door.

          1. AnonORama*

            Yes! For this reason, I am Team Aisle Seat/End Seat for Life — on any conveyance (plane, train, bus, etc.), at the movies/concert, and in meetings. Being able to get up is priceless!

  20. Burning Out At Both Ends*

    I puked when Twilight showed the baby covered in cottage cheese and jam, I puked in health class when we had to watch those “miracle of life” films…
    I applaud the strong stomachs of you and your coworkers since mine would not have lasted.

    I’d also check to make sure that “not showing your coworkers your genitalia in any way shape or form” would be in the handbook from then on, because your manager SHOULD HAVE headed that off at the pass.

  21. Soontoberetired*

    flashbacks! someone I know did the whole watch the birth thing to people in social settings. lots of people did watch in the various places they brought it up, but I didn’t. I left and did tell them how wrong it was to spring it on people. no regrets on my part. I still cringe when this is brought up.

    1. JustaTech*

      Once, at a wedding, a very close friend asked (asked!) if my husband, another friend and I if we wanted to see pictures of her twin’s birth. She warned us that they were pictures of her c-section, and she knows that all of us are generally OK with medical stuff. And the pictures were on her phone, and we were off in a corner where no one else might accidentally wander in.

      And *still* I was like, “Annie, honey, I love you but I did not ever need to see your intestines. The twins are super cute!”

      That is literally the only person I have ever had offer to show pictures like that, and now that I’ve done the whole “giving birth” thing myself I would say “no thanks, I’m good, let me see what the baby looks like clean!”

      And even if it wasn’t pictures of non-PG parts of ourselves, let’s be honest, birth is a high-fluid experience and a *lot* of people have issues with that alone.

      Soontobereitred, good on you for walking out!

  22. Sparkles McFadden*

    Long ago, in the pre-smartphone days, one male coworker asked if we wanted to see pictures of the new baby. We all said “Sure!” figuring we’d see a couple of swaddled baby pics. Nope. He pulled out a stack of 5×7 full color prints showing us his wife’s cesarean section procedure. All of us shouted different things at the same time (“Why would the hospital allow this?” “Does your wife know you took these pictures?” and multiple shouts of “Ack! No!” and “What is wrong with you?”) The guy was so insulted by this reaction that he didn’t speak to anyone for the rest of the day. We were OK with that.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Wow, he was carrying around photos of the surgery and showing them to folks at every available opportunity? WTF, dude, WTF???

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yup. For the rest of the day, we’d hear the guy asking people from other departments if they wanted to see pictures of his new baby, and we’d yell “No! Say no!”

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          That does sound weirdly hilarious, but this guy’s poor wife! I wonder if she knew he was sharing those photos with all and sundry.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Thank the Lord this was pre smartphone or who knows where those photos might have been displayed!

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Can you imagine being the poor technician at the 24 Hour Photo and getting that roll? “Let’s see…birthday party…cruise…first day of kindergarten…OH DEAR GOD”

  23. Robtx*

    I can’t believe that you just compared this to breast feeding, even suggesting that it wasn’t appropriate at a finance meeting but would be with a group of female teachers. Breast feeding is to be allowed ANYWHERE that the mother is allowed to be. However, the explicit showing of a baby being delivered does not have that federal protection.

    1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

      Alison didn’t say they were the same, she just said that among teachers (a “caring” and predominantly female profession) people are more likely to *assume* there’s a level of comfort on the part of colleagues in that setting as compared to finance, a notoriously conservative field.

      And while I have and would breastfeed my babies just about anywhere (and stand up for my right to do so), that doesn’t change the fact that people are going to have their own opinions/reactions to it, and you can choose to ignore those but you can’t control how other people feel. Saying we should be able to do something is not the same as making it consequence-free.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      This remark was not about appropriateness or legality, but about the comfort level of a group of (presumably mostly female) teachers with this situation.

      Let’s stay calm and not look for reasons to get our dudgeon up.

      1. Kristinyc*

        Uh, in the US, you can legally breastfeed in public in every single state. 31 States also specifically call it out as an exemption in public decency laws.

        1. Clisby*

          Reporting in from South Carolina:

          SECTION 63-5-40. Breastfeeding

          (A) A woman may breastfeed her child in any location where the mother and her child are authorized to be.
          (B) Breastfeeding a child in a location where the mother is authorized to be is not considered indecent exposure.

          HISTORY: 2008 Act No. 361, § 2.

          Now, SC law does have the provision that both mother and child are authorized to be there, so I doubt seriously mothers who work in, say, chemistry labs can breastfeed their children in the lab, because I doubt any children at all are allowed in the lab. But a conference room? Unless the employer explicitly bans children from the premises, I don’t know why breastfeeding there would be banned.

          1. Phony Genius*

            I may have the wrong state, but I remember this law being passed not long after a store owner tried to have a nursing mother removed, citing a “no food or drink” policy.

            1. Clisby*

              That sounds vaguely familiar, but not sure it was SC. We moved here from Georgia, where the law is pretty much the same as here.

        2. umami*

          Is a conference room considered a public space, though? I’m not sure that is what was intended by the law.

          1. Clisby*

            The SC law doesn’t say anything about it being a public space. It says a place where mother and child are authorized to be. I can think of lots of private spaces where mothers and their children are authorized to be.

      2. Enai*

        Why are boobs always “whipped out” for breastfeeding? Never have I ever heard a sonic boom when a baby was fed. It sounds painful.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Thank you. This phrasing sounds really sl*t-shamy, like breastfeeding women are just looking for an excuse to expose themselves to unsuspecting townsfolk.

          1. Rainy*

            Yeah, that’s it exactly. It’s using the most inflammatory verb the person can think of to highlight both how they feel about the act and how they feel about the person. And it’s imprecise because it doesn’t reflect the actual mechanics of the activity, which offends my pedant’s soul.

            It’s like how any kind of sexual activity or relationship that someone disapproves of gets typified as, e.g. a “sex romp” or something, or people who say that knowing a colleague is queer is “information about their sex life”. It’s just a bunch of signaling.

    3. Llama Groomer*

      I am currently breastfeeding. I have (in an emergency) breastfed in a meeting with my boss, his boss and her boss. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Alison’s comment.

    4. CheesePlease*

      Allison said that breastfeeding would be PRESUMED to be more comfortable(not appropriate) in a room of mostly female teachers instead of in a finance environment, not that there is no legal right / protection specific to certain fields but not others. She was just trying to elaborate on the fact that in certain professions, the concepts of “what is ok to talk about comfortably at work” is different esp. re: woman’s bodies and babies.

    5. Higher Ed*

      I didn’t read it that way. I saw it more that people in finance may be more uncomfortable with breastfeeding in a meeting than teachers, not that it was ok for them to be or not allow it.

    6. Ashley*

      There is a big difference between employers providing a space for breast feeding parents and letting someone pull out a boob anytime and anywhere to connect a pump.
      I am perfectly cool with my friends feeding their kids pretty much anywhere we are. I am far less comfortable if a co-worker starts showing me those body parts under any context. (Which is why I won’t do vacation like activities with co-workers where bathing suits could be involved. I want all my co-workers clothed always.)

      1. Rainy*

        I admit this is a weird contradiction, but while I would be 100% okay with a coworker visibly breastfeeding during a meeting, the same coworker setting up machinery and pumping during an in-person meeting would kind of weird me out. Teams meeting with a camera angle that stops at the collarbones? Do what you gotta do, friend! But if I’m going to be in a position where I cannot help but observe at least part of what’s happening, I’d rather see the infant than the machinery.

        1. Orsoneko*

          As someone who was not shy of pumping in my own home in the presence of either my in-laws or the guy who came to fix the dishwasher, I will confirm that the idea of pumping during an in-person meeting is legitimately insane. Those things are LOUD.

          1. Rainy*

            And virtual meeting software is REALLY good now at screening out that kind of repetitive noise–I’ll have meetings with people who say “I’m so sorry about the construction noise!” and I can’t hear it at all, even though they’re having real trouble hearing me through their speakers because of literal jackhammers.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I don’t think it’s that much of a contradiction. If the baby is good at latching and makes a good nursing team with the mother, there probably won’t be any boob visible for more than a second. Pumps are actually more graphic, more complicated to set up, and much more noisy.

    7. Head sheep counter*

      What workplace are babies commonly allowed in? I can’t picture one. Also, I do think that pumping mothers evidently need all kinds of whatever… so I would assume someone was making a statement/being political if they decided to pump at a conference table in a meeting. I don’t think this is within normal workplace bounds.

      1. Clisby*

        If babies aren’t allowed at all in a workplace, then the issue doesn’t arise (at least in my state).

        Not sure why you’re bringing pumping into this. 1) That isn’t breastfeeding; 2) I’m not aware there are laws giving women the right to pump anywhere in the building they please.

        1. JustaTech*

          Actually the Federal law just changed (yay!) that employees need to be offered a private space to pump that isn’t a bathroom and access to a sink and fridge.
          And that they need to be allowed time to pump and if that time is in excess of their allowed break times they still get extra time to pump. (Like, if you get a 15 minute break but need 25 to pump, you get the 25 minutes but you don’t get *another* 15 minute break.)

          But yes, it’s not about pumping anywhere you please, it’s about some privacy to pump.

          1. Clisby*

            Yes, I’m aware of that law. But it has nothing to do with breastfeeding, or even bringing the baby into a workplace.

            1. JustaTech*

              Right, I just wanted to take the opportunity to mention it because not everyone knows about it!

      2. JustaTech*

        Right after my kid was born I got an ad for an “amazing” cover that claimed in the ad that if you had this cover you would be able to pump at your desk without anyone noticing.
        It’s not *that* amazing a cover, but if you had the wearable pumps you might get away with it.

        I wouldn’t even try, but my pump does have tubing and bottles and stuff and it’s not subtle at all.

      3. Zarniwoop*

        Not necessarily done “to make a statement,” could just be busy and therefore multitasking. (Yes a message of some kind is inevitably being sent (even if the message is just IDGAF) but that doesn’t mean the sending of the message is the motivation.)

    8. Jaydee*

      The comparison was to *pictures* of her breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is to be allowed anywhere. Showing a slide show of breastfeeding *pictures* doesn’t need to be allowed in a work meeting. Maria would have been well within her rights to feed her baby during that meeting, but that doesn’t extend to taking over the meeting to show a slideshow of pictures of the child’s birth that may include breastfeeding pictures.

      1. Jaydee*

        Nevermind, I remembered it wrong or maybe confused it with a different part of the letter. But yeah, she would be in her rights to feed the baby in a meeting in either setting, but it’s reasonable to acknowledge that the response might be different in different settings and that a group of predominantly female teachers might be more comfortable with breastfeeding, more aware of the legal protections, etc. than a group of employees in a traditionally more conservative field like finance. Doesn’t change the rights, just in some settings you have to act more affirmatively to assert those rights. For example, I remember having the code section up on my phone during an eviction hearing once just in case anyone questioned my client’s right to feed her baby in the courtroom. Breastfeeding babies weren’t common enough to be on the small claims court bingo card, so while I trusted the judges to follow the law, I figured I should be prepared to educate them on it if needed.

  24. Engineer*

    I don’t think I want to meet Maria’s family, and I say this coming from a family where we discussed Foresenic Files over dinner. (We had the good common sense not to do so when we had company.)

  25. DeeDee*

    I was doing some web stuff for a nonprofit probably 15 years ago, and needed to get a handle on what photos they had. I got some photo management software and set it to scan the network for photographs to import…it also scanned the local computer I was using and found some birth photos left by the person who had worked there before me. During the import it flashed each photo full screen one by one, and it could not be stopped, so the entire office ended up watching a fairly slow-moving slideshow of this former employee’s baby get born.

  26. RussianInTexas*

    I have not gotten it this bad, but for the love of god, why would people send photos of their babies minutes after birth (before being cleaned up) to their coworkers? This happened to me at least 3 times. NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THIS.

    1. NeedRain47*

      I’m totally fine with seeing a newborn looking weird and slimy. Not at all fine with seeing my coworkers vagina.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I honestly do not understand the thought process here. Do these people just want everyone to agree that they gave birth better than anyone ever? Or are they so overwhelmed with the joys of giving birth that they want to share those joys with everyone they know?

      So grateful that none of my colleagues have ever done anything like this, even when I worked at a maternal child health organisation with many colleagues who went on maternity leave and came back!

      1. kiki*

        I think it’s the latter! Giving birth can be such a monumental experience, I think it’s easy to get swept up in it and forget that most people will not be as interested in this as you are or will look past some of the more ick-inducing things to see the miracle.

    3. Enai*

      Well, having a baby is a very large change in life circumstances. It’s pretty normal to be excited and want to share. Besides, the baby shouldn’t be cleaned too soon after birth, the birthing custard is very skin protective.

      None of that obligates others to want to see new babies, though.

      1. Jaydee*

        Exactly. It’s fine to take pictures of a freshly born baby. It is also fine to wait until after baby has been bathed and swaddled to take the pictures that will be sent around to coworkers. Curate your feed, folks. Not everyone is the intended audience for every picture.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        And people do tend to make a fuss over an expectant parent–showers and so on–so I can see where a hormone-infused decision might be made based on “well, everybody’s wanted to know all the details!”

      3. allathian*

        Yes, this. The first photo we have of our son is him lying on me while still covered in the birthing custard (thanks for a great expression), the second one is of him latching on for the colostrum. The first one that we’ve actually shared outside of our immediate family is one of him cleaned up and swaddled in my arms and with my boobs covered up, before they carried him off to NICU so he could be treated for hypoglycemia. Not even my mom or my MIL who have two kids each, and my MIL used to be a nurse before she retired, got to see the very first pictures. I sent a pic of the baby in his bassinet to a work friend and asked her to share with those on our team who wanted to see it, but I didn’t want to inflict a pic on anyone who didn’t want to see it by sending it to the team’s mailing list.

        1. Enai*

          That’s actually the name wikipedia gave me, unless you want to use the latin expression (vernix caseosa).

  27. NeedRain47*

    This is such incredibly bad judgement on Maria’s part! A good rule of thumb is NEVER show anyone ANY medical or otherwise gross or gory pictures without asking them first if they want to see. I guarantee a few will and the rest of us can be spared. I don’t know why this so hard for folks.

  28. kiki*

    I feel like there’s a movement right now to normalize talking about kids and more of the realities of childbirth and I generally very much support that because I do feel like a lot of childbearing people don’t find out some important things about the process until they’re already expecting.
    But I think there’s been some blurriness around what settings and situations do we normalize things in and to what extent do we normalize them. I think showing your colleagues pictures of your active birthing process is dozens of steps too far, but maybe others don’t feel the same way?

    1. NeedRain47*

      Nope, dozens of steps too far is correct. IMO there’s a vast difference between talking about something and being forced to look at images.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Agreed! I am 100% on board with normalizing, for example, menstruation. That doesn’t mean I want to see your used menstrual products. (But they should be free in public washrooms. Fresh ones, I mean.)

    2. Melissa*

      No, no. It is dozens of steps way too far. I’ve given birth, and I know the dopamine rush you get from sharing every detail over drinks with your friends. That’s different from doing it at work!

    3. somehow*

      “…a lot of childbearing people don’t find out some important things about the process until they’re already expecting.”

      How is it society’s job to change that? What if people don’t want to know “some important things about the process” until they’re expecting? If anything, we need to do more about leaving. people. alone.

      1. RJ*

        I mean it’s society’s job in terms of not making childbirth a taboo thing to talk about and providing spaces for people to learn and share their experiences. That space is not your work conference room though.

    4. Angstrom*

      It does seem like a situation that should require the enthusiastic consent of everyone involved…

      1. Rainy*

        The *informed* enthusiastic consent.

        Like, “want to see pictures of the baby?” will almost always elicit an enthusiastic yes, but if you start with “and here’s the baby crowning”, that enthusiastic consent was thoroughly uninformed.

        1. ccsquared*

          This right here. My sister-in-law has shown me some intimate photos from some of my niblings’ births and that was cool, but she made a point of offering first and making it clear I could opt out, not foisting it on me unawares.

          The relationship here is a big factor, too – seeing the moment of your close relative’s birth is kind of neat because there’s a potential of being part of their lives from that point on. And my sil and I are good friends, so I’m invested in her birth experience and her desire to share in a way I just wouldn’t be with a co-worker.

    5. SoloKid*

      Wherever it is, work colleagues ain’t it.

      Childbirth and pre/post effects should definitely be covered in health/sex ed.

      Normalizing it can happen at “family” events like baby showers, where aunties can learn to stop saying things like “don’t say that, it will scare off [newly wedded lady] from kids”.

    6. nm*

      I think it’s fine to *ask* if you can share your birth experience/photos/other details with whoever. But just showing people a whole slideshow without explicitly asking and getting consent is way over the line.

  29. Daisy-dog*

    I once was in a **RESTAURANT** and the woman in the next booth was telling her birth story *in graphic detail* to her friends. Some people who have given birth, especially recently, have no boundaries about it. I haven’t witnessed this with visual aids (!) before, but I’ve definitely heard some eyebrow-raising tales. Maybe it’s because of experiencing something so monumental…? Not entirely equivalent, but remember after Cov!d v@ccines first came out and everyone constantly detailed their post-shot symptoms? Many parents want to share their experience far and wide and may forget social norms. (A whole bunch of strangers spent a lot of time looking at their privates for 9+ months.)

    Because of that, someone must be the boundary police. “Hey, save this for a different audience.”

    1. AnonORama*

      Grossssss….I tend to hear gory birth/surgery stories from the next chair in the hair or nail salon, which is icky because I’m a captive audience, but at least I’m not EATING.

  30. MicroManagered*

    The manager should have spoken up, but really ANYONE in the room had standing to stand up and walk out during something like this.

  31. Potatoes gonna potate*

    NO WTF! I can see someone doing that with close coworkers but…..not the whole damn thing.
    (in fact, a coworker had surgery a while back and was showing pictures to her friends and asked me if I wanted to see it)

  32. Heather*

    Also though– who hijacks a work meeting to show a slideshow of their family?? Talk about putting yourself in the center of the universe.

    I was also teaching school at the time I started my family. There were two of us who gave birth that year (like the writer, it was a small independent school). I know that new parents can lose perspective on things, but I hope neither of us would have literally co-opted a staff meeting to make people look at a series of photos of our babies! ONE photo, which you whip out of your bag and flash at everybody, might be a little annoying but is within the realm of normal.

  33. Michelle Smith*

    I’m 35 and still mentally scarred from having to watch the film “The Miracle of Life” in grade school. (No, I do not have children.) I think I might have died on the spot if a coworker tried to show me those pictures. I think you did as best as you could under the circumstances OP. No one would have reasonably expected her to show…that.

  34. Johannes Bols*

    The mortification, “Fucking go! You moron…” allows me to recount myself 44 years ago. I was at the window of a drive up bank. The older (for then) lady took my paperwork. Being an impatient native New Yorker and thinking the two way mic was off during the transaction, I (what’s the opposite of sotto voce?) kind of yelled the same thing as the zoom guy. I had no idea until the lady returned my paperwork w/a look I WILL NEVER FORGET!

  35. SparklingBlue*

    Just when I thought I’d seen it all, something new that is worthy of the “Wait, what?” section appears.

  36. Head sheep counter*

    In a fantasy moment – I wish someone had started narrating like David Atkinson… “This is the birth of the primate known as human. In this case, we have a mother who is 26 years old and entering the final stages of the birthing process for her first offspring. Notice how her body has expanded beyond comprehension to accommodate the offspring’s large head. It is said that in a few months, healing will have the mother able both forget the most traumatic portions of this process and for her body to rebound to a more normal sized vulva… unfortunately viewer… the audience will take longer to recover from this viewing…”

  37. WellRed*

    Man. I was squicked out recently when an enthusiastic coworker wondered on teams if we were “all aunts and uncles” yet in reference to a new coworker who was about to give birth. Uh, no thanks! This certainly reminds me that I am lucky to have fairly sane colleagues.

  38. Bluebird*

    I think the key here is that basically, we as a society have decided that birth is a medical procedure, and therefore any photos involving it at work would be inappropriate, just like photos of your hip replacement or appendectomy. Both are also gruesome and show more of your body than your coworkers want to see. The fact that someone came out from one with a cute baby and a new joint/one less organ in the others is irrelevant. I don’t think it would be wrong in the future to shut down a similar situation by saying “We don’t allow detailed discussion or photos of medical procedures in group settings for everyone’s comfort.”

    If we lived in a different type of society where birth was the sort of thing that happened out in the open and was discussed regularly and everyone was comfortable with, well then nobody would even have maternity leave because we’d probably also live in the type of society where childcare and post birth health was built right into the workforce and this whole situation probably would’ve been avoided.

  39. 1-800-BrownCow*

    I was positive this post was about my ex-SIL and the birth of her children as she believes in normalizing nudity (she happily hikes naked!). However, she was in her late 30s before having children. The line saying Maria was in her mid-20s, and the fact that my ex-SIL worked in a school, but not as a teacher, now has me convinced there are other’s out there that like showing detailed videos and pictures of their children’s birth, despite causing extreme discomfort with their audience. In ex-SIL’s case, she thrives on other’s discomfort and sees it as a reason to share more of her naked moments with said people.

    1. Alex*

      Hiking naked…wow. Now that’s a bad idea!

      Scratches from branches, bug bites, slips and falls, having to put sunscreen on your butt….nope. Just so much nope. I don’t even hike in shorts!

      1. Clisby*

        Yeah, of all places where being naked seems unwise, hiking seems right up there near the top. If she wants to swim the English Channel naked, OK, that doesn’t seem nearly as weird.

      2. Jackalope*

        Yes, so much this! I love hiking and would be so uncomfortable having nothing between me and the mosquitoes/sunlight (sunburn easily)/plants whipping over you/etc. Plus hiking any distance would require a pack of some sort, and while I have an awesome day pack that is comfy to wear, I’m pretty sure it would chafe if I didn’t have any clothing to cushion it. The material is not selected to be comfortable right next to your skin, since that’s not how most people wear it.

      3. AnonORama*

        Ha, that’s what I was going to say. Jeans and long sleeves in any weather and lots of SPF for *any* part that’s not covered. Just imagining the sunburn and bug bites makes me itch.

    2. Sally Rhubarb*

      Hiking naked?? What? WHY?? Did she want to reinact that scene from House where House finds a killer tick on a woman’s undercarriage? Because that’s how you get ticks on your undercarriage.

    3. Letter Writer*

      Ha, no, Maria’s not your SIL! She was definitely in her twenties, definitely was a teacher in the school, and to be honest I don’t think any of this was about “thriv[ing] on others’ discomfort” for her–about issues with boundaries, check, about a sense that people are or should be passionately interested in her own experiences, check, and about a sense of sharing “the miracle of birth,” check, but she certainly thought she was showing these pictures TO people, not showing them AT people. Phew!

  40. Three Flowers*

    I would have picked up my work, walked out, and waited in the hall. Hopefully that would clue others into how *wildly not okay* this was. And if anybody tried to reprimand me for doing so: “are you saying I was required to watch an explicit video of a colleague’s medical procedure and genitalia? I would be happy to discuss that, as well as the conduct of the person who showed us the video and the boss who let it happen, with HR.” Colleague should have been fired and the boss reprimanded for not, you know, chucking the VCR out a window.

  41. umami*

    I mean, I’m mostly side-eyeing why they let her take over the video system at a faculty meeting to do this! Just …. no.

    1. Enai*

      Seriously. Nobody wants to sit through an hourlong slideshow of vacation pictures. And that’s just boring, not potentially gory. Hopefully.

  42. CzechMate*

    As soon as I saw “small independent school” I knew where this was going. Worked in a few before graduating to higher ed. Those places very much have a “we’re all family here” culture and there is a LOT of boundary crossing. Not okay in the workplace but also…small independent schools, in my experience, are like the Wild West when the students aren’t around.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Yes, boundaries weren’t always as tightly controlled as they should have been, and to some degree it is reasonable that Maria concluded that we were “all family.” Many of the teachers, not all, had been there for a long time, many had sent their kids there, so Susan had taught Mary’s kids and Mary had taught Susan’s kids, and some really had developed close friendships with other teachers.

      Still! “We are friends,” said Martha. “But there is such a thing as privacy.”

    2. Shan*

      100%. I did my practicum and then subbed for a few years at a small charter school during my first career, and it was very similar to stories I’ve heard about toxic start-ups. Boundaries? What boundaries? The sheer number of affairs in a group that small was amazing! I never encountered anything like this, but at the same time, it would be right on brand.

    1. Budgie Buddy*

      I was also thinking this is like saying “Want to see photos from my wedding?” and then playing a sex tape 0.o

      Just because the experience was beautiful to the people involved, and they have no qualms about nudity and bodily fluids doesn’t mean an audience of their coworkers feels the same way

  43. Fierce Jindo*

    I had a really difficult labor I never want to relive, and this would bother me a LOT. (I love seeing baby pics though!)

  44. Health Insurance Nerd*

    20+ years ago my friend’s then-girlfriend asked if I wanted to see pictures of their baby and then proceeded to take me through her very graphic birth journey, complete with commentary such as “and look, there you can see her little head coming out”. Those pictures are burned into my brain and as much as I appreciate the miracle of life, I could have happily lived my whole life without seeing those photos. I graciously declined the mirror that was offered to me when my own kids were born!

    1. ccsquared*

      I had a friend post an album like this on Facebook in the early days of the platform! At the time, you couldn’t see most of the photos in the album on the post, so I saw the “welcome our bundle of joy!” announcement and happily clicked into the album expecting something entirely different than what I ended up seeing…

      1. amoeba*

        Ha, yeah, I also had an acquaintance who was very much into “natural birthing” etc. (to the point where she had a home birth in breech position even though loads of medical personnel adviced against it – I believe the midwife actually noped out of this one!)
        As she was very big on advocacy for that, she then proceeded to post both the video and multiple photos on Facebook, then went onto a crusade when they were taken down.

        I mean, I’m aware Facebook censors women’s bodies inappropriately, but if anything ever definitely violated their terms and conditions, it was that.

  45. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    First, I’m on Team “assume at least one person is squeamish about blood” so it’s inappropriate.

    Second… I’m wondering if the advice would change if instead of being teachers they were all something like ER staff where presumably body parts and blood are part of the day to day job.

    1. HannahS*

      It would still be incredibly strange for someone to put up a slideshow of their birth, or even professional birthing pictures. There IS a lot more graphic sharing in medical environments than in other workplaces but it’s…I don’t know, the tone is still appropriate. I’m in a group chat for doctors who are moms in my department and while people can get pretty specific in naming the exact medical things that happened to them, no one is sharing pictures with blood or nudity.

  46. Cinderblock*

    Ugh. Birth to me looks like something straight out of a David Cronenberg movie. No one in the workplace wants to see that

  47. Janeric*

    My old workplace had a tradition of sharing photos of employee and baby — and I, in my sleep-deprived, baby-obsessed state sent a photo to my boss where my son looked exceptionally cute but also one of my nipples was visible. I’m extremely grateful that she cropped it before distributing it and never mentioned it to me.

  48. Jamie (he/him)*

    If she was trying to normalise the grossness of childbirth, that’s great. There are lots of things we *should* be normalising – menstruation and breastfeeding spring to mind – as natural, everyday things. Birth (vaginal or c-section) is another: it’s a natural, everyday thing.

    TV ads for period products in the UK have finally switched to red liquid after decades of blue, and, as other commenters have noted, birth scenes in movies and TV have got a lot more, erm, graphic lately, switching from “three pushes and here’s your pristine 3-week-old baby” to “an hour of swearing and here’s a newborn covered in gloop”.

    This is all really good.

    But… at work? Perhaps… a bit less? At least for a couple more years, anyway?

    1. Angstrom*

      It should be normal to talk about with people who want to talk about it. People who want to talk about it should not be stigmatized. That’s NOT the same as thinking that everyone should want to talk about it, or hear about it.

      There are many natural, everyday body functions we generally choose to not discuss at work.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Yup, imo best not to discuss any bodily functions at work.
        Work is a captive audience of people thrown together because they need to pay their bills, not because they desire intimacy.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      “Birth (vaginal or c-section) is another: it’s a natural, everyday thing.”
      Maybe it’s “everyday” if you’re a midwife or ob-gyn, etc. but for most people it’s rather a special occasion.

  49. Sally Rhubarb*

    Oh lawd. Reminds me of when my coworker decided to describe the birth of her niece in extremely graphic detail and then got offended when I asked her to please stop. I’m happy that you had this bonding moment with your sister and all but I don’t need to be that bonded to anyone, let alone a second-hand stranger.

  50. ReallyBadPerson*

    My daughter is a birth and postpartum doula, and one of the midwives she works with has images and videos (all by client permission) of births on her site. I love looking at them. I choose to look at them. But there is no way in hell I want to see a colleague’s baby’s birth. And I cannot tell you why strangers’ vaginas pushing out other strangers is somehow less awkward than fellow employees’ vaginas doing the same thing, but it is.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Knowing a vagina’s owner is what confers intimacy, an intimacy I don’t really want with a coworker!

  51. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    As a soon to be second-time mom, this post has me just internally screaming and screaming. Who just rolls in and shows a group of colleagues their GRAPHIC BIRTH PHOTOS?????


  52. Angel S.*

    I absolutely cannot stand those explicit “Mommy” posts on social media! And you can’t say anything because you must have a dirty mind and every woman who went through that is a heroine! I can’t imagine being forced to see those images at work!

    1. Firecat*

      People can post what they want on their personal social media. And yeah giving birth is a heroic act of bravery and determination, even if it is relatively commonplace. Just hide the post in your feed and move on.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Oh please. Social media is a very different thing than a work meeting.
      And on social media, you pick who you follow.
      At least you restrain yourself from being a jerk to your friends on social media, even if only because you are afraid people will point out the rudeness of such comments?

  53. Spicy Tuna*

    Someone at work years ago passed around before and after photos of her breast reduction and then got mad when people made comments

  54. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I’m not being glib here I probably would have out right barfed. I have a hard time with gore, have to keep reminding myself it’s just ketchup in the movies, so to see birth pictures, sorry if you’re sitting in front of me.

    I can understand if people were too stunned at what they were seeing and the boldness of it being shown, but definitely something should have been said. My own mother never sugarcoated that whole process and she had three of us. Small as she was and big as we all were that had to be an atomic blast each time. Sorry Ma.

    The oversharers. There’s one in every office. No, I don’t wanna see your scar.

  55. GreenDoor*

    It really would have been a kindness to Maria for the manager to have stopped her. I remember when I was pregnant, I ate lunch 3-4 times a week at a chain place near my work. On maternity leave I drove past there and thought, “Hey! I should take the baby in to show them!!” Like….my new mom brain honestly thought the counter workers at the burger joint (who I never had a personal conversation in nine months of eating their daily) were eager to see my new baby. (I stopped myself, fortunately). Your coworker probably had some serious post-partum hormone-jumbled mommy-brain thing going on and just didn’t stop to think through how badly she was blurring the lines there. But OP discretely leaving would have been fine. Plenty of people don’t enjoy seeing images of medical procedures.

  56. Letter Writer*

    Thank you, Alison, for the thorough and thoughtful response. Glad you agree that it was not appropriate for work! Why my boss (who as I said is and was very good at interpersonal stuff) didn’t put a stop to it is unclear to me, but as several commenters put it, it’s possible we were all so flabbergasted by the presentation that none of us (including her) could think quite straight.

    Anyway, as I said I appreciate your running the letter, and should the occasion ever come up again (and I sure hope it doesn’t) I’ll have a better handle on what to do! Thanks again.

      1. Letter Writer*

        1) Validation, more than anything else. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I never did follow up with any of my colleagues about this. For a bit of context, I was there only part time, generally on a M-W-F schedule; the meeting would have been a Wednesday afternoon, and by the time I got back to school two days later any hubbub about the incident had died down, no doubt replaced by something else (we did have a tendency at that school to lurch from one Big Issue to the next…). Since I never talked to anyone who was there about it, and since no one else got up and left, and since the passage of time, at least in my life, doesn’t always lead to greater sureness about the validity of my thoughts and feelings, I thought I’d ask an expert. Your mileage, obviously, may vary!

        2) I’m sorry you find it hard to believe the situation really happened. The older I get, the more I realize that this is a very weird world and that even the seemingly outlandish is very often reality. Obviously there’s no way I can convince you, and no need for me to try, but I assure you (and all other commenters) that the description in the letter is 100% what happened. (Well, except that Maria’s name has been changed–but everything else is quite true.)

        1. Celeste*

          My reaction was very different from Firecat’s. I can definitely see it happening, including the part where people had a hard time doing anything but waiting for it to be over!

          I can also see why no one wanted to discuss it later – it would be hard to do without feeling like you were engaging in unkind gossip, especially since no one wanted to say anything to the new mom directly.

        2. Firecat*

          Sorry didn’t mean it in a – I don’t believe you! way.

          Moreso meant it in a – this is unbelievable! way.

          Also was curious about the decision to write in when it was so long ago and if there was really no discussion about the presentation at all. Everywhere I’ve worked this would be A Thing that was talked about and made the rounds, and I’ve worked in hospitals where people are pretty explicit about their medical stuff. It blows my mind that after a 2 day vacation no one spoke of this to you ever again!

  57. KelsBels*

    This reminds me of when I was in a photography class in college. The professor did a slideshow of his own black and white photos during one class. One of them was a photo of him and his girlfriend naked from the waist down. It was awkward as hell, even in the art world.

  58. fort hiss*

    Hahaha as someone who is a teacher this is soooo teacher. Alison is right on the money there. In the small southern schools I’ve worked at, it’s like a Christian sisterhood and they think everyone wants to hear everything about their kids and their husbands and their marital problems. I can absolutely imagines some of my borderline-Quiverfull former coworkers doing this.

  59. nonprofit writer*

    Ah yes, this sounds familiar. Except in my case, it was 1992, it was a photo album being passed around containing photos of a baby, and I was 15 years old. This was all happening in my 9th grade English class, taught by the very proud father of said baby, and he provided a very mild warning that some of the photos might be a bit personal. Yes, those were the shots of the baby crowning.

    (Obviously this would not happen today, and even then it wasn’t appropriate but I’m not sure any of our parents complained. And I still consider this teacher one of my best ever. But yeah. It was his wife’s vagina.)

  60. Bad Wolf*

    Reminds me of the letter where a woman did not react with joy when a peed-on pregnancy test was thrown at her.
    I think I would have hurled.

  61. strawberry fields*

    Friendly reminder that it’s also inappropriate to show up at your coworker’s child’s birth! My boss showed up at the hospital when I was in full on labor and just wanted to check in and say “hi”! I did work for the healthcare company but our office was NOT at the hospital. In the moment I was kind of distracted and didn’t think too much of it. In hindsight I’m totally stunned! No birth photos, no birth visits!

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Uh, what? I mean, I can totally picture the kind of clueless doof who would go “Oh, I should stop by since it’s on the way to the store…”

    2. Enai*

      Umm. I mean, in the days when mother and baby were left a few days in hospital “for observation” I can see how one might think maybe two days after the birth a visit (with chocolates and flowers and maybe a giftcard with money, babies are expensive) might be welcome as opposed to yet another imposition on an exhausted and harried new parent, but during labor? Hey, underling, you’re in as much pain as you’ve probably ever been and it’s been going on for hours, how about I say hello? How about no, boss?!

      Can one nominate a boss from the comments and years ago as “worst boss of the year”? Because I think this qualifies.

  62. SnappinTerrapin*

    A slightly different example of someone oversharing.

    I’m near retirement, and this happened early in my career. A colleague was approaching his second retirement, and various parts of his body were declining with age. I’ve forgotten the precise order, but …

    He had corneal implant surgery, and went around his office, the courthouse, and our agency’s central office showing “before & after” pictures.

    He had dental implant surgery, and made the rounds with his pictures.

    He announced that he had ED and was having implant surgery. No one would sit still long enough to find out whether he had pictures to show.

    1. Oui oui oui all the way home*

      OMG your story made me literally laugh out loud (much better than the usual half smile I have when I write LOL).

  63. Kimberly*

    A coworker was showing her students Magic School Bus before Specials. She thought she turned off the TV. We were out of our rooms the whole planning period at a meeting. When we brought the kids back to the classrooms, we were at the end of the line so we could see all of our kids. As they entered the room – the kids either bolted out of her room into mine or back down the hall.

    Discovery or TLC was now showing a show about giving birth – and they showed everything. That was an interesting “we screwed up letter” to send home. (We had a system that had some “educational” tv channels we could use in class. This was when Discovery and TLC were still producing shows for classrooms – but they had started their transition to reality programming.

  64. Oui oui oui all the way home*

    My response would probably have been along the lines of:

    “Whoa! Is that what I think it is? Are those the right slides? I’ll pretend I didn’t see those.” Then if they didn’t stop, I’d probably add, before running out of the room, “Oh, I just remembered something else I need to be doing right now. Well, it was great seeing you and the baby!”

  65. Tai*

    I know this isn’t professional, but I would have gagged and left (46, f, counselor). I don’t want to see my coworkers doing this. Yikes.

  66. lucanus cervus*

    I am not squeamish about photos, I have given birth twice and I’m genuinely at least somewhat interested in most people’s birth stories, but I can’t even describe how hard I recoiled when I read the headline of this one. Nooooooo. Nonononono. Maria. No. Stop.

  67. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    So, I’ll share a story here that might help folks understand just how very much NOT pg-13 this was. Fair warning: there will be some words for body parts in the next paragraph.

    I was present for a friend’s birth of her first/only child. This was a friend I’d been on quite intimate terms with in previous years, meaning that we had been sexual together and I’d seen everything there was to see between her legs because of how sex between women often works. When the birthing actually started, I was standing at one edge of the room where I had a great view of the birth (and it wasn’t on purpose, it just worked out that way in the kinda-small hospital room) and let me tell you: I saw parts of her that I had not seen before. When the head comes out, it pushes EVERYTHING aside and you can see all the inner and outer labia. We’re used to a kind of coy image, where all the “bits” have hair in front of them and the labia are closed, but that is NOT what it looks like during birth. The vagina doesn’t just open wide, it’s more like it turns inside out for a minute (because of the giant head taking up all the room there as it pushes out).

    So, that’s more intimate than even most super-close-up porn gets. It’s far more intimate than most people expect. (I’m always shocked at the idea of the baby’s paternal grandmother wanting to be in the room because unless they’re standing by the mother’s head, they’re going to see way WAY more than they should.) I’m guessing that when Maria looked at the pix, she was so focussed on the baby that she didn’t really see the entire image. And for LW’s sake, I’m glad this all happened in the not-recent past, so she doesn’t have to look Maria in the face anymore.

  68. Picketlineorbreadline*

    As someone who just gave birth, this is such a power move! haha

    Inappropriate, but showing off how strong I am to push a baby out feels like the ultimate display of power.

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