That Viral Childbirth Photo Had a Tragic Backstory

By
A mother
A motherPhoto: Leonardo Mayorga

Back in March, Francie Webb accidentally caused a huge rupture on Facebook in a private, birth-focused group for women.

On the eve of her daughter’s first birthday, she posted a candid photo that her husband had taken of her just as her daughter was born, on the bed in their New York City apartment. The Facebook group, which had less than a thousand members, was a quiet, supportive place where women routinely traded tips on childbirth techniques, breastfeeding, and other motherhood-focused topics. No one expected the photo — which showed Francie’s nipples but nothing else that could be considered “nudity” proper — to be removed by Facebook soon after.

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Francie Webb and her daughterPhoto: Leonardo Mayorga

In the weeks following, as more news outlets wrote about what had happened, Francie’s photo went from being censored in a small private group to being shared on social media, websites, and even Good Morning America. Opinions were divided: Some felt that the photo crossed a line and should have been removed from Facebook; many others were supportive of her.

But for Francie Webb, as she explains in a new blog post, the moment that the photo documented was a lot more than a viral sensation in the making.

Twenty and a half years ago, in my second month of ninth grade, the 14-year-old me was babysitting for two kids — a little boy of almost two, and an eleven-week-old baby named Catherine. I was Catherine’s first and only babysitter; her parents had a wedding to attend, so I was charged with her care. I put her to sleep and she died.

Francie, who was only 14, spent the next decades of her life trying to make peace with what happened. Though the baby died of SIDS and no one ever suggested or believed that Francie was at fault, she felt responsible and only began to accept what had happened years later when she was in college, after reconnecting with Catherine’s family.

“My healing has changed everything,” she writes. “If I hadn’t healed from this horrible event, I wouldn’t be me — and I certainly would not have been able to bring a baby girl into the world by myself. My birth was not a coincidence — it was meant to be.”