Facebook Story Shares Mother's Beautiful Birth & Tragic Death

Sasha Brown-Worsham

For many, Facebook has become the most immediate, best way to spread all kind of news -- our pregnancies, our promotions, our job offers, and our disappointments. And for Shana Greatman Swers, a young mother in Maryland, it was no different. Her joys, disappointments, and heartbreaks were shared with family and friends through Facebook. 

Her story is told in the Washington Post and it starts with the joy of a 35-year-old woman, the kind we all know and love, so excited for the birth of her first child:

"My fabulous husband just brought be [sic] some Rita's. He knows how to keep a pregnant lady happy!" she says in an August status update, just a month away from delivering her first child, a son she and her husband named Isaac.

A few weeks later, she was a mom:

Isaac Lawrence Swers was born on Wednesday a little after 8:30 in the evening. He is 8 lbs 4 oz and 20.5 inches long. He has a full head of dark hair. He is, of course, perfect. Thanks for all the good thoughts you've sent our way for the past nine months. We feel truly blessed.

We all know the joys of early motherhood: the fear, the excitement, the passion. But her joy was short-lived. There were complications and two months later, the young mom so in love with life and new family was dead. She died of heart complications following her childbirth, a condition called peripartum cardiomyopathy, which affects one in every 1,300-4,000 deliveries. Her Facebook status then read:

Shana Greatman Swers passed away Sunday, October 31, 2010 shortly before noon. She was surrounded by her loving family and friends. Information on services will follow.

From the joy of life to the sorrow of death in one Facebook page. It's a powerful way to tell the story. The final post from her husband, just four days after her death:

I love you wifey wife, I love you, I love you, a million times over I love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

On her page, there are hundreds of comments, from concerned relatives to close friends, telling us more than one story ever could about what this woman meant to so many people, the thousands of lives she touched, and the kind of mother she would have been to the 1-month-old who never got to know her.

It's a tragedy, made all the more real by the banal way in which people speak on Facebook. Anyone with an account has congratulated someone somewhere on the birth of their new child via Facebook. We have commented on photos of loved ones, used our exclamation points liberally, and told someone to "feel better" with a few keystrokes. It's easier than ever to feel connected and, like it or not, for many, including Swers, it was the best way to communicate.

And being presented with someone else's page, in all its honesty, it does feel real. You can feel the love on the page, even if it wasn't hard for people to write one or two posts to the sick new mom. This is the way we communicate now, and seeing it objectively, on someone else's page, makes it all the more clear -- and devastating.

I didn't know Swers, but I wish I did after reading her page. The family's loss feels all the more real after this intimate glimpse of her highest highs and her lowest lows, all in one Facebook page. It makes you wonder what your Facebook page would look like to others. Would you look well-loved and passionate? Like a good person? Would it serve as the kind of memorial you would want and the kind of person you think you are?

Swers' does. She looks compassionate, cheerful even as she goes through something awful and like a woman who would have made an amazing mother. My heart goes out to her whole family, but especially her husband and infant son.

What do you think of this way to tell Swers' story? Did it make it feel more real for you?


Image via Facebook

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