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After the death of my first son at 33 weeks, I was hesitant to say anything when I soon became pregnant again. As part of my desire to be more involved with this second pregnancy, I joined the due date group on my pregnancy tracker app for the month I was due. Over 10,000 women due the same month from around the English-speaking world joined the group, and the posts were…interesting. Some of the information exchanged was helpful, but by and large, the posts broke down into two categories: ranting and seeking advice. Some posts were shocking in their drama, while others made you roll your eyes. Here’s what I learned from reading the concerns of other young women.
Having babies out of wedlock
Several ladies posted the dirty details of the trials they faced in dealing with their baby daddy or his family. Some women caught their boyfriends cheating on them. Many of them felt their baby daddies were not good providers, preferring to spend most of the day playing video games, drinking, or hanging out with the guys instead of helping to prepare for their child’s arrival. There were many tales of financial woes — one or both parents were unemployed, so how were they going to pay for a baby? — as well as quandaries about whose last name to give the baby.
The overall tenor of the posts was “me vs. baby daddy,” and the majority of the complaints could have been solved by doing one thing — not having children outside of wedlock. Post after post I found myself thinking “this wouldn’t be an issue if you had gotten married” or “this is what you get for having a baby with someone you don’t intend to marry.”
The comments usually focused on how to get the guy to come around to the mom’s wishes or encouraged the woman to ditch the boyfriend. No one ever said the obvious: if you don’t want to marry this guy, why are you having a baby with him? If you did say something along those lines, I’m sure you would be called out for being judgmental or pushing your hateful Judeo-Christian morals on everyone else.
I feel sorry for these children that seemed destined to live with parents that are pitted against one another or absent. The amount of venom and disdain these women felt for their baby’s father made you wonder why they ever slept with them in the first place.
Advocating for one’s self in the face of dismissive healthcare providers
Another topic of conversation was what to do when you have a concern about your baby and your doctor is dismissive. Ok, true, there’s a lot of anxiety that leads women to focus on small things that aren’t really a thing. But I found several posts where women described very serious concerns that were completely ignored. In some instances, I strongly encouraged women to be evaluated in the emergency department or switch OB practices altogether due to the appalling response by the practice.
While childbirth is considerably safer today than it has been historically, it is in no way without its potential perils. Early on in my pregnancy, my service (cardiothoracic surgery) was consulted emergently on a 36-year-old lady of 39 weeks gestation with a suspected aortic dissection. After she became suddenly unstable, the baby was delivered via crash c-section, and the mom was sent to us for emergency surgery. She died before we could operate.
Of course, this is not the norm, but preeclampsia, stroke, liver failure, disseminated intravascular coagulation, pregnancy-induced cardiomyopathy, postpartum hemorrhage, infection/sepsis, and severe carpal tunnel requiring surgery are all potential complications of pregnancy. I have witnessed or personally experienced several of these problems, and they are not to be taken lightly when they present. It was shocking to see how many women with clear signs of preeclampsia or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy were told not to worry their pretty little heads about it. Both of these conditions can be deadly if not treated and monitored.
The best thing pregnant women (or really anyone for that matter) can do is to advocate for themselves. Fortunately, many of the comments on these posts encouraged the authors to seek help and push to be taken seriously. I was surprised at how passive many of these women were, repeatedly saying they didn’t want to bother or annoy their OB practice with their questions. After my own experience with stillbirth, I am a big advocate for getting checked out if something spikes your mom sense. It was clear that women did not feel empowered or comfortable pushing back to have their concerns addressed.
Several posts talked about reduced fetal movement, and women would often say they were going for a routine appointment in a few days, so they would bring it up then. Reduced fetal movement needs to be addressed quickly, not in a few days. I’m not sure how we encourage people to advocate for themselves and take their health concerns seriously, but I have seen that head-in-the-sand approach cost people their lives.
There are rampant mental health problems
If I had a dollar for every time a mom-to-be started her post with “I struggle with anxiety and depression” it would have paid my hospital bill. On posts discussing breastfeeding, a commonly cited reason for not breastfeeding was mental health. The amount of anxiety and depression was alarming. Growing up, these were always diagnoses held by a fairly small population. Now, it seems a large number of people are on psych meds for their anxiety and depression. What has happened to our culture that everyone seems to be wracked with anxiety?
Now, I will be the first to admit I was very anxious during this pregnancy given my last pregnancy turned so tragic. But that would be categorized as situational anxiety, not the long-term, preexisting anxiety described by these ladies. What’s more, the anxiety seems to create tremendous inaction in these moms. The hubs and I got a Snoo bassinet for our little guy, and since it’s a “smart” bassinet, there is some nuance to using it, so I joined a Snoo parents Facebook group. The amount of handwringing in this group over pretty inconsequential things is mind-boggling.
One could argue that the type of person to buy or rent a Snoo is prone to anxiety as they feel the need to drop a significant amount of money on a bassinet that is supposed to prevent SIDS, but even then the anxiety demonstrated in this parents is puzzling. There are several posts about how to transition their babies from being swaddled with arms down to swaddled with arms out — I’m so nervous to let my baby’s arms out of the swaddle. Should I do one arm or two? How do I pick which arm? It’s time for my baby to go to the crib; how do I transition my little one to the crib? I’m terrified of what my baby will do if it’s not in the Snoo! My baby keeps wanting to roll onto her tummy when she sleeps, how do I keep her on her back?! (The answer is: you let her roll on her stomach)
The concept of trial and error seems to elude this crowd. One night of poor sleep sends them into a tailspin, and they end up on Facebook agonizing over why their child didn’t sleep well last night. Things that would never have crossed my parents’ mind to worry about now become major causes of stress for these parents. Why the change? Is it our affluence and lack of adversity? Social media? Businesses fear-mongering? Or a heightened awareness of possible morbidity and mortality and a driving need for as much mitigation as possible?
With mental health chic exploding on TicTok and the astronomical rise in mental illness in young people, it seems these parents are just keeping up with the current zeitgeist. It’s not healthy. How do we counteract it? People appear to be losing their ability to make simple decisions. And that is a sign that our society is not doing well.
And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for — the cutest baby ever. Antonin joined us in March, and is full of personality already. The photos are here on the member feed.Published in