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Pregnancy ’ Category
Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
Could support for paid family leave be the centerpiece of a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016? In The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky argues for just that, saying that Clinton should make “paid family leave a—no; the!—central plank” of her presumed run for the presidency. Tomasky is just offering advice and not reporting that this is actually under consideration, but his argument is persuasive that this issue is a winner.
I can’t agree more. Let’s look at the facts of the situation and then the politics of it:
The fact of the matter is that the United States is last among developed countries—final, end of the list—in legally mandating paid leave, with a grand total of zero weeks. Not a single day of paid family leave is guaranteed by law to new parents. Instead, the Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law by none other than Pres. Bill Clinton, guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for workers in companies covered by the law. Between the lack of any pay during that period, the measly three-month length, and the relatively high number of companies not covered by the law, this not exactly a generous policy.
Elsewhere in the world, however, Tomasky reports, workers are entitled to large chunks of paid time off to focus on their children: “In France, it’s 100 percent for 16 weeks. Mon dieu, you say, that’s France. But in Germany, which even American conservatives respect a little more in economic terms, it’s 100 percent pay for 14 weeks, and 65 percent for an astonishing 12 to 14 months.”
Our neighbors to the north and south also put us to shame in this department: Canadian moms get 15 weeks of leave at 55% of their pay, plus the couple get an additional 35 weeks at the same pay rate to split between them however they see fit. In Mexico, moms get 12 weeks at 100% of pay. There’s no reason for U.S. parents to be without any paid leave. (Andrew Sullivan of The Dish posted a sobering chart illustrating just how behind we are.)
Then there’s the politics. Paid family leave has long been a dream of political liberals and a nightmare to business interests, who would be forced to pay employee’s salaries during periods when they are not working. But, as Tomasky points out, the idea of paid leave enjoys wide support among the public, and it’s hard to see women, even those with conservative, pro-business political leanings, opposing it. They and their families stand to benefit greatly from it. “A survey commissioned in 2012 by a pro-leave group found that respondents supported the idea by 63 to 29 percent,” Tomasky writes. “Democrats were of course strongly in favor (85-10), but independents were at a still quite favorable 54-34, and even Republicans weren’t against it—they were evenly split at 47-48.”
For Clinton, who usually plays her politics safely, it would be a bold stance that would at once show her independence—by hewing to the left and taking a risky stance contrary to her usual centrist leanings—while also remaining absolutely true to her pro-family, pro-woman concerns she’s focused on throughout her public career. In short, it’s an issue that is bound to be immensely popular, despite vocal and well-funded detractors.
I would add to Tomasky’s analysis that rallying support for paid family leave has the potential to attract religious conservatives for whom the health and strength of the family is paramount. It’s hard to imagine a policy that would do more for families than one that allows more parents to spend more time with their new babies (or ailing family members) without worrying about losing their income. Too many parents now have to make a choice between spending that crucial time with their newborns or paying the bills, because they cannot do both without paid leave. Family-values conservatives joining liberals and women from across the political spectrum would comprise an impressively powerful coalition to advance this cause.
In addition, it’s important to remember that paid family leave is not just beneficial to women. Men would also be covered by paid paternity-leave policies, allowing them to spend the time being fathers and bonding with their children that they otherwise could not afford to. And the real winners here, of course, are the children who would have more time with their parents at home.
Lastly, I’d argue that the idea should not be confined to a Hillary Clinton candidacy or pigeonholed as her thing, lest it end up buried in partisan combat (which, of course, it might anyway). It is a policy whose time has long past come and I’d invite–expect–any candidate from any party who claims to be pro-family to take up the cause.
Plus: Use our stay-at-home calculator to find out if you can afford to give up your job and stay home with your kids full time.
Image of Hillary Clinton via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
Is it possible to be awake, lucid, and able to make your own medical decisions—and still have surgery against your will? Apparently so. A New York woman is suing the hospital at which she delivered her baby, according to the New York Times, alleging that her doctor forced her to have a C-section that she did not want and did not consent to. The case is disturbing in and of itself but is also indicative of a much larger, extremely prevalent problem: the extraordinarily high rates of cesarean births overall.
Rachel Dray knew what having a C-section is like, as she’d had two of them previously. For her third baby, she wanted to have a VBAC—“vaginal birth after cesarean”—but after several hours of labor, and what must have been many vehement arguments with her doctors, she was given the C-section. “I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section,” one of the doctors reportedly wrote in a note explaining the situation.
The right to decide whether to have another human being cut open your body seems like a fundamental choice that a person should be able to make for herself. Of course, the health and welfare of the baby is a concern, and perhaps there are extreme circumstances where a hospital needs to overrule a mother’s decision in order to save the life of a baby, but it’s hard to imagine that actually happening in reality rather than just in hypotheticals.
Ultimately, Dray’s whole situation may have been avoided if our hospitals were not so quick to move laboring women to the operating room in the first place. Labor can take a look time, and that’s not inherently a sign of distress. So let’s let it take a long time, if it needs to.
Thankfully, new guidelines issued in February by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists aim to decrease the number of C-sections by having doctors allow healthy women to spend more time laboring. While I don’t know if these guidelines could have saved Rinat Dray from any of her three C-sections, I hope hospitals turn these suggestions into policy quickly.
Women in labor are too often shepherded into the operating room for no reason other than that they’ve been in the hospital too long. When you are admitted to the hospital in labor, the clock starts ticking—labor too long, and you’ll be told you must have a C-section. Partly because of this artificial deadline, nearly one third of all American babies are born via C-section, resulting in longer recovery times and other risks for those women.
In Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America, Theresa Morris calls for the C-section rate in America to be “publicly recognized as an epidemic threatening the well-being of women, babies, and families.” Morris, a sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., details why C-sections have become so prevalent, and her focus is on the structural, organizational reasons. For the most part, it’s not individual mothers or doctors who are choosing this route. Rather, it’s a combination of hospital rules, fears of litigation, and the like that are conspiring to lead so many laboring women to the operating room.
Doing a C-section has become a way so that everyone involved in the birth did everything they could to deliver a healthy baby. “Hospital administrators, ACOG [the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ], courts, malpractice insurers, and reinsurers have defined C-sections as the best practice to protect themselves and maternity providers from blame in the case of a bad outcome”, Morris writes.
There is nothing inevitable about a C-section rate of over 30%. My wife delivered our first baby via a C-section that we believe could have been avoided with more effort by our nurses and doctors. For our second baby, she switched to a practice that advertises a VBAC success rate of over 90%. She went on to have two healthy vaginal births, the first of which took more than 24 hours and involved a huge dose of patience alongside some creative interventions—the right dose of the right medicine at the right time, a variety of labor positions, massage by our doula, etc. (Our third was born moments after we entered the hospital.)
To truly reduce the C-section rate and return more decision-making power to women and their doctors, both the rules and the culture in hospitals will need to change. Too often, women are treated as selfish for wanting to avoid a C-section, with nurses condescendingly “reminding” women—as if they needed any reminder—that giving birth to a healthy child is the most important thing. But a C-section is major surgery done at a time when women need their strength and stamina to care for their soon-to-be newborn. There is no shame in trying to avoid it, if possible.
Of course, not all C-sections are frivolous, and plenty of them save lives, of the baby and/or the mother. Let’s not lose sight of that or vilify doctors or hospitals for focusing on the high success rates and low rate of complications C-sections carry. But that doesn’t mean the status quo is acceptable, either.
Are you ready for another child? Find out!
Image: Pregnant woman in delivery room via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
I am getting married in October, and almost every time someone asks me what I am doing at any point outside of work hours, I respond, “Working on wedding planning.” After several months of adopting a strict work/wedding schedule, I realized there were some similarities between my world at Parents and the wedding planning world. It turns out that planning a wedding is a whole lot like having a baby. For example, I have 40 weeks to plan my wedding, which is equivalent to a full-term pregnancy. As I type this, my craving for a giant piece of chocolate cake is going through the roof. And the similarities don’t end there. Here are 5 major ways I think planning my wedding is like having a baby.
1. I’m in constant communication with my mom. My mom and I have always been close. When I moved 1,000 miles away, it was a huge adjustment for both of us. The distance between us has become even more real now that I am (or, I should say, we are) planning this wedding. We call, text, email, mail, and even share Google documents. I used to say that I couldn’t imagine how much I would rely on my mom for guidance when I had a baby, but I think that wedding planning has given me a nice preview. Thank goodness for technology!
2. Strangers hand out unsolicited advice regularly. It is surprising how frequently complete strangers give me unwanted tips on how to plan my wedding. I enjoy when friends or coworkers check in on my wedding progress from time to time, but I have no interest in hearing Jane Doe’s thoughts on flower arrangements while I’m trying to read on the bus. I’ve learned about the dangers of not having a videographer and the importance of losing weight before the wedding. Now I know how pregnant women must feel on a day-to-day basis when their peaceful commute or errands run is interrupted with baby advice. Plus, a bump is even more noticeable than a ring.
3. I’m always worried I’m doing something wrong. Sometimes, the internet is not your friend. I learned this yet again the other night. In the back of my head, I knew it was okay that I hadn’t booked a band yet because having a wedding in Nashville means that there are more music options than I’ll ever need. But a wedding website insisted that I should have already booked the entertainment. I allegedly risked having no music at my wedding. Against my better judgment, I drafted a middle-of-the-night email to the venue asking them for recommendations ASAP. I feel like a first-time mom-to-be who calls the doctor constantly with problems that aren’t really problems.
4. Blending religions is hard. Today, it is not uncommon to have an interfaith marriage. However, that doesn’t mean that planning one is easy. I am Jewish and my fiancé is Catholic. Everyone has a different opinion on how a Jewish-Catholic wedding should happen, and there is no way to make everyone happy. And, if people have an opinion about our Jewish-Catholic wedding, they are definitely going to have a stronger opinion about raising any future Jewish-Catholic babies. Self, you’ve been warned.
5. In the end, it’s all worth it. I may be on an emotional roller coaster for the greater part of this year, similar to the ups and downs of pregnancy, but after all this is done, I will have gained something new and wonderful — a husband, a partner for the rest of my life, just as moms will have gained a newborn baby (or babies). All this for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health — an amazing feeling.
Save all of your pregnancy memories with our pregnancy milestone tracker or stock up on maternity dresses for the spring.
Image of a woman writing in her kitchen via Shutterstock.
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Monday, February 10th, 2014
This guest post is written by Joy Peskin, the author of a wonderful essay about postpartum depression we ran last fall. We asked Joy to write about recent legislation aimed to help women experiencing maternal depression. She is pictured at right, with her son, Nathaniel; at the end you’ll also see a powerful slideshow of photos documenting her bout with PPD.
An essay I wrote about my experience with postpartum depression, entitled Just Show Up: A Love Story, was published in the September 2013 issue of Parents magazine. I wrote the piece in the hopes that it would reach a new mother who felt like I did when my son was born three and a half years ago: broken. I wanted that mother to know that she was not alone, that help was available, and–most of all–that she would be okay. The response I received after my story ran was both gratifying and thought-provoking. It was gratifying to hear from women who had dealt with PPD in the past and from those who were currently struggling with it. Some women wrote to say that they saw themselves in my story, and that it brought them comfort. The response was thought-provoking because several of the people who wrote, both to me personally and to Parents magazine, called me “brave” for sharing my experience.
Brave. The word stopped me. I’ve been puzzling over it for months. I know people meant this positively, and I’m grateful for the compliment. But I’m also troubled. I suppose the term “brave” implies that I had something to fear in writing about what I went through, and that suggests that there is a stigma associated with PPD. I didn’t ask for PPD. No woman does. I’m not happy that I had it, but I’m not embarrassed any more than I would be if I had overcome a physical, as opposed to a mental, illness.
One goal of Bill number S3137C, which was sponsored by New York State Senator Liz Krueger and New York Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, was to “provide public education to promote awareness of and destigmatize maternal depression.” To me, that was the most important part of this bill, which was passed by both branches of the New York legislature unanimously in June 2013, and which was supported by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the New York State American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Postpartum Resource Center of New York created a change.org petition to urge New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill into law. More than 6,000 people signed the petition, myself included. But in late December, Governor Cuomo vetoed the maternal depression legislation. Sonia Murdock, executive director of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York, said, “Governor Cuomo did not step up and do the right thing for New Yorkers. But Governor Cuomo is not just the answer. We are all the answer. To be part of the solution in de-stigmatizing PPD (or the broader term, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders), a good way to start would be by telling your own story. If you have experienced this illness, of supported a loved one, you have a story to tell. By sharing, we help others to become aware and educated, not feel so along, and to have hope.”
As long as one is considered brave for writing about her PPD, there is a stigma associated with the disease. If women are too ashamed to admit they have a problem, they will not get the help they need. We don’t have to wait for lawmakers. We can start right now by telling our own stories. By saying, “This happened to me, and I got through it, and you will, too. You deserve help, and help is available.”
When I was going through PPD, I didn’t think I deserved anything. I would brush my hair straight back into an unflattering bun because I recall thinking, You don’t deserve a pretty hairstyle. I would sit in my sweltering apartment because I thought, You don’t deserve air-conditioning. Part of ultimately asking for help, and accepting it, was realizing that I didn’t need to punish myself for the bad thoughts I was having. The PPD wasn’t my fault, but it was my responsibility to advocate for myself. I wanted to be rescued. But no one could save me if no one knew I was suffering. To get help, I was going to have to ask for it.
Sonia Murdock played a key role in my recovery. A good friend gave me the phone number for the PDRC and I carried it in my wallet for weeks before I worked up the nerve to leave a message. When I did, Sonia personally returned my call. She talked to me at length. She told me I would be okay, and I believed her. She referred me to a therapist who had herself overcome PPD, and who gave me—on my first visit—her own copy of Brooke Shields’ Down Came the Rain.
I’m disappointed that Bill number S3137C didn’t ultimately become a law, but I believe that, in the end, legislation can only do so much. It’s up to us, the people whose lives have been impacted by PPD, to speak up about our experiences and to destigmatize the diagnosis so those who think they might be suffering from it will ask for help. It’s unfortunate to have PPD but it should not be a source of shame.
After my article appeared in Parents, a coworker told me it had helped her friend–a new mother–realize she had a problem. Like me, this woman just thought she was a horrible person, in capable of loving her newborn, as opposed to someone dealing with a treatable mental illness. Another friend told me she had experienced PPD after adopting, but she didn’t know what it was because she had never heard the diagnosis applied to adoptive parents. PPD exists in various forms. It’s not the same for everyone. The more we share about our experiences, the more we open up about them in private and in public, the more we can help educate other women and families. No one deserves to suffer.
While you are in the midst of it, misery can feel both endless and pointless. But when you come out the other end, you will see that if someone else can be helped by what you went through, your experience had meaning.
For help within New York State, please visit the Postpartum Resource Center of New York. For help in other states, please visit Postpartum Support International.
Joy Peskin is the editorial director of Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers. She has run writing workshops for aspiring authors, homeless youth, and incarcerated women and teens.
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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
It’s rare that a parenting topic gets covered in high-fashion Vogue, but when it does, it has a tendency to make a splash. I was intrigued by Tanya Selvaratnam’s latest piece for the magazine: “Postponing Motherhood: When Does It Actually Become Too Late?” In her article, she states that many women in her generation waited too long to have kids and missed out on motherhood.
It’s a tricky subject. We are living in a society that is much different than the society of our parents’ and grandparents’ time. Look no further than Marie Claire’s February 2014 issue, which is a celebration of the single, independent woman. With sections on how to travel alone and how to live alone, the feature reflects the new culture that we live in. Since we are taking time for ourselves, women today are taking longer to get married. In 1960, the median age for an American woman to first get married was 20; now, it’s 27.
Even though marriage can be put off for as long as we want, kids can’t be postponed for too long (if you want them). Our biological clocks still exist. Amongst all of the great discussions in Marie Claire about the benefits of not being tied down in our 20s, the magazine acknowledges that, by 27, our fertility is already starting to decline. The best age to have a baby biologically is 20. According to a 2009 CDC study, by age 40, our chances of a live birth are 18.7 percent; by 44, this decreases to 2.9 percent.
The message behind these statistics is easy to brush off. “We are not conditioned to feel the urgency of fertility,” Selvaratnam writes in Vogue. This was the case for 37-year-old Hilary Grove, who was under the impression that it wasn’t “a big deal” to wait before having kids. Now, she struggles to get pregnant.
Should we be having kids younger then? My mom was 23 when she had me, and I love how close we are. Today, she is in her 40s, and I can’t imagine her having me now. We’ve already had so much time together.
These days, society is also encouraging millennials to postpone having kids, to work on our careers, relationships, ourselves, and our generation is not so keen on following in our parents’ footsteps. We’re a bit slower with everything, from moving out to getting married, so it is no surprise that many 20- and 30-somethings feel that they are not ready for a kid. As my colleague Jessie pointed out in her recent post, millennials aren’t financially secure enough to raise a child. Though more people are graduating from college than ever, they are increasingly working at dead-end jobs, with the added burden of student loans.
As a millennial still fairly fresh out of school, it’s even hard for me to believe that I could be having kids of my own at this stage in my life. This is despite my mom’s eager anticipation, which grew once I got engaged. (In typical millennial fashion, I still think I’m too young!) However, Selvaratnam’s Vogue piece serves as a reminder that there is a biological expiration date for conceiving, though it varies from person to person. That’s important, and it’s something for me to consider in my 10-year plan.
Are you trying to conceive? Check out our fertility calculator and a 7-step plan to getting pregnant faster.
Image of a pregnant woman via Shutterstock.
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