A viral tweet reveals what happened to one mother when her water broke during a board meeting—and it says so much about the way "hustle culture" needs to change.

By Zara Hanawalt
May 26, 2021
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An image of a pregnant woman at work.
Credit: Getty Images.

We've all watched this scene unfold in movies. An expectant mother's water breaks—and everything else comes to a grinding halt. The pregnant person springs into action with a singular focus on getting where she needs to be in order to get that baby out—and everyone around her joins in in dropping whatever they were doing when that water broke to help another person birth a whole human. Because that's the right thing to do, isn't it? When someone's water breaks, you help out in whatever way you can. No questions asked.

But if a viral tweet is any indication, not everyone subscribes to this belief. The tweet in question comes from the friend of someone whose water broke during a board meeting. The friend announced what had happened, presumably expecting everyone in the meeting to react in a way that seemed...well, decent. Because let's be very clear: The only acceptable thing to say when someone interrupts a meeting to announce that their water has broken and needs to hightail it to the hospital is, "Oh my gosh, by all means, go and don't worry about anything other than giving birth safely."

But that's not what happened here, according to the tweet.

"She says, 'I need to go to the hospital my water just broke!' Lead investor from well known fund says, 'Ok, but can we finish the meeting first?' She finished the board meeting in the car while en route to the hospital," the tweet reads. The tweet's author, Christine Carrillo, adds a very appropriate "WTF" to the post.

Seeing this tweet is shocking—the lack of regard for an event that is not only incredibly urgent, but also potentially excruciating and terrifying (or even life-threatening), is sickening. But at the same time, this is...kind of not that surprising? We've likely all heard fellow mothers talking about how they worked through contractions, through pain, through fear, right up until they gave birth. And while moms are entitled to make that choice, we need to confront the fact that we live in a world that puts ridiculous pressure on employees to be productive even in the face of childbirth. And that needs to be fixed.

Case in point: One fellow Twitter user replied with a story of her own. "I worked the entire day I was in labor with my daughter—meetings all day (kept post it notes of how far apart my contractions were)—then went to the hospital an hour after my last meeting to give birth. This happens in the startup world and corporations. It's appalling," she writes. She's correct: It is appalling.

"Obviously there were no other women (or reasonable men) in that conference room to say 'WTF are you out of your mind, she's going to the hospital now and without finishing this meeting,'" a user writes. And another reply touches on the inherent danger of the situation. "Despicable," the user writes. "Despite the commonality of childbirth, it remains a high risk situation for women. It's basically insisting on a meeting while someone fights for their life."

A few responders question why the original poster's friend went along with the request to continue working while en route to the hospital—but most mothers who have navigated the workplace understand all too well that sometimes, the pressure to hustle through absolutely anything is just plain overpowering. The original poster of the tweet, who is a founder and CEO herself, speaks to this, writing: "The reality is that for many women—and don't get me started if they are also women of color—they don't have the option to say, no I won't take money from someone who behaves badly when they'll lead a round. The power dynamics at play are enormous."