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Work's been tough lately. We've had a lot of sad souls with tough lives, struggling with what most of us already consider stressful—the birth of our baby. There's no doubt about it, whether it's good stress or bad stress, stress has an affect on us. No matter how stable our lives are, having a baby turns our world upside down, scatters our stability to the four corners of the universe then mixes it up with sleep deprivation and hormones.
Now, imagine being homeless and worrying that if you don't find a stable place before labor kicks in, you won't be allowed to take your baby home. You might have to move in with your mother who's boyfriend drinks too much and creeps you out. You might have to move back in with the baby's father, just so you have somewhere to go. But it took you so long to have the courage to leave, after that last go around where you lost a tooth.
Imagine what it would be like to discover you're already 5 months along but way too young to realize your tummy ache is caused by a pregnancy. So young you never even had your first period, haven't developed breasts yet and have no idea how babies get in there and how it will get out. Sex? Oh yeah, that's what that boy does.
What if it's your 11th child? You love them all but money is so tight and you're so tired. You can't work outside the home because of all those children. Your husband is cross a lot of the time because of the pressure of supporting such a large family. You secretly hope for a cesarean so you can ask the doctor to tie your tubes while he's in there. You can't do it openly with your husband's consent because contraception is a sin. You know God won't approve of you but how many more can you bear?
What if you've finally kicked the drugs? You've tested clean at every one of your drug tests for 2 whole years but your history follows you. The authorities are watching your every move to make sure you don't slip up. You're trying your best, going to meetings and the rehab center you are so grateful to be in. You're not even on parole anymore and your boyfriend's got a good job working construction. You might be accepted to beauty college soon. If only people would see the woman you are, the strong one who's kicking her demons to the curb, instead of the one who looks old and roughed up from the life she used to lead. Your history is written on your face with wrinkles and damaged teeth; on your arm with tattoos; on your posture with a stoop that betrays your pride and esteem.
Imagine delivering your second baby with Down Syndrome. Your first was a surprise. You didn't have any testing, history or experience that would prepare you. She's three now and learning to talk. She can say Mama and Thank you and One. She's even said them all together as a sentence, "Mama one thank you." She was asking for lipstick. With this second baby, you got all the testing they had to offer and sure enough, once again, you're having a baby with Down Syndrome. You could have aborted but your 3-year-old is so adorable and you love her. Why not love two special babies? This one will be a girl too. They'll be sisters. You know how hard it will be; how people will judge and pity but you're honored to raise two girls who'll teach the world that perfection comes in all different styles. Sometimes it comes with Down Syndrome.
It's easy to judge; to say these women and girls have no business having babies. They should have done something different. But really, all they did was what many of us have done. Gotten pregnant. On purpose; on accident; something in between. Whatever. It's as easy as falling off a log. They just got pregnant. Their values, history and circumstances are uniquely their own but as common as can be. None of these women are actual patients. I would never tell my patient's real stories but sadly enough, they're not unique. They're composites of so many women (and girls) I've taken care of or heard about lately. They're just like women everywhere in every maternity hospital in the world. Their lives are just a whole lot rougher than many. They're doing their best to be good mothers with the full realization that many women think they should be doing better. They know they're judged.
I've written before about having gratitude for the stable life you probably lead. Whatever stress you're experiencing as you prepare for your baby, it's probably a whole lot less dramatic than any of these women. I hope you all have perfect babies to bring home to warm, happy homes with loving parents and bright siblings. I hope your dog is good with children and your cat will stay out of the crib. I hope your health is good, your heart is full and most of all, I hope you realize how very, very lucky you are to have the gift of a baby. No matter how it's wrapped up.
Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.