USA Today opinion columnist Carrie Lukas, who is the managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum and a mother of four, issued a poignant reminder to the culture on Sunday when she observed that, despite the fact that childbirth is the safest it has ever been, mothers are constantly being warned and worried about the risks and difficulties that may be associated with parenthood.
Lukas recalled that, during her first pregnancy, she heeded frightening warnings about the possible mercury levels in canned tuna. In an effort to do what was best for her baby, she gave up tuna completely for the duration of her pregnancy, only to learn later that new research suggests that foregoing fish was dangerous because it deprives the baby of essential nutrients, and the mercury levels in canned tuna turned out to be less of a concern than researchers had initially thought. These warnings and admonitions towards pregnant women go on…and on…and on.
Don’t use drinking bottles made with BPA, or you could die.
Make sure you eat a lot of healthy oils and leafy greens, or your baby will be born with birth defects.
Don’t even think about getting your nails done, because the fumes are carcinogenic.
Cook your cold cuts before eating, or you’ll get listeria.
Don’t drink coffee, because it, too, will kill you and your baby.
You’re going to have an epidural? But why would anyone want to DRUG her baby?!
Do you even know how much kids cost? You’re going to be poorer than ever!
Many of these warnings (e.g., the BPA warning) come from environmental advocates and have no weight in the actual scientific community. But the lack of scientific evidence for many of the dangers touted during pregnancy fails to put an end to unnecessary stress and worry for unsuspecting pregnant women, or women who would like to be pregnant but are dissuaded by naysayers. Lurking around every corner – on Facebook, in the checkout aisle at the grocery store, at the gym, in line at the coffee shop – are individuals who feel the need to prescribe warnings and admonitions for every prospective parent in sight. Just wait is a common phrase issued to pregnant women anticipating the birth of their first child.
Just wait – that bundle of joy is going to have you sleep-deprived and crazy before he’s two weeks old! What a way to squash the joy that comes with new life. The problem is not with the pregnant woman; the problem is with the bitter person who wants to suck joy out of happy times. Most women experience the relieving reality that the sleep deprivation and life changes that come with a child are nothing compared to the absolute elation and happiness associated with raising a baby.
Lukas suggests that these negative comments could be responsible for some of the demographic crisis that much of the world – including the United States, with an all-time low fertility rate of 1.9 – is experiencing. The ridiculous amount of negative shoved on would-be parents is enough to make couples (often needlessly) think twice before embarking on parenthood, and as a result, many countries, especially in the West, are experiencing fertility rates far below 2.1, which is the rate needed just for individuals to replace themselves.
The mother of four urges that perhaps now is the time to start emphasizing the positive aspects of raising a family during this particular period of history. She concludes:
Here’s advice for expectant moms that I hope is a tad more useful: Try to relax and use common sense. Don’t drink your Lysol or decide today’s the day to start stripping your furniture. Take your prenatal vitamins, eat a variety of foods and think a bit more about your diet. But don’t make yourself miserable with worry.
Children born today can expect a longer, healthier life than at any other time in history. They will have access to better medicine, greater nutrition and a cleaner, safer environment than previous generations. Such reminders may make being pregnant a little less stressful and parenting more fun. Perhaps it will even encourage a few more people out there to give parenting a try.