In 2018, a 47,000 acre ‘gender reveal party’ started a blaze in Arizona costing a total of $8m to extinguish. Last week, the El Dorado Fire in Southern California was started the same way. It is currently still burning just a few short miles from my home causing mayhem. But when it is out, will this become a forgotten tragedy like Arizona? Do people not realize the danger of exploding a device near dry wilderness?
As firefighters struggle to contain it, I think constantly about the family that unintentionally ignited that blaze and the heart-breaking sadness they must feel. This fire will no doubt change peoples lives in years to come – and not in a good way. There is a strikingly similar situation going on across the Country in maternity care. Childbirth also has risks which can cause heart-breaking sadness and change peoples lives but most people know nothing about it.
In fact last week intelligent and influential Senator Ted Cruz stated that ‘pregnancy is not a life-threatening condition’. I would argue most Americans have the same uninformed opinion. Isn’t childbirth safe, managed and easy in a country of wealth and power? In fact women in the USA face the highest maternal mortality rate among their wealthy counterparts and Ted Cruz’s state of Texas ranks in the bottom of the pile for healthy outcomes. In 2018 there were 17.4 deaths per 100,000 and 37.1 deaths among African American women. Pregnancy puts a huge strain on a women’s body and can result in heart problems, unstoppable hemorrhage, blood clots, infections and preeclampsia/HELLP syndrome. In addition, nearly 65,000 women had serious complications pre and post birth. If Senator Cruz’s intention was to incur the wrath of Women on social media, he did a good job. He got slammed on Facebook and Instagram with women sharing heart-breaking stories of something they thought would be so easy, safe and managed turn into something tragic and heart-breaking. But he also exposed his ignorance about something thought to be exciting and joyous.
The intention of the comparison between these two situations is not to instill fear but rather to educate. If people understand that gender reveal gadgets can set off a fire, they can take steps to mitigate the risk. And if people understand that pregnancy and childbirth has risks, they can work to mitigate them too. Let’s give pregnancy and childbirth the respect it deserves. And maybe we should require that those planning a gender reveal party take a safety class.
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