After giving birth in 2014, I joined a handful of mom groups. Regardless of their size or location, what struck me most was our commonalities in pregnancy and parenthood across all boundaries. There, time and again, I listened to pregnancy horror stories about a lack of accommodations and inaccessible spaces - Trying to find a store that would offer a restroom, health complications from being expected to perform dangerous work, standing too long with circulation issues, carrying something too heavy, fainting from exhaustion or motion sickness, and being shoved in line or onto crowded trains.
Pregnancy can change a woman’s body in extreme ways. The American Pregnancy Association cites fatigue as a symptom that can start as early as week one, with nausea between weeks 2-8 often lasting throughout most of pregnancy, and early backaches and headaches. The Mayo Clinic added dizziness to the list, as pregnancy can cause blood vessels to dilate and blood pressure to drop. What to Expect lists a shifting center of gravity and imbalance, plus changes in hormones that loosen joints and ligaments and cause fluid retention leading to carpal tunnel syndrome and a poor grip. Possible symptoms also included by What to Expect are leg cramps and blurry vision. (A full list of symptoms can be found here). Many women experience these health complications starting before pregnancy is visible and lasting through labor and delivery. I understood these changes having been pregnant, yet was aware that women rarely advocate for themselves because they realize other people might have hidden disabilities, or because they feel dejected from prior bad experiences.
So I thought, what if people clearly knew who was pregnant, or who would be willing to accommodate them? Wouldn't it be great to simplify the communication between expecting mothers and their supporters?! I have witnessed such great generosity of spirit between strangers when someone has a visible need. Out of this service gap, a look at efforts being made in other countries, and input from women around the United States, we founded the UP-STAND movement in June of 2015, with the first UP-STAND products made in Astoria, NY, in November 2015.
Since then, I have experienced life as a parent and become aware how inaccessible public spaces and transportation are to families as well. The accommodations that parents need just to get out and about so they can safely participate in regular life are astounding: Changing tables, high chairs, stroller parking, ramps or elevators, lactation rooms…Yet little is done to accommodate families in the U.S. So, in 2016, we expanded the movement to include work on behalf of new parents and families as well. Parents and kids cannot be expected to permanently stay at home – they need to be able to grocery shop, get a haircut, go to the bathroom while out, and travel; and they deserve every opportunity to experience libraries, museums, theaters, and sporting events, and they better contribute to society by doing so! Our movement encourages establishments and people to provide family-friendly accommodations whenever possible.
Starting and having a family can be one of life’s greatest joys, but it is not easy. In late 2016, we were thrilled to discover I was pregnant for a second time. My pregnancy was unfortunately ectopic, and I had to undergo emergency surgery; I lost the pregnancy and one of my Fallopian tubes. If there is a silver lining to my loss, I hope that it serves as a reminder that not all pregnancy complications are visible, nor are they often talked about.
We hope to change norms around what it means to accommodate and support pregnancies and families. We thank you for your interest in being part of our movement, and hope you'll join us.
Christine Serdjenian Yearwood
Founder & CEO