Why One Woman Has 'Decided to Stay Pregnant' for 260 Weeks


National Partnership for Women and Families/YouTube

If you've ever been pregnant, then you know baby-making comes with its share of discomforts. There's the heartburn, the chin hair, the random lactation -- and that's just in the last trimester. Now, imagine if pregnancy lasted for 260 weeks? That's what the National Partnership for Women and Families is asking us to do in a new satirical PSA about a fictional woman who's "decided to stay pregnant" for over five years, because she doesn't have access to paid family leave.

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The video, titled A Long 5 Years, tells the story of Lauren, a Colorado paralegal who's been pregnant for 260 weeks, five days, and nine hours -- but who's counting?

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"Lauren can't afford to take time off to have her baby," the video's narrator explains, "so she's decided to just stay pregnant. Neither Lauren nor her husband have paid family leave. He used up his vacation days caring for his sick mother, so she's stockpiling her vacation and sick days so she can give birth when her baby is 6 years old."

The video features a woman with a comically large pregnant belly chugging antacids straight from the bottle and struggling to do everyday tasks, like ride the elevator or pick up her cell phone after she drops it.

The video's narrator says Lauren and her husband thought about moving to a country with paid leave, but the expectant mom hasn't been able to fly since 2012. "Keeping a toddler in your uterus is a challenge," the narrator quips, "but she tries to think of it as extra bonding time."

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The video is guaranteed to inspire laughs from those of us who understand the agony of being hugely pregnant, but behind the satire is the truth bomb that our lack of paid time off is actually a major crisis. As the video points out, 86 percent of people working for private companies in the US don't have access to paid leave, and nearly one in four new moms goes back to work a mere two weeks after giving birth. Even more surprising, the US is the only developed country in the world that doesn't guarantee paid family or medical leave.

For many people, a lack of access to paid leave means choosing between having a family and being able to pay the bills, even when both parents are gainfully employed. Even worse, the problem doesn't only affect mothers or people with new babies.

The lack of access to paid leave also hurts employees who need to care for sick relatives -- a growing problem, as about 34.2 million working Americans are also unpaid caregivers to older family members -- and even those who need time away to battle a personal illness.

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Even with the best financial and family planning strategies, most people can't afford to take an extended, unpaid absence from their job -- and they shouldn't have to. We should have policies in place to support hardworking employees. The National Partnership for Women and Families even has a handy form on its website that you can use to email your representatives in Congress and tell them as much.

A 260-week pregnancy may be far-fetched, but a national paid leave policy is not.

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