I opened my Facebook news feed and my heart sank. The pictures were everywhere in a matter of hours. From a story that was being shared just in the military community, it quickly gained traction as the Scary Mommy website and other heavy hitters got involved.
The pictures reflect every new parent’s fears about leaving a child with another person. Thoughtless actions and careless words went viral. Now military spouses are left wondering about the reliability of their military treatment facilities.
Pregnant military spouses are questioning whether they should give birth at a military hospital.
When I was pregnant, I never thought twice about receiving all of my prenatal and birth care at the Naval hospital. After all, my insurance is fully accepted and everything would come at a very low cost or be absolutely “free.” I’ve had amazing experiences during both pregnancies and births. My nurses seemed to be attentive, kind and compassionate to me and my brand new baby.
With those photos, however, a little seed of doubt has crept in. How many other military families thought that everything had gone well? They must have believed, like I did, that corpsman would act with decency and dignity.
Instead, through the actions of 2 medical providers, we have learned that this is not always the case.
By posting these pictures, the corpsmen involved violated patient rights according to HIPAA. They shared images of the tiniest babies at their most vulnerable. A baby’s sweet little face was shared to people without parental consent. Worst of all, the infants were manipulated into poses and postures that were degrading or insulting. All without parental consent.
Every time someone wheeled my babies out of the maternal recovery room for any reason, my heart skipped a beat. Yes, I had very healthy, medium to large babies. You might call them sturdy.
However, after gestating within me for 40 weeks, these moments marked the very first time that my children had been out of my sight. I worried and waited anxiously until my newborn was returned.
I’m sure all new parents, especially mothers, share this same worry. We have been in control for almost a year, and are now ceding that role to the doctors, nurses and corpsmen. It is terrifying and heart-stopping.
Now we have this additional worry: that someone will take advantage of their position to demean a newborn.
Which brings up another concern: how were these corpsmen placed in this role to start with?
Based on their behavior, in hindsight, it seems as if both corpsmen involved did not enjoy working with mothers and infants. Surely, this must have been evident before they were assigned to the maternity ward. A medical professional doesn’t just suddenly develop such strong negative feelings toward babies. A person who calls vulnerable newborns “little Satans” probably did not start out feeling warm and fuzzy toward her patients.
During our last birth process, we had the mostly amazing corpsmen. We even had one corpsman who went out of his way to include my older child in the new baby’s routine check-up. He was so exceptional that we thought he was a doctor, until he politely corrected us.
We also had someone who was a little rougher than I would have liked and persisted with tests that were causing the baby a lot of distress. After, my spouse and I wondered why that second corpsman was in that position.
Beyond the core incompatibility of these corpsmen, the lack of oversight is also concerning.
A writer for What to Expect When You’re Expecting even shared that the fake nails visible in one photo are considered unacceptable while working with newborns. Long nails and long fake nails have the potential to injure delicate newborn skin. They can carry dangerous bacteria that can lead to infections or illness.
That both corpsmen had the time and lack of supervision to share posed images on social media is also of note. Surely, someone should have been there with them or near them or popping in and out of that location. Someone must have known.
What gives me hope that this incident won’t be recurring in other military hospitals is the swiftness of the Navy’s response.
Through legal and military justice, these corpsmen should be held accountable for their actions. Hopefully, this embarrassment will cause a review of the policies placing personnel in each position. Ideally, the Navy will review the supervision guidelines as well as staff access to personal phones or devices.
It’s unfortunate that the actions of 2 inappropriate corpsmen will impact the future of so many of their exceptional colleagues. Because I personally have had experiences with amazing corpsmen. These ladies and gentlemen went above and beyond to show kindness, compassion and dignity.
However, with so many military families now questioning what will happen or has happened, during their birth experiences, something clearly needs to happen. Military families should feel secure when they are at their most vulnerable, especially on base.
Faith needs to be restored in the system. We are all waiting to see exactly how the Navy will act to accomplish this goal.