What Do Our Family Values Really Mean?

As anyone who follows my blog probably knows, I like to talk about the funny side of raising kids. That’s why I started it: I want to remember these wonderful things, years from now, after sleep deprivation and everyday life would’ve made me forget.

Plus, in a world of constant political debate, I figure the hilarity of parenting brings people together. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we all love our kids. So I mostly try to keep things light.

But tonight, I need to get something off my chest.

A fellow blogger recently wrote a piece about our health care system. She’s a hospital student intern trying to figure out who qualifies for Medicaid waivers and who doesn’t… struggling to navigate our complex health care system and deal with turning people away.

And her piece really struck a nerve.

My husband works for the State of California, which means we have health insurance. Unlike 13 percent of pregnant American women, we were lucky enough to have access to prenatal care when we found ourselves suddenly dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

I had regular checkups, blood tests, and ultrasounds, for which we paid nothing.

Proper prenatal care reduces the incidence and severity of a staggering number of complications. Luckily, I had a healthy pregnancy. Unlike many American families, we have enough means for me to eat properly, do prenatal yoga, and otherwise take good care of myself.

img_0504I also didn’t have to work right up until delivery, or get fired for trumped-up reasons because my employer didn’t want to deal with maternity hassles, leaving us in dire economic straights just before facing parenthood…

Even so, we found ourselves in a life-or-death situation when Brontë was being born.

Most first-time moms have long, protracted labors that take hours upon hours to complete. Not me.

No, by the time I realized I was in labor, I was screaming in the car while my husband desperately tried to drive us to a hospital in time.

By the time we stumbled in the door, it was too late for an epidural. They could feel our baby’s head as I was collapsing on the floor.

Something was wrong.

I knew something was wrong because the blur of doctors surrounding me felt panicked. They told me they couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat right before slapping a mask on my face that knocked me into total unconsciousness.

Twenty minutes later, I woke up in indescribable pain to see my baby next to me.

Her eyes were wet and shining. I clawed the air around her, trying to grab her, until they pumped enough drugs in me to make it possible.

As I held her on my chest for the first time, the doctors told me she had been turned backwards, that every labor contraction was slowing down her heart and they had to perform an emergency C-section before she went braindead.

If we hadn’t made it to a hospital, or got there fifteen minutes later, she would have died inside me and I would have probably bled out.

img_4278And I try not to think about that when watching her beaming 4-year-old face as she teases our kitties or perfects her Silly Dance. Because thinking about it means breaking into choking sobs, imagining her tiny eyes being cold and dead instead of blinking and shiny.

I know I’ve made cracks at the expense of women who love the idea of natural childbirth or having babies at home, but there’s fear behind these jokes.

Fact is, many American women resort to having their babies at home because of our staggering medical costs. America is, by far, the most expensive place to have a baby. Bills range from $10,000 for a complication-free, routine delivery to well over $100,000.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the complications that might’ve been prevented with proper prenatal care.

Which is perhaps why we have embarrassingly bad maternal and infant mortality rates. Despite the high cost of delivery, the US has a far higher infant mortality rate than any of the other 27 wealthy nations studied by the CDC.

Our babies are three times as likely to die as those born in Finland or Japan. Even though we’re the wealthiest nation in the world.

And if I wasn’t lucky enough to have access to health care, I’d be part of that statistic too. Even as a married, educated woman of reasonable means, who appeared to have a healthy pregnancy.

We ended up being okay, by the skin of our teeth, but change one sliding door in our path to parenting and it all would’ve ended in tragedy.

As it does, all the time, in our wealthy country where people don’t have access to healthcare.

This is wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19 Comments

  1. That’s a powerful story. Every child is a miracle, but yours seems to be just a wee more miraculous.

    Sometimes I feel that the only people that have a good grasp of the infant mortality rate are obgyns, or what it means. After all, common sense says that humans can reliably reproduce, we’ve done so forever. But it’s not as reliable as one might assume, and it’s shameful when pre-natal care and safe delivery is out of reach for people not privileged to take it for granted.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I got what you meant (but always good to clear up in case others didn’t, I suppose).

        I mean, say we were working for a private firm and didn’t have health care, or were 18 years old and were trying to just put food on the table instead of worrying about potential health emergencies… there are so many scenarios in which people aren’t insured.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. Childbirth has always been dangerous but we are so much better at saving lives now that I think people forget…

      I feel like we enter these debates about health care in the abstract, forgetting the real, tragic results of lack of access. I wanted to share my story to put a human face on it.

      it’s not just childbirth, of course, but that’s what I had personal experience with. There are also families who have a member come down with some disease who lose their job and house trying to pay for treatment.

      It’s not always a bunch of unemployed ne’er-do-wells making bad choices… not that I think it’s okay to just let people die in any case, but I think the stereotype makes people feel better about lack of access. I wanted to paint the picture of how things can play out.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh geez… and that’s another issue–people who have insurance but STILL have enormous bills.

      It’s crushing. A state worker I knew was unhappy with their obgyn and changed plans. The paperwork didn’t go through right and they ended up with a $50,000 bill for delivering twins. It’s INSANE.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s no way that can right or okay and should not be legal. What do you do at that point? Pay for a lawyer? bankruptcy? What other system can you get a service without knowing how much costs you until you get the bill later?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Right?? I don’t know how the family handled it and didn’t want to pry, but they did move from a house to an apartment.

          That’s a good point about getting a service before knowing the costs. Of course, it’s not like we’d refuse them. We’ll pay just about anything when the alternative is death, so medical costs can skyrocket however they will.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. I don’t think it’s off-topic in the least! I’m talking about the crushing costs of the American health care system, specifically the dangers it poses for pregnancy and newborns… the economic burdens it puts on families.

              Plus, I always like to hear from you! 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s so scary! I’m glad you and Bronte were okay – I’m sure your poor husband was a mess back then. Just the other day, I heard that the maternal mortality rate in Texas has slightly increased, which is just unacceptable to me in this day and age. I’m sure there are a few different factors at play, and I can’t pretend to be an expert when that’s clearly out of my field, but you know that the lack of affordable healthcare must have something to do with it! Ugh. It’s just so frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think he was in shock the whole time, poor guy.

      I just want to warn other women that having babies at home can be extremely dangerous. If something goes wrong, you don’t always have much time.

      True, none of us have all the answers. It just seems to me we aren’t putting our collective resources to good use. We pay enormous costs without equal returns… and preventative care collectively saves us more down the line.

      Like

      1. I can see where having a baby at home would be appealing, but there’s no way I would be comfortable with that. I’d be scared the whole time that something would go wrong. And I agree, it makes much more sense to pay for prenatal care than to pay to treat major issues in mom or baby later on.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I can also see the appeal (except for the part about no epidural), but it’s too dangerous. There’s always a chance of something going wrong and it would be hard to live with if it did.

          Of course, being the crunchy Californian that I am, I’ve been around plenty of natural birth at home women and heard/seen horror stories. One friend is embarrassed about being rushed to the hospital, last minute, because she was bleeding out and the same thing happened to one of the women in my prenatal class.

          It’s just scary, even if most deliveries work out fine. They always say we’ve been having babies since the dawn of time, but women used to die.

          I say, forgo the drugs if you want, but be at a hospital!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That is the exact point that I made to a guy one time! His sister had a pretty dramatic labor & delivery experience, and he wasn’t super sympathetic about it. He said something like, “women used to give birth in the fields back in the day, and then they’d go right back to work.” So I decided to add, “uh huh, back when women used to DIE in childbirth a lot, too.”

            That shut him up haha.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. YES, women used to die ALL THE TIME. Obviously not all of them (or we wouldn’t be here) but it was always dangerous and still is.

              Men used to get gutted with broadswords too and I’m sure it hurt.

              That guy sounds like a dick so I’m glad you shut him up. How could be possibly know what childbirth feels like??

              I grew up being terrified of labor pains and my fears were completely founded. It’s awful. If you end up having a baby someday and want to give natural childbirth a whirl, cool, but my advice is keep your options open because most women end up caving when they’re actually feeling it… a needle to the spine doesn’t sound so bad anymore.

              Course, everyone’s experience is different and I’m thrown whenever a woman says it wasn’t so bad. Maybe she has superhuman pain tolerance or advanced hip sockets…

              It’s worth it (I did it again) but I still don’t get the point of agonizing pain when we now have ways of stopping it. We don’t perform operations without anesthesia anymore!

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Oh if I ever have a baby, I will happily take those drugs! I see no sense in trying to be a hero. An epidural sounds scary and painful, but not compared to feeling the rest of it.

                At this point though, I’ve had enough friends tell me their horrifying pregnancy and labor stories that I seriously question whether I can handle all of that haha. When I was a kid, I was somehow under the impression that pregnant women just sort of fell asleep, and then woke up to a new baby. That way sounds MUCH better…

                Liked by 1 person

                1. That would be great. So would having babies like kangaroos, where they just crawl into your pouch.

                  I was so terrified of labor that I don’t know if I would’ve had kids if it didn’t happen on accident, haha. But we have epidurals now and I’m super in favor of them

                  Epidural aren’t much worse than having your blood drawn and it’s waaaaay better than labor… I went on to have one more kid by choice, so don’t let the idea of labor stop you

                  Of course, you may not want kids for other reasons, but I was terrified of labor too and it would’ve been fine if I had just gone to the hospital earlier! The first time you look into your baby’s eyes is indescribably amazing and epidural don’t fog your brain at all.

                  Liked by 1 person

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