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.
I 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.
And 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.