Skip the Greeting Card, Call Your Senators.

This weekend is Mother’s Day. And other than the fact that my mom died five years ago so this holiday is already hard, there is this other thing I’ve been struggling with in the last few years, and I’m sharing about it now because it’s weighing really heavily on my mind this week.

Matt and I want to start a family someday soon, but we don’t have the financial stability or the adequate insurance and benefits to make this possible. People who love me say all the time, “honey, people have babies with no money all the time” or “if you’re waiting until you have all your ducks in a row, you’ll never have kids” or something similar. It’s not that what they’re saying is untrue or ill-intended; I know these people love and care about me and they want me to stop worrying so much. It’s just that the sentiment is really naive. I don’t know, maybe we haven’t been clear enough about just how much financial stress we continue to endure.

But it seems like people assume that money, insurance, and healthy pregnancies are a given for everyone. They’re not.

I was listening to NPR on the way to work this morning, and I heard this report about the rising statistics of maternal deaths in the United States. Among several heartbreaking stories, one man describes watching his wife, 9-months pregnant, die suddenly in their own home due to an undetected heart condition. I was crying by the end of it.

I mean, read this:

“The ability to protect the health of mothers and babies in childbirth is a basic measure of a society’s development. Yet every year in the U.S., 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes, and some 65,000 nearly die — by many measures, the worst record in the developed world. American women are more than three times as likely as Canadian women to die in the maternal period (defined by the Centers for Disease Control as the start of pregnancy to one year after delivery or termination), six times as likely to die as Scandinavians. In every other wealthy country, and many less affluent ones, maternal mortality rates have been falling; in Great Britain, the journal Lancet recently noted, the rate has declined so dramatically that “a man is more likely to die while his partner is pregnant than she is.” But in the U.S., maternal deaths increased from 2000 to 2014. In a recent analysis by the CDC Foundation, nearly 60 percent of such deaths are preventable.”

And now think about this: the version of the American Health Care Act that the House of Representatives passed last Thursday would eliminate essential health benefits. This means that states can apply for a waiver to opt out of most of the regulations and consumer protections that were included in the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies in those states wouldn’t have to cover maternity care if they didn’t want to. Or they could make the premiums for maternity care extremely high, higher than they are now.

So imagine this scenario:

I, a healthy young woman of child-bearing age, want to have kids, but:

1. we have $60K in student loans
2. we have no savings (see #1)
3. we have limited financial assets, and we rent our housing (see #1, #2)
4. we’ve only just started investing in life insurance and 401K’s
5. the AHCA gets passed, and suddenly maternity care is a luxury for the wealthy

If anything goes wrong, what do you think would happen to us? If my pregnancy wasn’t healthy, if I or the baby developed health complications, how would we be able to deal with this financially? If I don’t survive, what would happen to my husband, especially if he suddenly found himself a single father?

What would this scenario be like if we were talking about a woman who has even less of a safety net than me, she and her family are living in poverty, and because of the AHCA, she doesn’t even have access to reproductive care from places like Planned Parenthood?

This is the shit that keeps me awake at night. 

Here’s an idea: if you’re willing to contribute to someone’s GoFundMe when they suffer from preventable pregnancy complications, then you can deal with socialized healthcare. Because that’s basically what a functioning healthcare system is: crowd-sourced healthcare on a macro-level. We take care of each other, because we value human life. It doesn’t prevent death, but it dramatically decreases the likelihood that we’ll die of something stupidly preventable. But the reason some people can’t accept this is because socialized healthcare is available to everyone, not just the people whom they deem worthy because of their skin color, their economic class, their body type, their respectable lifestyle.

This weekend people all over this country will be celebrating their mothers, their wives and partners, their sisters and daughters and saying, “Happy Mother’s Day, we literally wouldn’t be here without you and we owe you everything.” Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington believe that men shouldn’t have to contribute to women’s prenatal care. They’re deliberately trying to create a healthcare bill that will make it harder for families to care for mothers and babies. And for some families, it will cost them their loved ones and their livelihoods.

If any of this matters to you, then please call your senators and tell them to reject the AHCA. Do it in honor of the mothers who gave you life. It’s better than a greeting card.

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P.S. Read this beautiful post by D.L. Mayfield on her son’s second birthday, and then listen to her podcast interview about their traumatic birth story.

  • Sarah Joslyn

    Yuppppp.

  • Saskia Wishart

    Woah Bethany, thank you for laying this out so clearly. In Europe, everything is done so differently, and your post highlights how ridiculously privileged Europeans and Canadians are in comparison, especially with maternal health. I am so sorry that your country has continually devalued women in such a way. <3

  • Kristy

    Strong, impassioned words that I relate to so strongly.
    “When is baby number 2 coming?”
    “There’s a fine line between faith and stupid.”

  • Rachel Rock

    This is so scary! What a horrid reality. I’m sorry for you that money has to have such a heavy impact on your possibilty of having children. I had a baby last year and had to have an emergency c-section. I can’t imagine that without the NHS. England sure isn’t perfect but the NHS is something we can be proud of.
    I hope you find an answer. Or if not, consider moving to England?!

  • https://livedtoward.wordpress.com/ Beth Watkins

    I’m in a different but similar situation. We don’t have kids but would like to maybe soonish. We’ve just moved back from several years overseas, my husband is a new immigrant, and I’ve been sick for the last few years and can’t work full time for at least a year or more. I read the same article you did, as well as D.L’s piece…and this shit keeps me up at night, too. Thank you so much for your words!