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.


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.

On Writing : Louis CK Interviewed on NPR

The following is a quote from comedian Louis CK in an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air from a couple of weeks ago. I found this bit about script writing especially insightful. Louis had decided to write an episode for his FX series, Louie, based on some of his fellow comedians, in which a friend has informed him that he has decided to commit suicide. Louis wrote the episode mere months before his friend and fellow comedian Patrice O’Neal died of complications from diabetes.

Gross : Have you been in that position where somebody’s told you that they want to kill themselves and you have to decide what are you supposed to do with that?

C.K. : Well, it’s a scary thing to ponder, you know, but it’s emotional to hear that clip now because, I mean, I wrote that about a lot of comedians I knew coming up and comedy and show business are very cruel and they don’t have a nice way of saying no or good-bye, you know? And a lot of guys live really tough lives in this racket.

And I’ve known a lot of them and come up with some of them and some have made it, some haven’t. And, you know, the idea of somebody saying to you look me in the eye and tell me I have a reason to live, it’s terrifying to think, well, what if I fail them in that moment?…

And, you know, it’s just funny because I have such a different perspective on that issue of, like, someone’s not taking care of themselves. Someone’s not keeping themselves safe, and what is your role in that? And the anger I feel towards Doug in that scene is the kind of anger I feel about Patrice now that he’s gone. So it’s interesting to look back on it because the thing – the place I took myself in that scene, as I was writing it, I didn’t know where it was going. I knew I wanted to stand on that street and have him give me that news and I didn’t know where I wanted it to go. So I started writing to him my argument why not to kill yourself, and as I was writing it I realized for this argument to succeed would be really gross. For me to, like, be the guy who gives him the reason to live is so self-serving.

And the fact that I was even attempting it on paper, I was embarrassed alone in a room. And so the way that I – the path I found to the truth of the scene for me was having Doug be the one to tell me how full of crap I was for trying it. So in other words, as I was sitting there typing here’s why you shouldn’t kill yourself, I stopped and said to myself, oh my god. Congratulations, you pig. You know, who do you think you are? And so then I had Doug basically say that.

I think the quote speaks for itself, but I will say that this is something I contemplate often. In my younger years of writing, I felt afraid of writing what I know, afraid that if I wrote it, it might not be the truth because it’s just me and my perspective. Yet, I have this desperation to write and life as I experience it only spurs me toward writing more. I have to tell this story, I think to myself. How do I tell it truthfully? Will others understand what I mean by what I write?

But the truth is what you know when you’re writing in a room alone. It’s what you uncover, beneath layers of drafts and words and ideas, once you sit down. It is scary because it is real. Don’t be afraid to write the truth.

This Artistic Life.

Two confessions:
1. I am a public radio addict. Morning Edition, Eight Forty-Eight, Fresh Air, All Things Considered, This American Life. Without cable and time, I have limited connections to what is going on in the world. Thanks to public radio, namely WBEZ and NPR, I’m at least tuned in. More than that, I find the sound of their voices comforting, their stories fascinating, and let’s not ignore the fact that it has rescued me from the utter dread that is pop music radio.
2. I have taste. I have a deep love for all things artistic and I consider myself an artist of words, images and food. But I often recognize as I write, paint, photograph or cook that while I know the difference between what’s good and what isn’t, I am just not up to par with others out there. It took me a long time to admit this, and while the thought is somewhat discouraging, it’s also inspiring. So the more I see of something that’s good, the more I aspire to become good… After all, art and excellence take practice.
Just ask Ira Glass, creator of This American Life.
I dedicate this video to impeccable taste, and to the day when our abilities finally live up to it…