As a journalist, I’m used to tracking down the most relevant sources and getting the best information about any given subject. But when confronted with the overwhelming amount of choices that needed to be made for my own health, I quickly found myself confused, tousled around, and frustrated, by a medical system that takes a diagnostic rather than holistic approach to fetal and maternal care. There was the highly recommended private doctor who charged $13,000 minimum out of pocket for a vaginal delivery (I passed on that); the local midwifery practice that had expecting moms jammed into a small waiting area like sardines (six-feet apart where?); and the highly-ranked hospital that neglected to communicate simple but important details, like partners not being allowed to attend appointments until said partners were sent away right outside the appointment room.
These were minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things, but it was hard to not see them as a part of the bigger narrative I couldn’t stop thinking about: Expectant Black mothers are more likely to die—no matter their education or income level. Our babies are also more likely to die. Simple miscommunications, under-resourced facilities, pre-existing conditions, and bias against listening to our concerns or pain have all added up to an inequitable system. Now, instead of telling these stories from the sidelines, I was the story—and I was terrified that it would not have a happy ending.Ultimately my search led me to one of the best high-risk maternity practices in the city, thanks to a referral from my lupus doctor. It would require hour-long travel and expensive cab rides to another borough, but it was worth it. Then, more concerning news: During my second trimester my doctors observed a marginal cord insertion during an ultrasound, which meant my baby’s umbilical cord was off-center and impacting access to my placenta. They couldn’t explain why, but it could affect my baby’s growth.
I had also previously been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that can increase the chances of miscarriage (women with PCOS are three times more likely to lose pregnancies), so from day one, I was on a combination of hormones and anti-diabetic medication prescribed to preserve my pregnancy. The pandemic only compounded the tenuousness of the situation, which made me feel as if the possibility of becoming a mother could be snatched away from me in an instant. Instead of feeling the joy I always thought I’d feel during pregnancy, I was consumed by anxiety, fear, and so many questions. Why did I have to fall into a high-risk pregnancy category? What would it mean for my baby—if my baby even made it full term? And with all the sad stories about racial disparities in maternal care, how could I avoid becoming a statistic?
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