The overturning of Roe v. Wade has made me reflect a lot on my own pregnancy. I’ve written about this before for Rehumanize, but this is the first time I am writing since the Supreme Court’s decision. I always thought I’d be happy when Roe v. Wade was finally overturned, but I have learned becoming a mom changes how you respond to certain things. I am grateful for the lives that will be saved in states that now have more abortion restrictions, but remain concerned for mothers in crisis. I see the overturning of Roe as a call to action, and I want part of my action to be sharing resources that have helped me in the hopes that they will help someone else.
My state of Maryland has an inconsistent political dichotomy, with some of the most permissive abortion laws in the nation (that are only going to be strengthened post-Roe) but also strong supports for low- and moderate-income pregnant people and young families. Because the Medicare income threshold is higher for pregnant people, I was able to have free healthcare throughout most of my pregnancy. When I was four months pregnant, I switched to a new job that paid less, but this made me eligible for Medicare. Because of Medicare, I roughly estimate that I’ve saved almost $10,000, and perhaps more. That’s money that can be used for never-ending diapers, bottles, or pacifiers, or perhaps used to start a college fund.
Because Medicare has no copays or deductibles, I didn’t hesitate to go to the hospital when I started spotting in my second trimester, and never missed a doctor’s appointment or ultrasound. Usually this would have ended two months after my baby was born, but due to the ongoing COVID crisis, I have been able to keep this insurance with no copays or deductibles. This was very helpful when I had mastitis when Nathaniel was 2½ months old. I was able to attend a telehealth appointment with my baby by my side, get antibiotics for less than $5, and receive tips on how to prevent another infection without worrying about a large bill arriving later.
Because I was on Medicare when I was pregnant with him, Nathaniel is automatically eligible for one year of Medicare. It gives me so much peace of mind to know that no matter what, I can take him to the pediatrician and not worry about the cost. Hopefully I won’t have to ever take him to the hospital, but if I did, I wouldn’t have to wonder how to fit it into our family’s budget. We can take him to all his doctor’s appointments and get all his vaccinations without worrying about the cost.
One day I was making dinner when I got a call from a very helpful, enthusiastic employee of the Baltimore Health Department. She let me know that because of Medicare I qualified for Maryland’s WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program, as well as other programs. One of the programs I was eligible for was free check-ins from a Baltimore County nurse. I had a video chat every month with an encouraging nurse who had three children of her own. I got advice on breastfeeding and how to recognize various medical issues such as pre-eclampsia. The nurse also made sure I had everything I needed for the baby’s safety, such as a car seat and a crib. I had all these things provided by family members or friends, but if not I would have been directed to a program where I could get these things.
The nurse checked up on me twice after the baby was born, and the first time was especially invaluable. I was having “baby blues,” when the mother’s hormones cause her to feel very emotional and fragile. At the same time this was happening, my family was exposed to COVID-19, so they could not come over to help. My son was underweight and had to be fed every two hours. I didn’t have the headspace to ask my also overwhelmed husband for help, and was feeling depressed and hopeless. The nurse suggested not only that I talk to my doctor about the possibility of postpartum depression, but also go to the WIC clinic and talk to a lactation counselor.
The next day I made a doctor’s appointment for myself and was able to go into the WIC clinic later that very same day. The clinic was able to weigh Nathaniel, and it helped my baby blues immensely to know that he had gained a few ounces! The lactation counselor showed me the best way to hold him and make sure he had a good latch while breastfeeding, as well as helped us make a new schedule that would allow me to get more than 15 minutes of sleep at a time. Without the help of the lactation counselor, I would have needed to keep supplementing with baby formula. This normally wouldn’t have been a bad option, but little did we know there would be a nationwide formula recall and shortage in the following months.
I am still benefiting from Maryland’s WIC program with vouchers for nutritional food such as milk, whole grains, and produce. This started when I was pregnant and will continue with my son until he is 5. WIC also provides formula, or extra food to mothers who exclusively breastfeed like me (believe me, you will be extra hungry while breastfeeding!). Outside of the normal benefits, WIC also gives out checks that can be used at farmers’ markets through the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). Some markets also have dollar-for-dollar matching programs, where every dollar you spend from the FMNP program gets you a voucher that you can use for other food items at the market. This means we can spend our FMNP checks on fresh produce, and then the matching program vouchers on items like local coffee, bread, or even ice cream!
I am incredibly grateful for the various programs that have helped my family before and after the birth of my son. I can only hope that Roe’s overturning serves as a catalyst for all states to support children — born and unborn — so that every family can thrive.