Today, I had my second midwife appointment (2 appointments in 21 weeks of pregnancy? Yes, that happened). While I was there, my mother spent over 30 minutes waiting to talk to an insurance rep and then another few minutes getting (surprise!) nowhere at all with him. (Oh, by the way, she was also feeding Lucy lunch at the same time. Multi-tasking at its best, I say!). I can’t help but think of how sadly warped our medical system in the US is, especially because of the reason my mom was calling the insurance company. In order to choose freely where one wants to have one’s baby, and in what circumstances, one must pay out of pocket and then endure months and months and months of unending phone calls and wait signals and broken promises of ever seeing any of one’s hard-won cash come back into one’s sad pocket.
When we were pregnant with Lucy, I was still covered under my dad’s policy, plus under Tom’s as well. We had NO IDEA that this little fact would come to ruin our lives (or at least our hopes of getting our money back). You see, apparently, two insurance companies must turn their backs to each other and their clients, close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and say, “Nahnahnahnah!” over and over so they can’t see or hear anything of importance regarding your coverage. Double coverage– the two words that are the bane of my existence. Lucy is pushing one year old, and guess how much closer we are to getting this resolved? Not any closer at all. Each time I call one insurance company, the say, “Oh, go call the other one. Get a piece of paper. Send that paper to us. Then we’ll slowwwwly push that paper through a thousand people and in a month you’ll probably have to repeat the whole process because some law or policy will have changed and screwed it up. Or more likely, we lost it.”
Now, with this second baby (also paying out of pocket, in order to have the prenatal care and birth of our preference), our one (thank God, not two!) insurance is saying nothing out of network is covered. Evidently, our plan’s benefits changed magically without us receiving any notice at all. To say we’re livid is an understatement. To say I hate all things that have to do with using and calling and pleading and yelling at medical insurance is just the tip of the iceberg.
Of course, we could’ve just saved ourselves all this headache and grief by being normal people and having our babies with an OB-Gyn at a hospital. Just a little copay here and there and done, right? Maybe. I did start with Lucy at a wonderful pro-life OB office nearby, where many of my friends work. There was nothing really wrong with the doctors or the care, but everything about that scene said, “You are a number. Let me check your chart to see what the last doctor you asked you. Let me tell YOU what is happening and what will happen to your body. Let ME decide what you should do, whether you want that or not.” And that’s just the way it is in medical centers like that. It wasn’t hostile or super uncomfortable, but I wasn’t comfortable, and I knew there were other options.
So I started reading, and watching, and researching, and talking to friends who had done prenatal care and birth in a different way. The options were amazing– home birth, hospital birth center, free-standing birth center, water birth, zero interventions, and most of all, health care providers who actually practiced the belief that women’s bodies were made to carry and birth babies, and most times, the woman will know best. Also, OBs are surgeons. They are wonderful, wonderful, surgeons, and thank the Lord we have them when surgery is absolutely necessary. But…for normal, healthy pregnancy…it’s not! Again, women’s bodies=designed to give birth. Most European countries recognize this and still employ midwives as the main prenatal care for low-risk/normal pregnancy (as in 80% of births are with midwives!).
So around 18 weeks, after talking to many friends who had had home or birth center (free-standing) births about the pros and cons, Tom and I decided a midwife birth center was what we wanted for the rest of the pregnancy and the birth. We decided to have the birth at the center instead of at home because our insurance supposedly covered a birth center at 80% (ahem, none of which we’ve seen!), and we didn’t relish the thought of our tiny apartment being the birth place. Also, the birth center has four stunningly beautiful rooms that are each themed differently and could all be in a design magazine.
We never regretted that decision. The differences between the OB and the midwife practice were stunning. My appointments were a leisurely 25- 60 minutes in length, and I almost never had to wait more than 5- 20 minutes to be seen (compared to an hour wait average at the OB, and 5 minutes with the doctor!). I met not only all the midwives, who seem to be magical fairies, all calm and happy and casting their calm happiness upon everyone else, but also the small office staff. They knew my name, Tom’s name, and all my medical history. They cared. They asked ME if I wanted such and such a test. They never, ever did even the smallest procedure without first asking permission. It was wonderful.
Lucy’s birth was a great experience for a first birth, due to the midwives and their calm support and deep respect of my labor process– nothing was rushed, there were no intrusive questions when I entered the birth center, no bright lights or beeping machines. Just quiet voices, strong arms to hold me up, and the intensely relaxing warm water of the birth tub. Thus, I’m actually strangely looking forward to doing it all again. Yes, yes, it’s very hard work and there is some pain, but it’s also so exciting and such a wild ride of adrenaline and anticipation.
We’re blessed to be in the care of these midwives, but not so blessed that our broken medical system in America doesn’t recognize that as a truly valid choice. It’s not fair that only OBs are covered by insurance in-network. We are paying for the insurance…why can we not have the services we choose covered?! Not to mention, these silly insurance companies should check the facts: prenatal care and birth with midwives is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper altogether than hospital births. I’m talking a minimum of $13,000 cheaper, and that’s as compared to an all-natural hospital birth without a drop of pitocin or epidural– the price after that skyrockets. Midwives would save them so much money, not to mention free up the OBs for the truly high-risk pregnancies where they’re needed.
Hopefully, very soon we will work out this messy insurance catastrophe and have our little one in peace. No matter what, that is worth all the cost in the world.