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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The War on Women Is Not about Abortion - My Story

Look, I wrote three entries here about the War on Women, and they all sucked. None of them will change anyone's mind. So, here. Have this. It's all I've really got that you haven't seen elsewhere and not cared about.

Here is my story.

In 2008, the economy crashed. I was pregnant with twins. We had just bought a house with 10 percent down-payment. It would cost us more than $235,000 all told.

Two weeks before I had my children, my husband lost his job. We went from a family of two making more than $120,000, to a family of four making $40,000.

We weren't married at the time, so I wasn't on his insurance, which would have been the ridiculously expensive and not-helpful-at-all COBRA anyway. My pregnancy was a pre-existing condition when I had gotten my new job months before, so it wasn't going to cover it. You bet your life I applied for Medicaid, and I will thank God every day that they took me. They saved me.

I had premature twins, and a ten-day hospital stay. A cesarean section. All told, that bill was tens and tens of thousands of dollars. Paid.

Thank you, America. I'm so serious right now. Thank you.

Meanwhile, my husband got in line for unemployment (it was so bad there was a line. A long line. For real.) He couldn't find work. He applied to hundreds of jobs every week in the beginning, then dozens of jobs, then a few jobs.

Not because he was giving up or lazing about.

Because there were no jobs left.

He would check the job boards. No new postings. No. New. Postings.

Medicaid covered the home visits I had to have twice a week for my three-pound children. It covered the girls' health needs for the first two years of their lives, ie: the twenty two months it took my husband to find employment.

I had the option of taking six weeks maternity leave at full pay or three months maternity leave on half pay. My babies weighed three freaking pounds. We had to feed them via tubes attached to our pinkies. I took the three months. And, can I just say, my employer was amazing. That's an amazing maternity leave here in the States. Few are so lucky as I was.

It was still awful. Half of my paycheck each week, combined with the small amount my husband brought in through unemployment, coupled with the massive mortgage that just months ago we could have easily afforded plunged us into poverty and despair with a quickness unmatched by the Flash.

This was supposed to be a joyous time, right? A beautiful time where new life entered our worlds. For me it is marred by stress, disappointment, shame and tears. And I'd look at those gorgeous babies day in and day out and think, what have I done? What have I done? I can't provide for you. I am a failure. We are failures. You deserve so much more.

We went on WIC. Why? Because we couldn't fucking afford food. And it was so amazing to have to stand in the check out line and sign those coupons as everyone else watched me, judging me. There's another one, they thought. There's another freeloader. Probably a single mom, just pulling the strings, using my tax dollars. Mooch.

Well, I wasn't a single mom, but what if I had been? Everyone deserves to eat. Everyone deserves a chance. These welfare queens, you show me one. Because I've never seen one. I'm not saying they don't exist, but I am saying that being a single mom, or being poor, doesn't make you one.

I took a job closer to home. For the Catholic Church. I needed something. Anything. I looked to God. I did not find him there. What I saw there was greed and power struggles. Emotional abuse and meanness. I'm not accusing the Catholic Church of being alone in these things. This is the world. Unfortunately, even religion cannot escape humanity.

I had to pay out of pocket for birth control because Catholics don't believe in birth control. I never faulted them that. I chose to work there, I chose to pay for my own coverage. Because I was sure as hell not bringing any more babies into my world of poverty and desperation. But it did add up. My health services cost me $100 a month that I didn't have. Awesome.

And you could say, well, why didn't you just stop having sex then? Legitimate question. And in my opinion, the legitimate answer is that I didn't want to. But, if you want to get more in depth, how cruel is it to tell two married people that they cannot have intimacy because the economy collapsed? Pretty cruel. And with everything against us, my husband and I were strong and depended on each other throughout. And we deserved the whole package. Just like rich people.

By the way, if I had gotten pregnant on the Church's dime? No maternity leave program. I could apply for unpaid time off through the federally funded FMLA program.

When my husband finally found work, we moved to where the job was. With two kids who needed daycare and a market that would pay me $9 an hour for my ten years of experience, the clear choice was for me to stay at home with them, saving on childcare expenses.

Thank goodness I already had a credit card, since women who choose to stay home with their children usually can't get one these days.

I had no car, no means for making money, nothing left but my family.

And you know what? Little by little, we claimed it back. We paid tens of thousands of dollars into a mortgage at a home where we were no longer living before the banks allowed us to sell it back to them for a fraction of what we paid for it. We were able to do this before we stopped paying our monthly dues, and they foreclosed on us. Obama's policies allowed us that reprieve.

I found ways of making money at home. We were able to keep barely above water during the hard times because Obama's policies extended unemployment benefits time and again when we, personally, were in need.

Many look down on the extensions. Let me tell you something, it wasn't about allowing people to lose motivation for work. Have you ever received unemployment? Trust me, it's not a lifestyle choice people want to make. Extending those benefits was a real-world recognition of the hardships normal citizens were facing when the economy crumbled beneath them through no fault of their own. I will never understand someone who scoffs at those extensions. Those extensions saved us.

You may say, well, thanks for that little narrative, but you've barely touched on the War on Women.

Well, maybe not. I definitely interwove all the democratic policies that helped us. Know why? Because I am a person.

Women. Are. People.

But we struggle more. That $9 an hour I could make? Because I'm a woman. The cost of birth control? Because I'm a woman. In fact, being a woman increases the cost of health care as much as being a smoker does. Great. Because women have total control over their sex.

We need to protect the rights that others have worked hard to achieve for us. This is a real thing. If any one of the programs I used was not in place, I'd have failed. If I had been considered a second-class citizen, I'd have failed. If basic female health care had been denied to me, I'd have failed and my babies would have died.

Women are people.



  1. 1. I cannot imagine pregnancy ever being considered a preexisting condition. Just because it hasn't been in so very long and it seems so archaic. I worked in the employee benefits field for 10 years and NEVER heard of someplace getting away with calling pregnancy a PEC.

    2. I am deeply sorry that you looked for God and did not find him. Please don't close your mind. Look for him elsewhere. Lutheran, Baptist, anywhere. Keep your mind open.

    1. My experience in working with the Catholic Church stems from a very small piece of it, which was a business arm and marred by business practices. I also saw so much good being done by many within that branch. The flaws weren't with God or even with the religion so much as with individual people working within that framework. I really and truly believe that there are amazing Catholics out there. Actually, I know and come from quite a few. Corruption and greed and meanness come from individuals, and when you get a group of individuals together operating like that, no good comes of it. But the Church also has good, caring, giving individuals who reach out and help those in need where they can. Catholic Charities is a good example. St. Vincent De Paul shelters another. It's not that God isn't here or that any particular religion is bad. It all boils back down to policy and money and what people on an individual level are going to do with that.


      I think...

    2. Catholicism isn't everything. Check into Protestantism. So much better. :)

    3. I was uninsured when I got pregnant and yes, all the insurance companies I applied at called pregnancy a pre-existing condition. I was able to apply for Arizona's free state health insurance and they paid for my pregnancy, birth, and daughter's insurance costs once she was born. And even as a college graduate, $8.00 an hour was all I could earn. My husband, without a college degree, made $12/hour. Oh, and with my second child, I had no maternity leave. I worked until I was 42.5 weeks pregnant (19 days after my due date), had the baby 3 weeks after my due date, and when she was 3 weeks old, I had to return to work, not being able to afford even the 3 weeks unpaid "vacation" time I got from my generous boss (small business; I was one of only 2 employees and was the one who kept everything running).

  2. You are a woman, and you are AMAZING.

    I don't regret my vote for Obama in 2008, and I will be proud to cast my vote for him in 2012. You and your family are the newest big reasons on my list why. <3

  3. Wow. I got chills. Love you.

  4. what a wonderful, thought-provoking piece. Thank you for sharing what you went through.

  5. Dude. You should do a linky or bloghop or something. "The Real Faces of 'Welfare Queens'" I would SO participate. We were having this conversation last night, when Mitt said he would get people off foodstamps by giving them better jobs. My husband said "Oh, okay, I'll let my employers know that Mitt Romney thinks I need a better job." We also benefited greatly from policies under Obama. Thank you, especially, for the Pell Grants, food stamps, and Medical Assistance that helped me to complete and undergrad degree, while caring for an infant, while my husband worked his ass off at his job at a local small business to provide as much as he possibly could for us.

    Thank you for telling your story. People need to know that the majority of the people who are "taking advantage" of these "entitlements" (Why yes, I do feel that everyone is entitled to eat food, and to not die a preventable death) are doing everything we can to take care of our families. <3

    1. I was thinking, actually, of putting up a submit site on Blogger or Tumblr where ppl could post their stories like this, all in one place, but I wasn't sure if there would be enough interest or if that was a backward way to do it.

  6. wow Darlena. You will continue to amaze me every day :) i love you! -yeshla

  7. Sadly things haven't changed a bunch in 45 years! When I was pregnant with my oldest it was a pre-existing condition on my husbands insurance. We actually rolled pennies and sold a car to pay for the doctor and hospital. I never had insurance that paid for birth control! I paid $140.00 dollars a month to COBRA health insurance 25 years ago while going through a divorce. I could go on and on about how women have been treated over my lifetime and it saddens me that things haven't changed much! I will be voting for Mr. Obama since any step backwards is unthinkable.

  8. you have brought me to tears- there is someone else- another woman- going through what we are. Thanks for making me feel--not so-- alone.

  9. It scares me that there is a war on women in the western hemisphere. I am thankful that you and your family are still together and able to tell your story thanks to the social safety net that the Obama administration has established and maintained. It's not perfect. I was able to have my prenatal care and hospital charges covered under Canada's universal health care, was entitled to a year of government-sponsored maternity leave at 55% py, and when my husband lost his job when our economy wasn't doing so well, we were able to keep our heads barely above water financially thanks to employment insurance, which he paid into for over 25 years. I don't feel that we were unjustly entitled to these benefits - we pay into a system that helps Canadians out when it's needed. We are both happy to pay into the system to help other Canadians. End of story.

  10. I am a Canadian and I felt sad reading your story. We have our healthcare covered here. I've had 3 c sections and have never had to pay a cent for our stay in the hospital or for any healthcare we need. It makes me sad knowing you had twins and had to go back to work when they were only 3 months old. We get to take a year maternanty leave here and get 55% of our wages. Something needs to be done in America so people can receive the proper healthcare they need and not cost thousands of dollars.

  11. I am a Canadian and I felt sad reading your story. We have our healthcare covered here. I've had 3 c sections and have never had to pay a cent for our stay in the hospital or for any healthcare we need. It makes me sad knowing you had twins and had to go back to work when they were only 3 months old. We get to take a year maternanty leave here and get 55% of our wages. Something needs to be done in America so people can receive the proper healthcare they need and not cost thousands of dollars.

  12. Thank you. It is not an easy place to be in! People really don't get it. I am on disability, but bring in too much so I have a spend down on my Medicaid of $ 609 a month before any benefits kick in. So everything is out of pocket. On top of trying to pay rent, car insurance, utilities, food, regular bills. I can't get food stamps. So I pray every day I don't have to go to the hospital or get sick or my car breaks down. I worry that if Romney gets elected I will not get Medicare when I qualify. Then what??

  13. You wrote the section on birth control as if there were no alternative. That pervasive belief is so infuriating! The only alternative is not abstinence!



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