You know your body best is something I deeply hold onto the older I get. It’s no joke when people say the American healthcare system is a joke. It’s also no laughing matter when over 700 mothers a year die from pregnancy complications. For every mother that dies, an estimated 70 other women almost die. The system fails us from the moment we’re conceived.
I had my daughter at the age of 18, but her birth story begins years before I was pregnant. Growing up with severe acne in the early 2000s, there weren’t many options—especially not safe ones—for treatment. The most effective one at the time was something my dermatologist warned could cause future pregnancy complications. We ended up not going that route, but it seems a little ridiculous a 14-year-old had the option to take a medicine that could cause such serious conditions.
At 16, I begged my guardian to let me go on birth control after hearing it could help with acne. In this stage of my life, I was cruelly teased and it greatly affected my self-esteem. I was told no because I was “lying and only wanted to use it for sex” so, I went to Planned Parenthood instead. They saved my life. My acne cleared, the teasing stopped, and I was terrified of my guardian finding out.
Unfortunately, fear made my visits short. All I wanted was to get in and out. I never stayed to ask questions, never stopped to listen to what was being said to me, and most of my knowledge came from failed Sex Ed classes and myths. I didn’t know much about what I was taking or how it worked, other than it helped my acne and that was good enough.
Two years later, I was pregnant. I did everything I thought I should do. We kept the baby; her father and I didn’t ask for help from family—it was limited, anyways. We went to all of our appointments together and followed what was given and said to us. No matter what I did, I was still incredibly sick. My doctor shrugged every concern away. I was an inexperienced, young, first-time mother with morning sickness—what did I know?
Every time I went in, I was given a quick look over and prescribed nausea pills. After three days of not being able to keep even my spit down, I called my doctor crying. He had me come in first thing in the morning, only to prescribe more pills. My entire pregnancy, I gained eight pounds; two during, the other six after the C-section—but my doctor never worried or showed concern at the slow weight gain.
At 5 ½ months pregnant, I woke in extreme pain after dreaming I gave birth and the doctors whisked my baby away before I could hear her cry. Luckily, it was within moments of the clinic opening so we went in only to gather our things to go home with another prescription. The doctor came back in the room before we left to redo a blood pressure test. Without hesitation, he told us to get to the hospital.
At age 18, you don’t imagine becoming an unwed mother—but it happens. You don’t expect the people you trust with your unborn child and your life to not care about you—but it happens. You don’t expect to give birth surrounded by strangers because you’re dying—but it happens.
Sometimes things that happen, never should, especially if it could’ve been prevented.
It’s called preeclampsia, a condition where there is a large amount of protein in the urine. This can cause the placenta from getting enough blood, which means the baby isn’t getting the oxygen and food it needs to have a healthy birth weight. It’s not preventable but it can be caught and treated. I was too late for treatment. My daughter and I were toxic and she needed to get out asap—but first, I needed the permission of my guardian because 19 is the legal age of an adult in my state. My guardian denied the hospital permission, leaving my mother three states away—sleeping—to say yes. Three hours later, they were able to get a hold of her and within moments, I was wheeled away and the doctors were taking my daughter.
I didn’t even get to hear her cry.
It’s ironic a country that prides itself in caring about women, that fights to outlaw abortion, and claims to care about children, doesn’t work harder to protect them. Every day, women’s health concerns are disregarded. Almost every woman experiences a miscarriage, sometimes without realizing they were pregnant. About 15-20% of pregnancies in the United States end in a miscarriage, but for some reason, its taboo to talk about. Many pregnancies come across at least one complication. People, even doctors, forget it’s extremely hard on the female body and mind, and in reality, is incredibly dangerous. Yet, we treat pregnancy as if it’s like breathing; something easy and automatic that we can do without thinking.
After six months of hospitalization, many surgeries, and more scares, we were finally able to bring our little girl home. Now, she’s a thriving 5th grader with good grades, a great personality, and a heart that never stops loving. But because of the neglect of the healthcare system and the faulty laws within it, we might not have had the chance to be here.
My story is just one out of the millions of women with stories just like it—or even worse. There’s a lot of work to be done, and if we really care about women and children the way we say we do, the first step is getting out there to vote for the people who speak with actions and not just words.