This is the kind of situation that doesn’t fit anyone’s birth plan. On Tuesday a woman gave birth on the side of Route 100 in Howard County while a 911 dispatcher gave instructions to the child’s father. After the birth, emergency workers showed up to cut the umbilical cord and delivery the new family to the Anne Arundel County Medical Center, which is where they were heading before they pulled over.
Did you see the giant New York Times article about how the American health care system is really bad at handling pregnancy? It’s frustrating, to say the least. The average total price for a having baby is $30,000; make that $50,000 if you get a C-section. (Insurance typically pays only a little more than half of that, and 62 percent of women with non-employer insurance don’t have maternity coverage anyway.) Even more frustrating? The same level of care costs way less in nearly every other country. In Ireland, maternity care is free; in South Africa, giving birth costs less than a quarter what it does Stateside. Nonetheless, we have one of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality among industrialized nations.
Baltimore fiction writer Elisabeth Dahl retraces the philosophical questions — and moments of doubt — she faced as she anticipated motherhood.
One sunny day in my late 20s, I walked in a new square of park built on landfill beside the San Francisco Bay, my boyfriend next to me, a kite festival swirling overhead. As parents and kids stood on the green, watching their bright dragons zig and zag across the sky, I tossed out questions I hadn’t given much thought to before: Would I ever want to have a child? Was I too selfish? Would I be sufficiently loving? My own life wasn’t yet rock-solid — not much better than landfill in earthquake country. What could I provide a child?
A few months later, I launched into motherhood unexpectedly, after a careless moment. Parenthood was no longer a topic for discussion on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was happening.
For the task-oriented among us, pregnancy can be thought of as a massive to-do list. You clock in at your appointed weeks, offering up various fluids and parts to tests. You count kicks and stock cupboards. You take classes to find out what your breasts were actually engineered to do.
Though I ticked items off the list alongside the rest of my pregnancy cohort, I never fully acclimated to the idea of parenthood. Not emotionally, at least. The crib might be bumpered, the diaper drawer filled, but my head and heart still lagged behind. My enthusiasm about the pregnancy had grown with my uterus, but the questions from the kite park persisted.