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 lifes, 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, disappointed, 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 Iam 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 before we stopped paying our monthly dues and they foreclosed on us. We did that through federal policy put in place by Obama. I found ways of making money at home. We were able to keep barely above water during the hard times because Obama policies extended unemployment benefits time and again when we, personally, were in need. Many poo-poo this policy. 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.