The American Motherhood Experience Shouldn't be About Luck



Guest Post

In the same way that no two births are ever the same, neither are any one parents' experiences. This series explores any and every topic relating to pregnancy, birth and early parenthood, from a featured parent's perspective. This week our featured mom shares the story of becoming a mother in the US. Cait is from Seattle, where she lives with her husband, 10-month-old daughter, and two cats.

There is a predictable heartbreak that I experience every time I get to gush about how much I love my daughter. It occurs invariably, as people ask about a possible baby number two, and I feel anger start to rise up, tight and jagged.

It could be about societal assumptions or the "never-enoughness" of motherhood, but in this particular case, it's not. It is a deep, confusing rage at my country for how parenthood is treated. In the United States, it can be absurdly expensive to have a baby.

Between the costs of insurance, medical expenses, lack of parental leave, and costs of childcare, I would estimate that our first year of having a baby has cost our fledgling family about $30,000, and as a result, the number of parenting decisions made out of financial fear and obligation, not love and intuition, floors me.

Before my daughter was even born, I had to leave my beloved nonprofit job to be able to afford to get pregnant. I've now sent my child to daycare far, far earlier than I felt was appropriate because we couldn't afford to have me not work. I have opted to treat medical conditions with an arsenal of medications instead of testing for a diagnosis, because the labs are prohibitively expensive. I stopped breastfeeding before I would've chosen to, because I couldn't afford to work an hour less during the day.

The maddening part is, none of this struck me as odd until I agreed to write about my experience as a new mom in the US. I just accepted that this is how it is: that having a healthy, educated child is a sign of financial privilege in this country.

This is where the rage at injustice comes in, the guilt and shame about wanting more, that bittersweet flavor as I quietly swallow how lucky I am already considered to be. I am lucky. I know I am. But this shouldn't be about luck.

 

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