In the same way that no two births are ever the same, neither are any one Mama's experiences. The #MomLife series explores any and every topic relating to pregnancy, birth and early motherhood, from a featured mama's perspective.
This month, our featured mama 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. She is a passionate recreational runner, culinary adventurer, rookie home renovator, and raiser of women... Who also happens to own her own thriving business as a mental health therapist, which she started when her daughter was just three-months-old.
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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