Motherhood is difficult. But for some the path to motherhood is even more difficult. I was born with MRKH, which means I have Ovaries, but was born without a Uterus, Cervix, or the top portion of my Vaginal canal. My path to motherhood included an IVF cycle to retrieve 11 eggs, which turned into 8 fertilized embryos, a gestational carrier/surrogate, inducing lactation to provide milk to my baby.
I live in Michigan so all surrogacy has to be done via "compassionate surrogacy arrangements" meaning the surrogate carries your baby with no financial compensation, outside of reasonable expenses. This makes it difficult for most people to find anyone willing to do such an amazing extreme gesture for them. The other difficult part of surrogacy in Michigan is that the woman who gives birth is legally recognized as the mother, and because of that distinction they could chose to keep the child even if it has no genetic connection to them, no matter if you have a contract in place or not. Its a tenuous situation to say the least and you have to be completely secure knowing the person carrying your child is doing it for the "right reasons."
I had to pay out of pocket for my IVF retrieval and transfer to a surrogate, because of the lack of coverage from my insurance policy, which ended up being over $15,000 including medication and ultrasounds. Our surrogate needed a insurance policy that covered maternal care (little known fact to people outside of the surrogacy world, most insurance plans don't cover a "surrogate pregnany" meaning the surrogate's own insurance won't cover her prenatal care, causing intended parents, like me to purchase an additional plan to ensure coverage), We paid $450 a month for that, which came with a $12,000 deductible...we maxed that with the birth of our daughter.
I’m fortunate in some ways because I run my family business which lends itself to flexibility, but it also meant that I had to at least check in to work to ensure it was running smoothly within a week of delivery of our daughter. And my husband had to go back to teaching as an adjunct at the local university the Monday after our Friday birth. I guess he didn’t need to bond with the new baby (sarcasm!) Many moms have to go back to work before they are "ready" because they simply can’t afford to stay home.
My body failed my ability to grow a child, so I was hoping it could provide nourishment after the birth by inducing lactation to breastfeed. I'm what you might call "Crunchy" and I didn’t want to take any medications to induce lactation so I opted for a more natural protocol. I pumped for 20-30 minutes, every 2-3 hours, for over 16 weeks. I had to pay for a very costly pump, because insurance wouldn’t provide me with a pump as I wasn’t physically giving birth to my child. Then I wanted the protection of being able to breastfeed anywhere I went, but when I suggested that I would breastfeed at meetings I had to attend for a civil service position I am in I was scoffed at and told how inappropriate that would be.
The thing is that motherhood doesn’t HAVE to be this difficult. There are many laws that can and should be changed that would have made a drastic difference in my path to motherhood, and would make it far easier for many mothers across the country.
1 in 8 women have difficulty conceiving children. Yet only 15 states have passed laws that require insurers to either cover or offer coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment. And many of those states have loop holes that void the mandate for a large percentage of the population.
The Affordable Care Act currently requires all insurance to cover maternal care, but most do not cover surrogate pregnancy, and those that do have deductibles that are upwards of $10,000, which is easy to max out having even an uncomplicated birth. Top this with unpaid leave, and its easy to see why so many new parents are struggling to cover their bills, especially after struggling infertility that usually causes debt to begin with.
The other benefit currently provided to new mothers under the ACA is the provision that allows all new mothers to receive a breast pump at no cost and access to lactation services to help them succeed. This, and the maternal coverage are both currently under attack and unlikely to stay in the “fix” being discussed at the national level.
Some studies show that only 40% of women in the workforce have access to some form of maternity leave (usually FMLA or Short Term Disability), and even fewer of those have paid leave, even though study after study show the physical, mental, economic, and social benefits of new mothers being allowed to bond with their babies before returning to the workforce.
Most of these options do not apply to women who do not birth their children (surrogacy or adoption).
Some states such as Massachusetts have passed bills that require all employers to provide for 8 weeks of maternal leave per child, for all births and adoptions, but what this bill fails to do is require employers to pay for this leave. This failure forces many mothers, especially those in poverty, back to work long before mother or child are ready for this separation.
While all States but Idaho allow breastfeeding in public locations, there are complaints daily against mothers who chose to breastfeed in public. A quick google search and you will find story after story of mothers being asked to cover up, or leave restaurants, stores, and other public events for breastfeeding. We need to stop shaming mothers for breastfeeding, and provide more support for this very important act of nurturing.
Pumping at work:
According to the United States Department of Labor all employees with over 50 employees (And if there are less than 50 employees the employer must show undo hardship to not comply with this law) “Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and a space to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother, for up to one year following the birth of the employee’s child. The frequency of breaks needed to express breast milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary. The space provided by the employer cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.” Yet time after time mothers in the workplace have to fight for the right to have a safe, clean space to pump, and for the time to pump.
What this law doesn’t cover though is a intended/adoptive/non gestational mother’s right to pump milk before the birth of their baby when the mother chooses to Induce Lactation. So for those women who already have a more difficult time becoming a mother they have to fight even harder to have the ability to work and prepare for their motherhood journey.
Motherhood doesn’t HAVE to be this difficult.
Here's how you can help change it!
Request infertility Health Insurance coverage from your employer: See Resolve
Reach out to your State and Federal Senators & Representatives and let them know you want them to support Mothers. Here are various Bills they can support
Allison Quast-Lents is a mother, wife, bicycle shop owner, a Vice-Mayor interested in making the lives of women easier. She enjoys finding the sliver-lining in life and is always striving to do better.
Bram's Birth Story
Ways to Save Money
Things not to say to IPs
Tips for newly diagnosed
Mothers with MRKH
Our Gender Reveal
2000- Chrissy dx w/ MRKH
2002- Chrissy & Lee meet
2007- Chrissy & Lee Marry
2009- Chrissy 'hysterectomy'
2013- Awarded Cade Grant
7/3/14- IVF egg retrieval (5)
1/18/15- Embryo Transfer (1)
9/29/15 - Bram born!