After seeing this story about a man’s $55,000 appendicitis operation I thought it would be good share my story too. Clearly, serious things must be done about our healthcare system here in the U.S.
My $110,618.02 Birth Story…
I wasn’t planning on having such an expensive birth. In fact, I was all set to do an all natural med-free birth at a birthing center. My baby and my body though, had a different idea of how things would go down.
It’s taken my a little while just for me to be able to wrap my head around the events of the birth of our baby boy, Henry. I keep finding myself having flashbacks and new memories keep popping into my mind. In a way, I’m been grieving the loss of the birth I had hoped for and have been coming to terms with the way things ended up playing out. Even though the baby’s birth didn’t go the way I had hoped we’re so thankful to have a healthy, happy baby. While I’ve had to work through the events I’m grateful to be on this side of it healthy and strong. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through.
At 7:30am on the morning of October 31st, when I was exactly 39 weeks pregnant, I started having contractions. The pregnancy was super uneventful, apart from some horrible morning sickness in the very beginning and apart from having my feet swell up so much so that I thought they were, for sure, going to be 2 sizes bigger, forever.
Since the pregnancy was uneventful and since I was healthy there was no reason for me or the midwives at the birthing center to think that I would have anything but a normal, healthy labor and delivery.
When I called our doula to tell her about the contractions she recommended that I rest as much as possible and to be sure to drink plenty of liquids and to eat. I followed her instructions and went right to bed. I was able to rest through the contractions and knew from the birthing classes that I had to preserve as much energy as possible in this early stage of labor.
By 10:00 pm things started to intensify, and throughout the night I was throwing up a lot. Anything I drank, and anything I ate would come right back up.
Around 7:00 am our doula came to our house and after a call to the birthing center we were told that we could make our way there. I was not excited for the 15-20 minute ride to the birthing center because I calculated that I would have at least 5 contractions on the way there. How was I going to get through those? As I hung over the back seat powering through each wave of contractions, I remember looking at people in the cars behind us making their way to work, and I wondered if they wondered what in the world I was doing.
When we arrived at the birthing center I was so relieved. I was so happy to finally be there after laboring at our house for so long, and I knew that if we were at the birthing center we'd get to meet the baby soon; I was thrilled about that.
When it was time for the midwife to check my dilation I was ready to hear that I was pretty far along because of all the work and pain I had been through but I soon found out I was anything but. Because of the vomiting I had become dehydrated, and because I was so severely dehydrated the contractions weren’t as effective as they should have been. I was a mere 1 centimeter dilated, and I was devastated to hear that. The midwife tried to reassure me that the contractions weren’t for nothing because I was 90% effaced, and she proceeded to hook me up to an IV to start getting me hydrated.
After 3 hours at the birthing center and barely any progress in the dilation department we were sent home to rest. Again, it was confirmed that car rides and laboring women don’t go well together.
Around 4:00 pm my contractions were back at being around 3 minutes apart so we all got back into the car to make our way back to the birthing center where I continued to labor until 10:00 pm.
Throughout the 24 hours my contractions would be in a regular pattern and then they would become irregular then regular again. It was an exhausting process on all fronts: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
We were given a couple of options. They were: 1. Go home and try to rest then come back again 2. Try to do natural labor progression methods to encourage dilation at the birthing center. With that option we were given the warning that we had to be prepared to last another 6 to 7 hours and that I would also have to be ready to possibly push for another hour or two on top of that. Lastly, we were given option number 3: Go to the hospital, get an epidural so I could try to get some rest and then continue the labor “naturally” after that.
We decided to go with option 3 to get an epidural and some rest. I was disappointed to be leaving the birthing center but knew it was the best choice given the situation and options.
When we arrived at the hospital around 10:30 pm the night of November 1st I didn’t have any idea that it would be another 24 hours before we would get to meet our baby.
Once the epidural was administered I was able to sleep. I remember thinking that the epidural was amazing, and while I wasn’t able to leave the bed, I was shocked that I could still move my legs quite a bit; I wasn’t completely numb like I had anticipated.
One thing after another kept happening so to try to make an already long story a little shorter I’ll give the abbreviated version of events. In addition to still being very dehydrated, I ended up having to get two epidurals because the first one wasn’t working properly, I developed a fever, pulmonary edema, an enlarged chamber in my heart, and fluid was filling up in my lungs, though they didn’t know that at the time. Also, the baby was in a transverse position, with a face presentation, and he was also a huge baby at 9 pounds, 5 ounces, something else we only found out after the birth. Thankfully the baby was doing well despite all the issues that came up so things never elevated to an emergency.
By the afternoon on November 2nd, we made the decision to break my water to try to help things progress. I was feeling hopeful when I got up to 8 centimeters but then I stalled there for 5 hours! Yes, 5 hours.
After being at 8 centimeters dilated for 5 hours the doctors started throwing around terms like, “Failure to progress”, and they told me that we needed to start talking about doing a c-section. They said I had no other options, and that my body wasn't going to dilate anymore. I was completely devastated. I’m the last person that I would’ve guessed who would have ended up with a c-section. Every decision we made from the very beginning was to try to have a natural birth so when it came down to having to do a c-section I knew it wasn’t happening unnecessarily, and for that I was very grateful.
The c-section was weird. The room was really bright and cold. They told me not to move or twitch and they had me under a blue paper tarp. It was all a blur of exhaustion and drugs, and I could barely keep my eyes open. After about 10 minutes I heard about 5 people in the room yell out, “He’s HUGE!” and then the baby was laid on my neck area so I could meet him. He was covered in goo and then transported to the NICU for three different things that all, thankfully, ended up being okay.
When I was first checked into the hospital the nurses put a band on my wrist that had a bar code on it and then before I was given any medicine they would scan the bar code. It sounded like when items are scanned at the grocery store. I just kept thinking, “I wonder how much this all of this is going to cost?”
We ended up leaving the hospital after 4 days (the baby was in NICU the whole time which cost over $9,800 per night!), and a few weeks later the bills started rolling in. Statistics show that the majority of people who end up filing for bankruptcy do so because of medical bills, and it’s no surprise why. If we didn’t have insurance we'd be in the same position of having to consider bankruptcy.
It’s easy for me to think about all of the the what-if’s, and after going through this I have a lot of questions and concerns about our healthcare system. How is anyone supposed to pay a hospital bill that is so incredibly massive? Why is it that other countries are set up the way they are and the United States, despite all of our technology and advancements, are so far behind when it comes to healthcare? How do we as a society let some people fall into the depths of financial despair when they are just trying to keep themselves alive? And, are the costs of the procedures in the hospitals completely inflated because it’s assumed that insurance will pay for the majority of the costs?
I just don't get it.
Our birthing center birth was supposed to cost us $1,500, and our 4 day, c-section, NICU hospital birth ended up being $110,618.02! Which is a completely disgusting amount of money. Insurance is covering $104, 547.18 so we’ll end up paying around $6,070.84.
A few resources:
- For healthcare rates: Healthcare Blue Book
- For support with coping with an unplanned c-section: I-CAN (The International Cesarean Awareness Network and interestingly enough their post today is about c-sections that occur due to “Failure to Progress”.)
I've got a few questions for you: What do you think about our healthcare system?, Do you think the Affordable Care Act will make our healthcare system better or worse and why?, and if you've had a baby where you're birth plan drastically changed how did you cope with it?
**Update January 13, 2014
- I've been thinking about this post a lot and don't think I adequately relayed that laboring without drugs was really, really special. There's no doubt that it was incredibly intense but it also very doable and manageable. Had my labor not been so long there's no doubt in my mind that I would have been able to go through with the delivery drug-free. It's so amazing what women's bodies are capable of! The experience of laboring with my husband by my side and supporting me throughout it also brought us a lot closer together. It's such a bonding experience that I would recommend drug-free labor for that reason alone!
- We are so thankful that we had a doula. In some ways she supported my husband more than me. We both highly recommend having a doula because she was an objective, non-emotionally invested person who was able to help guide us through some of the decisions we had to make on the spot. We were able to have a doula free-of-charge because she needed to volunteer with a family to get in with this doula referral company here in town. Doulas are definitely worth their fees but if money is an issue for you look for a doula-in-training. Most doulas need to assist with a certain number of births before they can be on their own.
- The above post didn't mention what we will have to pay to the birthing center for the amount of time that I labored there and for the IV fluids. We are still waiting for that bill to come in.
- If you're in the Denver area there is a center that specializes in working with people around the issues of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum issues. It's called The Catalyst Center, and it's in the Cherry Creek area of town. They'll do a free initial consultation to make sure you're meeting with a therapist that can address your needs. I was disappointed to find out that they don't take insurance (such a bummer) and each session is $140. They do offer some scholarships of 10% off, and if they have more than 1 scholarship available they will consider combining 2 so you can get a 20% discount.
- The ICAN group that is mentioned at the end of the post has monthly support meetings.
- A friend of mine also recommended another idea for support. She suggested looking into a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) group since a lot of those women ended up having un-planned c-sections.