Pregnant -- and looking for advice

Paulette Mason

October 15, 1992|By Paulette Mason

I NEED some advice. I'm pregnant -- 15 weeks pregnant.

And I'm not married.

Please don't think that I don't believe in family values. I do.

I'm not promiscuous; it's just that I was lonely and I liked this man a lot.

We used birth control but it failed. I didn't know I was pregnant because I didn't have the usual symptoms.

Everything a woman expects to have happen on a monthly basis continued to happen. I never learned this was possible in high school hygiene; we didn't have sex education, just the seven food groups.

The man I got pregnant by doesn't want to have anything to do with me or the child. I want to have the baby; I'm 38 and I'm running out of time.

I've been thinking about how and when and whether I could have a child for a couple of years now.

I agree with Marilyn Quayle; for a woman like me it's an essential part of my nature to make a home with a man and raise a child.

The father of my baby also believes in family values. That's why he wants me to get an abortion. He feels children should be raised in a two-parent home and since he has no intention of being that other parent, it would be unfair to the child to raise it alone.

He's an active Democrat, but he doesn't think Murphy Brown is a good role model.

"You're not Murphy Brown," he said to me. "You're not a rich independent yuppie who can afford to scoff at convention and go it alone. You've been reading too many women's magazines loaded with feminist junk. You barely make a living. How can you support and nurture a child? You don't even have a steady job." (I work free-lance.)

"I bet you don't even have health insurance," he said. As a matter of fact, I don't have health insurance.

After I got off the phone I looked into getting insurance. It turned out that no one would insure me; my pregnancy was considered a previous condition.

Then I looked into Medicaid and city-health clinics.

The social worker I talked to said I made too much money to qualify. I called a hospital and found out that if I required a C-section it would cost about $12,000. I didn't have that much in the bank.

If the baby were born prematurely it would cost about $1,000 a day to keep her alive in the hospital nursery. If something was wrong with the baby I'd be in debt to the hospital for the rest of my life. But I didn't want to let money be the critical factor in this decision.

Finally, I was able to find one insurance company that was willing to insure me and the baby for possible complications.

"Boy, am I glad I found you guys," I told the insurance agent. He agreed I was lucky; his company was the only one he knew of that would insure pregnant women.

I thought maybe I could go on welfare so that I could stay at home during those all-important first two years. But when I looked into welfare, it turned out that even with food stamps I wouldn't be able to live on it.

The social worker I spoke to said that most women on welfare have some income off the books and live with family members. My parents live on Social Security and small pensions. My brother is unemployed. He says that since the recession it's been hard to find work.

I made up a budget. After I factored in health insurance for me and the baby ($4,000) and child care help ($300 a week for full-time baby-sitting), I was many thousands of dollars short.

I looked into child support. The man I got pregnant by lives out of state. The lawyers and court officials I spoke to said that it could easily take two years for me to get a court order.

I was at wit's end.

Then I got a brainstorm. I called the Catholic church. I figured it was against abortions and so was I. I asked the woman who answered the phone, Can you help me keep my baby?

She told me that her agency primarily helped girls from the South Bronx and what they offered them was infant foster care. That was the very day the newspapers in New York were filled with stories about a foster family that had starved a child to death.

I mentioned this to the social worker.

She said: "We're very careful. All our families are fingerprinted and their records checked."

Things seemed so hopeless by then. I went to a doctor who did second-trimester abortions, which are a good deal more complicated than first-trimester abortions.

In the second trimester the fetus is sufficiently large so that it has to be dismembered to be removed. When I heard the doctor use the word dismember, I started to cry -- for myself and my baby and what might have been my future.

If a surgeon isn't skillful, the uterus can be perforated, leading to infection, sterility, even hysterectomy. The procedure takes two days.

On the first day the woman's cervix is dilated. I asked the doctor, "Will it hurt?"

The doctor said sometimes it doesn't hurt, but other times it hurts a lot and women leave sobbing and doubled over in pain.

"It's very traumatic to many women," he said, "because they know they've started a process that will end in termination and there's nothing that can be done to stop it once it starts."

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