I was talking to Sylvia’s niece Edith yesterday who is expecting her first baby in a couple weeks. She’s 22 years old. She is already on leave from her job (high school social studies teacher) and will be home with the baby for 3 months after the birth for a total maternity leave of 4 months paid at 65% of her salary – which is only $150 per month. She’s had a few problems – high blood pressure and pre eclampsia earlier, but now things seem fine. She’s going to see the doctor on Tuesday to see if they think she needs a cesarean. She feels lucky to get her health care from the government hospital for teachers and public employees because it can be a little more attentive.
Sylvia and I told our birth stories, sparing her the most disturbing bits. She was astonished to hear that I had my first child when I was 29 and laughed out loud in disbelief when I told her I was the youngest in my child birth class. It seemed bizarre to her that women in the states routinely have their first child over 35 or even 40. Neither Sylvia or Edith could imagine what it would be like to have a baby and take care of him or her all by yourself without your mom, aunt or sisters nearby. Well you had a nanny didn’t you. Sylvia asked. She knows I employ about 5 people to take of my tiny family in my small house here, so it was a reasonable assumption. Oh no, I said, too expensive. I was all alone everyday with the kids.
Edith confided that she is afraid of having the baby. Normal feeling for a soon to be new mom, but she said she was afraid “they will kill me in the hospital. Sometimes you get a good doctor and sometimes a bad one that isn’t paying attention, and who knows what can happen.” There has been some bad press lately about horrible hospital treatment so I thought maybe she was just responding to that. But I looked up some health statistics that point out some basis for her fear. The per capita expenditure for health care in Nicaragua in 2007 was only $92. The maternal death statistics aren’t too bad, 170 out of 100,000 (by comparison, US is 11) but it is better than the world average. But the life time risk of dying from something related to childbearing is 1 in 150 versus 1 in 4480 in the US.
I take so much for granted. Despite all the problems in US health care, I don’t fear for my life when I go into the hospital. The amount of education, experience and advanced equipment is so much higher in the US. We always expect the best, even though many times we don’t think we get it. Other places, you just hope you get the doctor that is paying attention.