Monique Harvin loves meeting new people. Engaging with people and learning intricate details about their life is intriguing. Caring for others makes her smile. It’s no surprise that Monique has five children, four girls and a boy.
Monique seemed to be handling motherhood well for a while. The children were born relatively close together, and she recovered quickly, which was a blessing because she only had 30 days of Medicaid coverage after each birth. She and her children always came home healthy – until she gave birth to her fourth child, her only son, in July 2014.
“His lungs collapsed at birth,” Monique said. “He stayed in the hospital a week or two after. The adjustment to care for my son after that was rough. My husband and I decided that was enough.”
Shortly after the birth of her son, Monique had a tubal ligation, tying her fallopian tubes to prevent more pregnancies. But in April of the following year, a mere nine months later, Monique got the shock of her life. She found out she was pregnant again.
“I just completely blacked out,” she said. “When I came to myself, I was lying on the floor, and I asked a friend to watch my kids, and I went to the emergency room.”
Monique visited an emergency room of the same hospital that performed her tubal ligation procedure. They looked at her chart and mentioned there shouldn’t be a chance that she was pregnant, but they took the extra precaution to check anyway.
“I turned to look at the sonogram, and it looked like the little girl was waving at me. The doctor said, well, you know it’s a 99% (prevention rate). I guess you’re that 1 %.”
Monique tried to see the positive side of things as a woman of faith. She rationalized the thought that her daughter had to have a great purpose to be here. Monique thought if she had managed to get pregnant through a tubal ligation, her daughter must have had a profound reason to be in this world. Even though she had come to terms with having another child, she still wanted to know how it happened and if it could happen again.
After having her fifth child, Monique spoke to her doctor about figuring out how she had gotten pregnant again and getting another tubal ligation if she needed it. Her doctor told her that Medicaid would not pay for another tubal ligation. So, she mentioned using condoms. The doctor did say contraceptive pills, but she knew Monique wouldn’t want to use that option because her body did not do well with birth control pills. It often gave Monique migraine headaches and high blood pressure to name a few.
Her only recourse was to do everything she could to intentionally not get pregnant until she could get health insurance through the Marketplace. It was a sacrifice for her to pay for, and it was canceled now and again when money was tight, but while she was in good standing, she made sure to have a test done to see how she could get pregnant with her fifth child.
“I found out that my left (fallopian) tube was still tied, but my right tube was wide open,” Monique said. “So, during that time, I still could have gotten pregnant (again after my fifth child). But I was still glad that it wasn’t any more complicated. It’s other mothers that get pregnant in their tubes. Of course, the baby will be stillborn, which also affects the mother’s health. Although it was a great inconvenience for me to get pregnant after a tubal, I was grateful that it wasn’t an atopic pregnancy.”
Monique and her husband sometimes joke about how their fifth child was determined to make it no matter what, but the issues that followed are nothing to laugh about. After the complicated arrival of her son, Monique started to experience heavy postpartum depression. It became difficult for her to care for her children, but getting out of bed became unbearable.
Monique admits that her doctor always asks how she is doing and is genuine in asking if there is anything she (Monique) could do to help, but she was always ashamed to admit it. Monique is finally getting some therapy she needs but still hasn’t had another procedure to close her right fallopian tube to prevent a sixth pregnancy.
“My little girl is seven years old now, and I’m still looking for an OB that will accept my insurance,” she said. “Some of the challenges that I’ve faced, having the children back-to-back, did cause me some deep depression. It’s something that I didn’t feel comfortable talking about at first. I had always kind of frowned upon medication, but it got to the point where I knew I needed something. Like I couldn’t go on.”
Monique feels she is a long way from her suicidal thoughts, but she still struggles with the day-to-day life of being a mom. Before having her children, she didn’t imagine having these issues, but as she began to experience abnormal troubles, it made her see things differently. Her only ask is that lawmakers do the same. They should look beyond their issues and relate to other people’s problems even if they aren’t unfamiliar.
“(Lawmakers need to) fill in the gap between the systems that are formed to provide women of color and women period of the medical help that they need mentally, physically, which the mental is just as important. Because we have women who are suicidal after postpartum is so bad till women are hurting themselves and they’ve hurt their children. Consider that. Consider us.”