*trigger warning* babies and labour and mental health and all that shit
When I got pregnant I didn’t have to worry about the cost of antenatal care.
When my baby was 12 days late I didn’t have to think about how much being induced would cost.
When my contractions came thick and fast, I didn’t have to consider how much gas and air I was using.
When my labour intensified and the midwife asked if I’d rather go to the consultant-led ward I didn’t have to ask how much more expensive that would be.
When I decided I needed pain relief cost was not a factor.
When they hooked me up to a heart monitor for me and the baby I didn’t see a price-tag on it.
When I they offered me an epidural I knew it would be free if I took it.
When I pushed and pushed but he couldn’t come out, when his head (on the 98th percentile in circumference, I later discovered, wince) was stuck in the wrong position, when they weren’t sure if his heart was faltering, neither me or my worried husband had to think about money once.
When my contractions slowed to stopping and they offered me a choice between an injection to get them going again or being moved to theatre for spinal anaesthetic and forceps procedure (I know, gag, soz) cost wasn’t a factor in my decision.
When a paediatrician was on hand to check my baby as soon as he was born, no one billed me for it.
When I was surrounded by midwives and nurses and junior doctors and anaesthetists and consultants all helping by child leave my body without either of us coming to harm, I didn’t have to worry what the financial cost would be.
And when the midwives and health visitors made home visits, and when I need to go back to the hospital with an infection, and when my baby wasn’t gaining weight, all of our care was free there and then.
And, later, when I felt I was losing my mind and went with my mum to A&E and they offered me a community care team or some time in a specialised mental health unit for mothers and babies, all I had to do was think about what was best for my little family, what would help me be well again – and that decision was enough to bare.
Then when I had therapy, and when they sent me on a mindfulness for depression and anxiety course, and earlier this year when I returned to my GP shaken and scared, and when I saw a psychiatrist, and when they offered me psychotherapy, all of it was free at the point of delivery.
Without the NHS I would be broke or mad or dead. Instead I am here and healthy and alive.
There is plenty in the history of Britain to invoke shame in any thoughtful patriot, but nothing makes me prouder than our health care system founded on the principle that we all get ill and none of us choose it, and we are so much stronger as a society when we seek to care for everyone equally.
That is a fucking badass way to be a nation. Long may it survive, long may we treasure it.