Content warning: This post deals with miscarriage, and may be triggering for some readers.
Today is the day my son should have been born.
I was at a writer’s residency in Barcelona when I found out, at a 19-week ultrasound, that he had died at 16 weeks. I was told by my obstetrician that because I was so far along I would need to give birth to him.
I contacted my travel insurer immediately, and expected that they would do everything to facilitate my care. I was so wrong.
This was a precious baby, five years in the making, and my last chance at motherhood. I researched extensively and chose an insurance company that was underwritten by one of the largest global insurers, thinking they would be reliable.
I wanted to come home to give birth, so that my son could be held by my father who was dying, my mother, and his jubilant godmother who had come to every ultrasound. I wanted to have him cremated at a funeral service with all the people who loved him, and had so many hopes for him.
When I made a claim, I was managed through an Indonesian call centre. Despite my obstetrician, in an exclusive women’s hospital in Barcelona, signing the insurer’s document to say I was fit to fly, the insurer’s in-house doctor – without seeing me – overruled this decision. The in-house doctor’s ruling was that I needed a dilatation and curettage, which was the wrong procedure this late into the pregnancy.
Instead, the company said they would fly me home if I waived my right to insurance. I had three appointments with the Barcelona obstetrician to complete different rounds of paperwork, in order to be permitted to fly with my insurance rights intact. There were over 100 emails between the Philippines and with Australia, and endless late night phone calls trying to get me home. My friend Jane advocated on my behalf, badgering the Sydney office to take action. I had less than three hours sleep a day, as I tried to get assistance from the insurer.
My policy covered a friend or relative to come to Barcelona to assist me, and I asked Jane, primarily because I needed her to help manage the insurer.
The insurer agreed to accommodate Jane, but not me, close to the hospital. Despite how unsafe this was, I was expected to stay in my current accommodation, at a remote farmhouse forty-five minutes outside Barcelona, without access to transport.
What do you say to someone who’s lost a baby? (Post continues after audio…)
When Jane arrived in Barcelona at 11pm, the hotel did not have a reservation under her name. We wandered around the streets at midnight, me pregnant and distraught and her exhausted, to look for accommodation.
After more emails and calls, the company agreed I could stay in Jane’s room. They paid for accommodation from the 23rd to the 26th of July and said they would extend it to 31 July when we were due to fly home. My policy, as I understood it, covered accommodation for me, and separate accommodation for a friend.
Instead, Jane and I shared a tiny suite.