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One of the toughest things about being a mom is that you can’t always make things right in your kids’ lives, nor in the world.

The first time I learned this lesson was when my water broke well before my twin boys were supposed to be born. We couldn’t stop them from coming, and they arrived six weeks early. In retrospect, they were never at serious risk of major complications – our medical system has gotten unbelievably good at helping pre-term babies and six weeks early is considered a modest issue. But, at the time, it was simply awful. One of our sons got out of the NICU after a few days, but his twin brother developed respiratory distress syndrome and was put on oxygen to ease his breathing. There wasn’t a darn thing I could do to speed up the development of his lungs. The only things we could do were hold him, offer love and prayers, and get him excellent medical care.

This episode in our lives is a big part of why as a mom, I am simply unwilling to accept the ominous signs from Congress that this country might yet again throw up its hands and decide it cannot fix our health care system. There are so many things we can’t do for our kids… we can’t stop the bad luck that results in pre-term birth, asthma, autism, or, in rare cases, the heart-rending diagnosis of cancer. We can’t stop the fact that the people in their lives who they love and rely on…parents, teachers, coaches can get sick, be in car accidents and need medical care, leaving us to explain that life is unfair. But, as a country, we can set it up so that if any of those things happen to our kids or to the people in their lives, that at least they have access to affordable insurance. We can make our health care system more compassionate and fair so families have access to coverage that allows them to catch autism, asthma or diabetes earlier and get the help they need.

During the workweek, I spend much of my time analyzing health policy issues at Georgetown University, dissecting the research on trends in children’s coverage, identifying policy options and projecting the impact on children’s coverage. But, in the last week, I feel as though I’ve been spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere as I watched in dismay as Congress and the White House have flirted with the prospect of allowing health reform go down. Or, they might allow it to be so significantly scaled back that it fails at the fundamental goal of providing affordable coverage. As a policy analyst and political junkie, I find this bewildering and not particularly strategic. But, it is mostly as a mom that I’ve been reacting, thinking that we can and must do this for our kids. It has been tough enough to explain the earthquake in Haiti to my twins and their little brother. How can I ever explain to them that we let slip through our fingertips the opportunity to begin to address the entirely fixable disaster in this country that millions of our family members, friends, and neighbors can’t get affordable health insurance?

Author's twin boys who were fortunate to receive good medical care after pre-term delivery.Author's twin boys who were fortunate to receive good medical care after pre-term delivery.

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