Lubna, 24

After finding out she was pregnant for the first time, 24-year-old Lubna’s favorite pass time was to window shop among the baby shops in her West Bank village of Beit Fajar. She loved looking at the tiny sweaters and socks, gazing at the cribs and bed linen sets. But there was something bittersweet about this window shopping she did in the afternoons when she returned from her university studies.

Lubna 4

“I was very sad because I can’t afford any of these things,” said Lubna.

She knew she was unable to spend even $5 to buy something for her much expected baby, said Lubna. Her husband Eimad, a 33-year-old school teacher with a degree in Islamic Studies, lost his job due to cut  backs, and the young couple can’t afford to buy things for the baby, Lubna said with an apologetic smile. Her family, as is the traditional Palestinian way, will buy her the crib for her first baby, she said.

In the midst of their happiness, the young couple was burdened with the worry not only of how they were going to manage to pay for the baby’s birth but also how they would be able to afford Lubna’s monthly prenatal checkups because they do not have any private health insurance.

Though her family urged her to get all of her prenatal and pregnancy care at the Holy Family Hospital Mobile Outreach Clinic, which operates once a week in the village, her husband and his family were concerned about the cost of all the medical treatment there.

So for her first prenatal checkup, Lubna went to a private doctor who would refer her to a public maternity hospital for delivery. But, she soon realized that even the $15 consultation fee he charged was too much for them to pay.

“My husband and I can’t pay those kinds of fees every time I need a consultation,” said the soft-spoken Lubna, who wears the headcover and robe of a traditional Muslim woman.

Then she decided to follow her family’s advice and went to the Hospital’s Mobile Outreach Clinic for her second checkup. She was relieved to discover that the cost was less than half that of the private doctor.

After meeting with Lubna, the staff at the clinic referred her to the hospital social worker Mary Maoh.

“They saw that Lubna was in need and was stressed about how she was going to be able to pay the cost for the delivery of the baby,” said Maoh.

Indeed, Lubna was unable to pay for the first prenatal lab tests that the private doctor had prescribed for her, and so she postponed them for two months. Now, already at the start of her second trimester and under the watchful care of Holy Family Hospital obstetrician Dr. May Tarazi, Lubna was able to ask for assistance for her lab test from Maoh, and the hospital covered almost three-fourths of the cost of the tests.

Because there is an outreach clinic in her village, Lubna said that she does not have to spend money on transportation for her prenatal appointments. She can walk to the clinic within fifteen minutes rather than have to spend 40 minutes each way on the crowded public bus to reach the hospital in Bethlehem. In addition, as her pregnancy advances, it becomes more difficult to ride on the over-crowded, bumpy buses, she noted. Taking a more comfortable, yet very expensive, ride in a private taxi is out of the question for this young soon-to-be mother.

In her village, there are many schools, and a general medical clinic noted Lubna, but still, until the Holy Family Hospital began its weekly outreach clinic here six years ago many of the women would give birth at home with an untrained traditional midwife. Though, there is less of this phenomenon now, she said, it still occurs sometimes.

But Lubna is adamant about the type of modern medical care she knows she and her baby deserve.

“I will only deliver my baby here.  If I or the baby need extra care, we know the hospital will care for us” she said.

The family is looking forward to their future in which Lubna will receive a bachelors degree in agricultural science from the Open University in Hebron and hopes to find work in the Ministry of Agriculture.