Meet the Biglefthand family

Biglefthand Family Photo

2024: Vania's Access to Care Story

mother and baby in nicu

Every pregnant person hopes for a healthy pregnancy. But for Vania Biglefthand and her husband Ray—and like too many parents across the country—access to care became a very real problem on their journey to building a family. With two kids already, Vania and Ray thought they were done. When they were pregnant a third time, everything went great—until at 29 weeks, Vania’s water broke and a week later she landed in the hospital on complete bed rest for a month. “Through that time,” she said, “a March of Dimes advocate came in and helped me be comfortable in the hospital with classes and just getting to know other NICU families who were there going through similar experiences that we were having as a family.”

That community made an impact on Vania. “A lot of us got really close,” she said. “We're still friends to this day. And it was comforting to know that I wasn't alone. I had an outlet with other people to share our stories together.”

In Montana, where Vania and Ray live, the nearest birthing hospital is two hours away. Normal pregnancy routine such as going to a doctor and prenatal appointments was difficult and stressful. Vania said, “We had to get our kids ready, take time off of work, make sure you had everything, and then, travel two hours, do what you have to do, make sure your baby's okay, you're okay. And it depended on the weather as well, if it was in our favor or not. It was very tiresome.”

newborn baby

It was tough going for Ray, too, keeping the kids in school, but then driving them every other day the two hours to see their mom while providing comfort and reassurance that she'll be home. He’d return after midnight only to do it all again a few hours later. “It takes a toll of you after a while,” he said.

Knowing that her husband and kids were so far away took its toll on Vania as well. “I worried a lot,” she recalled. “Some days I would be so stressed out because we're a really close-knit family.” When she learned she had to remain at the hospital, there was no notification or warning. It just happened. “That first night was so difficult,” she said. “My boys cried, and then so I started crying.” Vania found it hard to be by herself.

Her advice for other people who may not have access to care? “As a mom, being pregnant,” she said, “you know your body, you know something's wrong. Speak up, no matter. Speak up for yourself and your baby.” Ray agreed. “Just keep fighting for it. You'll eventually get there, but we're all in it together.”