I can’t be the only parent in America who has this nightmare … we’re all in debt one way or another. I wasn’t too worried about money until I had to leave work halfway through my pregnancy. We weren’t wealthy by any means but we could comfortably pay our bills and have a little extra to go out every once in a while. Losing a job stung. That paycheck was paying my OB bills and I had kinda been counting on it to last through my pregnancy. But I believed we’d make it work and everything would be okay. After doing the math we knew that we wouldn’t have been able to afford daycare if I had kept that job so it seemed like at least a little good came of it. I could start writing, painting, and making comics like I had wanted to do for a long time and we’d save money on daycare costs.
We had Alice and we got the hospital bill after insurance. Okay. Definitely not the worst but not great either. Money was going to be tight, but we’d get through that. I’d pick up some freelancing work and all would be fine. My student loans were paid off in advanced so we wouldn’t have to worry about those for a couple of years. It’s no big deal.
Then I woke up in the middle of the night two weeks after Alice was born thinking that I was dying. The pain was astronomical – right up there with natural child birth only worse because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It was gallstones. I needed to have my gallbladder removed shortly after the baby was born. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those people who could control gallstones through diet or pain management techniques. So one very expensive ambulance ride and unexpected surgery later and I thought we’d still be okay, but my worry grew. And that’s when I had my first repo nightmare.
It only got worse after that. Alice needed to see a specialist for her heart defect. Repo nightmare. I needed to have physical therapy for injuries that I sustained due to having a ridiculously quick childbirth. Repo nightmare. Then we got the call that Alice was scheduled to go to Boston Children’s for open heart surgery right after Christmas. Repo nightmare. We had 11 days to figure everything out and we had already spent our money on gifts to celebrate Alice’s first Yulemas (a little mixture of Christmas and Yule for the winter holiday). Luckily a lot of people stepped in and helped us pay for accommodations, food, coffee, gas … I cried when our friends, family, and complete strangers jumped in to save the day. It wasn’t something that we asked for. It’s just something that we received like a tiny holiday miracle. We ended up having to stay in Boston over the New Year, which meant more time off from work and more money spent than anticipated, but we walked away with Alice healed and happy, and that was all that mattered.
Two weeks later we were all in a car accident while on our way to go to buy a new vacuum. The other car came out of nowhere and our front license plate was fused to the other car’s hubcap. Everyone was mostly okay. I had a mild concussion and sprained wrists. Wayne had some nasty burns and wrist injuries from the airbag. Alice was perfect because car seats are awesome. And the van was totaled. More insurance, more ambulances, more unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, more worry, more nightmares.
Children are normally expensive anyway. We knew this going into parenthood. But the first year of Alice’s life has ended up being way more expensive than we had ever anticipated. And those bills keep piling up despite doing our best to pay them off little by little. We’re lucky in a way and I feel horrible complaining, because there are families who would have ended up homeless if they had incurred only one of these bills that we’re working on. What do I really have to worry about? So many people have it worse off than us; who am I to complain about bills and debt and nightmares?
We started off as two adults with good jobs and a roughly middle class income who decided to start a family, and have ended up horribly in debt by a chance roll of the dice. Every day we try to ignore collections calls and we make small payments in hopes that they’ll all be appeased somehow. On top of that, I now receive collections calls for TWO other random individuals. Either they really don’t know their own phone numbers or they are purposefully giving my number out as their own. My panic goes through the roof every time that phone rings.
Once in a while we do something nice for ourselves as a family to feel a little normal and to celebrate what we have, but there is always that tinge of guilt eating at me. This gremlin stares at me disapprovingly and mutters, “You don’t deserve that ice cream cone. You don’t deserve that family outing. You don’t deserve that anniversary dinner because YOU have bills to pay!” Someday, I hope the repo nightmare just doesn’t come back. Someday, I hope to feel like that random occasional ice cream cone isn’t something to be ashamed of.
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