A baby that is. We are expecting a baby. Like a real live little person. But what’s one more, right? It’s only a 33% child increase. I’m trying to convince myself that it will all be fine.
Just a normal day…
A while back, we went through a crazy period of juggling kids and traveling. Amanda had been gone for a week at Suzuki violin teacher training, and I was gone the following week for work and my dad’s retirement party in Las Vegas. She took the girls, and I took our son. Once we were all back together, we were just starting to have a nice normal Saturday morning with little ones bustling about, fighting, and hanging on our legs.
Then all of the sudden Amanda pushed the kids aside (she never does that), pulled me into the bathroom (the only private place in the house…and only sometimes), and closed the door. I was wondering what was happening.
She had a wide-eyed look as she flashed some kind of white stick in my face and uttered the two words that women have been shocking men with for thousands of years:
And I said: “Umm. What?”
Amanda: “I’m pregnant!”
Me: “Hmmm. Wait a minute…what are you saying…”
Amanda: “Marky, I’m pregnant!” (Yes, she sometimes calls me this for emphasis. Marko was already taken by my mom.)
I realize I’m a little slow, but with good reasons. First of all, I couldn’t remember what the sign meant on the pregnancy test. (Some show + for positive, some just show lines, some actually spell out “pregnant.” How are you supposed to keep all that straight?)
In addition, she had just given away the last of the baby clothes and her maternity clothes 2 days prior. We had pretty much decided we were done having kids for the next few years if not indefinitely. We both had already mourned the fact that our days creating life were likely over.
So yes, it took a while for it all to sink in.
As it did sink in, I think I forgot the “we’re having another baby this is so exciting phase” and skipped straight to trying to process all of the implications (mainly financial). What would this mean for us?
It also occurred to me that maybe this was an ideal situation.
A surprise can be a good thing
Here’s what I mean. Baby #3 took a toll on Amanda in the form of hyperemesis gravidarum (a pregnancy complication characterized by uncontrollable nausea, vomiting, and dehydration), which made her very nervous about ever getting pregnant again.
Not to mention the fact that having 3 kids under 4 years old was also quite the challenge. We decided to slow it down these past few years, especially since subsequent pregnancies can be very difficult. The last year has been especially enjoyable, and we’ve all grown closer together as a family.
I initially wanted 4 or 5 kids, and Amanda wanted even more. That is a lot for most people, but it’s what each of us grew up with, so it seems normal to us. As time went on, though, we realized numbers like that might not be in Amanda’s best interest health-wise or the in best interest of our family.
Amanda had just recently mentioned that the irrational “I want another baby!” feeling that moms sometimes get when seeing another newborn had essentially left her. We were really learning to accept and love the fact that our little family of 5 was just perfect.
The reality is that we probably would have gone on years saying “maybe we’ll have another one” only to realize one day that it was too late. That’s why I call it an ideal situation–we are getting something we wanted but were too scared to actually make happen. (Too bad that can’t happen with my plan to become filthy rich.)
Financial implications of our surprise pregnancy
She immediately began taking every precaution to try to decrease the likelihood of getting as sick as she did in her last pregnancy. There are lots of possible remedies out there for hyperemesis, which of course all cost money, and you don’t know if they’ll work. No one really knows what causes it, so you could spend quite a bit of money on all of the recommended treatments trying to find something that actually helps.
We decided that any extra expense for medication, food preparation, and house help would be worth it.
And the good news?
We were prepared!
It turns out an emergency fund actually comes in handy when life throws a curve ball at you.
But let’s be honest, as the husband, I’m not really qualified to talk about the pregnancy aspect, so here’s Amanda.
What we learned from going through a family crisis with an emergency fund
We’ve spent years getting to the point where we have a strong financial emergency supply. A few months ago, Mark shared potential family emergencies including obvious ones like job loss, health problems, and pregnancy. We’ve never really had to dip into our emergency fund…until now.
To start with, most people probably don’t associate pregnancy with a financial crisis. We didn’t either, until we had our 3rd baby. It took a number of horrible weeks and months to realize that I had hyperemesis gravidarum (think full-on stomach flu, 24/7 for months–it’s really that bad, and there is often no cure, just
slowly dying surviving until it finally passes).
The pervasive hell of HG is something you really cannot grasp unless you have been through it. Just trust me that we knew if I went through it again, it would be a life-threatening problem that would require plenty of support, both for me medically and for our family’s daily living.
I always said that if I ever had the courage to have another baby, that we would need to be willing to spend a lot more money, which meant saving for months worth of:
- full-time care for our children (in the event of long-term hospitalization or permanent home IV)
- in-home medical visits
- help with all house work
- help with all meal preparation
Well, I’m expecting. When Mark and I found out, we rejoiced (it took him a minute) and panicked.
Then we started working the plan. I started all medical protocols that I had researched over the years in order to delay onset and manage the condition.
And we started hiring out help. We paid for several things that we’ve never spent money on.
- professional house cleaning
- professional meal service
- babysitters for help when I was home
- expensive, packaged, easy-to-throw-at-your-kids-when-you’re-throwing-up snack food
Along the way, we’ve done even more spending on things like yard work, fast food, and just general help to take care of things quickly, because right now the most important thing is doing as little extra as possible.
No one knows what causes HG, but they do know that having to do anything (besides lie in your bed and throw up) makes it worse.
The awesome news is…I did not get HG!!!!
First and foremost, we are so extremely grateful to have had a normal pregnancy with just the normal morning sickness and fatigue that I had with my first two.
HG has an 87% return rate, so we feel like we beat the odds, and that is something we rejoice in every day.
Emergencies don’t have to be stressful
But the financial lesson I learned is this: All those years of scrimping and saving paid off! They were seriously worth it!
Throwing hundreds of dollars out the door over this past few months has felt weird and foreign, but it has not been stressful.
We have no debt. We have almost one year’s worth of expenses stock-piled away for family emergencies.
We knew that this very situation might be a financial emergency for us, and we had already planned how we would act and what we would spend money on.
I don’t know why I did not get hyperemesis gravidarum this time, but I do think having all the extra help–both medical interventions and help with all the family work—had to at least help.
I think it’s important to note that mitigating the effects of HG doesn’t just change our pregnancy story. We’ve spent time and money since my 3rd pregnancy dealing with some of the ramifications of going through that experience. By doing all we could to avoid it this time, we set ourselves up for a better next few years coming out of this pregnancy.
I recognize having professional cleaning, a meal service, and fast food galore for this pregnancy have been wonderful luxuries (which we couldn’t afford with the last pregnancies). It has also made me really realize the power of getting out of debt and having an emergency fund.
It actually makes me more determined to reevaluate our expenses and live even smarter financially. That way, when we are again confronted with another family crisis, our money situation will again be a strength.
What a champ right? So about early retirement…leave it to me to be the kill joy by bringing up the financial elephant in the room.
About early retirement
What about the crises of not being able to retire early? We all know kids cost $647,000 a piece to raise. Okay, that was facetious. Most of those numbers you hear are bogus. When you have a multi-child family, you can benefit from economies of scale, which actually help you save money. I’ll write about those later.
I’ve mentioned before that early retirement, while still feasible, is not my goal. I am really sold on the idea of mini-retirements, and this baby on the way doesn’t change that a bit (except that Amanda won’t let me take a newborn to Nicaragua for at least a few months).
The main lessons we’ve learned first hand are these:
Early financial sacrifices are worth it
Be prepared for surprises
Not just financially but also emotionally. It’s hard to predict everything that might happen to you, but it’s worth going through the scenarios and deciding how you might respond. It was helpful for us to already have talked about what we would do differently if we ever had another baby. I had already emotionally detached myself from the extra money that we ended up spending.
Don’t get too comfortable
Several times over the last few months, Amanda has been too sick to even think about dinner and has suggested I come home, get the kids and go to Taco Bell. I just casually say “Sounds good,” but on the inside I’m like “halellujah!!” and me and my kids high five each other all the way there. I’m doing my best to not get too accustomed to eating out all the time so that we can have an easier transition back to our more frugal ways.
Surprise or not…
I admit that I am guilty of being skeptical of friends or acquaintances who have had “surprise” pregnancies. I mean, seriously, how can it be a surprise? Well, the joke’s on me, and I am now eating my words. But hey, at least we had our emergency fund.
Give your future self the gift of financial flexibility
If you are in the thick of trying to get yourself to a safe financial situation, keep going! What a gift to give yourself, your spouse, and your family! I know money is not everything, but it sure goes a long way in getting through the unforeseen crises we will all face.