Monday, August 31, 2009

The Money Blues

I’m having a lot of trouble getting into my pregnancy. So for those of you who can’t imagine anything other than joy at finally achieving a pregnancy—with twins no less—feel free to skip this post. Because I’m pregnant after four years of trying, and all I feel is scared, desperate, and as always, sick to my stomach.

This conversation is about money. So if you’re uncomfortable about that, oh well, this is my blog. Because right now all I can think about is money.

I grew up really fucking poor. Poor enough that ordering out for pizza was a luxury in my family, and I was forced to try to dress myself all through junior high and high school on practically nothing. (Thank god for goth and grunge!) I was flat broke in college, and even more so in law school. By the time I got out of law school I was $110,000 under on student loans, and another $20,000 under on my credit cards, with no full-time job in sight. And then J graduated from design school with another $65,000 in student loans and even worse earning potential.

Ten years later and we’re starting to see the light. We still owe more than $140,000 in student loans, but we own a house and have rehabilitated our credit. We go out to the movies when we feel like it and have HD TV without feeling guilty. We’ve even saved a little, enough that we’ve been able to afford three years of fertility treatment with only a $21,000 loan for the IVF flat rate.

And now that we’re here, now that we’ve reached our ultimate goal, all that is about to come crashing down upon our heads. Because in the next five years we’re probably going to pay more than $100,000 in child care. $100,000! Enough to put me through law school all over me again. Or, more accurately, to smother me with another life-sucking, panic-inducing, soul-crushing debt like my student loans. If I could even get that much of a loan. (Do they give out day care loans? How far will they extend my home equity line of credit—already under $21K for IVF—when home values have dropped so far?) How am I ever going to come up with this kind of money?

A day care center is pretty much out of the question. The going rate around here is $300 per kid per week. Which amounts to about $30,000 a year. Maybe a nanny would be cheaper—if somehow J can manage to be home most Mondays we could try to find a 4-day-a-week nanny for $400 a week or so. Sure, I could find a nanny for a bit less, but I’d be risking my career by hiring an illegal. There is a chance that we can find a “family day care provider,” a woman who takes up to 8 kids into her home at once. But the one person I called sounded so stupid on the phone she completely freaked me out. Even if we can find placement for two at a place like this, can I really trust one person taking care of 8 kids to handle my two small babies? And will we have to split them up into different homes to get them placed?

And for any of you who think I shouldn’t be thinking about this yet, guess what? The waiting list for day care for infants at most places is 12-18 months. At least. So I can’t afford to wait until I’m less freaked out about my pregnancy.

On top of all that, I keep hearing such terrifying things about a twin pregnancy. Leaving aside the specter of super-preemies, two people, one of them my nurse, have told me that there is no way I’ll be able to work the entire pregnancy. A woman in my chiropractor’s office told me that everyone she knew who was pregnant with twins had to stop working after 5 or 6 months. But I can’t stop working—I make somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of our entire household income! I don’t even have enough leave to pay for the maternity leave I plan on taking AFTER the babies are born. So how am I going to survive if I burn all me leave before they even get here? I can’t even think about how fast we’ll go into the hole if I have to take unpaid maternity leave. I’m sure I could work a few weeks from home at the very end, but if this turns into something more than that I’m fucked. So again, all I keep hearing about is ways in which I can’t afford this.

I want to be happy about this pregnancy. I want to just shrug my shoulders and say “oh well, these things will work themselves out.” But I’m not sure they will. Will I look back at these last few years as the only years of my life that I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck, wondering if I can afford to go to the movies or buy myself a new pair of jeans? Did I dig myself out of a lifetime of poverty only to get sucked right back down into it?

I’m so jealous of people with money. Sometimes I’m just sick with envy. When I told my sister about my childcare concerns she wrote back that, yes, it’s really hard. That when she was paying for a nanny one day she reached into her account and there was no money left. And all I could think of was: what did you do then? You reached into that giant family trust fund your husband has. What am I going to do when the bank account runs dry? I have no trust fund. I have no parents who can bail me out. I have no backup.

I think some of this funk must be hormones, which are sloshing around in my body like crazy. And a lot of it is probably due to the fact that I’m exhausted and nauseous. I haven’t slept through the night in two weeks—I have to get up every 2-3 hours to eat something.

I want to be happy. I feel like there must be something wrong with me. Because I’m not happy right now. Oh, I’m not sorry we did this. I know it was what I wanted. But all I feel right now is scared.


Ally said...

Oh, sweetie, I don't think anything is wrong with you. I think you are normal to worry. I wish you didn't have to, but I completely understand why you are. (I would be right there in the worry frenzy with you.)

Okay, some assvice. Ignore me if you want/need to:

I personally know four women who have given birth to twins. Three of them made it full-term, working all the way. The fourth made it until she was 8 months along.

Have you thought about getting an au pair? I know it sounds ridiculous and expensive, but I also have another friend who has two young children, could not afford day care (both she and her DH are teachers), but could afford an au pair. The biggest expense for the au pair was having to have a car for her. So they leased the cheapest thing they could and it worked like a dream.

If I had my magic wand, I would be waving it furiously in your direction. Since I don't have one (or at least one that works), I will hope and wish good things for you and moments of peace and serenity for you.

Lorraine said...

I also think it is absolutely normal to worry now - with infertility treatments, you have to focus on these small increments of time and expectation - and always keep yourself from investing too much belief that it will actually work - that to have to suddenly plan in the long term is just a major shift.

It will work out. Somehow, it will. You will be resourceful and creative and make it happen. It may not be perfect, but it will be fine.

I think it's always a sacrifice of some kind in the beginning, but that as time goes by, parents figure out how to rise to the challenge or create solutions that didn't at first seem obvious. I know that sounds vague, but it seems to be what happens with most of my friends.

Some decided to live in tiny apartments while they were paying for day-care, some chose a stay-at-home parent because the numbers for child-care don't pan out if the second parent isn't making a certain amount of money. Several of my friends did nanny-share, so they got the nanny only half the day and just worked part-time.

Keep researching, try on various options, and see what feels best. I hope you find the best one more easily that you think.

Ms. J said...

You KNOW that I totally hear ya, get ya, feel ya when it comes to money woes and anxiety.

Here's my two cents (bad pun) ... If you are earning 2/3's - 3/4's of the family income, and daycare is so crazy expensive, and you aren't finding a caregiver option you are comfy with (personalize attention) ... How about exploring having Daddy stay home with the kids? He could get a part-time job on weekends (albeit might not be in his field) to defray costs. Try working the numbers and see what the true costs are.

you may be able to change terms of his student loans, or put into forebearance for a while, too, take some pressure off.

Think about it and other cost cutting measures (thrift shops for clothes and toys and highchairs), scour internet for thriftier meal solutions, Craiglist for gear, etc.

Deep breath (as I have my own panic attack).

Dagny said...

I understand. Or at least I think I do. In fact, one of the reasons I won't be cycling again is because I cant' a) take the time off my career any longer and b) that child care thing.

and I am poor too. In debt up to my eyeballs, thanks ivf...LOL.

I'm glad you got the prize. I just wish you could enjoy it. but I do totally and completely get it.


Newt said...

I've never met anyone who can really afford to have kids. That must be nice, though, to have that 300,000 or whatever it is socked away in a special account that says "Brianna" or something on it? We all just do it and hope for the best.

I totally understand the anxiety, and I think it's good that you know that what you're feeling is partly exhaustion and hormones. That's true! Try to remind your brain sometimes that right now it's in thrall to your body, but it won't be like that forever.

I can't help much with the daycare situation, but we did have the newtlet in a home daycare for a few weeks (moved him when a spot opened up at our dream place, not because it was a bad situation). The lady kept no more than four babies, handled it beautifully (I couldn't do it, but some of these pros are...well, pros), and it was very cheap. Also, in my state at least, licensed home daycares undergo inspections, the owners have background checks, etc. My nieces went to one for years and it was a great situation for them--like an extended relative.

It's so hard when you don't have family to rely on, isn't it? We can be your family out here on the internet, but I know it isn't the same. And I can't offer to babysit or bring over some hand-me-downs. Are there some local mommybloggers who can?

Thinking of you, and still so excited about your twins. xoxo

Shinejil said...

I felt the exact same way--for slightly different reasons--when I found out we were expecting twins. Scared shitless, and a lot of it was about money. We don't have debt, but we have so-so incomes. The thought of paying for two children at once--whether it be child care or college--was terrifying. As was the prospect of NICUs, bedrest, medicalized birth, etc. So I feel you,dear, and wish I could make it easier.

On a more practical note, I'm with Mrs. J: What about Dad taking care of the kids for the first year? Sure, it's rough to put your career on hold, esp in the creative professions. I'm facing that, too. Or is there any way in hell the govt will let you work from home, even one day a week? Or shift to a 4-day work week or something, so you could tag team and maybe just have a sitter or daycare arrangement for one or two days a week?

The fact that a hardworking woman in a country as wealthy as ours has to worry like this, when she should be allowed to rest and nurture herself makes me livid.

S said...

Although I am not pregnant (with twins or otherwise), I could relate to so much of your post. Like you, I grew up doing without a lot of things, suffered abject poverty in college, and have way more debt from law school than I'd like. Though I am doing OK financially now (at 38), I still envy people who had an easier start in life and had some financial cushion. (I sometimes joke that I know a mistake was made somewhere and that I was supposed to be born with a trust fund.)

So while I am not precisely in your shoes, I can understand why you are worried. I don't have any solutions to offer; just wanted to let you know that you are not the only one to have these thoughts and feelings.

annacyclopedia said...

It is totally normal to be scared and freaked out right now, my friend. I know that doesn't make it feel any easier, but it's really ok. I didn't really feel happy about my pregnancy until well after 12 weeks - before that I was mostly numb. It takes time to get used to the enormity of it all. And the extra worries about $$ are real - it's only rational that you are scared and uncertain about how you will manage.

You are smart and capable and strong, and you will find a solution. I hope it comes to you easily and quickly. Wishing you moments of peace where you can take breaks from all of this stress.

kate said...

Money is a scary, scary thing. You are dealing with some very real, very immediate fears, and doing so while all pumped full of hormones. That you aren't losing your everlovin' mind is a testament to the tenacity of your sanity. Good job, friend.

I hear what you are saying about people with money. H's colleagues are all much better off than we are, and they simply don't get that it was a really, REALLY big deal that we went to Germany this summer, that it was something that won't be repeated soon. They couldn't give a fig that we took this amazing, first-in-my-life trip, how extravagant it was for us, how unusual, how wonderful. It was just, "Oh, you went to Germany this summer? So did we. (Just like we did last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the year before...)" And they don't get how important it is that H be assured of a solid place in the university, and how important it is that he move into a tenure-track salary range. And they all seem to think that if I'd just get a job, we'd no longer have these concerns, but they ignore the fact that the market is shit, and that we only have one car (and buying another is something we're putting off as long as possible), and that I was barely surviving between anxiety attacks and (what I now see was) serious depression when I was working. Oh, and that my income from whatever job I took really wouldn't ultimately help that much, honestly. (And somehow, none of them have massive student loans. They were in school as long as I was, though they all finished two additional degrees beyond what I did, but still. We all were in school for at least ten years, and I have $40k in debt and NONE of these people have ANY debt at all from their education, or if they do, it's inconsequential. I just don't get how that's possible. I guess money begets money.)

I'm thinking of you- I have no real solution, but I am commiserating along with you. I sometimes wonder what I'm doing pursuing fertility treatments when I don't even have a job. But I firmly believe that if I did have a job, that this cycle would fail anyway, if not due to stress, then due to the fact that a job would take away from the insane amounts of time I've spent trying to coordinate the cuckoo details. I just hope that you are able to work out a solution. If you ever need to chat, drop me a line. I can promise you that even if I can't perfectly understand, I can be a sympathetic ear.

Me said...

You just said everything I think/feel about having twins. Every time I look around all the other IVF'ers a squeeling with delight at the thought of having twins while I'm bsolutely fucking petrified. Alls I can figure is that they must be able to be SAHMs (which, as the breadwinner, I obviously can not).

Me said...

Oh yeah. And I would die from jealousy/frustration if I had to get up three times a night to breastfeed AND then still have to go to work while my husband gets to stay at home. I fucking think not! Maybe that makes me a bad person but at least I'm honest...

Anonymous said...

I hate how expensive child care is. Having just finished paying one child's first five years of child care tuition (and now thankfully sending her to public school where we 'only' pay $300 a month for full-time kindergarten), I'm freaked out about the next five years with this baby. You aren't wrong about the total, either... the first round of childcare cost $45,000 so far (since there will still be summer camps, etc.).

I find myself wishing that there were a better way to combine roles in society, like having undergraduates also work as nannies (imagine how a set of roommates could nearly cover a full day of childcare and classes), or retirees setting up a babysitting/childcare network.

I hope that a plumb (and affordable) childcare solution materializes for your family. I know it's really stressful, especially with so many unknowns. Having gone through it once (albeit with a singleton), I can truly say that it's all worked out better than I feared. I'm still freaked out for next time, but I know that it can work out fine. Good luck!

Malloryn said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. The money side of this IS scary! Looking at childcare options scare me, and that's just for one kid! I wish money wasn't such a big part of this (treatments, adoption costs, daycare, etc) but it can really get you down sometimes. *hugs*

one-hit_wonder said...

It's all normal to worry about this. It's a hugely legitimate concern (and one that I'm worried about now, too, considering that DH doesn't have an income at all). Was wondering if you'd consider getting an au pair on a cultural exchange program? I can send you info if you're interested. (The program I'm thinking of may be defunct, but I'll check into it.)

nikki said...

I'm new to the infertility world, and have just come across your site. I don't know if this is helpful, but a friend of mine that had to stop working at 8 months (while pregnant with twins) was able to use her disability insurance to cover her leave. You may want to look into disability insurance if you have it, or getting it if you don't already.