Saturday, July 2, 2011

Deciding to Stay Home, Part Four

This is part four of a series about how I went from working gal to stay-home-mom, back in 2002. You can read the other parts by clicking: PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE. For some reason my photo uploader isn't working well and so this post is all text.

So in part three, I shared how my epiphany of needing to be home with our baby kind of bubbled up out of me, but I really couldn't remember (at the time that I wrote it) what specific input had led to that sense of urgency, all at once.

Last week, I started reading a book by Iris Krasnow, and remembered that, while I was pregnant with Ethan, I read another of her books-- called "Surrendering to Motherhood: Losing Your Mind, Finding Your Soul". It's now been nearly 10 years since I read that book, so I can not recall with great detail everything about the book, but I will say this-- there is one scene she describes, where she is home with her toddler and two twin babies, and they've made a titanic mess all over the dining room floor. In that moment, she LOVES them, she KNOWS them, and she's WITH them, and she vividly recounts the surrender that happened in her soul. I remember reading about that situation and thinking, "YES!" Messes and all, 'fulfillment' or not, I need to be there--at home--for our sweet baby & any future kids we have."

Reading Krasnow's experiences as a young, overwhelmed mother reminded me of the loving, faithful mothers I'd watched and known over the years (including my own, who stayed home with us until we went to school), and her book was perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back in compelling me to "surrender to motherhood". I can't tell you in strong enough words, 9 years later, how very thankful I am that God took random pieces of life and prodded me to be home with these little people who are now growing into bigger people He uses to shape and sharpen me.

OK, so back to 9 & 1/2 years ago...

"Now What?"
Doug had responded to my sense of urgency about staying home with our baby by saying, "OK, we'll make that happen".

But you have to understand-- our income set-up was such that I was the one 'bringing home the bacon'. He had a more seasonal, part-time position at the National Gallery of Art. Our primary source of money, our insurance... everything that was stable and "made sense" financially, came from my job.

About this same time, he had applied to two top-notch graduate-level art schools and had not been accepted into their very selective programs. So the things that had caused us to move to Washington, DC, and the things that tied us there, no longer made much sense. For a month or two, we looked for houses far out from DC, trying to think through how we could make the balance sheet add up. Finally, it hit us-- "we need to be near family, we need to be where living costs are lower... duh, we need to move back home, to Texas!"

But we didn't know whether to move back before or after the baby, and we didn't have any idea what we'd do for a job or for health insurance. What does a guy with an art degree do for work, if not grad school and on to professor-dom (which had been our loose "plan")?

Mr. Incredible
This is the part of the story that is impossible to tell without telling you just how grateful I am for my husband. I don't want to make it sound like he ditched some awesome scholarship & art school opportunity so that I could be home with our baby, because that opportunity (though sought) never materialized. But it would not be accurate to tell this story without clearly discussing how he put his own "need for fulfillment" on the backburner in order to just, flat out, provide for his growing family.

Money Matters
We decided that since we'd already found a doctor to deliver our baby, we would stay in DC and then move 4-5 weeks after his/her arrival. We would pay for HIPAA and somehow make it work financially so our baby's first few weeks would be covered by insurance.

My due date was June 18th. I worked right up to, and a few days beyond, that due date. Still he didn't show up. Well, my water broke at just after midnight, the morning of July 6th, and he was born after 1am, the morning of July 7th. You can read his birth story here.

So after he was born, Ethan spent the first week in the NICU. Little did we know that, though we had prepared to use HIPAA, and though we had gotten pre-approval from our insurance company for our hospital and doctor, the specialists that ran the NICU were not on our insurance, and we ended up with a medical bill of more than seventeen thousand dollars. We of course had no idea that a hospital would use a company within their own hospital that did not accept the same insurance companies (For the record, we had Blue Cross Blue Shield, not some obscure company.), but we were stuck with the bill.

Despite this financial blow, our landlords were so kind and gave us a free month of rent when Ethan was born. God took care of us in little and big ways.

Packing Up Our Apartment
Silly me, back then I was Mrs. Last-minute... I hadn't packed up almost anything before he arrived. I didn't think about how short 5 weeks would be, especially with a newborn! We also hosted my parents for a week or two and then my brother & sister in law came up and visited for another week. So basically, we spent our time, right up to the wire, packing up our apartment. Another couple from our small local church there came and helped us pack our apartment-- such a blessing.

Final Analysis
Somehow, we made it. We got the apartment packed up (it was right down to the wire!). We didn't have a huge amount of money saved. But Doug got in a cruddy old on-its-last-leg U-Haul truck (without A/C!) with our belongings, towing our car behind it, and 5-week-old Ethan & I got on a flight to Arkansas, where I stayed a night at my parents' house until Doug made it there, picked us up, and we went on our way to Texas. (I should add, when Doug dropped off the U-Haul, the guys at that shop cussed and were appalled that the DC shop had been so irresponsible to use that particular truck for anything other than a cross-city move. Shocked, they said we had been fortunate that the truck made it the whole way.)

We'd be living in a one-bedroom apartment we'd never seen (I had talked to the landlord over the phone, and this was in the early days of the internet when all they had up was a star on a map, so we knew where it was). We had no health insurance. The little we'd saved was being eaten up by college and (now) medical debts. Neither of us had a job, or any prospects.

It was a huge step of faith; people probably thought we had lost our minds... but God had been faithful, and would continue to care for us.

(Click to read: PART FIVE.)


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