The morning I walked into my obstetrician’s office to confirm my pregnancy, my bank account was overdrawn by more than $900. Anxiety coursed through my body as I sat in the waiting room listening for my name.
Would I owe a copay? If so, would they let me write a check so that I didn’t have to deal with the embarrassment from my debit card being declined? Would the overdrafted funds reverse back into my account once my bank realized I didn’t have enough money to cover the $1,200 mortgage payment I’d just made? Oh, God, what if they did and we went 30 days late on our mortgage? Would we lose our house?!
Overdrawing our bank account to cover our mortgage at the end of the month wasn’t anything new. We’d been struggling to get ahead of our finances for more than a year. No, the thing that was new was the baby we’d only recently found out was growing inside of me. The one who had me sitting in a doctor’s office that I couldn’t even afford to drive to, let alone pay for.
My husband and I had always wanted a big family. We talked about it a lot in the early days of our relationship. But, as the years went on and we lost our financial footing, all our talk became just that: talk.
We decided to put the idea of a third baby on the back burner while we tried to get ahead of our bills. Instead of progress, we struggled with unexpected costs that put us further into debt. Eventually, we decided to take the “baby talk” off the stove entirely, opting to pack it away out of sight so we wouldn’t have to think about what we were missing out on by not expanding our family of four.
Then, on an impossibly humid afternoon in May, I felt the all too familiar sweaty nausea that had accompanied my first two pregnancies. A long-forgotten pregnancy test from under my bathroom sink confirmed what I already knew: I was pregnant.
When I told my husband the news just a few moments after seeing the second pink line appear on the test, he just laughed. “Of course you’re pregnant,” he said before giving me a kiss and shaking his head.
I’m sure he had the same ticker tape of concerns running through his mind that I did: Could we actually afford to have another baby? Was this going to be a huge mistake? Had we just doomed ourselves to a lifetime of financial uncertainty?
They were questions we never got a chance to answer. Just as abruptly as we found out we were pregnant, we found out that we were not staying that way. I was pushing my shopping cart down one of the aisles at our discount grocery store when my miscarriage began.
The abrupt end to my pregnancy was heartbreaking for our entire family. Even though we’d barely been scraping by, we’d all rallied behind the idea that we could make it work. Wasn’t the fact that I was pregnant without even trying a sign that this baby was meant to be?
I knew when I found out I was pregnant at 37 that there would be some increased risk, but the idea that I could lose my baby as quickly as I found out I was having it never crossed my mind. After all, I’d already carried two babies to term. Why would this one be any different?
The aching in my heart was a physical thing. The loss of our baby was so abrupt, and so unexpected, that it felt like a surprise wave had crashed into me and pulled me under before I’d even known that the water could get choppy. It took my breath away and left me scrambling to find my footing in a life I no longer recognized as my own.
One night, after our kids were in bed, I confessed to my husband the unspoken fear that had been weighing on my mind. What if I couldn’t have any more babies?
The idea that we could actually lose our opportunity to grow our family had never crossed my mind when we talked about waiting until our finances were better. I hadn’t factored my dwindling reproductive years into the equation as I tried to balance our family budget. I assumed we had time to wait until conditions were right; now I feared the moment for a choice had passed us by altogether.
There’s a saying: You never regret the child you decided to have, only the one you talked yourself out of.
Those words banged around my head incessantly in the days that followed my miscarriage. So much so, that they were the very words that I used to explain to my husband why I thought we should start trying again as soon as we could.
Whether he agreed with my reasoning, or felt the clock ticking as I did, I’ll never really know. What I do know is that he said yes, and a month after we’d lost our surprise pregnancy, we found ourselves surprised once more by a second set of double pink lines.
Although we weren’t financially ready, we were excited.
We knew a third child was going to stretch us thinner than ever before, but as we had already learned over the years, things can change in an instant. We thought we were ready for whatever was coming. We’d made it work so far. What was the worst that could happen?
The answer to that question came a few short months later.
In March, when I was 37 weeks pregnant, the governor of Pennsylvania made the unprecedented move to lock down the state in order to stem the rise of COVID-19 cases. A once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has made its way to America and completely changed everything about our day-to-day life.
It’s been more than a year since I found out I was pregnant, and six months since I gave birth. The entire world has changed during this time. The U.S. has been brought to its knees by the pandemic, with tens of millions of people unemployed, and no end in sight.
It’s funny how the thoughts and concerns I had while waiting for that first appointment with my OB were so far removed from the ones I had while pacing the delivery room at the hospital. I didn’t worry about our finances; our situation had changed during the nine months that took us from Point A to Point B. No, instead I worried about whether one of the masked nurses was carrying the virus, or what would happen if we picked it up and took it home to our daughters. I agonized over what would happen if our son was born with it. Money never even crossed my mind.
It rarely does anymore. Not because our finances are so improved that it doesn’t matter (that couldn’t be further from the truth), but because there’s just so many more pressing things to worry about.
We’re lucky that our financial situation isn’t a life-or-death concern. We always have food in our refrigerator and health insurance to offset any medical emergencies that arise ― two things so many Americans are without right now.
I’m sure our circumstances will change again (and again and again) over the years. Change is par for the course when it comes to being a parent. You make the best choices you can in the moment, with the information you have, while simultaneously trying to predict the future.
It’s what we did last fall, and it’s probably what we’ll continue to do until the day we die. Sometimes it all goes wrong, and we make the wrong choice, or get blindsided by a complication we never saw coming. But sometimes, like this time, we get lucky, and it all works out.
At least it has for now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.