After arriving home from the airport at 10:00 PM, Kyle and I unwound from our baby shower weekend with a snack and a TV show, finally retiring to bed at nearly 1:00 AM. At 2:15 AM, I awoke feeling a bit… wet.
I hadn’t experienced urinary incontinence to that point my pregnancy, but I knew it was a common symptom. I went to the toilet and emptied my bladder, but somehow liquid just kept leaking out every time I stood up – I had no control over it.
At 34 weeks 6 days gestation, I didn’t want to believe that my water had spontaneously broken, but this also wasn’t normal behavior for my bladder. Kyle and I Googled “urine vs. amniotic fluid” for about half an hour before it became undeniable that I was in labor. We had no labor bag ready, so we grabbed our carryon suitcase from our trip and our Hypnobirthing material and drove to the hospital.
Thirteen hours later, our daughter, DPR, was born. She could barely draw her breath and was transferred to an advanced NICU at another hospital.
This story has a happy present: DPR is home with us now and completely healthy. She spent three weeks in the NICU maturing until she was equivalent to a full-term baby. She’s been home with us for a few weeks now and is simply delightful. No explanation whatsoever for her early arrival has revealed itself.
DPR’s NICU stay was our first bona fide family emergency ever. As you might expect both from the (early) arrival of a child and in the midst of an emergency, cost consideration became a very low priority. Of course, we knew DPR was racking up major costs through her extended hospital stay. We also had to keep our own bodies operating through the hospital stay (we were at the hospital on average 12 hours per day when we weren’t able to stay overnight), which involved an unusual level of convenience food and parking spending. Finally, our apartment was far, far from being prepared for DPR to come home, so during the hospital stay we placed our largest Amazon order ever – no more measures of frugality like shopping the consignment stores.
We both began to feel some measure of “money is no object” during this period. In fact, money hardly ever crossed my mind. But I realize that we were able to feel that way because of the strong current state of our finances. We had no idea that our particular emergency would be a multi-week hospital stay, but our finances were fairly well prepared for some kind of emergency.
1) Thank goodness for (great) health insurance.
You had better believe that I would have been concerned about money during this NICU stay if we didn’t have health insurance or we had some kind of substandard plan. I can’t imagine what a crazy stressed out place the NICU must have been before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. But we do have health insurance. We still have no idea how much this hospitalization cost, but a friend whose baby traversed a very, very similar path said that child’s total hospital bill was about $100,000. I also had a suspicion, later confirmed, that we would have little to no out-of-pocket cost. Apparently – and this has yet to play out, as I said – the insurance company is picking up 100% of the hospitalization cost above DPR’s deductible, which is $200. I mean, I can’t even.
2) Thank goodness for auto-pay.
Money didn’t have to be on our minds during the hospitalization because we have so many of our bills on auto-pay – from our rent to our subscriptions to our credit cards. We didn’t have to concern ourselves with the date or keep track of what is due when. The only aspects of our finances that are not on auto-pay are our retirement contribution and tithe because the amounts vary from month to month. We did get a bit behind on those and made the transactions only when we thought of them, but as there is no ‘due date’ on them the delay didn’t matter much.
3) Thank goodness for emergency funds.
We didn’t actually access our emergency fund during this emergency, but its simple presence gave me peace of mind. Last spring, we (finally) increased our emergency fund to a respectable size. If this emergency had gone a slightly different way – such as us having to pay for a hotel to stay near the hospital or having to pay coinsurance – we surely would have relied on the fund.
4) Thank goodness for credit cards and cash in checking.
We use credit cards for all our purchases, which removes our spending one step from our checking account. About a year ago, we also switched from keeping exactly the amount of money we wanted to spend each month in our checking account to having a significant cash buffer. As such, we didn’t have to track our weekly spending to make sure we had enough in our checking account to cover our purchases.
5) Thank goodness for parental leave and self-employment.
Kyle requested four weeks of full-time leave and two weeks of half-time leave. It seemed possibly excessive at the time, but we needed every bit of it between the hospital stay and adjusting to caring for DPR at home. Kyle’s job gave him half-pay during his full-time leave and three-quarters-pay during his half-time leave, which kept money flowing into our checking account even while he wasn’t working. We also prepared a special savings account to supplement our income shortfall during the planned leave.
As for my work, the summer is my slow season. I delivered my last seminar for the 2015-2016 school year a few weeks before DPR’s birth and had just planned on cultivating client relationships and developing material for the 2016-2017 school year in the first part of the summer. I simply shifted my planned work from earlier to later to account for my new ‘maternity leave’ dates.
Our finances haven’t always been this strong and automatic. If this emergency had occurred years ago when we had different systems in place, we wouldn’t have come through it in such good form. The big lesson I’m taking away is that preparing financially for an emergency goes far beyond having an emergency fund. Yes, you need money available, but you also need to plan for how your financial life and job will keep running smoothly even when you can’t take any action on their behalf.
Have your children brought any emergencies into your life? Are your finances prepared for an emergency?