Friday, February 27, 2015

Going into debt over daycare

Money. It's something we're told never to talk about. At parties and social functions, we know to stir-clear of questions about one's annual salary or how much debt they have on credit cards. Money talk is taboo, unless structured into advise about saving for retirement or best options to finance X,Y or Z.

Yet money is the great divider. The difference between opportunities and closed doors. And where this subject gets particularly sensitive is when money impacts our families. Our ability to expand them and even make sure they thrive.

At some point, I need to write a post about financing fertility treatments when you don't have insurance coverage. Though there are many benefits to living in the Pacific Northwest, one major downfall is that there is no mandate for insurance coverage for fertility treatments. Hence Grey and I entered into parenthood with thousands of dollars of debt under our belts, all of it deemed as "cosmetic" or "unnecessary." Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I recognize that the decision to do this was ours. That said, anyone who assumes that fertility treatments are on par with cosmetic surgery seriously needs to have their head examined.

Regardless, we naively believe that once the Beats arrived, we'd somehow have the opportunity to make some headway on that debt. After all, our family was complete and though we knew about the expenses from baby-related items, we assumed that would be only for a limited time.

And then we started daycare.

The soaring cost of childcare is not a new topic. Like many new parents who don't have family close by, Grey and I have had to rely on paid help for childcare. And though we were aware that it would be expensive to have childcare when I returned to work, what I wasn't prepared for was that many of the childcare centers in our area cost more than what I bring in annual through my job as a lecturer. And I'm not alone. Many others are going so far to weigh whether or not to work as the cost of childcare is enough to justify leaving the workforce. To resolve some of this, there's been push for subsidies, but as of now most families are left with trying to figure out what they can afford and how best to manage this situation.

Grey and I have struggled with childcare for awhile. Within our Multiples group, there's a push to hire au pairs, as they are far less expensive then nannies and allow for exposure to different cultures. But the au pair route isn't without it's horror stories and it also requires housing another individual, which we are not currently able to do. Then there's the nanny route; a route that I always associated with the elite. Back in December, we almost signed up for this option having vet an experienced nanny who fit our price range. But then we learned her husband was a second-degree sex offender, meaning he was likely to reoffend, and has an extensive criminal history (none of which was made public and took some investigating to uncover). Needless to say, we're now gun-shy regarding nannies.

This leaves the finally option, which are daycare centers. The one that the Beats are currently attending is one that we lucked into and over the last year we've developed a close relationship with all of the teachers. I could go on and on about the benefits of them going to school, interacting with kids their age and the structured environment. We see the benefits and I know that both Grey and I have learned so much from the teachers and have formed close friendships with the other parents through this center. The problem is it's insanely expensive, eating up most of our monthly earnings.

And it's become a major source of stress in our family.

The additional factor in all of this is my career path is highly undervalued. Each quarter my schedule changes, all due to need for instructors and offering classes. Hence there's very little stability and I find myself scrambling a lot of the time. The problem is, I know that this scramble process is part of the equation, with institutions using this process to find instructors they want to have on long-term. And exiting this track for any reason before you've found security is seen as grounds for not being good enough or not being passionate about teaching.

This weekend, Grey and I need to restructure our debt. We need to look over where we're at and figure out how we'll get through the next few months. In the meantime, we're both making some hard decisions and facing some hard realities. On Grey's end, it may mean exiting his field to find positions that pay more. For me, it's either somehow finding an entirely new career path or exiting the workforce for awhile. Both things neither of us want for the other.

At the end of the day, though, we can't continue to scrap by. As others talk about vacations and new purchases, we need to find a way to balance the budget so that we don't have to make the decision about whether we can even afford basic necessities.

All while we're still trying to pay off the debt from IVF.

Monday, February 23, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Morning rituals

Morning routines are standard throughout the world. Whether it be reading the paper while enjoying a cup of coffee or hitting the alarm 5 times before admitting the day has officially begun, everyone has some way to mark the beginning of the day.

Since the Beats arrived, Grey and I have found our morning routine rapidly evolving. Initially the day-shift started with bottles and a sigh about making it through the night in one piece. Later it was morning bottles while checking email. As of late, it's evolved again. 

Currently due to never-ending colds and lack of sleep, the morning routine has been a painful one. Our days now begin when Jaxson trots into the Beats's room around 5 am and begins yeowling for breakfast. After some screaming from all the humans about such an awakening (and usually threats towards said cat about him running out of lives), there is a shuffle of diaper changes, warming of morning milk in sippy cups, feeding both cats and dispensing of iced-coffee. If we're lucky, both kiddos will go down for another hour of rest, but usually the day continues from there. 

In moments where I can step outside myself to observe this chaos, I marvel at where we are today and all that is happening. Getting to watch these two small humans flip through their books or run between bedrooms, announcing to the whole world that the day has officially begun.

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Monday, February 16, 2015

#MicroblogMonday: the Hugs

"One day someone is going to hug you so tight that all your broken pieces stick back together"
~Author unknown

Hugs have become a common occurrence in our household. Whether it be the end of the day, following middle-of-the-night wake-ups, greetings in the morning or simply moments for no reason. The power of a hug to relieve anxiety, uncertainty and sadness is truly impressive. The peace that you can find in an embrace; the feeling arms wrapped around you. Knowing that no matter what is wrong with the world, in that moment everything is okay.

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Monday, February 9, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Graduation

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Two weeks ago She-Beat graduated from physical therapy. To prepare for this, we had her go through a full-reassessment, covering cognitive, social skills, speech and both fine & gross motor skills. Though she is behind with speech (assessed through my reporting, which I warned them is incomplete due to my focus on the motor skills), the thought is she has made such HUGE leaps forward with her gross motor that it's likely she's start making headway in this area soon. In short, they are no longer concerned about her. In fact, they are insanely impressed with what she's accomplished in such a short period of time and the fact that her fine motor, cognitive and social skills are excellent, they don't think we'll be seeing them again.

The icing on the cake is this weekend She-Beat started walking unsupported. Much to the chagrin of He-Beat (poor kid is SO jealous that his sister is getting lots of attention). 

Following an emotional last PT session, I took the Beats to the Seattle Center to celebrate. Walking to the International Fountain and then under the Space Needle.

Another chapter closed. Another one begins

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Finding ways to advocate

Two weeks. It's hard to believe that it's been that long since I last wrote. So much is happening, both with work and family. All of it warrants an update. But that's not going to happen with this post.

Instead, I'm going to address something that I've been thinking about for longer than I care to admit. Because admitting this means that I have to admit why I haven't wanted to address what I'm about to talk about. How I've been worried about the backlash and hate that will very likely be filling my inbox. But I also know that I've gone far too long suppressing something that I believe ultimately is good and necessary. Not only for this community, but for the world in general. And recent posts and events that I haven't talked about (until now) have made this all the more clear.

So, here goes. Haters, feel free to vent below.

At the end of January, Pamela Tsigdinos @ Silent Sorority wrote three separate posts that basically transcribe this Bitter Infertiles podcast. For the record, this is still one of the podcasts that I am incredibly proud to have been a part of. Reading this transcript, though, was bittersweet. On the one hand, I remember doing this interview and knowing from the moment we began speaking with both Pamela and Loribeth what was being created would be important. I was so nervous speaking with our two guests, praying I would not say anything that would be considered offensive or stupid, but also because I had grown to respect both of them immensely for their courage to share their lives, their thoughts and their insights in a world that seems to value only the baby bump. A lot came out of that interview and I still think about Pamela and Loribeth's words even now, especially as I fight for a career in a world that is rapidly transitioning.

The bitter part of this, though, is knowing that this podcast no longer exists. Reading those transcripts opened a floodgate to emotions that have been kept at bay; emotions surrounding the sudden end to something that I believed in; was proud to be a part of.

Before people get the hackles up, please know I'm not blaming anyone for what happened. I played my part in the ending of this podcast and I understand that there were intentions for what played out. Yes, there were things about the podcast that needed improving. The one on a lot of people's minds was having all three hosts being pregnant at the exact same time. But what wasn't talked about was why Bitter Infertiles was unique. An ingenious idea, really. What wasn't talked about was WHY some of those podcasts are still being regularly downloaded and listened to. The fact that there are people outside of the blogging community who are accessing them and listening.

This brings me to the second part of my confession.

This past fall, in the midst of job hunting, I decided it was time to start looking into ways that I could use my graduate training and science education experience to help those facing infertility. I remembered all too well what it felt like to walk into the waiting room for my RE for the first time. To get those initial results and undergo that first round of testing. I also knew that Grey and I had an advantage most don't have, making many a physician uncomfortable when it became clear that we could not only speak the language but were asking questions they usually didn't encounter. Thing is, I believe everyone facing infertility needs to advocate for themselves. And the only way one can truly advocate is by having information that they can understand and knowing what options are available.

The problem is, when I started reaching out to organizations that are currently working with patients, I encountered a couple of things. First, every single one of them was unable to pay me for my time but wanted me to lead things that would require a lot of time to prepare for. The second was that the educational seminars they wanted to run meant that people seek information would have to come to an event. Effectively outing themselves to the whole world. And while that may not seem like a big thing to anyone in the medical profession or those who have never been diagnosed, those who are living with infertility can tell you how terrifying outing oneself, especially at the beginning, truly is.

The beauty of the Bitter Infertiles podcast is anonymity. Be it with those who participate in the interviews all the way down to the listeners. One does not have to announce themselves to the world when they listen. One does not have to confront family, friends, loved one or strangers who think they are "helping" when they tune in. Instead, this was a place where knowledge could be dispensed. Stories could be shared. Opinions offered and feelings vented. All without having to don the scarlet "IF."

The online ALI community is an interesting one. Mel said it best: we are a community that is founded on pain. Through blogging, one has an opportunity to share their story, finding support. But what isn't directly talked about is how just the act of sharing one's story can be healing by confronting that pain. That instead of leaving the trauma for this experience bottled up, bloggers (and those who twit) are getting it out and confronting this demon. Yes, there are moments it hurts. Sometimes so much that it can feel impossible to even breathe. But I also know the data that shows how important to healing and resolving this processing can be.

Equally important is finding comradery. By finding community and others who "get it," those feelings of isolation can melt away.

The thing is, blogging and twitting isn't an option for everyone. Many have talked about how sharing at this level is usually limited to a certain type of person. For all those that write, there are many, many more who do not and their reasons are many for not doing so. It doesn't mean that they are somehow in denial or less than those that do. I can tell you first hand how damaging it is to have family pressuring you to shut up and accept the situation simply because they are uncomfortable by the idea of your pain. But community doesn't have to be limited solely to those who share their story. Those who listen or follow along can find healing too.

So, in light of all of this, I'm going to suggest something that will surely piss people off. I think we need to resurrect this podcast. Not the exact same one and nor do I think the original hosts so be a part of that. You read that right. Though I sincerely want to support and give to those who are not yet resolved, I believe there are those who are better suited for leading this endeavor.

It's likely that all of this may be met with silence. I may hear about it privately, being told (once again) that I should keep my mouth shut and that I'm overstepping. But I'm hoping that by speaking the wheels begin to turn. Conversations start. That maybe an idea that was once embraced and did do a lot of good for this community is resurrected. It's a hope I really am hanging onto.

In the meantime, let the venting begin.
Design by Small Bird Studios | All Rights Reserved