January 2019 my wife and I have just finished up our first vacation in forever, our business is booming and we have accomplished all our goals. We have the life we have always dreamed of. We are successful owners of a pet care business with a growing savings account, a flexible schedule when we’re in town, and a staff that allows us to take vacations when we want to. It is the life we talked about. The one we always wanted, but things are about to change dramatically.
A few weeks later we learn we are pregnant. After years of trying we had given up on he possibility of children and had come to terms we were going to be that childless couple everyone knows. The two people deeply in love who only ever needed each other. A couple weeks after that we learn it isn’t one child but two that we are pregnant with. Our lives are about to change even more dramatically.
The pregnancy goes perfectly for six months and then it doesn’t. The boys arrive 13 weeks early, and because we thought the possibility of children was behind us we have a high deductible health insurance policy. The total bill for the children’s birth and subsequent NICU stay is close to $2,000,000. Luckily we only owe $13,000 of that, but add that to student loan debt, careless credit card debt, and the line of credit we opened to help transition the business to this new phase and suddenly it is all overwhelming, but not overwhelming enough that I don’t look around at all the baby stuff and ask my wife if she thinks we should try right now for that baby girl.
We do, and we succeed almost immediately. This time we prepared better. We got the good health insurance. The top policy available. Going from a family of two to four helped as we now qualify for the affordable care act, but it is still more than we’re really comfortable paying a month. Close to $700 a month even with the subsidies, but we don’t want to end up with another $13,000 in debt and the $1,300 deductible should stop that.
What we miss is it is a shell game. It is three card monte. Sure the deductible is lower but the co-pay is less and the birth of our daughter brings about another $6,000 in debt. Add that to the stress and hardships incurred by owning a pet care business in the middle of a pandemic where nobody is commuting to work or traveling and our finances are at an all time low.
Travel back again to January of 2019 and another conversation. Nashville and Memphis were nice but what about visiting Kentucky I ask my wife. I tell her she can visit the horse park and I can go to the distilleries. It will be a fantastic trip and if the business keeps growing the way it is we’ll easily be able to afford a nice vacation every year.
In another reality we take that trip to Kentucky in January of 2020. The pandemic still hits afterwards but we don’t have the children to worry about and tightening the belt is easier, and we don’t have as much medical or credit card debt because we never had the kids or the traumatic NICU stay.
Our current system is designed to make having children a regret. It is designed to make us look at that life with less debt and more vacations. A life where my wife and I are still working side by side in the business bringing in the majority of its revenue. It is a system where having a child is a choice between incurring thousands of dollars with of debt and then a subsequent loss of income in order to raise that child. It is a game that cannot be won.
I will tell you, though, I do not miss that life. Watching my children learn and grow. Seeing there joy as they experience the world makes up for everything. I may never get to take that trip to the distilleries of Kentucky or my dream vacation to Vienna, Austria, but I will see the wonder in my children’s eyes as they walk through the aquarium or the zoo. I will watch them play and hear them exclaim with utter happiness, “Yay daddy,” as I enter a room. For if I find myself missing what could have been I will never appreciate what is, and the life we have is always the best life we get.
It is like I told my wife on our wedding night, “If the road I traveled led me here to you then it must have been the right road after all.”