Thursday, June 9, 2011
The Financial Burden of Lyme Pregnancy
I've gone back and forth over whether this topic is worthy of discussing, mostly because the information I share has always been kind of personal and there has to be a line drawn somewhere--but I feel like since I've been pretty candid from day one, it's only right that I share everything I've learned about the effects of a Lyme pregnancy and beyond (the more prepared we are the better, right?), and that includes sometimes having to make sacrifices that we hadn't expected. More specifically, financial sacrifices.
I've yet to meet a person who hasn't believed that the financial strain caused by Lyme Disease is nearly as bad as the disease itself. Maybe it's just me, but I don't hear anyone saying,"Insurance denied me again? No worries--I'm rolling in extra cash and my credit is stellar, so these big out-of-pocket bills mean nothing to me."
I'm not unlike many people dealing with this disease--if you add up twelve years worth of medical expenses (the majority of which were accrued while trying to find out what the hell was wrong with me), the cost easily exceeds 100k.
I haven't had the heart or stomach to add up the cost since my diagnosis, but I know that currently it's $450 each time I see my LLMD, double that if I'm seeing two doctors. Insurance is another $400 a month and doesn't cover my Lyme visits. Add in monthly meds, tests, supplements, $275 a week for childcare on days I'm stuck in bed, high emergency room co-pays (luckily there haven't been many), the cost of extra ultrasounds to monitor the baby (the last high risk doctor bill came to $675 for an ultrasound), the list goes on. I will admit, I have the world's worst insurance company and will drop them and find a new one as soon as this baby is delivered, but still, Lyme life ain't cheap.
Here's where factoring in finances causes mixed emotions: To me, there are two kinds of people--the kind that feel like they need to own a home, be settled, and be very financially secure before having any kids. They are the ducks in a row kind of people. Then there are the people who feel like no matter what, they will find a way to make ends meet and provide for their children, and that waiting for home ownership or a debt-free existence doesn't make or break the decision to have a family.
My husband and I fall into the second category, so take this however you see fit.
Since becoming pregnant (and parents) we struggle even more financially. Never to a point where we feel like we can't take care of our kids, but we were taken off guard when it came to the sacrifices we would have to make in order to make sure our family was comfortable.
For example, here are some of the changes we've made to get through two Lyme pregnancies and parenthood:
-My husband has to work extra long hours (70+) a week to maintain a job that pays well enough to support us (he'd love to switch jobs, but the money is too good there, and we need the income since I can't work)
-Since I'm not well enough now to be by myself all day and night with a baby, we had to hire a nanny. We can only afford the nanny 3 days a week, as childcare is expensive
-Due to the extra bills of a pregnancy on top of Lyme, we had to choose whether it was beneficial to just scrape by without an extra dollar to our name each month, or give up some luxuries.
By luxuries, I mean our condo. When we found out we were expecting again, we moved into my parents' home to make sure we had enough money to stay afloat--we just didn't know what we were going to get hit with this time around. They work and live out of town during the week, which gives us most of our independence still, and they were gracious enough to let us use what would have been rent money for my medical and childcare expenses.
-On the weekends, my parents come to the house and help take care of the baby while I rest. When they show up with groceries, formula, or diapers, I am embarrassed, but I don't decline them because we need all the help we can get. In return, we do what we can to keep the house maintained and earn our keep there
-We've sold most of our household items and furniture on craigslist to eliminate the need for storage and help pay for the $7,000 hospital bill we're about to receive once the baby is born. When we are ready to move (which won't be for a good while), we will start from scratch, which is something we see as a big positive for us psychologically (who doesn't like a fresh start? Honestly, we feel like we need one after this Lyme ordeal.)
Just so you have a basic idea of how we're used to living, I can say that we've always been somewhere on the lower end of comfortable. My husband earns a good salary (though not 6 figures), one many would hope for, though we are not well off either, especially since I'm not working. We've been able to keep up with our payments, credit card bills, and a frighteningly large school loan that my husband will regret taking until his last living day. We have enough to eat, our kids have enough clothes and toys, and we've always found a way to make ends meet or purchase something if we needed to. Lyme pregnancy is the one thing that's recently made us say, "Maybe we should put some groceries back so we can get diapers AND formula this week."
I'll just add that we are minimalists by nature. We're actually not all that into gadgets, technology, "stuff," clothing, fancy cars, and for the love of god, we hate clutter and things we don't absolutely need (my husband is much better at determining what a real need is, but I try...hehehe). We prefer to rent, and if we could get by in the sticks here without a car, we would use public transportation for everything. That said, the scraping by thing isn't a big deal to us, because we don't feel like we're missing out on material things--mostly because we just don't care enough about them.
We do, however, get pissed that all of our cash is used up paying medical bills that should never have needed to happen in the first place. But that's the life of a Lymie, right? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I hit the lottery when I met my husband. He is kind, patient, generous, and he would do anything in his power to support me and get me better. As much as I feel guilty about our financial struggles, he continues to do what it takes to get us through it all.
He agrees that we have no regrets starting a family before we were financially "secure." In fact, it's the opposite. It's been a financial struggle, but our lives are so much better as parents. Day to day living has never been more difficult, but in the end, we've never been happier--as crazy as that sounds, it's true.
Ultimately, I'd say that while a Lyme pregnancy is tough on the purse, it hasn't stopped us from, so far, raising our boy well in a home full of love and happiness. If you can prioritize and reconsider what you actually need in life (which Lyme has forced many of us to do already anyway) you'll probably find that starting a family is well worth the sacrifices made.
Just be prepared for some added expenses. I knew they would be there--I just didn't realize how much these little babies actually cost! They're lucky they're cute!