The Gift That I Want to Give All New Moms

paying-bills-blog-1200“Write a down piece of advice for the new mom!” the sweet baby shower hostess announced.

I did as she asked and wrote down a helpful tip for my friend on the square of pink cardstock.

I didn’t write, “Enjoy those cuddles,” or, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” I didn’t even put down, “Don’t worry about your house for a few months. The mess can wait until you learn the new routine.”

I wrote something practical. Something that I had no idea about until it was too late:

“Get a bill paying organizer.” 

That has got to be the worst piece of advice ever written in one of those cute little mommy advice books. And yet that is exactly what I wanted my friend to know.

I didn’t expect to have a baby with hip dysplasia. There was no indication during pregnancy that my child would be anything but healthy. And yet, Emmanuella was born with a short-term special need.

As a new mom, I went into survival mode. We carted our daughter from appointment to appointment, from ultrasound to ultrasound. We became regulars in the hospital’s outpatient procedure waiting room. My focus was solely on her care, and rightly so.

Then the bills started coming in.

My C-section was billed separately from the anesthesia, which was billed separately from my hospital stay. The hospital pediatrician had his own bill. And of course, our regular pediatrician’s office sent a bill for the 4-day-old well check. And all of that was just from a normal delivery.

But Emmanuella wasn’t a normal baby.

So then came the orthopedic pediatrician’s bills. And hospital bills for each ultrasound. She got ultrasounds every two weeks and every bill was for the same amount: $267 (thank goodness insurance paid for most of the $800 total). The only way to distinguish one from the next was the date of service in small print at the top.

It was overwhelming, and caring for a newborn stole my attention from dealing with it all.

One day I spent eight hours paying bills and uploading them to our health share organization.

I ended up in frustrated tears. No one told me that this would be a part of the new mom job. The fact is I was unprepared.

When bills came in the house, they likely landed on the kitchen counter… and then got lost in the shuffle. With demands on my time like breastfeeding every two hours, attempting to pump in between sessions, washing and sterilizing bottles and pump parts, changing diapers, and maybe, maybe getting a nap in there, bills just naturally went to the wayside.

I wish someone had told me to get a bill paying organizer.

I bought one too late. It helped, but the flurry of bills had passed. Maybe if I had gotten one before I was bombarded, we would have avoided getting late notices and “FINAL WARNING” letters. Truly, it was an honest mistake when I missed a bill. After all, they all looked identical and had identical amounts. Didn’t I pay that one already? 

This is why I wrote that unsentimental note at my dear friend’s baby shower. I wanted to save her from the frustration and confusion that I experienced.

Yes, we received more bills that most new parents. But the thing is you don’t know if your baby will have a special need. You don’t know if your child will require extra trips to the hospital to see specialists or even require surgery after birth.

This isn’t about the money. While it was no fun carrying a financial burden during such a transitional time (and while I was only being paid out my vacation and sick time before getting a partial paycheck of short-term disability), the money itself is really not the point.

The point is this is one way new moms can be better prepared… but no one talks about it.

We prepare for motherhood by prepping nurseries, stockpiling diapers, attending baby and childbirth classes, and touring hospitals. So why not prepare for this aspect of parenthood as well?

It’s possible that no one else struggles with this. But I think that they do. Quietly.

Let’s put this out in the open. There will definitely be bills and they will be numerous. Sometimes the sheer multitude will bring us to tears.

But they don’t have to. We can be be better prepared for this. Mamas to be, I know this time is exciting and nauseating and painful and joyful and many other things. But don’t forget to make this time an time for organization as well.

Scrimp and save and squirrel away cash where you can. And please, please have a bill paying organizer ready and waiting for the day that the first bill arrives from the hospital.

You will be able to confidently tuck it away into the folder of the month it is due and go back to snuggling that precious, perfect baby. Maybe you can even squeeze in a nap.

New mama tip: I like this one with pockets and stickers to label the pocket by month or type of bill. But do what works for you. Just find a system and stick to it!

just for fun

28 Things I’ve Learned about Life for My 28th Birthday

I’ve always been a big fan of birthdays. It’s my own personal holiday; what’s not to like? I’m 28 years old today (or at least I will be at 10:16 p.m.) and as a writer, feel like there is no better way mark this occasion than sharing what I’ve learned (and am still learning) from 28 trips around the sun.

Note: I am still working on many of these issues myself. At 28, I consider myself a work in progress. Maybe I’ll nail this list by 29. 😉

Another note: I have to credit my dear friend Rachel Dawson for this idea. Check out her blog. It’s pretty awesome. 

  1. Know that time goes so fast. What a cliche, right? But my goodness, it’s true. My baby girl is approaching 5 months old, but I swear I had her last week. Along these lines…
  2. Unplug. I’m learning to unglue my eyes from my phone and cherish what is in front of me. You miss the things happening in real time when you’re looking down at a screen.
  3. Be grateful. Acknowledge your blessings and give thanks for what you have. All the time, not just on Thanksgiving.
  4. Keep in touch with family. Maybe it is something about having a baby, I don’t know. But I am beginning to understand how important it is to keep these connections strong and thriving.
  5. Enjoy having friends who are like family. I am lucky to have a tribe of friends who would drop everything if I needed help. Most of these friends I don’t speak to every day; some live far away and I hardly ever see. But they are my people, and I love them.
  6. Connect with your church. Since close friends and family may be far away, reach out to those in your church for connection. Even better, be part of a genuine small group. They don’t call it a church “family” for nothing.
  7. Make sure that you say “I love you.” To everyone you love. Say it often, but not without meaning behind it.
  8. Speak the love language of those you love. Building up your loved ones in this way is the number one thing they need from you.
  9. Do good. For your community. For your world. When we are so busy that our worldview shrinks to just ourselves, we have a problem. Look at the bigger picture and pitch in where you can.
  10. Speak up. If there is something you want, say so. Don’t expect people to anticipate your needs if you don’t voice them. Bonus tip: This is especially true in marriage.
  11. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to say something when you can’t do it all. Saying “no” is okay too.
  12. Pray. Daily. When Emmanuella was born, Dustin and I started doing this every night. They are simple prayers, nothing flowery or impressive. Sometimes we’re tired at the end of the day, or irritated. We pray anyway. The change this has made in us is incredible and honestly hard to put down in words.
  13. Trust God. If you’re a worrier, this is easier said that done. But I’ve found things have a way of working out in His timing (see Romans 8:28).
  14. Listen to others. If you like to be the life of the party like me, this is harder to do and takes discipline. But there is so much to learn if we train ourselves to be quiet every once in awhile.
  15. Smile at people. You don’t even have to say anything. But at least make eye contact and smile. For some people, it might be the best thing that happens to them all day.
  16. Take care of yourself. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m preaching to myself here as well. I REALLY like French fries and milkshakes (preferably together) and know that I should eat more fresh fruits and veggies than I do (and I’m a vegetarian!). Not surprisingly, when I eat well, I also feel better mentally and am less likely to feel overwhelmed or stressed.
  17. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Beating yourself up doesn’t make a situation any better. Forgiving yourself is important too.
  18. Go outside. More often. There are few things that a walk in fresh air can’t fix. And if it can’t fix it, it will at least clear your head.
  19. Play board games instead of watching Netflix every once in awhile. It’s just as relaxing, but you get to actually engage with people while you do it.  Speaking of which, I asked for Ticket to Ride for my birthday. So whoever wants to come over a play is welcome!
  20. Spend smart. Think about where your money should go. Think about needs vs. wants. Our resources aren’t really ours. Remember this and use them (or give, save, invest, etc.) accordingly.
  21. Purge. If you have something that you don’t need or use, but another person does and would, let it go.
  22. Be generous. Of your money. Of your stuff. Of your time. Giving feels good, y’all. Do it, and frequently.
  23. Make goals and strive to reach them. I’m looking at this list and there are some challenging goals here to reach for. That’s a start.
  24. Set aside time to rest. As a new mom, I’ve learned that rest is such a gift. Our lives are no longer planned within an inch of our lives and I like it. Sometimes it’s okay to just be.
  25. Make time for the important things. Think about priorities. Cuddling my baby is much higher on my list than laundry (which is why the hamper has been constantly overflowing since her birth).
  26. Keep learning. I want to be a lifelong learner. But this doesn’t mean everything I learn has to be found in a book. Learning new skills is just as important.
  27. Don’t get caught up in the “I’ll be happy when” mentality. This is a dangerous trap that leaves you chasing the next thing. You WON’T be happy when you make more money, get married, etc. if you can’t find contentment now.
  28. Celebrate! Both big days like birthdays (!) and little things like accomplishing something on your to-do list. I was once told that my personality type is the kind that comes to a wall and throws a party (instead of strategizing a way to get over the wall or blowing through the wall). This is an accurate way to describe me AND a fun way to live your life.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I have so much more to learn, and hope that this year brings many more life lessons. But see #26. I do aspire to be a lifelong learner.

And with that, let us begin my 29th year on this earth.