“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!