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Welcome to the World
Trying to Conceive
It has been a whirlwind ride over the last year. My wife and I tried to conceive naturally for around two years without success, finally breaking down and getting checked out at a fertility clinic. As it turns out, we only had a very slim chance of getting pregnant naturally.
We began three rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI), which improves the chance of conception to around 8%. Unfortunately that did not work either, so it was on to in vitro fertilization (IVF) - a more expensive and invasive procedure but one that improves chances to around 70%.
The entire process took a toll on us physically and emotionally, with failure after failure causing us to question if we were meant to be parents and if (I'm sad to say) we were throwing away good money on something that would never happen, regardless of how badly we wanted it. We also knew it would prolong the time until we could afford to adopt, should it get to that point.
But after some of the hardest and darkest times of our marriage, I came home to a book and a card from my wife, her way of letting me know I was finally going to be a dad!
A Surprise Birth
In the months leading up to the pregnancy, my wife and I both worked hard. I built a raised flower garden and a bookshelf tree for the nursery, and my wife built humans. I think she made fewer mistakes than I.
The date grew ever closer, until a routine doctor's appointment landed her in the hospital for monitoring. We were there a few days and were actually anticipating being discharged soon, when baby girl B decided she was tired of being confined.
My wife had a large contraction and B's heart rate dropped. It was enough to make the decision for us - the girls were on their way!
You know that feeling as you go over the top of a roller coaster, and your stomach drops. That's how I felt when the doctor told us the plan. Totally scared and unprepared. But I had faith in our doctors and nurses.
The girls were delivered with only the tiniest of complications. They were a couple of weeks premature, which is expected with twins. The girls spent this week in the NICU, gaining weight and getting 24-hour monitoring. They've done wonderfully though. A came home last night, and B is on her way!
Exhausted and Overjoyed
Did you know feedings and breast pumping happens every three hours? I "knew" this ahead of time, and yet somehow I did not understand the true gravity of this schedule-disruption. Every. Three. Hours. I'm exhausted, and there is likely much more of this to come.
It is for the best possible reason though. I keep thinking how this small sacrifice will help them grow stronger each day. At less than 5 lbs each, they need all the help they can get. I'd be more frustrated, but their cuteness cuts right through it.
While they continue to put on weight and keep me up, I've started to think more about the future. You see, it is one thing to talk about Financial Independence when it is just the two of you in the picture. It is another when you have to new additions to the family.
When just the two of us, we could afford to suffer through cheap meals or pushing off expenses. But now we have two helpless baby humans who count on us for everything. We can't afford to screw up. It's real now guys.
I begin to think about doctor's visits, braces, clothes, and everything else that comes with kids. Through a caffeine haze and bottles with formula as far as the eye can see, I worry myself sick.
Will we have enough to make it each month? Is it still possible to retire at a reasonably young age, or will I need to work until I'm 70 like everyone else?
Now that worry seems silly to most people, but I'm attempting to build a business around the idea of frugal living and escaping the rat race while I still have time to enjoy it. What if I can't "win" that race? How can I offer advice or be taken seriously unless I succeed?
These are the doubts that creep into my mind during 2 am feedings. I imagine the same types of doubts hit anyone starting a new business, project, or even a 9-5 job, and newborns on top creates a recipe for utter terror.
What if I fail? How can I face my family? Except a voice in my head reminds me...
My family just wants me
That's the secret that I already know, but often forget. It doesn't matter whether I'm exceptional or mediocre, famous or obscure, a blogger or a worker. There is only one descriptor that matters to my kids - father. And to my wife - husband.
Understanding this and trying to live for them, I get a renewed sense of energy (even if I look like a zombie from lack of sleep).
To help with my general feelings of not being in control, I fall back on planning for the future. Here's what I know so far:
We want to be responsible with spending
This is one of those things that I imagine can get away from a parent. Everywhere you turn, there's another "must-have" or "that's so precious" item to be purchased.
Taking a step back to do the cost-value analysis I'm so fond of - that takes effort and intentional thought, two things in high demand and low supply these days. One way we handle this is to make use of deals whenever possible.
Goodwill can sometimes hold hidden gems, and we don't absolutely have to buy the largest photograph package available. These things don't make us bad parents, and our children are not suffering because of it.
In fact, I think we've done pretty well so far. Case in point is the Top 6 Frugal Nursery Tips article I referenced above.
We want to emphasize experiences instead of "stuff"
We feel better spending when it is on a memory, especially when it expands your horizon.
For our kids, we want to go to the zoo, take a weekend away to visit a new location, and explore this big world we live in. We have, and will, do this on the cheap (check out my post on the 5 Best Ways to Save Money on Vacation to see how we stayed 12 days in England and Ireland for less than $1,000!).
Stuff is just...stuff. It gets old and is thrown away. Best-case scenario? You donate it or give it to family. All in, we'd rather share times together as a family than surround ourselves with more material things.
We want to be creative when it comes to finances
This is not just in the spending (there's plenty of room for creativity there as well), but in the teaching of finances. We plan to have our kids take part in financial discussions early on. Though we're not quite sure how early that is, we want it to become a "normal" part of life.
We love the idea of giving them a fairly large allowance, but requiring them to pay for certain things with their money. We heard this idea first on The Dad Edge Podcast, but I believe it was first brought to light by John Lanza, author of The Art of Allowance.
Finances should not be taboo.
Instead of focusing on the negative ("we can't afford that"), we want to focus on the creative ("how can we afford that"). This concept is taken directly from Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad. This book made a huge impact on the way I think about money, and I cannot recommend it enough.
As time passes and the girls grow up, I'm sure our plans will change. But at least it helps me keep my sanity to have a starter plan.
And then there's my baby B in front of me. She and her sister are the most beautiful people in the world, from a totally objective point of view of course. They terrify and worry me, as I've said. But they also give me hope. Frugal wins and early retirement are important concepts and goals, but my family is the reason I have those goals in the first place.
Those of you who are parents, did you have those same doubts and fears as I did? What advice would you give to a new dad who is trying to keep all the plates spinning and let none of them break? What's your favorite parenting book that I could add to my list? Let me know in the comments!