In the field...

In the field...
Our Family awaiting baby #4

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Difficult Decisions

Jon and I are in the middle of moving our young family from Liberty, TX to Austin, TX.   

Many of our friends and family know why this has come about, but you might not...  

As chaotic as our lives have been these past two months, it has really been quite difficult to communicate the reasons behind our decision with all of our friends and loved ones.  Do we owe an explanation to everyone...not necessarily.  But our story might enlighten you to help other young families in similar situations, so here it goes...

Since Jon and I married in 2003, we mutually agreed that we would pursue Jon's ministry career as the foundation for our lively hood.  Yes, even if that meant putting my music and teaching career aside until our kid(s) were in school.  My husband is SO blessed as a public speaker and really gifted as a gospel preacher.  When I first heard him preach, I sat in that pew (along with 22 other people in a small church in AL) and decided at that instant that I would marry him someday.  I was mesmerized by his friendly warmth, his flow with words and most importantly his message - sincere and straight from the Bible. He could also, could he sing! 

And yes...I also liked his deep Alabama accent, which was similar to my Aunt Sherry's (also from AL).  Definitely part of his southern charm =) 

I knew then I would follow him to the end of the earth if I had to...

We had a quick engagement and married just a few months later (read our love story here).  After getting married and conceiving our first child, I was given an honorable discharge from the Army due to my pregnancy.  With only a couple months before my due date, Jon started to apply for ministry jobs in LA and TX.  After a few visits and much prayer, we chose to move to Channelview, TX and start a ministry work with the church there.  

We were young and excited to start our family.  We loved each other and wanted the best for this wonderful congregation.  Upon our transition, we did have some concerns about loosing my military benefits...but we paid $2100 for 3 months of an extended Tricare Health care benefit as a premium to cover Hailey's birth (delivery charges extra of course).  After that we didn't really think about our lack of health care until I got pregnant with Tegan in 2005...then we kind of panicked.

In fact, we were so worried about our lack of benefits that we decided that I needed to start teaching full-time in order to get a group health care plan for our growing little family.  Just in case you haven't caught on yet, our churches are just not equiped to offer any type of health care benefits to their preachers.  Only the larger churches have enough employees to even begin to pursue a group plan benefit for their employees. 

So I applied to Crosby ISD and surprisingly got a job offer to teach 5th/6th music and choir.  We felt like this was a gift from God, as I was 5 months pregnant...and who would normally hire a pregnant teacher?  Now with the comfort of the group plan and benefits, we really excited about having our second baby. 

Before getting ever getting pregnant the second time, we had decided to pursue more natural birthing options. 

REMEMBER - Hailey's birth did NOT go as we had hoped, and I really wanted nothing to do with birthing at a hospital again.  It just did not feel right...did not feel like what God had designed my body to do.  I was determined to search for other options!  With my older sister's help, I did find a great midwife and a beautiful Birthing Center in the Woodlands (called Nativiti) that I LOVED and was so impressed with. 

NOTE: I will share about Tegan's actual birth it was beautiful, empowering and just about perfect.  I hope to encourage other Christian mother's to see that natural birthing without fear is really possible!

After having Tegan, I took 6 weeks off and cried my eyes out when I had to leave her and Hailey at a daycare upon returning to work.  I faithfully pumped twice a day at school and managed to successfully nurse Tegan with no supplementation for about 18 months.  I was very content with this and proud that I made it work.

But then...during my second year at Crosby, word spread around Houston about Jon's preaching ability and he was offered a new position in Tomball.  Curious about the possibilities with this new job, we agreed to move.  In order to keep our benefits, I attempted to commute from Tomball to Crosby (48 miles one way, but well over an hour driving) to teach for the remainder of that school year.  BUT, the horrible Houston traffic was gruelling and down-right torture in making that drive twice a day. 

At the end of my second year of teaching, I decided to stop teaching and pursue a graduate degree in music at University of Houston.  I had auditioned and earned a spot (and $10,000 scholarship!!) with the UH Graduate Woodwind Quintet.  My GI Bill was also a big part of that decision too...but either way that is what we did.  With this decision though, we lost our group benefits =(
So with Jon preaching (technically self-employed) and with me at UH, we were back to using individual health care options.  I did take on the UH student health care, but that would only cover ME, with no option for family members too. 
FYI: Important to note that individual health care plans do NOT cover maternity care in Texas AT ALL!    Not one penny.  Supposedly there are too many uninsured that do get covered, so we are out of luck.
No matter what coverage we had, Jon and I agreed that we were going to wait to have our 3rd baby until I was out of Grad school. 

But then comes Billy. 

Luckily I still had my UH student health care coverage.  Even then, I chose to birth at Nativiti again and managed to have another beautiful, natural water birth.  But surprisingly, the UH insurance DID cover the birthing center as well (after a few persistent requests).

By the end of 2008, Jon was again offered another new position, this time on the east side of the Houston area. And curious again, we moved. By 2009 I finished graduate school. This also left me without any health insurance, except my limited VA benefits (as I did not want to add more costs to our premium).

Then...oops...I got pregnant again. It was quite ironic to realize that my LAST cycle was on the LAST day of my LAST final in graduate school! Well, at least we are quite blessed to be so fertile, right? We really are...I don't mean to sound unappreciative. We LOVE our babies!

NOTE: I have issues with birth control pills! Yes, I tried them. No, I did not like them. I prefer not to live with hormone induced eczema. Sorry. And no, $1800 (paid up front) for a vasectomy was not exactly affordable for us at that point.

But this is when things got medically difficult for other reasons...

#1 Before getting pregnant with Billy, Hailey had been hospitalized with a severe allergic reaction to 2 scoops of almond and cashew butter I had given her after church one night.  She suffered through anaphylactic shock and could have died without medical help.  We paid quite a bit through this experience (towards our high deductible) and then needed to keep epi pens (not covered) on hand for emergencies.  

#2 Jon was diagnosed with Chron's disease and IBS.  He had some tests run and it was recommended that he go on medication and have part of his small intestines removed, due to damage that had already occurred.  Our answer to that option:  NO THANK YOU.  With a $5000 deductible, there was no way we could pay for that up front.  We just decided to watch his diet and pray.

#3 We delivered a super healthy baby boy and Billy was his name.  The birth was covered thanks to UH, but then he was added to our individual plan and of course the premium went up.  We also had to pay 100% of all of the pediatrician visits etc.  That stuff adds up.  So we just stopped going, as I was nursing him and he was doing great.

#4 Jon and I both needed serious dental procedures done, all out-of-pocket of course.  We did what we could do, but once again, we were not able to do everything that was recommended for optimum health.

Now let's address a few questions that Jon and I get a lot: 

Can't your family get assistance?
 Doesn't the government help families in your situation? 

In one word - NO.  We are unluckily stuck in the middle class category...just BARELY making too much (BEFORE taxes) to get any kind of government assistance with...well...anything.  We didn't really want government assistance at that time, so no complaints from us.   
During these 5 years we never questioned our path.  We knew that we had each other and things would get easier someday, right?  Well that someday has come, but in a way we never expected.  

To be continued... 


1 comment:

  1. Always good to hear another family's struggles with self employment and healthcare... Wheres this infamous "Obamacare??" Although I'm sure us hardworking middle-class majority wouldn't ever dream of qualifying anyway! Curious to hear the reason you guys are coming to Austin... continue writing soon! ( I know you have lots of time on your hands! lol )