We were so excited to begin 2011. We were in the beginning stages of owning a farm business, working with developmentally disabled adults. This meant I could quit my job and fix up an adorable farmhouse where we expected to live for at least a few years (we agreed to two), with the steady income we had agreed upon with our business partners. The start of the business also meant we could start a family. Steve could work at home through the growing season, and we could spend the winter months with our new baby, leisurely adjusting to life with an additional family member. It was going to be idyllic.
I quit my job in January and started taking a figure drawing class – something I had always wanted to do. But I had to drop my class halfway through the semester when I learned in March that I was pregnant. Finding out wasn’t so much the problem as experiencing extreme morning (read “all day and all night”) sickness. Debilitating nausea and a three-month bladder infection sent me to the hospital twice and completely interrupted the intensive facelift we were giving the farmhouse. Steve and several incredibly generous friends and family finished the house preparation and moved all our things.
In the meantime, Steve was completing his final semester of college an hour away and working full-time to plan and plant the vegetables that would be our livelihood. And trying to take care of me in between.
We officially moved into our renovated farmhouse in May, and I was still sick. My nausea ended up lasting eight full months, accompanied by terrible heartburn, vomiting, and insomnia. But at least we were together. Steve was only a stone’s throw away when I got stuck in a chair or couldn’t sit up to eat. It was a long summer. I cried a lot, usually in the middle of the night when the acid pains in my chest and the muscle spasms in my legs seemed never-ending, food didn’t stay down, and sleep was an unattainable wish.
The business wasn’t all that we hoped either. While we were able to educate neighbors, city officials, and local businesses about the potential for other similar work opportunities, the actual work we were doing was a struggle. We hoped our business partners would offer more support in the form of a social worker to interpret the ins and outs of Medicaid paperwork and scheduling, or at least offer guidance in an arena we’d had little exposure to. Our farming model needed tweaking. We were losing produce at an alarming rate due to the various levels of labor functionality and the lack of knowledgeable supervision. It was a battle to keep our heads above water while attempting to make changes along the way and hoping to have discussions about more substantial adjustments in our second year.
But we wouldn’t get that chance. In September, we found out during a casual meeting that Medicaid’s developmental disability employment assistance had cut funding to several programs, and we were one of them. Though the decision had actually been made in July, we found out two months later, leaving us only one more month of income and employees, but three more months of farm work. Two months before my due date, we were scrambling to find Steve a job, while I peered over my growing belly to harvest carrots when he was away.
As if the situation wasn’t hard enough, our landlady, who conveniently never signed her copy of our lease, decided that since we were no longer working with DD adults in the same capacity, we should no longer be living in her house. Her email went something like, “I don’t want to kick you out right before you have a baby, but you could buy the [100-year-old, 1-bedroom, no A/C, plumbing falling apart, 50-year-old appliances] house for $350,000.” Right, because when you lose your business into which all your savings was funneled and have to pay for the birth and rearing of a brand new baby – that’s when you need to buy a house at four times its value. We had to beg to stay through the end of the year, which would allow us three months to fulfill the CSA shares we’d committed to, deliver our unborn child, start a new job, and find a new place to live.
And so we began packing. We found two jobs for Steve. We finished out the CSA season with whatever produce we could manage. And we secured a new temporary home living with family, which has quite literally saved us from homelessness.
Although the year was wrought with disappointment, it was all eclipsed by the arrival of our precious daughter. She came two weeks early, a Halloween surprise. I had planned for us to dress up as Linus and The Great Pumpkin to hand out playdough and fruit snacks to the trick-or-treaters. We hadn’t even installed the car seat yet. But that was fine with me – I didn’t have to go through the Will it be today? Will it be today? game that happens as you near (and pass) your due date. I delivered my babe at home in a birthing tub, just like we planned. I labored hard for only six hours, pushing for a mere thirty minutes. With the midwives’ guidance, Steve caught her and cut her cord. And when the midwives finally left us for the night (after greeting several trick-or-treaters at the door), we sat in awe of our little miracle. Ours to keep.
It hasn’t been an easy year-end. Birthing, recovering, parenting, packing, farming, working, moving, unpacking, holiday-ing. And trying to find family time somewhere in the midst of it all. But we’re hoping this wraps up the chaos – at least momentarily.
Here’s to reliable income, a more permanent home, a healthy babe, and time spent together in 2012.