There’s nothing quite like growing a new human life to make you confront your own mortality.
Conceiving soon after a miscarriage, and being naturally predisposed to worry, I simply couldn’t shake the feeling that in pregnancy, I was fighting a fire that the universe wanted to fan. Other pregnant women seemed to be glowing and serene, but I saw wolves around every corner.
Every decision I made felt like a type of insurance — like I was building up an intricate web of safety around myself to counter a plague of ferocious ‘”what ifs.”
As the pregnancy-tracking app took us from a gestating plum to an apple to a grapefruit, I purchased all manner of “just in case” products in an attempt to calm my fears.
I bought a doppler so I could listen for a fetal heartbeat whenever her thrashing limbs felt unnervingly still; a whole bunch of nipple shields — a buffet of sizes — in case she would struggle with latching; and a Snuza breathing monitor to clip to her diaper at night, monitoring the rise and fall of her stomach.
(In the future, this would occasionally emit its heart-stopping alert in the cold hours of the night, prompting me to snatch her frantically from the mattress and cry “WAKE UP” into her peaceful little face. I still wonder if this unfortunate habit had anything to do with my darling not sleeping through the night until she turned 3 years old…)
As my bump grew, so did the fire-fighting shopping list. Then, a few months before my due date, I booked us into the mother of all anxiety enhancers, a baby first aid course.
It was extremely informative, and the teacher provided each participant with a certificate, a cup of tea, and a preoccupying fear of innocuous-seeming objects, including cups of tea, popcorn, and balloons. Absolute death traps for children, it turns out.
Why I finally bought life insurance
And it wasn’t just the baby I worried about. We were millennials paying high rent, so our savings were negligible, and I was hyper-aware that if I should die (which seemed quite possible, in my overwhelm), there would be a problem. Not just in the oh-what-a-terrible-shame sense, but in the very real practical sense, too.
I was planning to stop teaching to become a full-time parent, but if I kicked the bucket, how could my husband’s wages cover daycare as well as all the other usual commitments? Childcare doesn’t come cheap, so I soon found myself searching online for life insurance.
I bought a 20-year term policy to cover my daughter’s dependent years while keeping the monthly cost lower than a lifelong policy (because millennials, remember?).
I based the value of the premium on two expenses that my death would necessitate: the cost of grief counseling (yes, really) plus the number hours of nanny care my child would need before the age of about 14 when she could be trusted alone for an hour or two after school.
In hindsight, leaving a 14-year-old alone is probably far riskier than leaving a 1 year old unsupervised with a cup of tea, a bowl of popcorn, and a bag of balloons, but it seemed to make sense at the time.
Buying life insurance wasn’t exactly fun, but it also helps me rest easy
It’s bleak. It’s really, really bleak. Honestly, buying life insurance is very much like getting a pap smear or picking up your dog’s excrement: it’s a really unpleasant experience, but all responsible adults just grit their teeth and get it done. The dawn of parenthood is what pushed me to purchase insurance, but it’s also what made it feel so morbid.
It was also demeaning. If there’s anything more depressing than irrationally imagining your own premature death while you literally incubate a new life, it’s calculating your own financial worth in such paltry terms.
My childcare plus counseling formula spat out a figure that was actually lower than I expected. My magic number came to less than £100,000 ($130,000), with monthly payments easily affordable at around £5 ($6.50).
You could kick me off a cliff and write my family a check for a hundred grand, and we’d be square. My entire monetary value as a mother came to the sum that an entry-level banker might receive in their Christmas bonus.
But you know, as grim as it is, having life insurance helps me sleep at night. Knowing that we have back-up plans and financial security is important to me (hello, millennials again!).
It still reassures me today, even now that my daughter is bigger, more adventurous, and regularly expanding my comfort zone by climbing beech trees, dangling from monkey bars, and swimming without wings.
I haven’t quelled the fire yet, but it’s under control. Sometimes I even drink a cup of tea.