Thursday, March 26, 2015

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) for Premature Infants

Recently, I had an expectant quad mom ask me for some resources on SSI eligibility for infants. This is something that I had no knowledge of until after our babies were born at 28 weeks. I thought it would be a beneficial post for expectant moms of multiples if I were able to share some of what I learned through our experience here. 

SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income. While typically thought of for the over 65 population, SSI is a US Government program that provides stipends to low-income who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled. It is very common in multiple births for infants to arrive premature. In fact, our doctors had no expectation of me carrying the quadruplets past 32 weeks. The average gestation for quadruplets is 29 weeks. I carried until 28 weeks and 5 days, 2 days short of average. Preemies and infants with low birth weights or other developmental problems are often eligible for SSI disability payments for the first year of their life.

Children born before 37 weeks gestation are considered premature and some suffer many side effects. One of the most common effects of premature birth is low birth weight. Many impairments, both short and long-term, are commonly seen with premature birth and low birth weight children. Short-term effects can include breathing problems, anemia, jaundice, low blood pressure, patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), bleeding in the brain, difficulty maintaining body temperature, which can lead to hypothermia, difficulty feeding due to an underdeveloped gastrointestinal system and poor ability to suck and swallow, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and infections. Long-term effects of premature birth often don't show up until later in life, perhaps even adulthood and often include: cognitive delays, psychological issues, cerebal palsy, impaired cognitive abilities and physical skills due to injury to the brain, growth impairment, learning disabilities, vision problems, hearing problems, dental problems, behavioral and psychological problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Also, those who are born premature with a low birth weight are more likely to have Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease as adults.

We were fortunate that the insurance department at the hospital where we delivered worked with us to help us get approval for SSI. While the stipends typically are not a lot of money, along with SSI approval, the babies are also eligible for Medicaid which helps with those pricey NICU bills. Although we had private insurance which paid for a lot of our hospital stay, Medicaid helps to pay the remaining co-pays for the babies (not for the mother). The stipends are also helpful with the expenses of having babies in the hospital (think parking, lodging, eating out, laundry, etc). 

While in the hospital, SSI is determined by disability. However, once discharged, SSI eligibility is dependent upon parents' income and resources. Be prepared to provide tons of information regarding income you receive and assets you may or may not have. You will also need to be sure to check in and report any changes (ie - if you return to work after maternity leave, when baby is discharged from the hospital, etc.). 

The process to apply for SSI can be long and a lot of work (especially if you are applying for four babies). To apply, you will call 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security Office. I called the day after the babies were born and was on hold for over an hour so be prepared to wait if you call in. Once you submit the application, a phone interview will be scheduled to go over more information. Here is a link from the Social Security Administration that tells you a little bit of what you can expect: 

Once the application is submitted, SSI will review and determine if the child(ren) meet(s) certain disability guidelines. There is a list of presumptive disabilities that are automatically assumed for children born at certain gestation and birth weights. Many premature infants automatically qualify for the first six months based on this. 

I am happy to provide any other advice or help if I can to other parents in this position. Please don't hesitate to reach out using the "Contact Us" form on the front page of my blog.

Here's a link to a brochure on SSI payments for children with disabilities:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dealing with Job Loss & Multiples

It's not an easy topic to write about, but the truth of the matter is, it happens. I'm talking about job loss and lay-offs. I've sat on the sidelines and watched other families suffer, prayed for them, and tried to help with resume writing and whatever skills I had that could support them. And now, it's hit our family. 

In recent months, I've seen a lot of people doing the happy dance in response to falling prices at the gas pump. For us, each drop in price at the pump sent fear up our spines. Families that depend on work in the oilfield know that a drop in gas price puts their jobs at risk. And in Texas, a lot of families depend on the oilfield to survive. It's often hard, dirty, in-the-elements work and long days, often spent away from you family for weeks at a time but the reward is a paycheck that allows your family to live comfortably. I am proud to have a husband that is willing to make that sacrifice for our children and me. Through his sacrifice, while there wasn't a lot of extra money to spend each month, we were able to comfortably pay our bills and afford the things we needed.

Stacked rigs in Midland, TX
This is a term used when rigs are taken out of drilling production and stored in the company's yard.

One of the things about the oilfield is that when it's good, it's good but when it's bad, it's really bad. And right now, things are really bad. For months, I've watched reports on the news about falling gas prices and tons of oil companies doing massive lay-offs. I've prayed for families affected. I watched my own brother-in-law get hit, then my Dad, as well as many other friends and acquaintances. We knew the inevitable was coming, but we felt that perhaps if we could just hold on long enough, things would turn around. Adam's position was with a service company who provide housing on drilling locations. They were able to stay busy a little bit longer because as rigs released, they still had to pick up their housing units and return them to the appropriate yard. Unfortunately, things continue to slow and Texas continues to see massive loss of rigs in operation. Work began to slow and Adam started seeing fewer and fewer hours at work. And then, it got to the point where he would sit for days at a time away from home waiting for work that didn't come. 

When we made the decision that I would quit my job and focus primarily on the quadlers, we knew there was risk relying on a single income. From the beginning my intent was that I would continue to work so that we would be able to support our family. And then, reality set in.  When the babies were born at 28 weeks, our world was turned upside down. While my amazing doctor was able to get two rounds of steroid shots for lung development and magnesium for neural protection in me, any baby born at 28 weeks still feels the affects. While they may look normal and healthy on the outside, on the inside, our children are still growing and developing. As a result, their immune systems and their lungs are not fully developed so we have to take special precautions to protect them from things like RSV (a cold) and the flu. For a normal toddler, colds and flu are frustrating and painful but in preemie babies, they often mean hospitalization and many times intensive care. 

What that means for us is that daycare is not an option. We've had to turn away visits from family with young children who attend school or daycare because of the exposure risks during cold and flu season. I've spent most of the winter months cooped up in the house only taking the children out when I've absolutely had to go to the grocery store. We've been limited on being able to go to church and the hardest part has been not being able to meet and get to know our neighbors and people in our new community! It became clear to us that with the only option being to hire a nanny to come to us, financially, although it was risky to rely on one income, it made more sense for me to stay home. Not to mention the fact that caring for four amazing little people's every need is a challenge in itself and definitely requires an extra degree of patience (luckily, God prepared me by teaching me patience in my long wait to conceive a child, or four) but also the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life. 

Right now, it's definitely nice having an extra set of hands around the house to help with the daily needs of the babies and chores around the house. However, the stress of worrying about finances is a high price to pay for it. We are working hard not to panic. But we are in the process of selling most things we have that we no longer need. We're also cutting back on things we don't have to have. I've cut back our cell phone plans, slowed our internet speed, and cut cable. We've also turned the thermostat up a bit in the house and make sure that we only wash full loads of laundry now vs just washing what we wore that day in order to stay on top of the never ending chore. We have faith that God will provide a way out of this. Through faith, God gave us four babies when our doctors told it was all but impossible for me to have one. He protected me and the babies through a difficult and challenging pregnancy and He brought the babies as well as Adam and I through 52 days in NICU. We are blessed to have friends and family to support us and pray for us throughout this journey. Adam is actively looking for a position using his mechanical aptitude, customer service, sales, or driving skills. We've looked into some local college classes that may prepare him for a new role as well, but that would mean trying to find a way to provide for our family during the time he's in those classes. Not knowing how long it will take to find a new job is scary. Knowing that most jobs in the area pay less than half of what he was making in his old job will definitely mean we have to make some large changes. Our hopes are to be able to get by until our lease is up and although we swore we'd never move again, we will try to find something less expensive. We do know that we love our new city and if at all possible, we want to stay, make new friends, and put down roots in an amazing, fun, and family-oriented culture! The first time we visited prior to making the move, the first thing we said was that we couldn't think of a better place to raise a family! With God's grace and help, we hope to! We appreciate all of our sweet blog readers prayers that we can recover quickly! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Dischargeiversary Babies and Happy St. Patrick's Day Everybody Else!

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day from The Archibeques!

Today is not only a day honoring Christian St. Patrick; for us, it's a day of celebrating graduating from the NICU. One year ago, after spending 52 days in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), we finally were able to bring our babies home. 

Last year, we were so excited to bring our children home, yet completely shell-shocked and scared of what to expect. A year later, while life is definitely still a roller coaster ride and we're still constantly learning and adjusting to life as a quadruplet family, when I look back on where we've come, I've got to admit I stand back and think to myself, "wow"!

On our first night home from the hospital, I remember standing at the changing table in the nursery at 3:00 AM, after only having about an hour of sleep at that point and thinking to myself "what have we gotten into". After one year of being in the thick of things, here's what I've learned: this is hard. It's scary, noisy, stressful, tons of work, patience-testing and wild. But it's also the ABSOLUTE most amazing thing I've ever done in my life. So many sleepless nights, what I calculate to be about 10,000 diapers (9,828 if you're wanting exact counts), hours and hours of holding bottles and feeding babies, countless messes, and a million (ok, I didn't calculate that number) loads of laundry, have all been a part of what has undoubtedly been the best year of my life. 

I am so proud of where we've been and where we are today. There was a time not all that long ago, that I spent my days staring at my babies through plastic boxes and dreaming of the day they'd do small things like drink from a bottle and even regulate their own body temperature. I now have four toddlers that are pulling up on the furniture and walking while they hold on to it. I have one child who will crawl to a side of the room where he knows he shouldn't be, just so I'll get up and let him walk back into the living room while holding my hands. Every single day, I pick up more toys than you could imagine from all over our house. I wipe up big messes from the table, wall and floors after each meal. I wipe messy faces and soothe crying babies. I read stories and sing lullabies. There are still times when I sit for a second and think "is this really real"?  But you know what, I'm so thankful for every single second of all of it. And my worst fear is that I'll blink and I won't do any of it anymore!