A clickbait title like above requires some quantification before we begin. It’s not what you think. Fewer than one in a thousand have a clue what I am about to reveal. And the personal finance ramifications are incredible. If you live the story the cost can be a million or more; it can even cost your life.
J Money from Rockstar Finance recently sold his site so he could focus on his blog: Budgets are Sexy. J’s work over the years is legendary. His work has helped countless people in desperate need. As he exited the building he had cash remaining in the community fund. I was contributing $10 per month and added $500 to the Debt Drop program in September in honor of Suicide Prevention Month. The community fund was ending as new management took over Rockstar.
J emailed bloggers asking any who would be willing to take $100 to do a good deed in their community and write about it. I answered I would, but didn’t need the $100; the $100 would be my contribution and the idea I had would require a bit more than $100. J’s original goal was to enlist 20 bloggers; he now has 21. Another example of how the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community is making our world a better place.
Before we begin, would you hand me the box of tissues next to you. What I am about to write is very personal and painful. This is a story about how I almost sold my business and walked out on life. I had the pills in my hand as I contemplated ending it all. A moment that should have been filled with joy changed my perception of life and love forever.
And it started from my misconception of sex, or more accurately, gender.
The Gift of Life
I’ve become so numb, I can feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
By becoming this all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.
—Numb, Linkin Park
Mrs. Accountant and I waited to have children. I wanted to be financially secure before bringing a life into this world. The truth is I never wanted children. Deep down I felt I’d be a terrible parent and the thought scared the wits out of me.
When we decided to have children Mrs. Accountant was so happy; I prayed to God the day would never come.
Finances were better than they ever were when I was growing up in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin. I remember our kitchen table when I was a young child consisted to two sawhorses with a piece of plywood laid across them. I was too young to know how poor we were. Then I grew up.
Now it was my turn to start the next generation. Mrs. Accountant had difficulty conceiving, not that I was complaining. For this crazy accountant it was all fun without a baby bump. I was happier than a pig in, ah, you know what I mean.
Then the inevitable happened. Our first child was on the way and I adjusted to the New World Order.
Regular doctor visits indicated everything was going smooth. We attended Lamaze classes. These sessions were designed to give the mother confidence in giving birth, as if she had any choice at this point. Dad was there to learn a thing or three, too. Unfortunately, fate would exempt me using the newly acquired knowledge.
It was right after the holidays when Mrs. Accountant didn’t feel well one morning. Within an hour her water broke and we on our way to the hospital. The baby was due February 28, over a month early.
The doctor suppressed labor to give the baby time to develop more before breathing air. Eventually the wait had to end. Our first daughter entered this world early and spent 19 days in intensive care at Theda Clark hospital in Neenah, Wisconsin.
In the end it was a minor problem modern medicine could fix. Life was good.
Until we tempted fate again, that is.
The Son of Cronus Awaits the Fool
My brother and I are five years apart in age. It’s only a coincidence my daughters are exactly the same number of years apart in age as well.
Waiting to have children is a double-edged sword. I was 31 when my first daughter was born. If we wanted another child we needed to make up our mind soon.
I wanted more time before we added to the herd; Mrs. Accountant felt her biological clock ticking. I’ll give you one guess who won.
Since it took time for Mrs. Accountant to conceive the first time we needed to get to work. (It’s good work, but the pay is, well, shall we say, awesome!)
We were prepared this time around. Medical issues with our first daughter meant we needed a specialist to prevent a repeat. We found an OB-GYN with ample experience with delivery issues. What could possibly go wrong?
The pregnancy went smooth. Soon the happy day arrived and it was time for baby number two.
Due to the emergency nature of the previous birth I wasn’t allowed in the delivery room. This time I would see the magical moment my child would enter the world with my own eyes.
Our first child came cesarean. The doctor decided it would be best to do the same this time around so no labor issues could ruin what was so far a picture perfect pregnancy.
As reluctant as I was to have children I was eager to see the process in action. Three doctors were working in the delivery room as I watched. The incision was made and then widened a tad before the doctor’s hands massaged my child’s head through the opening.
Once the head was out the rest of the baby slid out easy.
The OB-GYN said, “Congratulations sir, you have a son!”
Another doctor immediately said, “Look again, doctor. Sir, you have a daughter!”
All I remember is mumbling, “It’s both.”
I actually called my child “It.” I was so numb I felt nothing. It? What was wrong with me?
The delivery room was dead quiet from that point on. Mrs. Accountant kept asking what was wrong. For once in my life I couldn’t find words.
Boy or Girl?
The doctor closed the incision as I was shown to a waiting room. I was informed the doctor needed to make some calls to figure out what to do.
I was allowed to see Mrs. Accountant. I managed to explain what had happened.
The birth certificate read:
How could I face the world? My child, my baby, was a. . . A what?
The first question people ask when you have a child is, “Boy or girl?”
I had to answer, “I don’t know?”
People think you are pulling their leg when you say it.
It was the middle of tax season (no comments on my planning skills). Mrs. Accountant needed rest so I went home to pick up my oldest daughter from my parents. My office is between the hospital and home.
Bev was still working when I stopped. I couldn’t even enter the building I was trembling so badly. All I could get out was, “I’m not coming back.” I tried to tell her to sell everything; I was done. Bev feared the worst and I wasn’t in good enough shape to tell her what happened. Even driving was a stupid thing for me to be doing.
If you think this story has nothing to do with personal finance you’re going to see how wrong you are. This story is perfect for a tax and personal finance blog.
We had insurance; thank God for that. The medical bills approached a million dollars in the first few years and the out-of-pocket was substantial, too. My wealth at the time was working toward the second million. It is a blessing I had the financial ability to make sound medical decisions without considering money.
Our child needed several surgeries the first few months. The gonads were purplish masses and precancerous. It was, as the doctors said, a “medical imperative” they be removed immediately.
The gonads hadn’t dropped so they were deep inside in the position of ovaries. They were removed when she was three weeks old. That was surgery number one.
Our baby had ambiguous genitalia. There was a distended, though not fully formed, penile structure and a vaginal opening. The urinary tract exited both and was certain to cause infection soon if not corrected.
A decision had to be made in the gender of the baby. The University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison did a genetic test. The results was X iso Yp.
In laymen’s terms it meant our baby was conceived male. After a few cell divisions the Y chromosome became isolated. Our baby, my baby, had ~15% of her cells with the XY chromosome, or male, and 85% X. XY is male; XX is female. When you only have X instead of XX it’s like have no sex chromosome at all! In such cases the human body tends toward the androgynous, or feminine. This explained the ambiguous genitalia.
In my mind X meant girl. 85% beats 15% so girl it is. The doctors also encouraged us to choose female for our child. One, it’s easier to make a female medically. Constructing male organs are usually less functional and our child would always tend to be more feminine in appearance. And two, the genetic test said girl and my analytical mind would have taken any result with greater than 50%. It’s how I’m wired.
That was surgery two. There were many more to follow.
Guilt took over. It was my fault our daughter was deformed! The Y chromosome only comes from dad and my genetics failed. The guilt was overwhelming. Get me in a corner talking about this and I still fight back tears. The wound cut deep and the pain never went away.
All the while the stuff above was happening I fell deeper and deeper into depression. One night I went out to the barn and put my head in a noose. A few nights later I emptied a bottle of pills in my hand. In either case I stopped short. Don’t ask me why. The pain was so deep there was no feeling left.
As this was happening I attended a support group from Reach Counseling. Only a few children are born each year in Wisconsin with such issues. I was told once an average of two babies per year in the state have what my youngest daughter has. A traditional support group wasn’t available.
This support group had every sex issue known to man in it. Victims of abuse and even a few sex offenders attended. (Many sex offenders are victims of sexual assault in their childhood and seek out support groups to deal with their issues.) And then there were the odd couples like Mrs. Accountant and me.
I thought the whole thing was stupid at first. There was a young woman dealing with a childhood of sexual assault while her dad was there due to assaulting his daughter. Several men were dealing with sexual assault issues from their childhood. Then there was a guy I affectionately called Dudeman. Every sentence he said ended with “Dude!” He was a good guy, just weird.
Every Thursday our group met and talked out our emotions and problems. I broke down every week. “My baby’s an abomination and it’s my fault,” I cried. It was an emotional roller coaster with the only ending a bad one. I shirked my parental duties for a pity party.
Shortly after my daughter’s second surgery I was in the support group crying when a young Asian man dealing with assault issues of his own turned to me and said, “In my culture you would be the most popular man in the village. Your daughter is special. Every man would want your daughter as his wife.”
He was from Laos. His childhood wasn’t easy. And here was this man who could only speak broken English telling me my child is a gift!
The pain and guilt have never gone away, but that was the day I stopped thinking about me and started thinking about my little girl. She is NOT an abomination! She is a GIFT! I was acting like an a$$. My daughter needed her dad and not some sanctimonious coward trying to find the courage to end his life.
The tears stopped instantly. I continued attending the support group for about a year. The young man from Laos eventually moved on. I doubt he even knows he saved my life and gave a beautiful young lady a good childhood.
My youngest daughter reaches the age of majority in a few months. She is a happy person filled with joy and dreams. Maybe I wasn’t such a bad dad after all.
Reaching for Help
Then I got an email from J at Rockstar Finance.
The moment I read the letter I knew I had to participate and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I hated Reach Counseling at the time. They symbolized my greatest failure in life, or so I thought. Now, almost 18 years later, I wanted to contribute to the organization that changes the lives of so many, changed my life.
Reach Counseling helps sexual assault victims in northeast Wisconsin. They also have programs to help sex offenders rebuild their life. The work never ends.
Even if you read the news poorly you know of all the women coming out in the #metoo movement. The Silence Breakers are Time Magazine’s people of the year. The number of people floating through my social media feeds raising their hand as also a victim of sexual assault is depressing. Most people knew back brain about the casting couch. Harvey Weinstein isn’t a total surprise.
The real surprise is the massive swell of victims silently suffering finally coming out to be heard. I’ve seen plenty in my days and know the devastation sexual assault causes. Almost from the beginning of this blog a woman reached out to me for help. She was sexually assaulted by her step dad since she was three or four years old. The assaults went on for years. She is in her forties now and struggles with the issues. She is intelligent and hard working. She is a survivor! Now I help her with personal finance issues so she can have the life she deserves, the life her stepfather raped from her.
I contacted Reach Counseling and showed them the email thread from J. I spoke with Kim Massey at Reach and explained to her what I wanted to do. Mrs. Accountant came with me. She said I was shaking as I told the story. The emotions are still there as I fought back tears. I haven’t evolved as far as I pretended.
The goal is to pay it forward. I can’t pay Reach back for what they did. Sure, I can donate money and I did: $500. But there was much more I had in mind.
I outlined a three pronged program serving victims of abuse, sex offenders and those at risk of abuse. I surmised if money is the number one reason for divorce, financial issues might pay a role in sexual assault and the healing process.
The issues people face when assaulted runs deep. Emotions run wild as the victim of crime tries to deal with what happened. And the kids still need food on the table.
Women are disproportionately affected. When I donated the $500 I had no string attached. I was informed a few hours ago by Kim Massey (I’m writing this the night before it’s published) some of the money was used to help a single mother with two children ages 9 and 12. They just moved into an apartment and have no furniture. The money was used for a Christmas tree and some gifts for the kids and even something for mom. The unspent money is in a fund for other families. I was told “. . .this gift filled their house with joy!”
J reminded me why I write this blog in the first place: to help people understand money better. I am working with Reach to build a program where I personally help people with serious financial issues. They need this advice more than anyone. I will use my experience and knowledge to make my community a better place.
In the past I’ve raised funds for Special Olympics. Now The Wealthy Accountant will adopt Reach Counseling, contributing a significant portion of its income to their cause along with my time and talent.
Please join me in this important work. Together we can do more than any person alone can. Support organizations similar to Reach Counseling in your community. Consider donating to Reach as well.
The workload is endless and demanding. You can read more about Reach Counseling and contribute here. No gift is too small. Consider an automatic monthly gift. This community is blessed with so much we can make a difference. You never know who you will help. It could be a woman fighting to survive after an assault; you might help a young girl break free from a violent and abusive environment; or maybe you’ll help a crazy accountant who needs a knock up beside the head to understand his child is a gift, a beautiful, wonderful gift.
Reach Counseling also has a crowd funding fundraiser going on right now. If you think men can’t be victims of abuse, think again. There is a moving video at this link of a man who found Reach after childhood abuse. It gave him a new lease on life.
Christmas Eve and Christmas morning I’m going to raise my glass in a toast to the single mother with two children struggling to survive.
May you have peace, my friend. May you have peace.
Note: I’ve attempted writing therapy on this issue in the past. I always cover with something different to get the true story out. You can read an earlier attempt here.