It was finally enough. Pablo's bank account finally had the minimum for a down payment for a 30-year mortgage for an outer-borough co-op apartment. "We'll finally own a place," he told his wife Daniela, excited after getting off the phone with their Wells Fargo loan officer. "No cooking tonight. We're eating out."
The two of them lifted their daughter by the hands every few steps as they walked down a mile to El Gauchito. They ordered their favorite, the mix grill for two, but this time they added a half carafe of house wine and a Coke for the little one.
"Mariela," Pablo said to their daughter. "Soon we're moving to our own place."
"Really!?," the little one said. "Am I getting my own room?"
"Of course, mija, just have a little patience with daddy. I'll just have to put up the walls," Pablo said. Drywall sheets were $14.97 at the Home Depot, and a few extra shifts should cover the living room partition. Feeling the wine, he added, "And for your birthday, we can paint it any color you want!" That meant working weekends for a month, but seeing his little girl jump up and down was worth the $37.98/gallon for purple paint.
Everything seemed possible that night. The couple put little Mariela to sleep in her living room bed, and retreated to their room. The couple had worked long hours and saved everything over the last few years, and they felt like it all was finally worth it. In the excitement of the evening, they remembered their love for each other.
Six weeks later, Daniela was sick to her stomach when she realized their lives were about to change. "A child is always a blessing," she told herself. She remembered all they had to do for Mariela a few years ago, and started calling her comadres, asking if anyone had any tips on extra shifts or part-time jobs. She got busy on Facebook, posting on the Forest Hills Parents group that she was available as a nanny and getting her hands on anything that was free from the Buy Nothing groups, for the new baby and maybe to sell some of the items. She had less than eight months to earn and save as much as possible.
Mariela spent a lot of time daydreaming and watching YouTube that summer. The deal for the previous apartment had fallen through when a cash buyer swooped in, so Pablo and Daniela spent a lot of time looking at new places, working extra shifts, and talking to the bank.
"I'm sorry, but the interest rates have gone up," the loan officer told the couple on their last meeting. "That means, if you want to make the same monthly payment, you need to come up with more money upfront," the loan officer kept saying to them.
Pablo was already working seven days every week. Daniela was working full time, while taking care of their daughter and picking up odd jobs. But every time she went to the doctor, there was some sort of copay or deductible, and their bank account couldn't keep up.
It was December 31st, a couple days past Daniela's due date. If the baby wasn't born that day, all the money they put toward their deductible wouldn't count in the new year. A $12,000 bill for their out-of-pocket maximum was a hit they couldn't take.
That morning, nobody at the hospital would induce Daniela to give birth. They argued with the hospital staff for hours, until Daniela started naturally having contractions around noon and was taken in. They waited a few hours, and after sunset a new doctor came in during the shift change. "You've been here a long time," she said. "Do you want to be induced?"
"Yes!" the couple said instantly, and then a nurse came with the IV drug drip.
A couple hours passed when Daniela started pushing.
"I see her hair!" Pablo said.
Daniela was encouraged and started pushing harder. The baby's head pushed through, then the rest of the body slid out. A pediatrician checked the baby and handed it to Pablo. "Congratulations," the pediatrician said. "It's a healthy girl."
Pablo took the baby and looked at the doctor's chart. Time of birth: 00:25, January 1st.
Later that week, Pablo took Mariela to the ice cream shop.
"Mija, do you trust daddy?" he asked her.
"Of course," she said.
"Do you know how we've been trying to buy our own place? Well, the prices went up, so daddy and mommy have to save up a little bit more before we can buy."
"Okay, daddy," she said. "Am I still getting my own room?"
"I don't know, mija," he said. "I think the baby will get lonely, maybe you can sleep together."
"Aww," she pouted. And after a few licks of ice cream, "Okay, daddy. I'll help you. When are we moving?"
"Soon, mija. Soon."