I Achieved the American Dream — and It Was Awful

buying a house

The year was 2008. I was 25, pregnant with twins, and very much in love. And we had just hit the quintessential American rite of passage: We bought our first home.

The large, open floor plan beckoned us. Before the ink was dry, we’d bought a lawnmower, buckets of paint, and some new appliances. We were all in. We wanted to get as much done as we could before the babies came.

A month later, my husband brought home a pink slip and the housing market died a fiery death — both results of the economic crash.

Overnight, instead of a homeowner’s blissful daydream, the house became a nightmare we couldn’t afford. We’d purchased the house for $240,000. Just weeks later, it was worth less than $150,000. Our mortgage stood at $1,200 a month, plus utilities, taxes, insurance, and everything that goes with the American Dream.

And before we could even process all this (and figure out how to move forward on my meager $40,000 salary), the twins came early. We found ourselves trapped in a hospital for 10 days while my tiny babies struggled to live and get bigger. In just two months, we’d gone from two people on the brink of traditional adult life to four people unable to afford the most basic necessities.

We struggled to feed our children and make ends meet, delving into our savings to cover the mortgage and other bills until that was totally depleted. Then we moved on to the life-saving state and federal programs available to people who have fallen on hard times.

And then things got worse. Our beautiful new-to-us home in Connecticut, built in 1987, needed more than updated cabinets. We found out the hard way.

One freezing day in late October, when my babies were just two months old, our furnace broke. No warning. It just stopped. Nothing cements the fear of poverty and the shame of helplessness like looking at your two newborn children swaddled in six layers crying in the cold of your home.

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