As any new parent can attest to, those early hours, days and weeks with a new baby are beyond challenging.

In the fourth trimester (a common term for a baby’s first three months in the outside world), this brand new little human you’re tasked with keeping alive will give you vague clues about what they want or need from you, but it’s a learning process along the way for both parent and child

As I write this, in my first week back from maternity leave, my son is nearly five months old. Last night, he slept through the night for the first time. The chubby little boy is curious, playful and easy going. However, we hit a lot of roadblocks over these past months — and I couldn’t have survived it all without my employer-sponsored benefits plan.

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It started at his birth, when he decided he was quite comfortable on the inside and had to be yanked out aggressively with forceps. What a way to enter the world! As a result, he had jaw, neck and spine issues that impacted his latch and positioning for breastfeeding. Even though we’ve now come a long way, each time he crosses a growth spurt landmark, his little body protests and he takes one step back.

To help with these issues, my son has been seeing a chiropractor since he was a month old. She tests his range of movement, feels inside his mouth, then practices a very gentle adjustment and cranial massage. For the most part, he loves it — and I always notice improvements in the following days.

New motherhood has affected my spine as well — breastfeeding, pumping, rocking and bouncing baby all do a number on the back — so I’ve also been joining my son for a chiropractic adjustment and following up with a monthly therapeutic massage.

These sessions add up, so I’m lucky my company’s paramedical benefits partially cover both of our chiro appointments and my massage therapy with the rest overflowing to my health-care spending account.

Read: Head to head: Should employers allow staff to carry over their annual paramedical coverage?

While the first roadblocks were the forceps-related injuries, which affected his latch and positioning, all of this subsequently impacted my milk supply. We had a few sessions with a local lactation consultant, which is covered through provincial health care in Ontario. But when it was clear our issues were a bit more complex — my son also has a minor posterior tongue tie — we were referred to a specialist clinic in Toronto. Normally, the cost would be out of pocket, but I learned lactation consultants are covered on my group benefits plan. To remedy the milk supply, I was also prescribed domperidone, which is very expensive and was fortunately also covered by the drug portion of my group benefits plan.

In addition to all of these physical issues, life with a newborn — and as a solo parent, in the midst of a global pandemic — has been mentally challenging as well. I have received great virtual support from my family and friends, but it’s been so important for me to also be able to speak to my therapist. Even before the pandemic, our sessions were online, but it’s been so essential for me to continue during this time of big change.

My group benefits plan covers three-quarters of the cost of these sessions, with the remainder topped up by my health-care spending account. The account’s annual allowance is $500 so I’ve been able to use it for the overflow of all of my paramedical and mental-health spend.

Read: Back to basics on health-care spending accounts

Before baby, I’d always made good use of my workplace benefits plan. Writing about the topic for more than 10 years, I’m well-versed in what’s available and which aspects of the plan are important to me. I chose to continue to pay the premiums — a challenge without my salary or a top-up from my employer, as well as Canada’s very lean parental leave benefits program — but if this plan had been paused during my maternity leave, it would have been a real blow to my son’s, as well as my, physical well-being and my emotional wellness.

I’m so grateful I had this opportunity to carry on with the coverage, knowing my employer was still looking after me while I took this valuable time with my baby boy.