When I became pregnant with my first child my husband and I weren’t doing well financially. We had been married only a year and we were still trying to figure out how to budget what little money we had. We knew that we had no money but we didn’t want to wait until we were rich to have kids. We knew that we would never be rich. We were going to be lower to middle class for a long time. We took a Financial Freedom Class by Dave Ramsey and tried to work through his baby steps but we were stuck on baby step number one: getting $1000 into an emergency fund. And we didn’t want to wait to have a baby any longer so we foolishly threw our Dave Ramsey knowledge aside.
I scoured the internet to find out how I could be poor and still become a mommy. I discovered a wonderful blog post about this very topic by Ashley Koch over at ashleynkoch.blogspot.com She suggests several things one can do to save money right off the bat like planning on nursing, cloth diapering, baby wearing instead of a stroller, and using a Pack n’ Play instead of a crib. These are all great ideas and I recommend using these ideas if you are able to.
After reading that blog post, I felt confident that I could do those things and everything would just work out. Little did I know that my own baby would not be quite as corporative.
When my daughter was born, we discovered she had a severe tongue and lip tie. This isn’t the kind that you took a doctor’s word for, this was the kind that you could see, the kind that you knew her mouth wasn’t quite right. We tried nursing with great difficulty and ended up having to feed her with a syringe until we could get her lip and tongue released.
Unfortunately, since we had not been doing well financially, we only had about $500 total in our savings account. This operation would cost about that much or more and we knew we were in trouble. Luckily our family blessed us with the money we needed so that we could do the surgery then repay them. Without them I’m not sure what we would have done. But not everyone has family who can give them money like that. After going through this experience I would definitely suggest having an emergency fund set up before having a baby. We really weren’t expecting all of the problems that we had.
Breastfeeding was still an issue and after exclusively nursing for two months we had to start supplementing with formula. The regular formula was provided for us by WIC. But then we found out our daughter had silent reflux and was reacting to the formula. We tried three different formulas and all three formulas were upsetting her tummy. You can read my horror story of how my daughter had an allergic reaction to Alimentum.
Long story short, we ended up having to make our own formula using goat’s milk. This was not provided by WIC because our daughter was under one year old and they have very strict stipulations on who can qualify for using goat milk. Even though her naturopath pediatrician prescribed this type of milk, we couldn’t get WIC to help us. So this was another unexpected cost that we weren’t sure how we could pay for.
Where I live, goat milk is about $4.29 a quart. My daughter was going through about a gallon or more a week as an infant. But the formula wasn’t just milk. It needed things added to it to insure it was nutritionally rounded. It required a sugar source such as molasses or pure maple syrup, vitamins, probiotics, purified water, and fish oil. Sure we didn’t have to buy all of those ingredients weekly, but they still added up! We tried our very best to cut back on our grocery bill to add these ingredients. In those days we ate a lot of soup, rice, and oatmeal. Looking back I really wish I had been more savvy about lowering our grocery bill to what is it now. But we just didn’t know. We were so naïve!
I also discovered that my baby did NOT like to be worn. She screamed bloody murder in any kind of pack or wrap. I tried all of the kinds of wraps people suggested. (Just a side note: I am not anit-baby wearing but I do truly believe that it depends on your baby’s temperament whether they can be “worn.”) Luckily, again, we were blessed by a family member and were given a stroller to use. We didn’t have one because we thought we wouldn’t need to use one.
Then to top it off, cloth diapering wasn’t working for us either. After suffering from severe postpartum depression I wasn’t able to keep up with the cloth diapering laundry. Then we ended up moving in with my in-laws to get more help with our daughter so that I could recover. When we moved, we started using an older washer for the cloth diapers. When I felt that I could handle the responsibility of doing laundry again I decided to give the cloth diapers another try. But for some reason my daughter was getting a terrible rash, like an ammonia burn every time she would wear her diapers. I didn’t know at the time that the water was hard and had high alkalinity. So I had to move to disposables. That was another unexpected cost.
But again, our family was extremely helpful and randomly gave us packages of diapers. We also purchased big boxes of diapers from Target to get a better deal. If only I knew that purchasing diapers name brand on Amazon and using their Subscribe & Save and Amazon Prime, would actually turn out cheaper than Target, I would have done it long ago.
I wanted to write this article not to discourage poor moms like me, but to be very honest about things that could happen that need to be considered. I wish that nursing worked for us, I wish my daughter didn’t need surgery, I wish I knew more about cloth diapering to fix the water and ammonia issues, I wish my baby liked being worn, I wish I didn’t get postpartum depression, but these things happened. And we were simply not prepared for them. The last thing I want is to make this “a horror story of what will go wrong with your baby.” But I just want to be open about the hard things that no one likes to hear when they have their hearts set on having a baby right now!
Some things I would suggest for moms like me who are tired of waiting to “be rich or have money” so that they can have a baby:
-Have an emergency fund of at least $1,000, but preferably one that is 3 times the amount of your monthly expenses incase you or your husband gets laid off or you have unexpected medical emergencies. This is seriously one of the hardest steps. If you have a very low income, it really is difficult to come up with this type of money. Saving this money may take some time but it is absolutely worth it in the long run.
-Plan on doing all of the things in the blog post I mentioned above: nurse, cloth diaper, wear your baby, etc. But consider the cost of formula, disposable diapers, and unexpected baby gear purchases and put them in your budget. If you are able to budget for these items and know that you could afford them before you have a baby, you will know that it is possible to afford it if you end up needing any of those things.
-Create a budget if you don’t have one, and stick to it! If you can successfully stick to your budget that you’ve created around potential baby needs, you’ll be ok. It is true that babies don’t need all of the ridiculous baby gadgets available. But you will need some, so it’s important to be realistic about what those expenses may be.
-Have a baby shower and ask for things like bigger baby gear, diapers, and cans of formula. That way, incase you end up needing those things, you have some of it already. If you don’t end up needing those items (and hopefully you won’t) you can sell the gear or donate the formula and diapers to a woman in need, a church, or a pregnancy resource center.
Babies can end up costing a lot even if you do your very best to do most things for cheap or free. It’s good to be prepared for unexpected problems so that life isn’t so difficult later. This post isn’t intended to discourage anyone from having a baby. And there are plenty of ways to save money when deciding to have a baby. I hope you’re able to find ways to have a baby with your current income. Babies don’t need too much; just some love, food, clothes, and something to catch their poop. By whatever means you have, if you can provide those things, you can have a baby. Good luck to you all!