May 22, 2011

Boy, It's a Good Thing I Don't Have Any Readers

4 months. Yep, it's been almost that long since I've even whispered to my inner Spanxster, let alone log into blogger and bother spewing my consciousness all over the www.

I've started a new job, lost 5 pounds, had a gastrostomy done, lost my only male cousin to suicide, jumped up and down in excitement when my sister found out that she was having a miracle baby - - only to cry with her a week later when she Pride and Prejudice for the eleventy millionth time, bought an iPhone 4 (yes, it has changed my life though I still maintain a solid hatred for Apple products!), learned that my soul-dog has chronic bursitis in her shoulder, got a nasty flu virus...

And this morning I had a dream that I was finally. Finally. Having a Baby.
My eyes opened, I rolled on to my side in bed and I cried. Huge, gasping tears that seemed to come deep down from my empty uterus. Without my even knowing it, my arms wrapped around my abdomen and hugged tightly around the barren space that had, moments ago, been filled with life. It was one of those 3-D, virtual dreams - the type that cannot possibly be lost in a moment of wakefulness because it's sensory and vibrant.

This morning I was pregnant. But I am empty again, filled only by the most intense desire for something that has haunted me for 20 years. I've played an avoidance game for the last several years: up until recently, I've distanced myself from any hint of babies and children, anything that might increase the yearnings that are already so strong. I would avoid the baby section in Walmart, I'd hold myself back from speaking to a cute toddler, flip quickly past the photos of babies and make excuses not to see my friends who had children. When my sister had my twin nieces she called me on it - she wanted me to be their guardian but was worried about the emotional distance that I seemed to put between myself and those precious babies. And just like that it all spilled out of me - the envy that I felt, how difficult it was to face something that I wanted so badly but oh, god, I despaired that I might never have it! The ice cracked that day and I started opening up to other people's children again...but I still held myself back from actually planning having my own child.

The irony is that several years ago I decided that if I was still single and there was no chance of a relationship with a man by the time I was 32 (the number has often changed from 32 to 33 and back) then I would take the necessary steps to have a child by myself. I investigated single motherhood and IUI and ICI and various forms of man-less conception and talked to numerous people who were facing or had faced the same choice. I talked to my Doctor. I focused on my finances (which, granted, is smart) and the ethical and moral dilemmas involved in becoming what is commonly referred to as a Choice Mom. I did everything I could to inform myself of my choices while continuing to avoid any and all emotional implications. Because becoming emotionally invested in this process, in the creation of this possible child, means acknowledging that I might never fall in love again. It means that in exactly one year, one month and 24 days I will give up the dream of having this child with a man that I love.

It's terrifying. Not only in giving up on love, but just being the only parent. I go into this with eyes wide open; I was raised by a single mother who didn't receive any child support and made less than half of my salary. And it's still terrifying. I have a wonderful support system, a good job, great health benefits, a good head on my shoulders, I know how to budget like a pro and find the best deals. But Maternity leave is only 55% of my salary for a year...and I want that entire year with my child. And then there's childcare costs to think about, sports and clubs and clothing and toys and fun.

So I've created a massive spreadsheet that outlines the financial costs for year 1 after the baby is born - including a monthly budget - and how I plan  to supplement the meager maternity income. It's personal and real and helps to calm some of the anxiety of being a single parent. A few of the key items that I've calculated into my budget are:

~ Cloth Diapers

I've always preferred cloth to disposable diapers, even back when they were flat sheets folded and pinned with Diaper Pins that leaked horribly with heavy wetters and couldn't contain massive poo explosions. I don't like the chemicals in disposable diapers - did you know that most disposables are bleached with chlorine, and one of the by-products of that process is a carcinogenic chemical called Dioxin?? Wait, it gets better. There is no safe exposure level for Dioxin. That means that any exposure, no matter how minimal, is harmful. Then there's that crystal gel stuff that is in so many brands nowadays...Sodium Polyacrylate. That stuff was banned from tampons after some pretty solid suspicions that it causes toxic shock syndrome. Nope, I don't want any of that pressing up against my baby's tender privates!

Cloth diapers have less impact on the environment and are healthier and cheaper. And now, they are incredible. There are Pre-Folds, Wool Diaper Covers, Pocket Diapers, All In One systems (not my preference)...I've decided to start with a combination of Pre-Folds (PF's) and Fitted cloth diapers with Bummi Super Brites diaper covers (PUL's), as well as about half a dozen FuzziBunz One Size Pocket diapers. The former should last me approximately 6 months (depending on the baby's size) while the One Size Pocket diapers are incredibly adjustable and will grow with the baby until potty training!

The cost of purchasing the PF's, Fitted's and PUL's for 0 - 6 months is about $348 (including accessories). The FuzziBunz are $25 each at 6 = $150, and last one child about 3 years. That's a cost of about $25 every 6 months. Let's compare that against a lower-priced brand of organic disposables, which cost about $15/box at 30 diapers. That's $0.50 a diaper!! Over the course of 6 months, assuming 8 bum changes a day (less or more for newborns and toddlers), that's about $675.00!! Not to mention the gas cost of going to the store to buy disposables, the inconvenience of having to take baby out - remember, single mom!, the amount of space those boxes take up and the number of times that one has to take the trash out! (I don't do Diaper Genies. The thought of poopy diapers sitting in my house breeding bacteria for days makes me shudder!) And then, of course, there's the disposable wipes, chock full of more chemicals with a side of preservatives and fragrances etcetera etcetera, and ridiculously expensive. I'll be making my own wipe solution and using washable, cheap cloths from Walmart.

6 months of Disposable organic diapers: $675.00 + wipes (@ 0.06 / wipe = $230) + gas + inconvenience = $905.00
6 months of Cloth Diapers: $348.00 + $25.00 + laundering costs (every 2nd day about $15/month) + homemade bum wipes (25 pkg cotton cloths @ $19) + accessories (liners/Snappi's, about $20) = $427.00

That's a total savings of $478.00 over 6 months!! And the beauty of cloth diapers is that they can be used again for future kids (I'd like 2) or sold - their resale value is unbelievable!

~ Breast Feeding and Homemade Baby Food

I plan to breast feed. I probably don't need to tell you why. I've also always expected to make my own baby food, utilizing a food processor and a blender. So much healthier. So much cheaper! In an effort to keep this ridiculously long diatribe from becoming an essay, I won't detail the cost savings. Suffice it to say, I've got another spreadsheet. I'll save about 40 cents per ounce by taking an hour a week to make my own baby food. Doesn't seem like much? A 6 month old eats about 8 ounces of commercial baby food a day (yes, YMMV). I'll use Baby Gourmet, which is about 4 oz per package, and sold at Walmart for $1.47/pkg. It would cost about $2.94 (+tax) a day to feed Baby Gourmet (Stage 1) to a 6 month old baby. Not bad, right? That's $100 a month. I don't know about you, but I spend about a hundred dollars a month on groceries for myself, and I'm significantly larger than a 6 month old baby!! By making homemade baby food I can save almost half that, if not more, especially when fruits and vegetables are in season! And I can control the ingredients and ensure that there are no additives or preservatives and that my baby is eating the freshest, most nutritional food possible. And think of the variety!

I've already been told not to buy a crib/high chair/stroller/etc. I'm very lucky - my family and friends support me fully in this decision and can't wait to start spoiling the future baby. My Mom keeps asking me why I'm waiting another year to start trying; she constantly urges me to get it done tomorrow or next week. And a part of me knows that I could...but the responsible, parent-to-be side of me wants to ensure that I am as prepared as one can possibly be when bringing a new life into the world.

So I'll wait, and I'll work towards being the best Mom I can possibly be. And I'll wake up in the morning, sure that I was pregnant, and worry that I might have problems getting pregnant (I have endometriosis, le sigh), and continue to look for true love until July 15, 2012. Mommyhood, here I come!

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