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The Ultimate BabyCost Matrix

“All babies need is boobs.”

This may well be true, especially from an evolutionary standpoint. Certainly no one argues that babies need to be fed, and that “breast is best.” (Well, almost no one argues that last point, though I admit the tone can be a bit sanctimonious – how much “better” is “best”? I’ll post my own thoughts later.)

What, then, is the Baby Industrial Complex doing to take over our hearts and minds with the “YOU MUST OWN THIS” mentality?

Five years ago while puttering around on the internet and talking intermittently with a coworker who was my age about her experiences as a mom of twins (!) I thought I’d start a little private wishlist. Because, you know, I’d like to be a mom someday. And breastfeed someday. But I’ll probably have to work, so I better put bottles and a good pump on that list. Breastfeeding was hard for her, so maybe I should have some money saved up for a lactation consultant. And research more about natural childbirth. Hmm, might need some maternity clothes that double as nursing attire. I guess my kid’s gonna need a bath sometimes? What about a highchair or crib? Should I be thinking of cosleeping?

Ooh, cloth diapering! I’m totally doing that! But what the heck is with ALL THESE CLOTH DIAPERS???

And toys? Does my newborn or infant really need anything beyond lots of time and attention from loving parents and caregivers? (Where am I going to find the time?)

I’m supposed to get an infant carseat, right? MAN THOSE THINGS ARE UGLY. Do I have to get a stroller? Can’t I just put the baby in a sling/wrap/carrier and call it a day?

If you look at every single one of the Amazon Listmania!’s out there on “MUST HAVE” or “STUFF WE NEVER USED” baby products, you’ll find a wide area of overlap. One parent’s “lifesaver” is another’s “useless junk.” But, how can you tell ahead of time what is and isn’t useless junk for you and your newborn? How do you plan for and budget for this sort of stuff? Read more…


Book Review – The Birth Partner

I bought this as a gift, having never read anything but the Amazon reviews for it. Now that I’ve read it, I have to say I can’t wait until XY has a chance to read it himself. While there are plenty of books out there on the “whys” of attempting unmedicated birth, the how-tos, especially for those NOT in the throes of labor pains, are rather short. I guess most of that info is supposed to come in the childbirthing class? In the Birth Partner, Simkin does a great outline of everything in stages, explains emotions a mother may feel (that she may not be able to clearly express in the moment), and what a partner can do to support them. Read more…


So I went to see a midwife yesterday for my annual well-woman visit. She was, of course, super cool, because that’s how midwives are. (All of them.) The midwifery model of care views childbirth as a normal life process, and stresses non-intervention wherever possible in supporting it. I’ve researched long and hard for a new care provider for my gynecological needs in town, and considered going with the midwife who was recommended to me by the last OB I saw locally (incidentally, the OB who birthed me nearly 30 years ago – really weird, I know). But since I’m overthinking things I decided I really wanted a midwifery practice, since a single midwife in an office of OBs wouldn’t have another CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife – a master’s level certification here in the U.S.) for backup necessarily. Going with a midwife team would mean that no matter what, an OB would be my backup delivery provider only if a surgical delivery was truly required.

Of course, XY and I aren’t even talking conception yet, but I want to make sure that whatever provider I choose would be someone who would support the kind of birth I’d like: vaginal, natural, focused on me-as-mom as well as protective of the life of my baby. Read more…

Pre-Preconception thoughts

What’s the most poetic way to say you’re on your period? “On my moon” comes to mind, though I have no idea what hippie resource I first procured that one from. I remember a college roommate (who later decided to identify as non-gendered) loved that particular phrase when I shared it with her as a freshman. Anyway, I’m menstrual, in the full flow of things, with nary a uterine lining in sight, except in the toilet or on my cloth pads (TOLD you I was a hippie).

Despite this turn of events, I’m hardly so baby-rabid that I’d care about actually being pregnant right NOW NOW NOW. Usually these days my period’s more relief than anything – we have way too much else to worry about besides impending spawn. But it does always make me think about my own health and what needs to be done to keep my plumbing, etc. in pristine baby-ready condition. Beyond getting finances in order and buying our first home, what else do XY and I need to think about to have a baby? Read more…

Unicorn Home

So XY and I were walking home from a party last night where I got my baby-talk on with a couple of very nice soon-to-be parents (coming up this summer). While we were walking, I started talking condos and association fees and he’s all, “Wait, I thought you wanted a single family home?” (Full disclosure: This poor man suffers through so much baby and house talk that we had to impose a rule where I’m only allowed to bring up such subjects with him four days a week. Instead of his having to put up with me talking about the same things over and over anymore, I started a blog.) A few weeks ago, I was talking with him about getting a single family home instead of a condo, since they are an option in our city and they even happen occasionally in our neighborhood (which has all the advantages of being close to the lake, El, and relatively cheap for a Chicago ‘hood). The problem? Dolla dolla bills and an emotional wife who can barely imagine putting up one more minute (some days) in our “1920’s vintage” one bedroom apartment with the stopped-up drain and the abused shared washers in our coin laundry. We currently have a decent stash saved for our down payment and due to budgeting that is letting us save $1200-$1500 a month will continue to do so for the next six to 18 months (if we haven’t found a place we love, we’re going to take a break once we hit $30 or $40 K and concentrate instead on paying down our massive student loan debt, the only debt we currently carry (besides our credit cards, whose balances get paid every month)). Condos in our neighborhood are priced very competitively, have lots of things we currently don’t enjoy (like parking spaces, extra bedrooms and in-unit laundry) while having all the features we do like (high ceilings, big rooms in charming older buildings). They also have association fees, which can run up your monthly  bills before taxes and utilities…and depending on how poorly the association is funded, and how badly the building needs maintenance, can cost you and your fellow owners a pretty penny. Oh, and speaking of those fellow owners – you share walls with them. An idea which XY HATES (even though he’s fine with it for the next 18 months: since he hates moving so much, he wants to live in a place where he really can imagine staying for-ev-er if need be).

Me? I’m not so sure I want our next home to be our “forever” home, but I do want it to be a place we can chill out for five to ten years, enjoy life with our first kid or two, and not worry too much about the cost of taxes or our mortgage (even having saved a higher down payment, the higher cost of buying a single family home in our ‘hood would mean a substantially higher mortgage…and with it, less savings and more pressure to workworkwork to pay the bills). We both feel very strongly that we’d like to stay in the same neighborhood, because it’s very likeable and comfortable. Having the lake right there is AWESOME. And as far as kids go? We need space (at least six rooms, at least three with doors, plus storage). I aspire to minimalism and would love to share some of my thoughts on “bare minimums” for babies, but XY wants an office to call his own (right now he’s in a corner of the dining room, which he dislikes). And though we may end up cosleeping for the first year, it’s probably not a long-term solution, so I want a well-ventilated room with a door to serve as a sleeping place for our little one… and to have that room ready and waiting from day one.

Read more…

Is overthinking parenting such a bad thing?

Well, “overthinking” by definition implies “you’re thinking too much/hard.” I’d say most people say I do too much for a person with zero kids and an empty uterus. I certainly feel very strongly that “the best laid plans” may amount to zilch, and I am fully aware of that when I research other parent’s experiences with children and parenting. Mostly, it’s something I want so badly…that I just can’t help it.

However, sadly, we do have plenty of folks who have clearly DO NOT THINK about the fact that they are responsible for the most vulnerable members of our society. Clearly some amount of thinking helps in making a good parent. Personally, I’m of the opinion that any parent who has ever had a moment of doubt about a parenting decision is a Good Parent. That parenting decision? That implies thinking. That moment of doubt? That implies critical thinking, and trying to figure out the long term implications of whatever choice is on the table. This group includes, luckily for us, almost everyone who has chosen to have or adopt a child.

But what should people be thinking about before they have a child? Read more…

Diaper dreams

Well, no, I haven’t actually had any dreams about diapers. Yet.

But flitting throughout all these big-picture questions about how to raise kids that I’ve been researching for six years has been a question of what to do about excrement. It’s pretty unavoidable, so you might as well think of some solution. Things would get dirty pretty fast if you didn’t do anything.

If you’re a hippie like me, your first thought goes to the most sustainable, of course. Cloth diapers, it turns out, are only second on the sustainability list. Position number one goes to Elimination Communication (or E.C.), also known as infant-potty training. Contrary to the information that is still being written in child development textbooks, most traditional cultures have recognized that human babies (like puppies and kittens) have some awareness of their elimination needs from birth. They can actually “hold it”, if they notice that their caregivers are paying attention to where and when they poop and pee. Somehow in the past fifty plus years of baby-rearing the idea that babies know when to poop got nixed as hogwash. The theory circulated that incomplete myelination of the nervous tissue running to the anus and genitals meant that babies had no awareness of when to go (true about the myelin, but demonstrable impact on pee/poop control is completely unstudied. Get on with it scientists!). Analyzed in conjunction with abusive, fear-based potty learning tactics historically relied on in our culture (though these were probably the exception and not the rule), the experts concluded that it was not only an error to introduce the potty too early, it was downright mean. So over the past half century the average age of potty learning in North America and Europe moved from around one to around three years of age – and combined with the explosion in disposable diaper use, led to a vast increase of pollution output per child. Read more…