Mike: Hey Ester!
Ester: Hey Mike! I’m excited to be talking about Babies, even though I don’t have one yet. I am, however, beginning to Feather the Nest, which means making financial choices. Very exciting.
Mike: I felt the baby moving around last weekend! After asking you if I could touch your stomach, of course, because I know how weird it is when people touch your stomach without asking. The baby is arriving in less than two months?
Ester: Less than six weeks! I’ll be full term very soon. Also, my boss just called me “Fatso,” so clearly everyone has a different understanding of the rules governing pregnant women. :)
Mike: Oh, that’s so not cool.
Ester: I would say, as a general rule, calling anyone “Fatso” is not a great idea, but you know, bygones.
Mike: Okay, so let’s talk about baby planning. Babies are expensive! In vitro can cost $20,000 per round, as we learned earlier this week. But you were able to conceive naturally, so you were able to skip those costs.
Ester: So, yes, it can be very expensive to try to have a baby by less conventional means. It my case, I got to save money, which I had been spending every month for ten years.
Mike: Oh really? How so?
Ester: Co-pays for birth control, which will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the ACA. Occasionally I have had gaps in health insurance coverage, meaning I had to pay out of pocket, and that was really rough.
The birth control that I found worked best for me (and had the fewest side effects) does not, unfortunately, have a generic version available, so when I had to pay out of pocket, the costs approached $100 per month. And hey, over the past nine months, I’ve saved on tampons, too! (No one gets pregnant to save on tampons, but it is a little-discussed plus.)
Mike: Haha. Well, I was going to say you also saved money on booze, but you don’t drink alcohol.
Ester: True! But I could have started. There’s a great Simpsons episode where the family has to save money, and Bart says, “I’ll take up smoking, and then quit!” I could have done that too.
Mike: But you shifted the money you saved into things for the baby, right? Can you tell me a little bit about some of the costs associated with preparing for this baby to arrive?
Ester: Oh yes. Ok! Baby costs. So first of all, I should say that I’m not the kind of person who has been waiting to have a baby since I could first hold a doll. I am not instinctively maternal (though puppies and other tiny mammals with big eyes elicit emotions from me I cannot logically explain).
Mike: And people should also know how old you and your husband are, which is 30.
Ester: Right. But basically, we made this decision in a very practical fashion. We figured that since we would regret NOT having kids, we should capitalize on our relative youth, health, & financial stability while they last and do so now.
That may be why, though, in part, we haven’t gone Kid Crazy and decorated a nursery or had a shower or invested in a lot of stuffed animals and “Made in Brooklyn” onesies and other cutesy things.
Mike: Oh, you’re definitely not the stereotypical Brooklyn stroller pusher.
Ester: Perhaps not.
Though I develop serious inferiority complexes just walking around my neighborhood. The biggest purchase we have made for the baby is our two-bedroom apartment. (Also a practical decision.) Otherwise, we’ve gotten everything either second-hand or for free.
Mike: Yes, you and your husband are one of the few couples I know who have bought real estate in Brooklyn. Also, you both are very good with money.
Ester: (Aw, thank you.)
Mike: What are the things you’ve gotten second-hand or free?
Ester: I consulted trustworthy friends who assured me that, for the first few months, you really don’t need a lot of STUFF. Also, I keep reassuring myself that in Anne Lamott’s brilliant memoir, Operating Instructions, she basically dresses the baby in sacks for a while, figuring the baby doesn’t know the difference, and why waste the cash?
Mike: I think that’s a very rational way of thinking about things! I know I’d go totally baby crazy and go out to buy all of the outlet covers to protect the baby from being electrocuted.
Ester: Either second-hand or free, we have gotten: 1) a little bassinet-y type thing that folds up and rocks, which you can put next to the bed for the baby to sleep in for the first few months; 2) a changing table with lots of compartment; 3) a sling; 4) some clothes and what are essentially burrito-wrappings for the baby. Apparently they like being swaddled into giant immobile tortillas.
Oh, and a Bumbo chair? I don’t know what it is exactly, but someone gave it to us. That’s it! We probably need some diapers. I hear babies like to poop.
Mike: I will get you some diapers! And then you’ll have everything!
Ester: Yay! I read on the internet about Man Baby Showers, where guys come bringing beer in one hand and diapers in the other and they sit around and be manly and drink and leave the diapers. Soon the New York Times will write a feature on this phenomenon. I can feel it.
Mike: Oh, I bet they will. And I’m happy to bring your husband beer and diapers.
Ester: Lots of my lady friends would I’m sure be willing to bring beer and diapers too. People like beer! Especially in the summer. But we may go cloth? (Eek.)
This is the part where I decide just how Brooklyn I am going to be about this pregnancy. I am seeing a midwife and delivering in the birthing center, which, among its other advantages, is cheaper than delivering in a hospital.
Mike: So let’s talk about those costs. Will your delivery be covered, or are you expected to pay for some of it?
Ester: Um! Gee. I guess I kind of assumed my insurance would cover it? That is a fascinating question and it unveils my innocence—and also horror—around things related to health insurance.
In other words, I should probably look into that. (Meanwhile, here’s a Hospital vs. Birthing Center FAQ. It mentions that costs are lower at Birthing Centers.)
Mike: You seemed so relaxed about having this baby! But I’m sure you and your husband are prepared to pay for whatever (if anything) your insurance doesn’t cover.
Ester: It is a very good idea to know what those costs will be before-hand, though, so thank you for reminding me to wade into that fireswamp. What I would really pay for is one of those Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-like memory treatments to wipe the Labor and Delivery experience away afterwards.
Mike: I’m sending out good vibes out in the universe that you’ll have an easy delivery. Which you didn’t schedule right? You’re not planning on having a C-section?
Ester: Thank you! And my evangelical Christian friend is going to pray for me, so hopefully many bases will be covered. Nope! C-Sections—particularly planned ones—are so not Brooklyn.
Mike: Haha, of course. So, what’s interesting to me is that I feel like most people think they have to save up a ton of money to have a baby, but it’s really about making adjustments, and the cost isn’t too significant.
Ester: That is definitely what we’re hoping.
Mike: I mean, there is still a cost, but you stop doing the things you used to do like go out to dinner, and you just stay home with the baby.
Mike: You’ll shift the costs of being social back at home? Do you see it that way?
Ester: I can’t tell whether that’s a bit naive, or too much to hope for …
I do know there are a lot of health costs at the beginning (again, which should be covered by insurance) including inoculations and lots of visits with a pediatrician. But many of the costs associated with a child do seem to be somewhat voluntary? Maybe? I mean, that movie Babies makes it pretty clear that infants do well with nothing but sand and goats to play with.
Mike: Oh, I do love that movie. I forgot about that!
Ester: But the idea that you have to be totally stable, married, employed homeowners is taking things to an extreme, I think.
Mike: Just covered by health insurance I suppose.
Ester: That definitely helps. But people have babies everywhere under all kinds of circumstances! It used to be normal for parents to be pretty poor when they started out—they would draw on families and networks for support. Maybe it wasn’t easy, but the mentality wasn’t as neurotic and Type A as it seems to be now, at least in our cohort.
Mike: Oh I agree. My parents didn’t have a lot, but we managed. Ok! So what would you say is the best gift you could get a new mother?
Ester: A subscription to the Park Slope Parents listserv, if the new mother is in Brooklyn or the environs. One of my friends paid the entrance fee for me, and I’ve gotten almost all of my free or used stuff from that list. It’s like a power sorority—full of connections! It opens so many doors!
Mike: Oh, I didn’t know such a thing existed! And if you’re not in NYC?
Ester: Hmm. That’s tricky, because I don’t know yet what it will turn out that I need. But I have found it very helpful for friends to be calm and flexible, to give advice when asked and otherwise not.
Like I said, we’ve had a strict No Shower policy, so we haven’t gotten gifts, per se. I think the biggest help will be friends taking it upon themselves to organize some sort of schedule for checking in on us post-birth to see if we’re drowning and if there’s some small thing they can help with. That would be amazing. I would be much more grateful for that than for a diaper genie. (I still don’t know what a diaper genie is, but they mention them a lot on Sex and the City.)
Mike: Count me in. I love babies. I can’t wait to hang out with you and the baby.
Ester: Thanks, Mike! Obviously you will be the greatest.
Mike: Well, I will try!
Photo: Flickr/Magic Madzik