When we finally began planning for our second child, we used to refer to him as “Baby Zero.” We had ambitious plans of trading all of our old girl clothes for boy clothes, exclusively breastfeeding, getting hand-me-down cloth diapers and a friend’s old crib, and reusing all of our toys from our daughter’s babyhood to have a child that, once he was actually out and the hospital bill was paid for, would cost us next to nothing in expenses.
But, just like last time, breastfeeding didn’t work out. During a period when he began to get dehydrated he lost enough weight that what little pee and poop he passed came right through the cloth diapers that gaped around his tiny, wrinkled thighs. Once we admitted he would need to be a formula child we bought the bottles and the containers and he grew overnight. In fact, he grew right out of all of those baby clothes we traded for, which were now too small and all of the larger clothes were short sleeved and too cold for winter.
And then the spit up started. Oh, how the spit up started.
Now Baby Zero is four months old. He refuses to sleep in the crib we borrowed and we had to buy a portable rocker at six weeks to get him to sleep anywhere but in our arms. We bought new swaddles as he outgrew his newborn one, because he still startles in his sleep without it and wakes himself up. He’s gone through three month nipples and is ready to start six month ones, he’s moved into nine month clothes and he throws up on at least three outfits a day.
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Then there are the hospital bills, which we just finally paid the last one of this month.
This week he will be starting daycare for the first time, joining his sister. I had hoped to keep him home with me for most of the first year, as I did with my first child. Instead, I barely made it to four months. We’ve had to go through our finances, weigh the costs of care with the benefits of me working. Like most families, the income and benefits we get from one salary isn’t quite enough to make ends meet. But there’s a delicate balance between the amount of money I can make as a freelancer and the hours I need to put into working, and at three months in I realized that trying to work through the night and then parent a child all day is harming me and my family more than it is helping. Still, we can’t do full time care at the center, as having two children in daycare full time is literally the exact same amount of money that my husband brings home each month.
These are the things I think about when I read stories of crisis pregnancy centers, “positive alternative acts,” and all of the other groups that promise a pregnant woman that they will take care of her financially if she will just turn away from abortion and come to their center. I’ve heard the “sidewalk counselors” myself promise assistance ranging from financial care to someone to watch their baby to housing to jobs.
A donation of a container of formula to a crisis pregnancy center is a wonderful thing. It will also keep that child fed for four days at best, a week if it’s a newborn. A box of diapers is a $40 commitment. We go through one a week.
We’ve all seen the statistic that it will cost nearly $500,000 to raise a child to age 18. But the costs of that first year can often be the most staggering. We spend $60 a week on formula. We spend $40 a week on diapers. We buy everything in bulk. We buy the cheapest clothing we can when he’s gone on to a new size. Baby car seats, strollers, cribs, bassinet, excersausers, blankets. We had to buy extra bottles so they are ready to go for the daycare center. Most of them we recycled, or borrowed, but even so we need about $50 a month just in incidentals ranging from diaper rash ointment to baby wash.
An infant will likely cost $200 a month to feed if you are not breastfeeding. And the women who pregnancy centers are offering to assist financially are not likely to be breastfeeding — they have jobs that barely give them paid bathroom breaks, much less time to go and pump. You never see a pregnancy center ask for people to donate breast pumps, pads or storage bottles and bags.
An infant will likely cost $160 a month to diaper. I’ve never seen a center ask for cloth diaper donations, and the initial expense of purchasing is out of reach for a woman who is considering abortion for financial reasons.
An infant will likely cost $50 a month for creams, wipes, bottles, blankets, carriers, swaddles, strollers, bouncers, books, toys, rattles, shoes, clothing, pacifiers, soap, washrags, bathtubs, spit up cloths, changing pads, cribs, pack and plays, etc. Yes, you can get many of these things cheap, or as hand-me-downs. You’ll never get them all, though, and that’s why it will be at least $50 a month.
An infant costs $50 a month in laundry. You will do laundry every day. The baby will soil numerous outfits. Not just baby outfits, but mommy outfits. If you have a washer and dryer, expect your water and electricity bill to jump at least $40 a month. If you do not, you will be looking at spending at least that amount at the laundromat, plus extra for transportation. Or, you could buy more clothes to do it less often, which then ups the amount of your monthly incidentals. I’ve never heard of a center that offers to take in and do a woman’s laundry for her for free. They really should — that would be more help than a container of formula in both time and money, frankly.
Just these basic costs total nearly $500 a month. This is before hospital bills for, doctors bills if your child gets sick, or the anywhere from $800 to $1500 a month that childcare costs, especially since states and the federal government have cut back on low income child care subsidies. Also cut in the last budget was WIC, a program meant to help women with subsidized formula for their children, a cut that was approved by the same Republicans who have tried to cut off access to abortion. And offered up for cuts in 2012 by these Republicans are Medicaid, which would help the mother provide affordable medical care for her child, food stamps, which would help her be able to feed herself and her other children so they do not get ill, and education programs that would allow her child to start school early and allow her to be able to work without paying the extraordinarily high costs of daycare.
An infant costs between $500 and $2000 a month to care for. By the time he or she has made it through the first year, the expenses will run anywhere between $6000 and $24,000 — all before the actual costs of medical care or giving birth.
Is every “sidewalk counselor” and anti-abortion politician ready to really take on the financial commitment that an infant represents? Or do they want to continue saying a car sear, a jug of formula and a box of Pampers is all a woman really needs?