Dr. B and I have never been monetarily wealthy, at least according to American standards. He's been a student (ad nauseum), and I've taught in parochial school (which, despite the high cost, doesn't exactly reward the teachers well. Most teachers consider the approximately 30% pay cut their tithe to the church. I didn't attend these churches, so I just considered it having a job and eating on a regular basis.) We spent our meager savings (and more) to take a post-doc in France, and we don't regret it one bit. Except, of course, for the fact that we are still not caught up, despite his good post-doc position here in the US. The move, all the little things, and sporadic subbing combined with sick days, hospital visits, and the need for bigger clothing for me really adds up. (And don't even get me started on the student loans...)
So, needless to say, Dr. B has been a bit stressed about money lately. He is a confirmed worrywart anyway, and these concerns really have been getting to him. Being the bargain-hunter I am, I have been scouring the web, searching for deals, doing research, and trying to find ways to prepare for this coming baby without putting us into more debt. I borrowed a book from a friend, Baby Bargains, which has helped a great deal with the research, telling me what you need, what you don't, which are the best, and what to ask a rich relative to buy for you. (Note: check this one out from the library or borrow it--a new, updated version comes out in April.) I read up on cribs, strollers, monitors, maternity clothes, wipe warmers (not suggested), bottle heaters, humidifiers--you name it, they cover it. I had already been shopping for used items, planning for what I wanted and what we really needed, and avoiding falling into the trap of getting or registering for everything under the sun. Yes, there are certain items I will want, but I am a planner, a bargain shopper, and I don't believe I need every new thing just because the commercials on TV tell me I do.
After a few days trapped in the house while waiting for the school district to get my paperwork done (who knew it would take 2 months to get hired to sub?), I was going stir-crazy. I don't do boredom well. The house was clean. The laundry was done, and ironed. A 3-course meal was on the table, with ironed tablecloth and candles, every night. I had Mr. Clean Magic Erased everything in sight. I needed to get out, NOW.
After supper, Dr. B asked what I would like to do. I told him that I would really like to show him some of the baby things I'd looked at, to get his ideas on them. I was proud of my work, and was really looking forward to sharing this experience with him, but I also knew he wasn't much of a shopper, so I planned carefully. I thought he could handle it, if I just explained things to him as we went along. I'd skip Babies'R'Us, because the big box would be horribly overwhelming for him (he'd just shut down.) We'd look at some cribs and strollers at USA Baby, just to get some ideas. Since that was a bit high-end (though the service was great), I wanted to show him the comparison by taking him into Kids-R-Us's baby section (the big baby store was across town, this was just a little part) and Target. He began to understand some of the comparisons I was making, but regardless, he didn't exactly take it well. He saw the things we "needed", the prices, began adding things up in his head (which, despite his PhD in Chemistry, he doesn't always do very well), and he panicked. Angry, yelling, won't-look-at-me panicked.
"We don't need this! Safety schmafety! This is just the American corporation trying to scare you into spending more money. Bull***t! I don't buy it. We'll just get the cheapest crib at IKEA and that's good enough. Who needs a drop side? You can just bend over. Who cares if it looks nice? It doesn't need to be sturdy--it's a baby!!! She's just going to lie there! (Yes, he hasn't been around many young children. Don't worry, he'll learn.) We don't need any of this crap. Babies have been born for millenia and didn't need no stinkin' bouncy seat. Diaper pail that seals up the poopies like a sausage???? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!"
I swear, if it were up to him, he'd dig a hole under the kid's bare butt, give them a rock to play with, and call it a day.
We discussed things in the car.
He said, "you're breast-feeding. Formula is too expensive."
"What if I can't? What if there's no latch? What if I get sore, cracked breasts and it's extremely painful?"
He looked at me in horror. He said, "we are going to use the G diapers. Better for the environment."
"What if they don't work?" I replied. "What if they leak liquid poo all over? What if they take seven flushes to flush and back up our entire septic system? Do you like mopping liquid doody off the bathroom floor?"
I calmly continued. "We need to have plan B's prepared, is all I'm saying. We need to be informed."
I pulled into Barnes and Noble, ordered him an espresso, and let him loose. He headed toward the science book section (AKA the place where nobody else ever goes--proven: you can die of boredom, and no one would find your body for weeks.) I sat at the café table, reading through the book and browsing through magazines.
Half an hour later he returned, and we sat together, discussed his fears (and the fact that we don't have to buy all of this stuff this month and there may be even a few gifts in the future), and pored over some baby name books. We came up with 3 new contenders for a middle name, and actually agreed on one of them. He smiled again. He would survive this.
So, I went back to my original plans. I accepted the offers of clothes and assorted items as hand-me-downs from my SIL, cousin and a friend in town with a 5-month old girl. Grandma promised a special baby dresser my grandfather built 60 years ago. An oak rocker I had found at a garage sale this summer would be a great spot for rocking our little one. My sister's fiancé works for Manhattan Toy and is a great source for lots of educational and colorful toys purchased at cost, I collaborated with an overseas friend, and I scoured Craig's List (Madison). (Garage sales will have to wait--this is Wisconsin in January.) And I found some bargains. My proven Craig's List method of asking a question immediately when I am interested in something (to get dibs) paid off, and I was able to make a couple of new scores.
Last night, Dr. B took a look at the things I had found. A Graco Pack-N-Play play yard (playpen for us 70's babes) with bassinet and changing table, a Baby Bjorn carrier, and a Peg Perego Pliko stroller, that once I had cleaned it up with some upholstery cleaner and Formula 409, looked pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.
"You got all of this for less than the cost of the stroller new?"
"Yes. A lot less." A self-satisfied smirk appeared on my face.
"And all these things are top-rated by the book?"
"Uh-huh." I couldn't resist. A grin began to spread.
"Huh. Wow. You're good."
"Dad may hunt big game, but I got that gene, too. I hunt big bargains."
"Well," he sighed, "I suppose that means..."
"Yep. A good crib."