When I was talking to my sister about our pregnancy plans recently she asked what my husband thought of everything. I told her he was excited – he’s told me as much – but that he hasn’t said much more beyond that.
Truth be told, he’s a man of few words. Last year when we were planning our wedding he didn’t have much to say about it at all, which ultimately resulted in our having a long talk about communication. I was worried that his reluctance to talk about the wedding indicated a lack of enthusiasm about getting married, when in fact, he explained he just wasn’t especially interested in the minutiae of party planning and the family politics inherent in planning a wedding – especially one like ours, at which we were attempting to balance two different cultures and religions.
Though I know I tend to be the talker in the relationship and he the listener, I worried about another communication gap developing around the subject of babies. So the other night I pressed him about further, asking him again what he thought about our plan to try for a baby this fall.
“I’m excited,” he responded, genuinely. I knew that. We’ve always wanted kids.
“But what else are you feeling?” I asked.
He thought for a moment, then little by little, more started to emerge. The truth is, we’re looking to have a baby earlier than many of our peers due to my health. We’re still getting established in our adult lives. While he’s looking forward to parenthood, he feels worried about the pressure of being the sole breadwinner since we’ve agreed I’ll be taking it easy for my health’s sake while pregnant, then spending about a year at home after the baby is born. Though he makes good money, we live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. We could live much more comfortably if we lived in some small town in the Midwest – or really, just about anywhere else outside of most major cities – but as it is we have a small one-bedroom apartment, walking distance from downtown. That’s the choice we’ve made and we’re incredibly fortunate to be in the financial situation we’re in. Though the amount we pay in rent seems crazy to most people, it’s actually a steal for this area and we need to be here for my husband’s career. We don’t take fancy vacations or buy expensive clothes. We share a beat-up little car I bought used right out of college. We’re comfortable and while we can afford a child, my husband is concerned about being able to give him or her enough – particularly when his or her playmates in this city will likely be coming from much more “advantaged” households.
Did I expect to have my first child in a little one-bedroom apartment while still working on my education? No. It will be a far cry from the way I grew up, in a big house in a more rural area, with a full-time stay-at-home mom and a forest as my backyard. Even with the CF treatments, surgeries and worries, I had an idyllic childhood.
Every parent wants the best for his or her children. You hear it all the time: I want to give my child everything. But here we are, embarking on this journey, knowing full well we won’t be able to give our child everything. The way things are shaping up, he or she will have a dad who’s still establishing himself in his career and works long hours. A mom who’s still working toward that graduate degree and rushes through nebulizer treatments and biochemistry problem sets while the baby’s napping. Off-brand diapers and a crib in a converted walk-in closet.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want to give my baby everything. No one has everything, and those who come close don’t seem much better off for it, character-wise. Instead, we’ll be giving our baby everything that’s needed.
There’s a great deal of research that shows that once basic needs are met, happiness is independent of wealth or material possessions. So even though our baby may be sleeping in a closet, he or she will be so loved and wanted by parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles. In fact, our baby will likely have grandparents coming to live nearby solely to help raise their first grandchild. And our baby’s parents will work hard every day to provide for their family, and even if things are tight, he or she will never, ever have a need that is unmet.
So, what does one need to make a happy, successful human being? This is the start of a conversation with my husband that will most likely never end. Of course there are the very essentials: food, water, shelter, clothing. We’ve got that covered – if we didn’t, there’s no way we would be procreating. We’ve also decided that our child’s education is a top priority, so if we need to forgo that new car in order to pay for a tutor or tuition, that’s what we’ll do. We want our child to have a strong work ethic and a certain set of values. We want so many of the same things all parents do – it’s up to us to use what we have to create the right environment to foster that growth.
These days so many couples with the luxury of choosing when to bring children into the world are waiting until every other marker of achievement has been checked off: education, career, home ownership, and all the rest. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re on our way. And given that my health is dictating that we get an early start in the baby game, our child is going to join us for the journey.