It’s week 25.  Pud is now the length of an eggplant– approximately 9 inches and 1.7 lbs.  He’s moving around still, but his schedule seems to vary.  That may be because my work schedule changed this week, so our routines are off.  No complaints here, because I am SO grateful to be home in the evenings.  His crib was put together (at last!) this week.  His room-to-be is slowly emptying out, and being re-filled with his furniture and belongings.  Just putting together his crib made me feel wonderful and I experienced a brief sense of relief. 

This week, B and I focused energies upon preparing for June 30, when my contract with my current fiscal agent expires.  We looked at a budget last Saturday, which was pretty upsetting at first, simply because it awakens anxieties and unenjoyable feelings in both of us.  The good news: we survived.  The better news: we are stronger and will be increasingly more peace-filled for it.

There are some important decisions we are both making, and important lessons we are learning.  Bringing a baby into our lives demands changes in priorities, habits, and budgets.  We are talking about our goals and what we want for our child, our dogs, and ourselves, and we are realizing that our current budget, saving and spending habits do not support these goals. 

11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  (I Corinthians 13:11 NIV)

One of the things that very few books and websites and other resources really help parents-to-be realize are the financial changes and challenges that come along with bringing a child into one’s family.  The exception I’ve found is a book that Lane loaned B this week, called The Everything Father-to-Be Book.  This book is exceptional in how it addresses the financial preparations and stresses that parents-to-be experience, especially fathers. 

There is nothing like being responsible for another human being’s life that makes it necessary to talk about finances and to bring out the differences of opinions and values.  There is also no more stressful time than pregnancy to tackle such a difficult topic.  If we had to do it over again, we probably would have spent a whole lot more time having these conversations in more depth earlier in our marriage, and might have made some very different decisions along the way.  There’s no taking back the past, so we are plunging forward into what we think is the best we can do for the future. 

One significant challenge we face is the result of all 3 of us being lumped onto B’s health insurance. Health insurance a nationwide crisis, despite the national health reforms just passed; health insurance plans are ridiculously expensive, and family plans are even more so.  We went ahead and budgeted the family plan, because there’s no telling when Pud will decide to arrive.  It’s better to be prepared for him to enter our lives early, though we are still praying for a full-term baby.  I feel very pessimistic about the “relief” we are supposed to see with the recent health reform law, but I sincerely hope it ends up being relief and not more of a financial burden. 

As we read through and talked about the expenses we have, we each made individual “sacrifice” decisions, but the reality is that B drives 550 miles every week for work.   That’s $60-80 per week, or $2400-320 per month, just for gas.  He’s losing 2 hours of his life everyday to driving back and forth- at least 1.5 hours he could be home with his family.  Add in the 3 times in the past month that he’s had to get a hotel room and stay in L’ville when he was too exhausted to drive home safely.  That’s another $180 of expenses.  If he stays in town spontaneously because he’s too tired to drive home safely, that also means buying food for Bandit’s dinner and breakfast ($1 for a box of Dog Chow at the dollar store- yay for the dollar store), food for him (about $10-20), and any toiletries he may not have with him (again-thank goodness for the dollar store).  

The distance from his job is now our biggest drain on finances.  Its costs are slowly adding up, and the conclusion is that we must renew our househunting quest and get moved closer to his work sooner, rather than later.  B has done a great job of attacking this goal with gusto.   We have decided that we may not have a great or large house, but it will be a safe and comfortable house with a yard that’s bigger than our current yard.  It’s truly going to be our “starter home”- a much more affordable step towards the “dream house” of the future than our current house.  We are exploring the option of renting out our house to help pay its mortgage while we pursue its eventual sale.

I have made plans for completing my degree/certification in the next year, and they’ve already been approved by my graduate school advisor.  I am looking into several different job possibilities for the summer, as well as part-time jobs for the fall/spring.  I’m figuring out the process of becoming a published writer, and I have also looked at drawing unemployment, if it becomes necessary, but it is amazing to me how complex the unemployment rules, rights, and responsibilities appear on paper.  B, for his part, will probably pursue a second job for awhile, because it is extremely important to both of us that our baby be in our care most of the time. 

I’m sharing this part of our journey because it’s a snapshot into the reality of what many Americans are facing right now: the difficulties of a slowed economy, the necessary sacrifices in the face of job loss and family changes, and finding the faith and strength to make tough choices in short-term to enable the pursuit of long-term dreams and goals.  This is a lesson every generation must learn for itself at some point.  Our time is now, and we are very blessed to have the support and encouragement of friends and family who are also facing their own tough decisions.  I pray the lessons we learn now, we can find a way to pass along to Pud, while realizing that what works/worked for our grandparents, our parents, our friends, or us may not work as well for Pud or his generation.  All we can do is try to be the good stewards God calls us to be.  Our nation will be stronger when all of us realize the value of good stewardship and begin to make better, more sustainable decisions.

I need to share a new favorite song with you, if you haven’t already heard it: “Better than a Hallelujah” by Amy Grant.  Seriously consider taking the time to listen to it and its lyrics.  The idea that being honest about our very heartbrokenness or distress or disappointments can sometimes please God more than our joyful hallelujahs speaks to me in a time filled with so much uncertainty and seemingly endless hurdles. 

God cares more about our being honest about the mixed-up muddle of emotions and fears that B and I have swimming around inside of us and between us than our outward masks of pure joy.  Joy alone would not push us to seek Him.  Fear, insecurity, doubts, and wondering if we can really do this- if we’re really worthy of taking on this amazing responsibility of raising a child into a man of God- that will.  I can see how it might be possible that He’d think these kinds of prayers would be better than a hallelujah sometimes.