This is just more than I know how to deal with on my own.
July 14, 2011 9:27 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is pregnant. We're keeping it. Now what? (Advice and encouragement requested.)

We're both a little frightened. Last night, after a week and a half of ongoing nausea (and a week and a half after her scheduled period) my girlfriend took a pregnancy test. It came up positive. That was unexpected.

A short discussion (with some tears from both of us) then ensued, in which we tried to suss out each others' ideas about what to do. We'd talked some about this before, but of course the whole thing is so much more emotional once it's actually facing you. Anyway, when it came down to it we decided that we're keeping the kid.

However, this is a bit of a shock to both of us. Girlfriend and I have talked about kids before, but we weren't planning on having any for a few years, most likely. (Our relationship is quite serious – the one thing that was easy was the decision to stay with her and raise this child with her. I truly want to be with this girl for the rest of my life.) I'm still in school, she's still in that gutwrenching period between school and a career/grad school. I'm 26 and she's 24, for what it's worth.

We have much to do to welcome the new arrival. Neither of us is making much money. We're living in a tiny apartment, thousands of miles from both of our families (who themselves live on opposite coasts) scraping by with three part-time jobs between us, none of which pay more than $10/hour. I receive some family support while I'm finishing my degree. My family, at least, can be counted on to be supportive. I've never met hers, but from her stories I'm less than totally sure that they are going to react constructively. I really don't want to move back to her parents, and she really doesn't want to move back to mine. Harder though it may be, we think the best thing to do is to try and do this on our own.

I have two years to go on my degree. I had been planning to go on to a PhD eventually, but now I'm wondering if it even makes sense for me to stay in school. I'm doing biology, and there are jobs to be had with a bachelor's degree (I could be a lab technician, work in a blood bank, etc) but it's two years away and it seems like managing work and school and a baby at the same time might be more than I could handle. Not to mention the additional expense that university creates. I do have a job (part time) in the laboratory at school, which is a positive thing as far as my career prospects would be concerned later down the road. I pick up another 20 hours a week doing retail sales.

She's waiting to hear on an application for an MSW (master's in social work). Until now, this was the primary source of anxiety in our household. She has a degree in human justice and social development, which she's been having a very hard time parlaying into a decent, life-sustaining career. She's currently working a soul-destroying near-minimum-wage job in food service. It's part time while she tries to position herself for what comes after we find out about grad school. Either she gets in, and tries to find something new that pays as much a possible regardless of how she likes it, or she doesn't get in and she tries to find something new that she thinks she can live with as a long-term move. This may change with the pregnancy of course, as she's pretty certain to need some time off down the road, and there aren't exactly a lot of service industry jobs offering maternity leave. Not to mention the fact that employers don't like to hire pregnant women, as they're seen as a liability.

Life wasn't exactly easy even before this. We take strength from each other, and I'm unbelievably grateful for her presence in my life, focusing and guiding me in ways that even she cannot see. But we both have a history of depression, and she has fibromyalgia, which causes chronic pain and saps her stamina. I tend to play a support role in this relationship, doing my best to take care of things when she's having a bad FM day, and comforting her when the stress and the pain and all get to be too much for her.

I feel woefully underprepared. There's so much to do to get ready for this. Some days I feel like I'm still just a kid, in over my head, trying to keep things together for long enough in the hope that soon it'll all make sense and I'll know how to do this. And that's before this new development. I live in the firm belief that someday, if I just keep trying, keep fighting, then inch by inch everything will gradually get better and better, and someday I'll look in the mirror and It Will All Be OK. Obviously I can't keep waiting forever now.

I need a game plan. Obviously I'm talking everything over with my girlfriend, and I can't speak for both of us (she's at work, so I'm writing this without her input and doubtless she'll have a few things to say about my perspective on this matter) but any advice you have about what we should be doing would be welcome. How do I deal with the issue of having no money now, but possibly having too much to do soon to continue the education that was supposed to lead to a better job? What do I need to know about pregnancy, parenthood, fatherhood, babies, and everything else? We're going to try to set up an appointment with an OB-GYN as soon as possible, who will hopefully be able to lay out a pathway for the medical side of things.

I am thinking that what I'll probably do in the short term anyway is drop down to 12 credits for next semester (just enough to keep my federal student aid) though whether I'll be able to do another semester in the spring once we're into the second and third trimesters of the pregnancy is sort of an open question. And I can pick up extra hours at my retail job, I know they want me to be working more shifts than I am, but I'd been telling them that I need to keep it down to about 20 hours in order to balance it with my other job. I could probably do 30, but then I'd have less time to be home and be supportive to the girl. The last thing I want is to be absent in her life, let alone our child's.

I feel like I need a timeline of some sort, so that I can have an expectation of what's going to happen and when. There's so much to try to keep in my mind, it's all a bit overwhelming. I have so little conception of the impact this is going to make on our life (mine and my girlfriend's) that I scarcely know where to begin.

Advice, encouragement, personal experiences, directions to resources of all kinds, and all other forms of friendly counsel are requested as I gear myself up for what is doubtless to be the greatest and most difficult work of my life.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have health insurance? I think the very first thing would be to sort out your options on that front.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:31 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

First of all - congratulations!

Second, look into social support programs you might be eligible for. WIC or Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program is one I can think of. Others - food stamps, Head Start, subsidized housing?

Is there a visiting nurse program for low-income parents to help with the new baby - teaching parenting skills, how to calm a crying baby, etc.? Or a counseling program for low-income folks?

Your SO has fibromyalgia - there is a forum But you don't LOOK sick! which has a ton of support and advice. There is a "Parenting" thread in the forums - definitely check that out.

Please, please give second thoughts to having your or her family near. Having family support can make or break the parenting experience especially if poverty, long work hours, illness or stress complicate things. Now if her family (or any of yours) are abusive and/or addicted, it's OKAY to not have them around. You don't want addicts watching your child or someone who thinks "kids just need a little discipline" aka screaming or hitting. But any family who is sane, decent and functional - please lean on them for support. Having grandma pitch in to watch the kid while you and your SO sleep or run errands means the world to new parents.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:37 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get married. It just makes so much related to family law--and just family life in general--so much easier.

Right now, legally speaking, the two of you aren't anything to each other. If one of you decides to move across the country and take the kid, the other is going to have a devil of a time doing anything about it. The fact that you're procreating just means that child support obligations are on the table and that you both start out with some custody rights. But should the relationship go south, figuring out how that's going to work out is going to be a lot more work than if it's resolved as part of a divorce proceeding.

Divorce is really just the orderly dissolution of a relationship. It has legal protections for everyone--husband, wife, kids. Breaking up, by contrast, is only as orderly as the two of you can make it be, and there are few legal protections for anyone.

kestrel251 raises a good issue with health insurance. Most employers will not extend health benefits to non-spouse domestic partners.

The marriage issue aside, it sounds like neither of you are making all that much money. Look into your state's WIC program.
posted by valkyryn at 9:38 AM on July 14, 2011 [16 favorites]

Breathe! It's easier than you think. First off, an OBGYN will see her around week 8. Don't make any huge changes or decisions until then, or even until week 12.

You both sound amazing, strong, and mature. I was 24 when I had my first. This second child? I was in school full time, 15 credits, due the week after finals. I lived! Even with a new baby, I banged out 6 credits this past spring semester and 9 over the summer. (I also worked part-time starting when Baby 2 was 6 weeks old.)

WIC, Food Stamps, and possibly Medicaid, not sure on what your state offers. Don't be ashamed. You will pay it back and then some when you graduate.

And used baby EVERYTHING. No reason to get anything new.
posted by kpht at 9:38 AM on July 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

Hi! Congratulations! Sounds like you are pretty overwhelmed and confused - with good reason. It's a big deal and you're taking it seriously as you should.

I want to just offer one specific piece of advice about school and work: I had a kid as a single mom at 28. I come from a middle class family and had a pretty good job - not super pay but not minimum wage. But I had no savings and it was just not enough. Eight years later, I still don't have enough, and it is the single biggest source of stress and anxiety in my life. Being broke effects every choice I make and my stress about it often impacts my relationship with my kid and my ability to be a good parent.

I would strongly urge you both to find whatever ways you can to complete the academic tracks you are on. One of you will obviously need to take time off to care for the new baby, but if you can get back into school within a shortish time I would urge you to do so. This will be super stressful for several years. BUT! You will be finished before the kid enters elementary school, and then will be in a good position to have a comfortable stable life.

I'd immediately start exploring whether there are family members who can help you out for a couple years, if there are more scholarships available to you, if there is any way to live on less, etc. Are you Jewish? Get a Hebrew Free Loan.

I finally decided to go back to school a few years ago and I constantly wish I had started earlier.
posted by serazin at 9:39 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I live in the firm belief that someday, if I just keep trying, keep fighting, then inch by inch everything will gradually get better and better, and someday I'll look in the mirror and It Will All Be OK. Obviously I can't keep waiting forever now.

I kind of think that's pretty much a totally worthwhile thing to think. My parents love to tell me how they had cardboard boxes for end tables when my mom (surprise, mom) got pregnant with me. They put doilies on them.

You can't eat a baby all at once. You can only terrify yourself looking into the future and wrestling with a ton of things that at the moment that you can't possibly know.

Right now, what you really need to deal with is your girlfriend's nausea, making sure she gets prenatal care*, and getting the woman some vitamins. Later on, you can figure out who can make the most money and who can get the degree fastest, and one of you stays home with the kid for a couple of years based on that decision. Or some other arrangement--you each get part time jobs and go to school part time and you split baby-sitting time with a neighbor.

*If you do not have insurance, the first thing to do would be to figure out state/federal assistance. There are special programs that manage things like maternal health.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:50 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's okay to be scared. My husband and I own a home, are educated, have jobs and the baby was absolutely planned. You'd think by looking at us, we'd certainly have our shit together. But I have to admit, some days I am scared out of my mind about having this baby, raising this baby, supporting us, being a good parent... The fun hormonal swings really make the moods delightful, too. I was bawling my eyes out about three weeks ago thinking this may be a mistake and we're over our heads. Now the baby kicks me everyday and it's so much more real. And my husband, he hasn't said it so much, but I know he worries too about providing. It's a scary and cool and awesome and weird time for both of you. Feel what you feel. Allow yourself to freak out and celebrate.

First, she needs to get a blood test from an actual medical office - a regular doctor or Planned Parenthood. The tests aren't 100% apparently. I took all three in the box because I was certain I was peeing incorrectly. Just be sure, and get the blood work done.

Second, figure out health insurance. That's a huge one. You're always at the damned doctor. There are reasons for it, of course, as you want a healthy pregnancy and child. But I swear to god, I should have my own medical degree for the time I've been spending in doctor's offices in my first two trimesters alone. Talk to her specialists regarding the FM. Pregnancy may acerbate it or put it into some sort of remission as it does with, say, MS. There may be complications postpartum, too. It's good to have a solid medical plan in that regard.

I did part-time coursework first and second trimesters and worked 1.5 jobs. If she's up to it, she could too. You could too. Unless the pregnancy is complicated or she's feeling bad otherwise, you guys should be able to maintain your work and lifestyles for most of the pregnancy. She'll have up days and down days. She'll want your support and your ear. She'll want you to be there for her, to ask questions and be interested in her and the baby and the future.

Pick up a book or two from the library. I found "The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy" better than something like "What to Expect When Your Expecting." There are a ton of father guides that are going to prepare you for what is happening and how you can understand what she's going through.

You guys sound like a very solid couple together, and that's just a fantastic foundation to build on. You'll need that as you go through the journey together. Pregnancy is weird and awesome and you're full of excitement and self-doubt and fear of the unknown. But as someone wisely said "people have babies everyday, all sorts of people, with all sorts of finances and support and education and knowledge. You'll absolutely get through it." I believe you will, too. Best of luck.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:52 AM on July 14, 2011

Get married. It just makes so much related to family law--and just family life in general--so much easier.

This is true. Very very true. But there are downsides. For example, being married can limit your access to other aid. For example, I got a lot more in grants and financial aid as a single parent. So much more in fact, that my SO, that I lived with, and I put off marriage for years. Income requirements for medicaid are higher for unmarried couples. So on.

Point is - you should have a chat with a lawyer and your school aid department and think about it.

Above all - Congratulations!!!!!

Don't sweat having a child. Yeah, its a lot of work, but seriously, cavepeople did it with .00004 of the resources you have at your disposal. You'll do fine.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:52 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thoughts: could you share what area you're in, in case anyone knows resources specific to your area? There are often free/very very cheap prenatal care resources in metro areas. If you live around Nashville, I can think of a few.

1. If she doesn't have health insurance, there's usually some branch of Medicaid in the state or state-run health program that covers pregnant women and/or newborns. TN, for example, has CoverKids for pregnant women/kids, or you can get on TennCare (the state Medicaid thingy) automatically if you're pregnant + not making a lot of $.

2. Even with the fibromyalgia, depending on the seriousness of it/what medications she may be taking, you can look into a midwife (e.g., nurse midwife) for prenatal care + delivery. I don't just say this because I'm going to school for it -- midwives are almost always cheaper. Most work in hospital practices where you deliver at a hospital, if that's something you want / are concerned about. YMMV as far as accessibility in your area.

3. I have many grad student + graduated grad student friends. college, grad school is tough with a kid, but a lot say that it was the best time for them to have their kids. There's access to basic healthcare, most all grad schools have some sort of daycare/elementary school program (my friends at the University of Oregon loved loved theirs). It's hectic and crazy busy and you don't have a whole lot of money, but there's often a lot of resources to access. Some schools have cheap/subsidized housing for graduate student families or also undergraduates with kids.

4. Getting into a group prenatal care program, or even something like prenatal yoga classes can be super helpful just for the sense of alone-ness or isolation you might be feeling right now (at least, I get that impression reading your question). Meeting other folks who are at similar stages of pregnancy can be great, plus if you make friends, you'll have kids about the same age, people to talk to about resources, and maybe a babysitting co-op someday in the future ..

I really wish you the best of luck. My parents always used to say that there's never a right time to have kids, but they went ahead and did it anyway. You guys sound like a solid, supportive couple -- but don't be afraid to ask friends or family for help.
posted by circle_b at 9:55 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also: When she talks to her FM doctor, talk about the meds (script or OTC) that she's using, how they play into the pregnancy and fetal development, and prenatal vitamins. Need that folic acid and vitamins as soon as possible.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:55 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I also wouldn't necessarily worry about getting married right now. More stress and not necessarily a benefit economically. You will have legal rights around your baby without marriage.

Also, total side note, another option besides OB/Gyn care is Nurse Midwifery.

Anyway, best of luck to you!
posted by serazin at 9:55 AM on July 14, 2011


First off, if you're in the US your partner is most likely eligible for Medicaid. If you tell us where you are we can help by finding appropriate links for that and other services. Getting married is probably a good idea for both legal and emotional reasons.

As far as both of your educational goals I would strongly urge you to stick to them. People who teach in MSW programs are- or should be- particularly capable of being supportive of the needs of parents. and a PhD program in Biology should come with decent funding. Babies and toddlers don't really need much in the way of material goods and most of those can be gotten used.

Do you have a lot of friends in your area? Do you have any with babies or young children? If so, spend more time with them and ask them a lot of questions. If not, find some. Yes, having loving supportive family nearby is ideal, but you can create familial relationships with unrelated people of all ages. If you're religiously inclined join a place of worship where you will meet people who can become surrogate family. Get to know your neighbors.

As Pogo said, you'll do fine. You seem to really have your feet on the ground and love in your heart.
posted by mareli at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2011

I want to suggest that you glean any advice you can from kpht. She has two awesome kids (verified in person) and is definitely in a similar situation. You can make it work, too.

The other longterm advice here is great, but here is the short term that will be somewhat easier to handle:

1. Prenatal vitamins STAT. You can buy generic CVS ones for $10 that will last at least three or four months of pregnancy. I'm seven months pregnant now and am on my second bottle. They really are no different than prescription ones.

3. This second pregnancy was a huge and unexpected shock for me, and I've done it before! What helped me get through the shock was going through the motions of getting the things I needed to get done done. Those included:

- Finding a (for me, new) caregiver. Does your girlfriend want a midwife or an OB? You may want to book several appointments with different ones soon. It can take close to a month to get into an initial appointment, so start making some calls. Any friends who have had a child recently? Ask for recommendations.

-Stocking up on the stuff that got me through morning sickness. In my case, candied ginger, saltine crackers, and Poland Spring carbonated water --- lime flavored. Only the lime helped for some reason. Find what works for her and get a bunch of it.

The rest did fall into place. You should put some amount of trust in that --- not to the point that you don't research all your other options for support or aid, but enough that you can get through the day without the hair raising panic of, "How is this ever going to work?"

I had to take the first month of this pregnancy to do just that. There are a lot financial questions we still have to sort out for us, but we figure we're smart enough to make it work. I bet you are too.
posted by zizzle at 9:57 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

ps -- I do understand that marriage is important for people having kids together, that it provides legal protections and things, but one of the things a lot of friends of mine did was specifically NOT get married for the early years and pregnancy. As serazin points out, getting married can really mess up your financial aid, as well as eligibility for programs and how much $ you can get for things like food stamps. I really suggest looking into different social assistance programs -- you're trying to do the very best for your kid, and that can mean that the very best thing is having Medicaid and food stamps. We all want healthy moms + healthy kids, and frankly I wish I could pour all my taxes into food stamps and health care for folks like you.
posted by circle_b at 10:02 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
The poster of this question and his girlfriend both are lucky enough to have health insurance.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:03 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Very close friends of mine were in a similar situation. Same age as you. Since they found out they were pregnant (quite unplanned) I've seen them totally turn things around, for the better. He worked hard to finish an accounting program he was in and got a job as an accountant. They moved into their own place, for the first time in their lives. She stays home with the baby but recently started taking courses at school. Their lives are different, but they still find time for the things they love. The little guy is about to turn two and he is the joy of both of their lives, and they are happier than I've ever known them to be. I don't have specific advice, but I want you to know that while it is a hard road ahead you can make it work.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:04 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would not swim against the current of your question if you had said you were sure you wanted to keep it. But you seem so ambivalent and conflicted (contrast "the one thing that was easy was the decision to stay with her" with "when it came down to it we decided that we're keeping the kid"). Reproduction isn't something you want to do conflictedly.

And it's understandable that you're hesitant here -- the timing sounds bad. If you're right that you'll be together until death does you part, then there will arise other times to have this kid -- after you're financially secure, after you've both finished school and started the careers you want (rather than compromised by choosing the careers that happen to be available now), after you've moved to a more permanent and kid-friendly home, and after you've established a family/friend support network.

Consider what your reaction would be if you suddenly learned the test had been wrong and she isn't pregnant after all. Is it relief? If so -- do you want to bear this kid at a time in your life when you'd be relieved not to have it?

I don't presume to know the best answer for your situation, and I apologize if I'm adding stress to an already-stressful situation. My suggestion here is really just that you let this decision turn on more than a single conversation together.
posted by foursentences at 10:09 AM on July 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
We are, and we're sure, and bringing uncertainty to that does add unnecessary stress to the situation. Foursentences' concern is appreciated, but I would like to politely ask the people replying not to question our decision to have this child.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:16 AM on July 14, 2011 [11 favorites]

Prenatal vitamin with folic acid should be the very first thing on your list -- the neural tube is forming right now and you want to prevent spina bifida.

After you've got that on board, breathe. Pregnancy is a lot of waiting and nothing else needs to happen today.

Take time to find a doctor or midwife you really feel comfortable with -- that makes a HUGE difference.

Start looking on Craigslist for free or cheap baby stuff. Al you'll need at first is diapers and clothes. Baby can sleep in the bed with you or in a cardboard box so you don't need a crib right away. If you have a car, you'll need a carseat to take the baby home (unless you decide to have a homebirth, which could be your cheapest option and the least stressful if the pregnancy is low-risk).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:21 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a friend that discovered his wife was was pregnant with twins while he was in the midst of grad school who got his masters, so he did graphic design layouts on his thesis portfolio on his dining room table with two little ones in slings.

I finished my masters thesis with a baby on my lap (although she once did eat my homework -- or at least chewed on it). It's doable. Strangely, small babies are boring -- you're not going to get long breaks of focus, but it's good for chunkable projects, small things for reading. And heck, if you're not sleeping, you can read a baby a text book. My daughter has stored the history of advertising agency mergers in her subconscious somewhere.

You will do unbelievable things for that wonderful lady of yours, for your baby. It's going to be the hardest thing you ever do. Please do not short change your future however for what you need to do right now based on a perception of what you will need as opposed to what you actually will need as you experience it - both with time and money.

Don't cut down your hours until the baby is around. Pregnancy requires support, yes. But it's easier than the first 6 weeks of baby. Unless there are complications, the lady will require a sympathetic ear and love, but you have just so much time.

I'll say something horrible, but honestly, babies aren't that expensive at first. Diapers, yes. The diapers are expensive. But they don't really need little clothes -- they hate them and spit up all over them anyway. They will sleep in a bassinet or a cosleeper or a sling and don't need fancy everything. I ignored the changing table and just put a cheap changing pad on the floor, bought Costco (Kirkland) diapers, had my daughter wear the same 7 outfits (gifts and used), breast fed and just carried her around in a sling rather than a stroller. My daughter had her own room and it was just a place to keep stuffed animals that people gave us for the first 6 months or so. The only reason to get a bigger place is so that you can both have some place to have alone time as you switch off kid duties or if your current place isn't noise proof.

It's the over the long haul that kids are expensive -- because it all adds up and childcare and etc. And by then, it's the new normal.

The things that will be sacrificed, however, are the hobbies and friends. They come back, I promise you. They may be different friends. And different hobbies. But any free time that wasn't sleeping, schooling or working will now be kidding. And you can do that!

You don't have family near, but do you have any friends with kids? Having folks that "get it" and aren't creeped out by kids is a HUGE gift. Having someone you feel you can cry to when you have to be strong for the lady is important.

People do this all the time. You two love each other, are smart and have loving families and health insurance. You're way ahead of the game.
posted by Gucky at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

The advice here has been great, so I won't try to add to it, but I do have one recommendation, as long as your girlfriend is already working in soul-crushing food service jobs:
Starbucks. It is corporate policy that they give paid maternity leave. It is likely to only be 6 to 8 weeks of it, but as far as food service jobs go, even that is pretty rare. If she can get a job at Starbucks now, when the time comes, she'll still be getting a little income for a few weeks when the baby's new, and that's far better than nothing. They also have health insurance, though it looks like you don't need it.

I have a friend who did just that when she found out she was pregnant: she got a part-time job at Starbucks. The details may change state to state (I'm in California), but I know that Starbucks offers paid maternity leave nationally.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 10:31 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was raised by a single mom who was in a PhD program at the time. My dad was...inconsistent with child support. My mom's mom lived thousands of miles away.

It was certainly stressful for her, but she also had a group of friends who were close and supportive, and many of them were aunties and uncles to me (most of them didn't have kids of their own). I had, on the whole, a pretty great childhood.

I know it's scary, but you can do it.
posted by rtha at 10:32 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is totally overwhelming. And while I became a parent about a decade later than you all are about to, I've been doing the "grad student while parenting young children thing" for three years now (I'm pursuing a PhD) and it CAN BE DONE.

While social work grad programs don't get much respect (or pay, or funding, or ....lots of things) they are frequently full of awesome supportive people who realize life is complicated. If this is the path for your girlfriend, I hope she finds some support there.

If you can get on the wait list for the child care center at your school, do it NOW. University child-care centers are usually pretty awesome, and conveniently on-campus. But unfortunately, there can be a wait for new babies. Even if you decide not to use it, it's no a huge deal (usually) to decline later.

You can do this.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:37 AM on July 14, 2011

I've known people who got pregnant and had children while finishing up their degree. This is doable, so start telling yourself that. It may change how you had your semesters planned out (taking a different course load or schedule) but it's doable.

The first thought that came to my mind is to keep you in school. Stay eligible for financial aid, and that may change now that you will be a parent, so explore all of those options. Student loans to cover housing expenses (I know...they aren't always the answer) may help you bridge the gap while girlfriend isn't working. Don't worry about a future PhD program don't have to make that decision right this hot minute. A year from now taking care of baby may be a breeze for you and the PhD will be realistic...who knows?

Regarding your girlfriend, she has a degree right? Has she looked for office type jobs? Admin assistant jobs at the local Child and Family Services office? Jobs on campus for Admin Assistants in a department somewhere? If the retail/food service thing isn't working for her, get her to look for work where she can do more sitting and can work while she's pregnant (just don't screw up her health insurance stuff). Just because she doesn't have a MSW doesn't mean she can't do something related to child/family services. Look at other non-government agencies too (battered women's shelter, child development organizations, etc). It would be pretty awesome if she found a place to work that provided childcare for employees, no?

I would also start doing the math on how much childcare costs (so she could return to work) vs. her staying home and you bumping up your work hours or whatever. I totally understand wanting to spend more time at home to be supportive of her and take care of baby, but if you can make enough money to cover bills that will definitely decrease stress.

Regarding baby don't have to buy everything new. You also don't need a bassinette and a crib and a portable thingamajigy...figure out the true multitaskers for a baby and focus on getting those. Find a pack & play for cheap at can sleep in that until he/she outgrows it weight wise. Find a great crib at a garage sale? No bassinette needed! Keep your eyes and ears open for garage sales, friends giving away stuff and Goodwill/thrift store stuff and you'll find plenty. Just make sure it's in good condition, safe, and clean.

You've got 8 more months to get ready for the little one. You don't have to have everything perfectly planned in the next 24 hours. So relax, take things one step at a time and you can do this!!
posted by MultiFaceted at 10:39 AM on July 14, 2011

MultiFaceted said pretty much everything I was going to say, so I'll just add this: my husband and I were very, very poor when we had our first child. Our families were far away and we were the first of our friends to have a baby (by about three years, even). We were all alone and it was terrifying. But you know what? We did it. We were young (26) and we had no idea what we were doing, but it all worked out in the end.

Children need love, food, shelter, and clothing. Everything else is just sprinkles on the ice cream; nice to have but not at all necessary to enjoy the experience.
posted by cooker girl at 10:44 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should keep going and get that PhD, and this is why:

1. That bachelor's degree in biology is unfortunately, not a career path. You've picked a field where a PhD is basically required. Lab technician is fine for now, but that job won't lead you to a better position. You'll hit a ceiling very quickly. There are several people I know in this position, and it sucks but it's true.

2. Many people have kids on purpose during grad school or a postdoc because it is more flexible than when you are trying to get tenure. Yes, it'll probably take you longer to graduate, but I think it's potentially less overwhelming than you think.

Biology programs generally pay a stipend, which won't be luxurious, but if you add WIC to that, you can get by. There's a lot of good advice in this thread on how to raise baby cheaply. Also read this page.
posted by klao at 10:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Some days I feel like I'm still just a kid, in over my head, trying to keep things together for long enough in the hope that soon it'll all make sense and I'll know how to do this. ... inch by inch everything will gradually get better and better, and someday I'll look in the mirror and It Will All Be OK."

You will be amazed -- AMAZED -- at how much having a (wanted) baby grows you up. Not in a bad way, but in a good way. I was like, "Wow, I cannot believe how much energy I wasted on unimportant emotional drama." It suddenly illuminated how stupid the stupid stuff had been; it reordered my priorities in a good way. Not in a "CHILD IS UNIVERSE CENTER" annoying way, but it helped me really get clear in my own head what was important to me and what wasn't, and focused me on achieving those important things. And while you will have a WHOLE NEW SET of worries and concerns, you will be AMAZED how much more okay the world is when you have a child, since if nothing else, you now have a direction and purpose and goal (put food in child's mouth, keep child from cracking head open) that you feel good about and absolutely clear about. Goals related to your child's health and happiness are absolutely clearly important and you don't have to question that. They're often small goals, but goals.

"What do I need to know about pregnancy, parenthood, fatherhood, babies, and everything else?"

Go to library. Check out pregnancy and parenting books. Read. Return. Repeat. If and when you find one you really like and can't live without, most of the big ones (What to Expect, Dr. Spock, Dr. Sears) can be bought from around $1 used on Amazon.

Before they let you leave the hospital they will have told you most everything you need to know about newborns. And once you survive that first six weeks you're like, "Yeah, okay, I can wing it, I've got this." (Not that I don't have 600 books. I'm a planner. But really, you've got this.)

If you register at, you can sign up for weekly e-mails throughout pregnancy (and babyhood, and childhood) that tell you what's going on that week with your pregnancy and what things you should be considering or doing right then. (Finding car seat, preregistering with hospital, considering X test, defeating morning sickness, etc.) This is ENORMOUSLY educational and very helpful, especially with a first. The e-mails are bite-sized, so you're not overwhelmed with information, but there are links to get more info on various topics and you can go read in absurd depth if you so choose. After birth, the e-mails focus on child development, milestones, parenting questions (feeding on demand, discipline, sleep schedules, etc.). I'm into the toddler ones with my first, and the information isn't as fast-and-thick now since milestones spread out and so forth, but there are ideas for games that support development, links to discussions about coping with tantrums, etc. SIGN UP. You sound like the sort of person who will like these e-mails very, very much.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:00 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! You are about to bring even more love into your life!

Let me speak about the biology PhD part, being a person with a PhD in the biological sciences myself.

First, getting a PhD can be quite limiting. If you are not absolutely sure you want to do it, perhaps a master's instead? You have more flexibility with the master's degree and you can still be paid well. As far as academia, if you have a PhD, there are rules as to what jobs you can be hired for, meaning that you would not be able to just take a job you are overqualified for just to put food on the table. I am not sure whether this is also true for government and industry jobs. We've got people here with bachelor's degrees doing tech jobs who make more money than I do and their benefits are better than most of the non-faculty PhDs, due to being employees of the university, whereas post-doctoral gigs are paid off grants and are "special status." The PhD is good if you absolutely want to try for a faculty job and if you really love directing your own research. Otherwise, BS or MS is great.

On the other hand, graduate school would be a great shelter for you right now. I don't know what country you are in, but it seems like this recession is far-reaching. There are few jobs, and if you can get into a graduate school that will pay you a stipend, you can make probably 18K-24K a year easily by doing a teaching assistantship or research assistantship while getting your grad school tuition paid for. (I know this is primarily a USA thing.) That doesn't sound like a lot of money, but there are other benefits of being affiliated with a university, like subsidized child care, often in an excellent on-campus facility.

Going ahead with your educational plans can totally be done. Don't worry. You may live on a shoestring budget, but it sounds like you are used to it already. The other thing you can do is tech for a while so that you have set hours (like 8-5) and can be around for babycare on the evenings and weekends. Going into a PhD program right away will mean long hours away from your baby. This could wait until s/he is in school and needs you less. Plus, teching will help you build up skills and references (and publications!) for getting into grad school later.

Best of luck whatever you decide! It's going to be fine.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:04 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a baby while I was doing my PhD. As someone mentioned above - STAY IN SCHOOL.

1. You're able to get financial aid and loans that can make this easier
2. You'll have a more flexible schedule
3. You're probably eligible for subsidized childcare
4. You're probably eligible for subsidized housing

Personally I found it more financially beneficial to be an unmarried student parent rather than get married, but your situation may be different.

If I were you guys, this is what I would do:

- Figure out about "flipping" into the PhD program and getting a TAship/RAship/whatever that will fund your studies
- Fill out the FASFA and get ready to get some loan money
- Get into student family housing (if it is in fact cheaper/better than where you currently are) and don't discount the network that exists in family housing. Babysitters, free stuff... around my U I jokingly called it The People's Republic of Family Housing
- Get on the waitlist for university daycare if it exists, even if you don't end up needing it


- Do the math. Is it worthwhile for your girlfriend to work versus stay at home with the baby? Depending where you live, childcare can be $800-$2000 a month and for many people that aren't earning a ton of money, it isn't worthwhile to work -- and this sounds like it is the case as your girlfriend is working food service. (In the meantime, she might want to pop into a more pregnancy-friendly minimum wage job.)
- Maybe once baby is a bit older, she can slowly start going back to school while you do you PhD... moreover, she'll be eligible for loans/financial aid too. I'd figure out what grad program at your local U is the easiest to get into (and assuming she likes it) and get in there ASAP. Even if she can get in this semester, that'd be awesome because she could stop working at McWhatever and start pulling in the loan money.
posted by k8t at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not that it has anything to do with me, but thank you for choosing to keep the baby and for being a supportive and involved dad. That's 90% of the battle right there.
...what is doubtless to be the greatest and most difficult work of my life.
You've got your head in the right place. I'll add two more possible descriptions that you may be fortunate enough to live: the most joyful and most fun work of your life.
posted by BurntHombre at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dr.E was in a Ph.D program for Chemistry for the first 10 months of Toddler Zizzle's life.

He was at the lab for 12 - 15 hours/day six days a week.

The hard sciences are not always as flexible as other programs. On the Ph.d front, go ahead and apply-apply-apply, but reserve any definite decisions until you've had a chance to speak with other students in the program --- preferably other students who are parents.

In our situation, my husband being gone for 12 - 15 hours/day for up to five more years was just not tenable. And he makes more money now as a high school teacher.

That said, there is a mother at my son's daycare who is doing a Ph.D. in biology at the same university my husband was at for his in chemistry. You got me as to how on earth she did it, but she took TWO YEARS OFF in the middle of her program to stay home with her daughter and went back when her daughter was two. It may simply have been the flexibility in her research or advisor. I don't really know.

What I do know is that a Ph.D. program is NOT necessarily more flexible than a regular job (and won't necessarily provide you with more money). If you WANT a Ph.D. and down the line when you are ready to think more about it, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with exploring it. But don't discount that it could also be a terribly hard road in other areas of your life, with even fewer guarantees of employment afterward than a Masters Degree.
posted by zizzle at 11:53 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

This has been said by many, many people - but I just wanted to reiterate.

Stay in school! Both of you!

I have friends who quit their career path due to a little one, only after did they realize it wasn't necessary - and it hurt their family life in the long run. You can be a parent and a student.

Get your PhD, a MS, or something - but whatever you do, don't drop out! Also, rather than taking 12 hours next semester I'd take 21! Get as many credits out of the way as possible, it'll be hard but well worth is once the baby is actually there.
posted by timwoolsey at 12:01 PM on July 14, 2011

All I can offer is moral support and my own experience. We learned my girlfriend was pregnant while I was unemployed and waiting for my Ph.D. program to begin. The baby arrived during my second semester, as I was juggling with two TA jobs, two courses, some RA, etc, etc, etc. You know what? It all worked out. I was happy to have a flexible schedule, I was not making a lot of money but enough so that my girlfriend could stay home for a while. The flexibility does depend on your program and advisor though.
Having a baby/kid (and soon two) during my doctoral studies is a constant challenge, but if you want to have an academic career the worst years are not the doctoral ones but the tenure-track ones. In that senses I'm totally happy to have a family now rather than postponing it to an indefinite future in undetermined circumstances. Good luck!
posted by ddaavviidd at 12:07 PM on July 14, 2011

just my (hopefully encouraging) personal anecdote:

My mom had me when she was 18, married my dad and had two more children with him. I'm 26 and this year she will finish her PhD in toxicology. Yes, it took her a very long time, and she had breaks between degrees where she worked as a lab tech and taught high school and cared for us when we were newborns, but she did it.
posted by inertia at 12:21 PM on July 14, 2011

Definately insurance up or find other means, WIC, your state SCHIP, It is crucial your girlfriend and the baby receive care.

Other logistics--clothes--showers, friends lending, GoodWill, and hell even brand new from Kohls are $4 a pop (I understand money is an issue but no matter what, no kid needs to wear GAP--$25 a pop shirt).

University child care.

I would uncourage at the bare minimum one of you stay in school--whomever has the most income potential to give you a boost. Both of you dropping out is a no-win situation.

Perhaps even do an exchange meetup group to exchange freebees such as clothes, books, strollers, etc. amongst other students (or even teachers) who are in the same boat.

But most of all--enjoy every moment.
posted by stormpooper at 12:47 PM on July 14, 2011

I forgot to mention...if she is accepted to her MSW program she needs to ask about deferring her admission for a year or two. A lot of grad schools will allow admissions to be deferred (or will allow you to take a year off from school) for life changing events such as children. She needs to contact the graduate school and see what her options are before withdrawing her application or simply turning it down. MSW is all about families anyway...chances are most programs would be family friendly in terms of taking time off. It's worth checking out.
posted by MultiFaceted at 2:27 PM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Check out subsidized child care in your state, and get on the waiting list now.
posted by freshwater at 3:32 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm about to have my first baby and while I'm in a very different position to you, when it comes to practical things ie bedding and clothing and bathing, small children do not have to be expensive.

For things like bassinets/cots/strollers, go second hand as much as possible (with an eye to safety).

Babies' clothing can be very cheap on sale at places such as Target. Don't get sucked into the hype that you need this and need that - just go for the bare minimum and you'll be fine.

posted by jasperella at 9:26 PM on July 14, 2011

You can do this. You can TOTALLY do this. Have her get on WIC. Do you have a washing machine in your apartment? If not, cloth diapers are probably impractical, but if you do, my goodness you can save a ton on diapers by going with cloth. What you need, NEED need, is:

1. A safe place to put the baby down. (Crib, cosleeper, bassinet, cradle)
2. A carseat, if you have a car.
3. A working set of boobs, or other method of feeding the baby.
4. 6-12 outfits. I like onesies and sleepers when they're tiny. Go to a thrift store, or snarf stuff up on sale.
5. Some sort of ass gasketry, either disposable diapers or cloth.

Seriously everything else is in the realm of convenience. If I had to add 5 more things to that list, it would be a set of pacifiers, a Boppy, baby blankets, a stroller, and a sling. Visit The Babywearer for sling info, get the Boppy and the pacifiers new, and pick up the stroller at a consignment store.

Good luck, and congratulations. I know it's scary; if it's any consolation, it's scary when you're married and you've been trying to get pregnant for a year, too. But you can do this, and your baby will be awesome.
posted by KathrynT at 9:58 PM on July 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Folic acid is so important that you shouldn't worry about anything else if she's not taking it. If she is nauseous don't be surprised if she has a trouble keeping vitamins down. Fortunately, it's possible to get just folic acid vitamins which are smaller and less likely to be problematic -- there are even some which instantly dissovle under the tongue, which means swallowing them isn't even an issue. The other vitamins are important too, but folic acid first.

Don't get married. Having a kid is not a good reason to get married, especially when she may be able to qualify for more financial aid as a single mother. I think as the biological father you won't have any issues establishing parenthood if you aren't married (IANAL), so there's no reason to push for it now.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:20 PM on July 14, 2011

Advice, none. Encouragement though, yes.
(a) no-one is a born parent. As a first-time parent of a six month old I am of course enchanted and delighted. But also impressed by how well she can breathe, and drink, and cough, and sneeze, and defacate, and so on. It all just works, and if something doesn't, you will get too much advice, not too little.
(b) remember: in the history of the human race there has not been a more benevolent environment for the adventure upon which you are about to embark. Affluent, good health care, and essentially zero risk of actually going hungry.
Rationally, you are faced with a benevolent problem. Make the most of it, and prepare to be utterly enchanted and delighted.
posted by labberdasher at 4:09 AM on July 15, 2011

Ask. Your friends. For help.

Seriously. Tell them how scared you are and that you need them. And tell them what you need - for them to come help with the baby etc.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:13 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Many Universities today provide support specifically for students with families including child care, housing - even health care. Does your place do anything similar?

An OB/GYN isn't your only option. Certified Nurse Midwives are another way to go, they can be great teachers and usually spend more time with patients during appointments. My CNM worked in the same office as a number of OB/GYNs, which was kind of ideal. If you'd like someone who spends more time with you and does more teaching, it'd be worth hunting out a CNM and doing an interview.

Once you've found a dr or midwife, have the initial exam, and know that things are going OK, can you talk to your adviser, or maybe a department head or other trusted mentor? Hopefully they'll have some insight/good advice about continuing school and other career prospects.

We waited awhile to have our kids, but when we finally did get pregnant it was during a move to a new state, with new jobs, and a completely new city more than 900 miles from home. I job-hunted while pregnant and got hired, so it's possible. Not necessarily recommended, but possible! :) There is NEVER a perfect time to have a baby, no matter how prepared you think you are it's always a huge shock and adjustment. You're young, babies really don't need much, and you get to embark on this amazing adventure together. It'll work out just fine - enjoy the ride!
posted by hms71 at 8:36 AM on July 15, 2011

I just wanted to add my wholehearted support for you and your girlfriend. I worked as a case manager doing referrals to community resources and I would be delighted to help you find sliding scale/free enrichment and support services for families in your area.

The biggest thing that has seemed to determine familial success in my experience is when the parents are involved, dedicated and willing to face their own inadequaces and get appropriate resources to enhance their internal an external ability to support their children.

You sound like you already have your heart and thoughts in all the right places. Keeping that up in your actions will allow you to do the best any of us can do-- which is to love consistantly and dedicately be aware of our childrens needs and seek to meet them as best we are able (and if there are areas we are struggling, suck it up and ask for support! Your child's well being is more important than your pride!). The fact that both of you are dedicated to this opens up all kinds of doors. Congratulations!

P.S.-- Being scared is normal and appropriate. It's scary to be responsable for another human being! Being aware of how much that responsability means is part of the process. So learn to use your fear to ask important questions about what needs to be done and what appropriate areas of concern are and then just relax. And feel the joy of a new little person. : )
posted by xarnop at 12:19 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

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