How To Financially Plan For An Unplanned Baby

38 Comments

I had a positive pregnancy test in hand only 4 days after I had moved into a new one-bedroom apartment.

I hadn’t even bought living room furniture for my new place yet, let alone unpacked. I sat in my bathroom trying to wrap my head around those two pink lines, then promptly went to my computer and canceled all the speaking events and conferences I had planned to attend in the summer.

The weeks and months that followed that first day that I entered motherhood were marked by some of the most heartbreaking, agonizing, and terrifying moments of my life. I’m still going through it, though the shock has at least worn off.

50% of pregnancies are unplanned

If you’re already rolling your eyes at my “accident”, please stop. I, too, used to nod with fake empathy whenever a pregnant woman insisted her chosen method of birth control failed — and now I’m paying dearly for all my smug doubt.

During one of my many late nights googling all things pregnancy related, I learned 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Furthermore, women elect to carry 57% of those pregnancies to term. In other words, my unplanned pregnancy and my decision to keep the baby made me part of the majority for my situation, even if my circumstances initially felt achingly lonely.

Until now, I’d never had so much as a pregnancy scare. I never worried “what-if” at any point through college or my early career. I had the privilege of being pro-choice without ever having to make the choice. I trusted birth control implicitly. I thought it was hard to get pregnant. I never thought this would happen to me.

It did.

To say the timing is bad is an understatement

It’s terrible timing. But I’m still of the mindset that terrible timing doesn’t necessarily mean a terrible event.

I normally don’t like to share emotionally heavy life-events online until they’re long over. I don’t have that luxury with my pregnancy. It’s too obvious to hide and too all-encompassing to ignore. My child became the centre of my world the moment I learned of her existence. By the time I will be able to vocalize why this all happened the way that it did, I will still be in the thick of motherhood, tackling some new soul-stretching, resilience-building, heart-expanding feat with her. This is who she is to me, I already know this is who she will always be.

Over the past few months, I’ve told friends and family about my pregnancy while grappling with the lifetime financial and logistical challenges of adding a child to a life already operating at maximum stress.

I was only a year into self-employment, and while I had survived that dreaded first year of business with a profitable, self-sustaining company, I hardly wanted to add a child to the mix. Every business decision became suddenly weighty and consequential. I couldn’t experiment or take risks because any blow to my bank account could spell long-term disastrous repercussions. I couldn’t be frugal anymore, either. Pregnancy necessitated a new wardrobe, plus a hoard of additional expenses like expensive vitamins and birth classes, not to mention no freedom whatsoever to subsist on rice and ramen if I had to skip a paycheque or two.

The months have ticked by in alternating states of wild productivity and paralyzing panic. Sometimes I’d find those inspiring single-mother entrepreneur stories and think, “that’s all this is! I’m going to figure it out and everything will fall into place because I’m working so hard! I’ve never been so motivated and creative in my life!”. The rest of the time I thought, “I am one of the failures they don’t write about” and would cry helplessly in the bathtub for two hours.

I lost entire days to my grief, sweatpants, and Netflix. I lost even more in pure, unadulterated joy: my baby’s ultrasound photos, her gentle kicks while I work, the very thought of her in my arms, and in my life, forever.

How to afford an unplanned pregnancy

They say the average cost to raise a child in Canada is $250,000, which means an unplanned pregnancy is more or less the financial equivalent of being signed up for a small mortgage while unconscious. You wake up dazed and shackled to a bill for an amount that seems comical in its size. If you’ve always wanted a house but you’re not sure you can afford it, do you bail or do you find a way make it work? If you’re up for the challenge, here are my suggestions for managing your unplanned pregnancy:

1. Make your decision based on more than the financial implications. I’m never going to tell anyone whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, or what reasons should make or break their decisions, but I do want to encourage you not to let finances be the deciding factor either way. When you first find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, how to afford another human will easily make its way to the top 3 of your List of Main Concerns, but don’t let it be the only item on your list. Money is important, but it’s not everything. If everyone made their decision as to whether or not to have children based purely on financial considerations, no one would have kids.

2. Realize that you have 9 months to get your financial shit together. One of the best things about pregnancy is that it lasts a long time. A really long time. Pre-pregnancy you probably thought human gestation was only 9 months, but it’s actually 40 weeks which makes it more like nearly 10 months. Whether it seems like it or not when you’re battling 24/7 nausea or needing to go to bed at 7pm, nearly-10-months is long enough to re-jig your budget, earn more income, and find a solution to manage your debts. Virtually everything is more manageable when you realize you probably won’t need to buy any maternity clothes until your second trimester, and your first daycare bill is probably more than a full year away. Your baby is not arriving next week. Chill.

3. Don’t let your stress and worry keep you from enjoying the good parts. One of the best pieces of advice I received very early in my pregnancy was to enjoy it. When you find yourself accidentally pregnant, it’s easy to feel so awkward, ashamed, and guilty that you don’t feel entitled to beautiful experiences. Don’t cheat yourself. You’re allowed to buy cute maternity clothes, dream about your baby, and enjoy every single tiny flutter and kick. Things will be hard, and people will tell you that it will be very hard (and they’ll say it with that awful look that’s two-parts pity and one-part doubt that you’ll even be able to manage), but when you get the parts in your pregnancy that are easy and fun, indulge. I found I could acknowledge the impending financial and logistical challenges of single motherhood while simultaneously falling deliriously in love with my growing baby. These things are not mutually exclusive. No matter what your circumstances or how many challenges you’re facing, you’re still entitled to all the joys of pregnancy and motherhood. Take them unapologetically.

4. Plan for what is in your control, do your best with what is not. If you’ve been procrastinating any responsible adulthood tasks, few things will scare you out of your laziness like an unplanned pregnancy. Mere weeks after my positive pregnancy test, I set up a health spending account through my business and signed up for private health insurance. I made a baby budget that would let me upgrade to a 2-bedroom apartment. I drafted blog posts, email newsletters, and scripted YouTube videos to publish during a self-funded maternity leave. I haven’t gotten everything figured out, but I’ve managed to organize enough within my control to no longer feel like the sky is falling. I’m still winging the rest of it, and I don’t feel bad about that. Most people will tell you that you “can’t plan” for children. They’ll arrive on their own time, in their own way, and their sleep schedule will be wholly out of your control. But you can plan for diapers and daycare and other things within the realm of your control, so focus on that.

No one is really planning anything anyway

I know many people try to plan their pregnancies around the rest of their lives. Often when people wanted to talk to me about pregnancy, they liked to share how they were really looking forward to starting a family after they traveled or bought a house or secured a promotion. I tried to feign understanding, but I could feel my eye start to twitch whenever someone told me they were putting off “trying” in order to attend a friend’s wedding in a region with Zika. Maybe I was jealous of their sense of control and order over their lives when I seemingly had none. Maybe I was already cynical and jaded enough to be anything other than quietly amused by the ridiculous notion that you have any control in the first place.

For all the time we spend meticulously planning our lives and our finances, many things will be outside of our control. An unplanned pregnancy is only one possible scenario. Earlier this week my friend Barry shared his post:

How Much Does IVF Cost?

We represent opposite situations, but the heart of the matter has one big similarity that’s too often forgotten:

Sometimes your family planning doesn’t go the way you planned, and it ends up costing you a lot.

How I’m coping with the financial implications of an unexpected baby

In the early months, I wavered between staying self-employed and going back to a traditional job. I lusted after a steady paycheque and health benefits the way you would standing in front of a buffet after months starving on a deserted island. Rejoining the traditional workforce would have meant I was entitled to Canada’s luxurious government-sponsored year-long paid maternity leave. As an entrepreneur, my maternity leave was entirely my responsibility and no one was going to help.

I chose it anyway.

I’m now signed up for single motherhood as an entrepreneur. I’m not sure I can think of a more daunting financial undertaking.

We don’t always get to choose exactly how our biggest life events play out. Sometimes managing your finances is a lot more about adapting to changing circumstances rather than planning for them. Of course, I always knew this (see Financial Black Swans: Why Your Money is Never Wholly In Your Control and The Future You Are Saving For Does Not Exist), but I didn’t expect to put my perspective into practice in such a big way.

Where we go from here

Going forward I will be creating content around the costs of pregnancy, how to afford a baby, and more. This will never become a parenting or mommy blog, but many millennials are parents now and it’d be remiss to neglect the financial implications of this major life event, especially as it becomes part of my own story.

To answer the expected questions…

  • My baby is due in August
  • The father is present and very involved
  • My family is very supportive and very excited
  • My baby is a girl!
  • We have not settled on a name for her yet
  • I feel great! My pregnancy has been super easy with very little discomfort

I’ve been filming regular pregnancy updates for YouTube for months, which means even though I’m making this announcement only one before I enter my third trimester, you haven’t missed a thing. You can view my pregnancy video playlist HERE.

I’m excited to share this new twist with all of you!


38 Comments

  1. Congrats, Bridget!
    My sister is due with her first child at the end of July, so I’ll be sending her this way!

  2. I am so happy that you are feeling well! And jealous. But let’s go with happy. 😉

    And in addition to terrible morning sickness, I also learned that pregnancy often comes with a lot of crow to eat. Whoops!

    Beyond that, I’m thrilled you shared your story. You are so strong. I can only imagine what a little force your baby girl will be. Best wishes to you and your family!

  3. Catherine

    Congrats 🙂 our finances were the messiest they ever were when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter (now almost 5 yo). She transformed our financial lives in ways reading all the PF blogs couldn’t. My first maternity leave was, without a doubt the most stress I have ever been under and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Some weeks we had 200 for gas, food, diapers… Every variable bill we had. My husband was commuting a lot for work (various job sites around the city) and gas alone was costing us $60-80/week. Somehow we survived and learned SO much. There is exactly 4.5 years between my kids. There are many reason for this and a big one was financially driven but the timing was so perfect for our family. My daughter loves being the big sister to her baby brother. Their love is so amazing but I’m so glad we had the gap we did. There is no perfect time to have kids but until you get pregnant you can’t wrap your head around it. Good luck with everything, I can’t wait to follow 🙂

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      Thank you Catherine! I definitely feel less alone when I hear other people had their children at less-than-ideal times and still loved every minute of it. I’m so excited to see what comes next!

  4. Thank you for sharing this Bridget and congrats! Can’t wait to follow along and see your baby girl

  5. Congratulations!!!

  6. Congrats Bridget! I can’t wait to read all about your pregnancy and motherhood adventures.
    Particularly I’m super interested in the financial implications. I know you don’t share a ton of your personal finances on the blog but I still feel like you’ll have some great insights into how to actually afford a baby, which is still a huge mental barrier for me.

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      haha I’ve been keeping track of every single penny of my pregnancy costs, so I will not disappoint! It’s already been way more expensive than I expect lol… definitely will create a lot of great blog content. I’m excited to share!

  7. If you start posting DIY crochet PATTERNS I’m LEAVING! 😉

    BUT really and truly, congratulations! Unplanned is definitely not unwanted and many of my friends have struggled with ill timed pregnancies, including those with children already, and the fact that we can choose freely is something I hope we always have the right to do.

    And you’re totally right, why wouldn’t you write about pregnancy from a millennial money perspective? I’m really interested to hear, from a Canadian entrepreneur, how you’re planning and budgeting it out.

    Blah blah blah. Enjoy this time. 🙂

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      bahahaha I will leave if I ever do DIY crochet patterns 😉

      I’m looking forward to sharing all the baby budgets! You will not be disappointed!

  8. mickey

    Congratulations! The best advice I can give is to roll with it, and to adjust for help.. Babies and children are their own people, and raising then is hard. You handle everything else with such grace, that I know you’ve got this.

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      Thanks Mickey <3 I'm really excited and feel up for the challenge even though I know it will be hard. I really appreciate your support & kind words!

  9. Congratulations, Bridget! And thank you for sharing your story. I’m also looking forward to reading about the finances of raising your child. I have no doubt you’re going to do great!

    • Bridget Casey (Author)

      Thanks Kate! I’m tracking every cent so I’ll definitely be blogging about it all. Doing it self-employed is a whole ‘nother layer of challenges, but I’m excited to take it on.

    • Same here, can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Anyway .. a baby is a blessing and having a daughter myself, let me tell you they rock 😀

      Enjoy your pregnancy, it will all turn great.

      Congratulations for this great news and please keep us posted on your progress.

  10. Congratulations on your little girl! I’m sorry this happened at an inopportune time, but I know you are going to ROCK it. 🙂 You have your life together more than you realize and you have so many people that can lend a hand when you need a mommy nap.

    Again, congrats!!! 🙂

  11. Whoa – Congratulations! 🙂
    You can do this thing, enjoy it!

  12. Louise

    Congratulations! If you lived in Ottawa I would have baby girl clothes for you. You can join a Buy Nothing Group on Facebook and find things for your daughter…and I’m sure you know about freecycle…

  13. Courtney

    Congratulations! I’m so happy you’ve been able to find joy in this situation, truly <3

  14. Katelynne

    Congratulations Bridget!

  15. Charlotte

    You’ve got this, Bridget. Wishing you a happy and healthy pregnancy!

    PS If you haven’t already, check out Kelsey’s blog, Paper and Oats. She’s another online business owner (in the design field) and is a single mother. She has quite a few blog posts covering motherhood and entrepreneurship and I think you will get something out of them https://www.paperandoats.com/blog-single-motherhood

  16. Margareta

    Congratulations from a long time silent reader 😬!!! You look absolutely glowing in your video. You will do great, just remember to ask help.. I find the first few weeks postpartum were especially the hardest. It does get easier tho! Oh and if you are planning to breastfeed, for cost effective measure, I would just buy some nursing tank tops (Bravado is my fav brand). I basically just wear my nursing tank top with existing cardigans. No need to buy those nursing tops, sweaters and what nots! Congrats again! PS-am also Calgary based new mom, let me know if there is anything you need help with! 😊

  17. Dayle

    Congrats again! Very excited for you, and you share a lot of great knowledge in this post. Looking forward to reading more, and wish you all the very best!

    As a side note I’d be interested to hear your thoughts/experiences (if any) on pregnancy and fitness, as well as your journey up to this point, whether you think your health and fitness played a role in feeling good during your pregnancy… and later down the road how that looks for you post partum.

    Dayle

  18. Congrats Bridget! This is a very brave and vulnerable post, and I feel like it helped your audience connect and grow with you even more. You’re a very strong woman, and I admire that you have not only chosen to carry the pregnancy to term, but also that you’re continuing with your ambitions as an entrepreneur.

    “Terrible timing doesn’t necessarily mean a terrible event.” I love this quote and your whole perspective. Best wishes for a smooth pregnancy and healthy baby girl!

  19. Congratulations! Parenthood is a lot of responsibility but also a lot of fun. It is definitely advisable to get a bit more living space. It sounds like you have a solid plan for the major expenses. Daycare was the real shock for me. Best wishes to you and baby!

  20. Congratulations! You’ve handled this unexpected news with such class and grace and happiness. I know you probably never meant for your financial blog to become so personal, but this past year or two, I’ve really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on some really tough (and fun!) topics. As a female millenial, the past few relationship posts and now this pregnancy one, have really hit home. I hope the pregnancy continues to go well, and I’m so excited for you in this new chapter (& happy you aren’t going anywhere blog-wise)!

  21. Heather @ The Pennywise Playbook

    Congrats, Bridget! I’m also a Millennial entrepreneur who will be in your situation in the near future, LOL! So I’m excited to watch how you tackle this exciting challenge! xo

  22. Amy

    Congratulations! My own pregnancy was unplanned and we were barely engaged when I found out. I’m also a freelancer.

    My biggest advice would be to figure out childcare while you’re still pregnant. If you’re planning on doing daycare once your maternity leave is done, tour the daycare places. If you have family that will be helping, make sure you have clear, firm committed plans for what they’ll be doing once you’re ready for them to start. My baby hates being in the car and spent the first 6 months sleeping only in my arms– she woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep if I put her down. Don’t bank on being able to research/plan while she’s sleeping– it may or may not happen.

    My second piece of advice is to expect and prepare for a financial hit. My daughter is now a bit over a year old, and my income after she was born was less than half of what I earned pre-baby. Some of it was due to not working during maternity leave. Some of it was because I couldn’t say “yes” to certain projects because I had to be sure I could care for her, too. And an unfortunate percentage was because some of my clients stopped giving me work. I expect that some of them will come back over time, but freelancers don’t have the same protections that regular employees have. People can choose not to hire you for a project for whatever reasons they want. It’s important to have savings to fall back on, and it’s important to be okay with using them.

    My third piece of advice is to think carefully about what baby things you really want to acquire. I didn’t really want nursery stuff– I knew she’d be spending the first year in the same room as us. I didn’t think I needed nursing tops, but–unlike one of the other commenters– I realized that I did and wish I’d gotten them sooner. (For me, the nursing tops let me feel more normal when I wasn’t nursing. I wear the tanks when sleeping, but the tanks weren’t enough coverage for me for the daytime. I’ve worn them every day since I got them.) Figure out what works for you when it comes to baby things, and be willing to rethink if you need to.

    Having my daughter has been the biggest change in my life, and I’m still figuring things out myself, but I am so happy to have her. I have never felt such love and joy. It’s hard, but I wouldn’t change having her.

  23. CONGRATULATIONS! So happy for you <3 As someone in a same-sex relationship, I've always been kind of jealous that other people can have unplanned pregnancies. The thought of having to make a conscious (and super expensive) decision to try and get pregnant freaks me out because like you said, there's NEVER a perfect time, or even a good time. So I worry we will never do it cause like you said, there are so many excuses you can make. ANYWAYS. Such a blessing to have a baby, regardless of the timing 🙂 And I know that you are going to be amazing at all of this. Can't wait to follow along as you blaze the motherhood trail!

  24. Diana Bouchard

    Congratulations Bridget! I’ve been following your blog since the summer and am so excited for you! I’m also due in August with my first baby, and although my baby was a dream for quite awhile, I can totally relate to the financial reality about to hit. So far my pregnancy hasn’t cost me more than a hundred or so in maternity clothes, but saving for the big things is still on my list!

  25. Marie

    Wow! What wonderful news – my son was born in august so I know how you are feeling- I hope the summer is cool. Sounds like you have thoughtfully made a plan for you and your baby. The good news is that since the father is present and will be very involved, you are not truely a single mother- perhaps unmarried and/or not living with the father, but sounds he will be there for emotional and perhaps financial support and will join in decisions on your daughters life and will be there to share the joy. As a Single Mother by Choice (I conceived my oldest via sperm donor and then adopted my younger son) I am the sole emotional, physical and financial support for my kids- which is hard but so worth it!

  26. Courtney

    Congratulations Bridget from another silent reader! I am so very happy for you! I hope you have a great pregnancy and a happy and healthy baby! Thank you for opening up to us about your life events because it opens up to wonderful financial discussions. In the coming months, ignore any of the negative, focus on all of the incredible and overwhelming positives and I have no doubt you are going to rock at motherhood!! Congratulations Bridget!!

  27. An unplanned pregnancy can be very scary. Luckily you are a strong, smart, capable person with a great head on her shoulders. You are doing exactly what you should be. Enjoy this beautiful time in your life..having kids will open you up to a beautiful new world! Congrats!