Earthquake Preparedness…

I woke up way too early this morning thinking about what I’ve been obsessing over for the past few weeks…preparing for the baby’s arrival.  For some reason, it dawned on me, that preparing for the baby’s arrival – setting up the nursery, packing the hospital bag(s), making sure that we have the “essentials” waiting at home for the little-guy-to-be – feels somewhat like a constant state of earthquake preparedness (or maybe disaster preparedness for those of you who are not from California).  Earthquake preparedness, “preparing for the big one” is something I’ve always taken for granted.

We Californians have been hearing about earthquake preparedness ever since we started school.  We’ve been taught to have lots of water stored at home and to keep fresh batteries in our flashlights.  When the big one hits, we are told to stay away from windows, hide under our desk, or stand in a nearby doorjam.  Ironically, I’ve never really “prepared” for an earthquake because I never really knew if it was coming, when it was coming, where it was coming, or its order of magnitude.  Preparing for the baby’s arrival does seem a little different because you are preparing for an “earthquake” that you know is actually coming, approximately when, and it’s heading to a town near you.

I wonder if it’s going to be a minor tremor or a natural disaster of epic proportions….Will the lack of sleep be as bad as they say?  Will I really not be able to go see a movie or play golf for the next couple of years?  Will we be able to afford it?  I’m actually not too concerned about the first two questions, but I do have nagging concerns about the last.

Until approximately three months ago, we were a two-income family with a very comfortable lifestyle.  Money was not much of a worry.   We ate out wherever and whenever we wanted.  We could take weekend getaways to San Francisco, the wine country or Lake Tahoe whenever we wanted (and work would allow).  We were pretty much the “typical” DINK family (DINK stands for “dual income no kids”) and I used to be the primary breadwinner.  Unfortunately, I was laid off unexpectedly last year and the still relatively new consulting gig is kind of slow to expand.  What used to be a very financially comfortable two-income family is now a one-income family earning less than half of what we were used to earning.  Will we be able to get by financially?

The financial question and fear of failure creeps into my conscious, and probably subconscious, every day.  Though I am extremely excited for the impending birth of our baby boy, I can’t help but wonder if this will be a minor financial tremor in our lives, or a pending financial disaster.  For those of you who currently have kids or have already raised your kids to the point where they have left the nest, you know how expensive the joy of kids can be.  We have not even had to deal with the issues of child care, public vs. private schooling, how to pay for college, etc. and yet the costs of “preparedness” continue to creep higher.  You need lots of new stuff and the shit ain’t cheap!

You need nursery furniture and bedding.  This includes, but is not limited to a crib, sheets, changing table, rocker, and storage.  Oh, and don’t forget the “remodel” to prepare the nursery, or in our case, conversion of the office into a nursery (something I hear that is relatively common).

You need supplies for feeding.  Bibs, bottles and burp cloths.  And what the heck is a boppy or “My Brest Friend”?   You need pacifiers, sippy cups, and splat-mats.  By the way, a chewther?  Really?

You need bathing supplies.  Bath towels, wash mitts, and squirters.  Hooded kimono anyone?   Do these come in adult sizes?  Oh yes, they are called robes, though often without the hood.

You need potty supplies.   Diapers, diapers, diapers.  Diaper bin, diaper caddie, diaper cream.  On the subject of diaper cream, who would have thought that I would become an expert in ointments for the tushie or that someone would actually come out with a product called Boudreaux’s Butt Paste?

You need clothes.   Long sleeve T-shirts, short sleeve T-shirts.  Long-sleeve baby bodies, short-sleeve baby bodies. Footed pants, booties, mitts, and beanies (or skull hats for the dads in the crowd).  Baby gowns, regular or convertible (yes dads, both girl and boy babies wear “gowns”).  Can someone please tell me the difference between one of these gowns and a baby bunting?

Did I mention sleepwear? Onesies, sleepsacks, swaddles and wearable blankets.  On the subject of blankets, you need receiving blankets, swaddle blankets, security blankets, and stroller blankets.  I think they even have blankets for blankets.

You need toys.  Thumbies, rattles, and stackers.   Sleep Sheep, Whoozit, and Sassy go go bugs.  And don’t forget Sophie the Giraffe.

Finally, you need gear, lots of gear.  Car seats – infant, toddler, booster.  Don’t’ forget the extra bases if you have more than 1 car.  Strollers – full-size, travel, umbrella.  And for the more fitness-conscious?   The jogger or all-terrain stroller is for you.  Baby carriers – Baby Bjorn?  ErgoBaby?  That sling thing?  And don’t forget the floor seat, the jumper, the sleeper, the Pack n’ Play, the swing, the bouncer and the all-important…exersaucer.

See what I mean?  Is your head exploding yet?  I know.  Just remember to breathe…and try to laugh a little.

When the dark cloud of impending doom engulfs me, I search for the light.  I think of the real natural disasters that I have “witnessed” in my lifetime.  They have occurred all around the globe – the tsunami in Phuket, Thailand, hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, even the Riverside and Loma Prieta earthquakes.  Even though I was never really at ground zero for any of them, I vividly remember all of them.  Through friends who were at ground zero and/or the onslaught of media coverage, I saw the destruction and at times even felt the devastation.  What I remember about all of these events is that no matter how bad they were at the time, things got better, recovery happened, people and life moved forward.  We’re resilient in that we persevere with strong resolve and we find a way to make it work, no matter what.

Even so, as I continue my “earthquake preparedness,” I still wonder if it will end up being a minor tremor or a full-scale natural disaster of epic proportions.  I realize that I’m probably wondering this because I am currently uncertain about the life I will be able to provide for my family.  I wonder how we will make it through this time financially.  I wonder what kind of dad I will be.  I wonder if other parents also felt this.  I wonder if anyone from our hospital tour last night feels this way now.

I hope this is “normal”.  At least some of the parenting books providing advice on “what to expect” suggest that these feelings are probably normal, or at least there are others who wonder about theses same uncertainties.  This is somewhat comforting.

However, what helps me to get through these scary periods is realizing that there are literally millions of people who have successfully gone through this same experience (whether or not their circumstances are exactly the same).  In fact, many have started on this journey in a much different place than me – with less resources, in worse societal conditions, with less support, and even without a partner.  And somehow, they got through it.  They made it work.  They survived and in many cases even thrived.

More importantly, what helps me to get through these scary periods is knowing that I have an amazing partner (who is gainfully employed), a caring family (blood and extended), and supportive friends (near and far).  I am not alone.  I’m resourceful and I’m resilient.  And come on, I didn’t even have to carry the little bugger for nine months in my belly and will not have to shoot a watermelon out of my nethers.  I just had to put together the “earthquake” preparedness kit and get ready for the wildest ride of my life!



  1. Your last paragraph made me cry. The Bouton Family will be wonderful and crazy and crappy and funny and horrible and messy and tired and amazing!

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