Oh momma, it is perfectly normal to have periods of doubt, panic and fear during pregnancy. It is a huge life change and it can put anyone on edge! I have been very low income with not one, but 2 children before and I won't say it is easy but it IS do-able. Small children usually have no idea that their parents are low income as long as the parents don't make a big deal out of it. My almost 6 yo DD1 didn't have a clue how hard things were for us just a year or even 6 months ago. We spent most of her life pretty poor but she never noticed. I think it was our attitude. We never lamented our situation in front of her, we had lots of FREE fun and we surrounded ourselves with friends who didn't care about our economic status. And really, kids do NOT need much despite what the media tells you. The best thing you can do for your baby is breastfeed which is free! If you have a baby carrier (like a sling or wrap) boobs and diapers, that pretty much covers the first 6 months. Even after that, kids don't want stuff, they want YOU. My kids have never had the latest toys, much of their furniture, clothes, and shoes are hand-me-downs. You don't need fancy electronic toys or programs for enrichment, my kids learn by playing, being in nature as much as possible, and just living life with me.
On the flip side of that, I actually grew up in a pretty affluent home, yet my mom always lamented how we didn't have enough money for this or that (usually frivolous things that didn't matter at all) and it made me think we were poor growing up! Looking back, her behavior was pretty ridiculous and it took my own personal hardship as an adult to really grow up and get a much better perspective on life. Being low-income is hard but do-able. Some of the best and most well-adjusted adults I know came from low-income families, their families used it as an opportunity to build tremendous character. I actually kind of wish I had had that instead of beach vacations and over-the-top holidays growing up.
Some things you can do ahead of time- if you can possibly prepare some freezer meals ahead of time that is a huge help, even if it is only a weeks worth of dinners it is worth it. Try to clean as much as you can before the baby, but after the baby arrives, don't worry about it beyond the basics. Babies don't care...really! Don't be afraid to use paper plates and disposables in the first weeks if it helps.
As far as preventing burnout, get out as much as you can. The library, local parks and even coffee shops are great free/low-cost places to go. Museums and zoos often have "free days", you just have to research when and how. After the baby turns 6 months and can hold his/her head up really well, get a good sturdy carrier and go hiking and walking to take care of yourself. Good nutrition while nursing is essential, low income options are beans, brown rice, fruit, and lots of veggies (fresh is best but frozen works too if you can't afford it). Drink lots of water.
Are you with the father, will he be involved? If so, have some serious discussions before the baby comes about giving you a break and helping more with household chores. If not, seek out support from other single mothers. Many churches have single mom's group or mom's day out. Larger cities will have even more resources. There is a single parents forum here which can probably help you.
This got really long, but I hope this helps.
ITA w everything the PP said!
I would add that it can help to look up your local pregnancy care center. These are organizations of people who want to help ANY mama in a challenging situation of ANY kind (most claim their motivation is to give mamas with challenges a viable option to abortion, so they want to make having the baby easier & smooth out the challenges).
I've volunteered for (and also in the past received help from) these centers. They may be able to help w many things, like
*providing moms' groups, so you can get out & tt others if you feel overwhelmed
*giving mom's diapers or a layette (some ctrs let mom's "earn" items they want or need by volunteering to help other moms-- this helps you feel great when you can help others & meets a need you may have for what-not for baby, like bigger clothes, a carseat, etc)
*offering meetings/ classes w a lactation consultant, to help nursing go smoothly
*organizing a swap room where moms can trade in outgrown items for more useful ones
* offering classes on practical skills you may want w a growing babe, like early childhood development, sewing, crockpot meals, etc.
And while these may all be helpful, the best advice is from the PP-- keep it simple-- my DC are growing up w approx 1/2 the federal "poverty line" income & we choose to keep mom at home rather than both work & make a bunch more money-- they are old enough now to know where we stand & they love the enriching life they have & wouldn't trade it for anything (really... & they know the difference bc at one time we did make crazy-money & live in a cookie cutter house in a nice suburb w all the luxuries, but they begged to move back to rural poor podunk & our prior simple, low key ways.) This is all just using us as an example to say; your DC won't hate you for having less if you give them more of YOU!
I hope you get lots more encouragement & good practical advice; mp me if you want-- I've been there & we're there again w one due in sept C:
I just wanted to add that you may not feel how you think you will. I was really scared of being overwhelmed when I had my first because we were poor college students living in an efficiency apartment and all we could buy our baby was a carseat and pack-n-play to sleep in. I spent most of my first PG VERY stressed because I lived 3,000 miles away from family and had NO ONE. Literally not a single friend and was on bed rest, so I never even seen my family during my pregnancy. When my son was born I was a little stressed about money and the fact that we lived in a bad neighborhood in LA, but being home alone with him all day was truly the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved getting up with him nursing all night. I was tiered as I sleep more than average too, but he was my best friend and my everything. We have been through so much together because of that rough start. It may not happen for you this way, but I was shocked at how much I didn't mind the lack of sleep and lack of company. I enjoyed only having him to myself most of the time and only sharing him with my DH for that first year.
One thing that really helped me before my ds1 was born was joining a local food co-op. it took about 2 months for me to 'get in the loop' and after that budgeting for my monthly food became so much easier because at the beginning of each month I would front the money for eggs, raw goat milk, and weekly produce bins. then all i had to do was a weekly pick up and not worry about going to the grocery store. they even offered meat and other dairy options, as well as great group bulk and wholesale buys that I participated in occasionaly. My neighorhood set up a few of us to work together and deliver to each others homes so it worked out to me getting weekly deliveries at my door 3 weeks a month and then taking about 2 hours to do the delivery myself 1 week a month.
totally worth it and i loved all the new families i met and the community connections i made. just a thought if you have that option around you it might be worth looking into. we are also on food stamps and the co-op (or neighborhood buying club) did take food stamps.
I think even just connecting on the forums here with other mamas is a great step! It really helps to be able to talk with other women going through the same thing you are.
Joining a local moms group is your area is also great - often they do cheap/free things and have get togethers at each others houses. Getting out of the house and reserving time for social activity with other adults is so important! Plus you can always bring the baby and you can rest assured that other moms will be understanding if baby cries or needs to be fed. Sometimes moms groups even have a special new-mom organization set up - they make meals and drop them off at your house so you don't have to worry about cooking for yourself.
If you get tired, there is nothing wrong with just taking a nap with your baby. It actually is one of the most comforting things, sleeping next to your sweet newborn and breathing in their new baby scent.
If there is no one else nearby that will be there to help with cooking/cleaning, perhaps make some big batches of food that you can freeze? It's such a relief to be hungry and be able to just throw a piece of lasagna or some frozen soup in the oven and be set for mealtime.