As a project manager with serious type A personality and a matching OCPD diagnosis to boot, you would think I would have this whole baby preparation planning all figured out.
In reality, it’s quite far from the truth, and I am placing the blame on my so-called pregnancy brain. It’s been driving me crazy how I couldn’t seem to get my myself as organized as I wanted to be. We started so great after the pregnancy test, and then somewhere between the first ultrasound and today, we’ve been playing serious catch-up. I mean, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I would probably need a breast pump until my bestie Lexy, who is expecting a baby in August, brought it up (amongst other many things that got me panicking).
Thankfully, and with a little bit of discipline, I think my husband and I have (finally!) gotten certain things under control. Not the whole extent of it, but just enough to make us feel like we’re ready to have this baby. Sort of.
This was perhaps the first thing my husband and I looked into when we found out we were expecting, and rightly so, because we live in one of the most expensive countries in the world. Even with our double income, we didn’t want to spend more than what was needed (with a few indulgences here and there, of course).
While the actual part of bringing a baby into this world is free in Norway, everything else isn’t. They’re also priced at such a premium that even during the biggest Winter Sales, I still found myself baulking at the prices. A baby onesie, for example, was selling for 250kr (USD 29) — and that was already on sale at 50% off. Even brands like H&M and Lindex can cost a pretty penny at retail price, and considering that a baby outgrows everything every couple of months (sometimes weeks, even!), clothes shopping alone can already take over the budget. And did you know that prams came in various sizes, so much so that you have to upgrade to a new one once they’ve passed the 12-month mark? Because these days newborns apparently have their very own prams designed just for them. Insanity.
So, how exactly did we budget for our little jelly bean’s arrival? We did our research. We went to bank websites and even government websites that published reports on childcare costs in Norway from the day they’re born until they turn 18. The newborn figures were far too overinflated for our taste (I guess the reports take every kind of parent into consideration, including the very indulgent ones who splurge tens of thousands of kroners on their baby nurseries) but we used them regardless as a basis for how much we thought we needed (the absolute worst case scenario) to keep our little jelly bean properly taken care off and happy when he finally arrives — without mama and papa having to dip into their savings accounts.
After a couple of rounds of cost-benefit and value-investment analyses, our golden number came to about 5,000kr/month, which we decided we’d split halfway down the middle. Then multiplying that by the number of pay checks until the expected delivery date, it seemed a decent amount of money to spend on a Norwegian baby ‘s arrival (perhaps even more than enough).
So far so good, we were right on the nose and on budget.
This is probably the area where we lost absolute control. I’m approximately 8 weeks away from full term and our shopping list is still as long as my husband’s Viking-sized arm; not to mention that it took me months to realize that I had to actually get myself a midwife; just barely made it on the list for the state-sponsored birthing and breastfeeding course before my due date (otherwise, we would have had to pay for a private one); and am just 2 weeks away from not filing my maternity benefits application on time!
Looking back, this would have been something that I would have focused my (wandering) attention more on, and also taken into consideration all the other timelines (most of them, already established) required to welcome a baby into world — meaning doctor’s appointments, mandatory medical exams, preparation classes (whichever ones you intend to join) and the ever famous bureaucratic red tape. The last one is perhaps the most important one to plan for since they’re completely outside the area of your control. The last thing you want to happen is not to receive the benefits due to you when you finally need them. It also helps a great deal if you know how the system works, which was sadly not the case for us.
I got into making checklists only just recently, when I finally got my head out of the clouds, and all the nasty side effects of my pregnancy had started to wane. Whether you do it on paper or on your mobile, or go completely zany and create a master spreadsheet of sorts, checklists are a must-do and its important for both parents-to-be to be in on the game.
And the best part is, we didn’t even have to create a checklist from scratch because the internet is literally drowning with checklists. From the uber-practical to the ridiculous (I mean, having a baby food catcher bib sounds awesome, but it only takes a curious and feisty baby to learn how to dig his tiny hand into that catcher full of food and you’ve got yourself a monster catapult machine).
We opted for checklists that divided the necessities from the nice-to-haves, and even went one step further by dividing the immediate must-haves from the ones you can buy after the baby is born (as seen on the Danish website Vores Børn’s Den Store Huskeliste Inden Fødslen). This checklist has helped us manage our budget and spread out the costs. It’s also made me feel a little less unaccomplished, knowing that I don’t need to have EVERYTHING in place before our jelly bean is born (even though everyone else I know is ahead of the game).
Other checklists we’ve also had to consider were specific to our needs as parents-to-be. While I haven’t gotten around to making them just yet, I know we’re going to eventually need 3 packing lists for the hospital (for me, the baby and even the husband), and even a list of questions to ask our midwife during the birthing and breastfeeding course. No stone left unturned, as they say. I want to make sure we’re as prepared as we possibly can be now that we’re a little bit more in control.
Having worked in a consulting company in the past, the word ‘sourcing’ has stuck to me like glue. When planning for the arrival of a baby, it’s important to narrow down your source of suppliers depending on your budget and requirements.
My husband’s requirements were such that everything we were going to buy had to be quick and practical, and it didn’t matter so much if it cost more. He just couldn’t envision himself, for example, putting a crying newborn into a car seat by himself, and then struggling with the seatbelt under the pouring rain (we do live in Bergen where it rains 250 days in a year!). So, we narrowed our newborn carseat choices down to those with an ISOfix base since our car was already equipped with it anyhow. All it takes is one click, and voila, baby is secure!
My requirements on the other hand, included aesthetics and overall usability. I wanted to buy pretty things that grew with the baby and didn’t require too much handling for it to work.
So we ended up choosing the BeSafe Newborn carseat with ISOfix base and the Stokke Cruzi pram, which we bought second hand for a third and half the retail price (and luckily for us, we got the pram almost brand new — as it had just been replaced by the former owner’s insurance company after an airport mishandling mishap and by the time the replacement arrived, their baby had outgrown the pram).
I had personally test-driven a bunch of baby prams available in Norway by pushing my friends’ prams for them during our girly coffee dates and Stokke was by far the easiest to maneuver, isn’t bulky and best of all, adapts to a growing baby. The only thing that annoyed us was that while BeSafe’s carseats were compatible with most Stokki prams — where you could click the carseat into the pram base, making for an instant functional “pram”, it wasn’t compatible with the Cruzi (the older versions, at least). But babies aren’t meant to be in carseats for prolonged periods anyhow, so we just let this little oversight pass.
As for baby clothes, I resorted to buying everything online. While I may have splurged on a few Danish and Swedish designer baby items, most of our little jelly bean’s everyday clothes I got from Mango, Zara, Benetton and Carters. Mostly from their outlet/sale sections, where you can get an adorable baby onesie or kimono shirt for as low as 30k (USD 3.50)! It also pays to know how to knit and I taught myself over these last couple of months how to knit baby clothes so I didn’t have to splurge on 100% sweaters and hats, which would have cost quite a bit if I bought them off the rack.
And finally, with everything said and done, we’re finally getting around to compiling all the documents we’re going to need for the baby’s arrival.
In Norway, that would be the mother’s medical pregnancy records and the application for parental leave, which is a series of documents that you submit to social services (should you be eligible) to be able to go on paid parental leave.
The documents are a bit tricky to fill out since there are a number of possibilities to choose from, so it helps to ask and read about it ahead of time.