Ka-ching (in a bad way)

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I had always heard it said that having a baby was an expensive business. It turns out that this is amplified by the fact that by the time the baby comes along you have no money left because you’ve spent it all on being pregnant. I’m thinking of abandoning my career and devoting my time to selling things - any kinds of things - to pregnant women at three times the price that you would sell them to unpregnant women.

The whole market is driven by a heady combination of fear, novelty with only the most transparent spattering of maternal concern. Fear is by far the most powerful. If you do not buy this XXX, then something-kind-of-bad will happen to you and/or unborn child.

It starts with pre-natal vitamins. “What do you mean I’m pregnant? I can’t be pregnant...I haven’t been taking super-strength folic acid tablets wrapped in extra strong vitamin b-multitude for the last sixteen weeks!!! I’m done for. I might as well sign the child up for remedial maths classes. Sigh.”. So, the first thing you do is run out the door, to the chemist, and buy its-not-too-late-to-take-your-vitamins vitamins at €30 for a months supply of pink tablets that you take with see-through-fishy tablets, thereby guaranteeing that you are not a failed mother before your child has even lost its tail (which it does at about 8 weeks).

This said, you generally save money in the first trimester overall, depending on your cravings. Mine were cheese sandwiches, and not like crusty baguettes and gruyere or anything, just white sliced pan and processed cheese. My only nod to frou-frou was a need for organic mayonnaise because Hellmans was too white and freaked me out a bit.

The next big spend is BioOil (€25 a bottle) which is a vaguely sticky pink oil that you are supposed to slather over your skin in order to fend off stretch-marks. The fact that BioOil itself admits that it does not prevent stretch-marks is irrelevant. If you don’t bother using it, you might as well stay in your pjs all day, eat butter with a spoon and stop brushing your hair. It’s a symbol to the world that that you are not willing to let yourself go in the face of genetics, limited cellular elasticity and a 10lb trainee ninja recreating scenes from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in the space behind your belly button. BioOil is a necessity - a token of your spirit. It’s worth the money.

Maternity wear is next and its a racket. It’s not a case of buying one or two wraparound dresses in demure colours. Nothing that you wore pre-pregnancy can be worn during pregnancy. You need new underwear (bigger underwear), new bras (bigger bras), new socks (to prevent varicose veins - if you don’t wear special socks and you get varicose veins you’ll have no one to blame but yourself), new pyjamas (bigger pyjamas) and new shoes (to make you feel better because everything else is getting bigger). You will also need to buy an full wardrobe of things made entirely from elastic. None of these stretchy things are cheap. If you have to go to a wedding you will have to spend €200 on a dress that you don’t particularly like but that you gratefully buy because it is the only thing in the country that you fit into that does not look like either sleep-wear or a mu-mu. Any ideas you had about being able to continue to wear looser fitting items from your previous wardrobe are dashed when you try on a v-neck jumper and realise that you should probably not flash your belly button in work.

By the time I’d paid for pregnancy yoga classes (which was actually only recently because my mommy kindly bought me the first couple of months), the credit card was starting to creak. Needless to say, I also needed maternity yoga clothes.

As pregnancy also seems to have tipped me over the edge into a full blown earth-hippie-frantically-looking-to-connect-with-my-chi-before-I-forget-where-I’ve-put-it, I signed Mr Oh and I up to a hypnobirthing course. It was worth it just to hear Mr Oh loudly chomping on an imaginary lemon while the instructor guided us through a basic hypnosis. He has gone from being a total skeptic to a dedicated believer. He is also, we have learned, very easily hypnotised.

As it turns out, hypnobirthing was one of my better buys - much better than the tights that reach my neck or the app that each week compares my baby to a low-lying vegetable (this week Hu Jintao is the size of a Chinese cabbage). I’ve gone all birth-organic and will be refusing any form of pain relief or drugs for (at least the first fifteen minutes of) my labour. I think most of the reason I don’t want an epidural is that I think it might hurt. Needles into my spine give me the heebie-jeebies. It’s a pity they can’t just dose me up on Solpadeine. I could give birth in a opiate-haze....that sounds like a good time.

In the last month or so, my hips have started started hurting and I have been unable to sleep. I refused to buy a maternity pillow on the grounds that I didn’t want to bring any more unnecessary stuff into the house. Instead I spent a small fortune going to see an osteopath who specialises in pregnancy. Then, upon discovering that osteopathy necessitates sitting around a lot in one’s underwear, I had to go and buy
even more underwear (this time in colours other than beige and grey).

I thought I had spent all the money I was likely to on a tiny person who has no earthly needs other than a bit of kicking space and a lot of milk. I had not yet factored in the-item-formerly-known-as-a-buggy. Nowadays, you don’t buy buggies, you buy a “travel system“. A travel system is a piece of machinery that costs as much as a Fiat Punto and has the design capability to double as a mid-range missile launcher. It is, however, essentially a buggy, with bits. It has a pram bit and a stroller bit and a car seat bit. You take all the bits off and put them back on depending on which bit you need. Buggy with bits can cost up to €1,500.

Choosing the right travel system is important. It is essentially an indication of how much you love your child (this is what I told Mr Oh). All the celebrities have Bugaboo travel systems. These are very nice and they do many wonderful things, but I did not think a Bugaboo was the right match for baby Hu Jintao. Hu is not a follower. Hu is not a slave to pedestrian trends (DYSWIDT?). Hu needs a different sort of travel system - something that will let baby Hu express him/her self in ergonomic luxury with a minimalist undertone. Hu needs a Stokke.

I fell in love with the Stokke travel system the first time I saw it. Mr Oh was slightly more skeptical (why does a buggy handlebar need to be designed by Audi?). I thought I had time to convince him but my friend Mary told me that she had to order her travel system 10 weeks in advance. I kicked up the campaign and after 48-hours of parroting like an infomercial, Mr Oh caved. The big selling point for him was the height. Every other buggy we tried, the baby carriage was hovering around his knee-height (which on other people is waist-height). Stokke is designed by tall Scandinavians for tall Scandinavians (and tall Irish men).

They told us last weekend in the shop that it would take six weeks to be delivered. Turns out it only took a week and arrived yesterday. After I’d unpacked it, I spent the day strapping my teddy bears in and wheeling them around the living room. I thought it would make a good shopping transporter and briefly considered taking it to Tesco but am not ready to be the crazy woman with the pram full of broccoli. Mr Oh has safely stored it upstairs in the spare room but not before he spent a bit of time practicing with the teddy bears (and at one stage even trying to strap himself in).

With the travel system out of the way, hopefully the next twelve weeks or so will be relatively expenditure light. Mr Oh is studying all the time and I am generally quite tired so life on the cheap may be a possibility.

As I was writing this, Mr Oh emerged temporarily from his study-cocoon and asked what my blog topic was this week. I said ‘How much being pregnant costs’. Before disappearing back up the stairs he said ‘But you save money too...you don’t have to go out all the time looking to meet someone that you might want to have a baby with’. I think the hypnosis has left him with deep and profound insights.

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