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.


I'm HuJ (and a bit ranty)


There is nothing on television! There really isn’t. It’s Friday night and I’ve got a choice between Celebrity Come Dine With Me (if you consider Rory McIlroy’s trampy ex-girlfriend a ‘celebrity’), the news (which I find stressful) and a type of This Is Your Life show hosted by Piers Morgan which is tonight featuring Ken Barlow from Coronation Street. It’s pretty grim.

I get very excited about nights where I have nothing to do and nowhere to go and then when I’m actually right slap bang in the middle of them I realise that I have nothing to do and nowhere to go and Ken Barlow is the best thing on telly. I feel like I should be gainfully relaxing rather than just lolling around the place like this. Lying lopsidedly on the sofa licking a large chocolate easter egg is not, I suspect, relaxation time well spent. [Just to explain myself, I was unable to break the egg open with my hands and it was too big for me to get a grip with my teeth and bite so I had to resort to licking it. The alternative was stabbing it with a pen which I thought might be perceived as uncouth].

My options of things to do are limited. I could watch another episode of The Tudors but there really is a limit to the amount of gratuitiously starkers Jonathan Rhys Meyers frolicking in a loosely historical context that a person can watch in a week. Everything else (reading, yoga, cooking, finally sorting out my online tax affairs) is too tiring. I’m fully updated on celebrity gossip (Brangelina is engaged - yawn), I’ve no particular desire to talk to anyone and it’s too early to go to sleep. I have no idea what to do. I feel like I’m wasting precious minutes of relaxation by doing nothing. Resting is proving to be stress.ful, I may shortly return to licking the chocolate egg.

I’ve also added ‘talking to unborn baby’ to my pastimes. The benefits of this are multiple. A - baby cannot talk back. B - baby cannot go anywhere. C - baby cannot slam doors or say ‘i hate you’. On the downside, baby can kick. Sometimes I get nice light fluttery kicks around the belly button (usually when baby’s father is around). When baby and I are alone, it likes to kick my bladder.

Despite my increasing suspicion that my baby is hyper-active, willful and unlikely to eat broccoli , I’m very fond of it. Baby (who we have this week nicknamed Hu Jintao) and I spend all day together and I think it’s starting to show signs of a personality. For example, baby likes milk, ice cream and dried mango. Baby does not like fish, loud noises or the bus. Baby likes swimming but finds walking tedious. It likes banjo music but not rap music. One might say that these are obviously things that I like and have nothing to do with the personality of my unborn baby. I’m not so sure. I now drink gallons of milk a day where previously I never drank milk. Even Mr Oh is shocked. He tried to prevent me from buying a 3-litre carton of milk last week on the grounds that ‘there are only two of us, we are not the target market for 3-litre cartons of milk’. It turned out that we needed to go back the next day to get another 3-litre carton of milk once I devoured the first one like a hungry lactose vampire.

It is interesting that the baby seems to react to different types of music. Some make it dance, or thrash about wildly in a type of early onset moshing, classical music seems to calm it down and whenever Mr Oh plays A Tribe Called Quest in a frantic and disturbing attempt to become a tall-white-beardy-rap-connoisseur I can hardly stay in the room so intense is my physical revulsion to the sound. This happens with all kinds of music with heavy beats and only the slight imaginings of a melody. While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan of this type of music, I’ve never had such an inability to tolerate it before. My brothers went through a similar phase of loud politically incorrect noise adherence (albeit at a more age appropriate time in their lives) so I’m quite familiar with the genre. I have quite a soft spot for the Wu Tang Clan but these days I can’t play it out loud because I just don’t like it but strangely, I don’t have the same negative reaction when I listen through my headphones. My conclusion....baby does not like the Wu Tang Clan.

Baby Hu Jintao - so named because my bump is now HuJ(inTao) - is now fully formed but still has another three months of practicing his or her step dancing atop my bladder. I am slightly nervous about how much growing there is still left to do. I always knew that I was unlikely to be one of those pregnant women who looks like she woke up one morning and discovered, to her great surprise, someone had implanted a melon behind her belly button, but I really want to avoid the ‘inflated by a tank of helium and about to float off into to the stratosphere if not tethered firmly to earth’ look.

Someone said to me yesterday ‘Are you not due soon? It seems like you’ve been pregnant forever’. I was not offended, I too feel like I’ve been pregnant forever. I always knew that pregnancy lasted 9-months but what I never really considered before was that 9-months is essentially the best part of a year. I have now been unable to eat blue cheese for half a year. I originally thought that this - and a bit of tiredness and maybe some nausea - would be what would define pregnancy for me. No one tells you that it is entirely all-consuming and dominates every second of your life and thought process.

I usually feel ok waking up in the morning. I have to eat straight away, often having my breakfast at 4 or 5 am before going back to sleep because I get light headed and faint if I don’t get my mini-fruity-wheats straight away. I used to be able to run for the bus when we could see it coming down the road but now when Mr Oh turns to me like an impatient puppy wanting to break free from his lead and sprint so he’ll make the bus, I scowl at him and continue plodding forward at what is genuinely my top speed thinking he should be grateful that I’m walking at all and not lying down on the pavement for a nap which is what I would do if the pavement were warm and made of grass. The bus usually makes me feel nauseous and sometimes faint and by the time I get into work I’m ready to go back and would consider it if that didn’t necessitate getting back on a bus. Work itself isn’t too bad but by the end of the day I’m usually limping on account of the fact that one (or both) of my hips is trying to detach itself from the pelvis and fall away from my body entirely (this is normal apparently). Also normal is the heartburn, stomach pains, swollen ankles, lower back pain and constant desire to sleep. I always try to plan a dinner to make when I get home but its a 50/50 chance whether I have enough energy to do anything other than curl onto the sofa. Once on the sofa, it’s hard to get back up, not just mentally but because if Mr Oh is not there to physically ‘wench’ me up I have to perform this kind of scrabbling, rolling type maneuver which thankfully no other living soul has ever seen. When it’s time to sleep, I arrange an impressive collection of pillows like sandbags around and under my body in the hope that it will stop things aching and waking me up in the middle of the night. Mr Oh refers to his small remaining scrap of bed where he has to eek out a solitary and lonely slumber as the Gaza Strip. Sometimes he talks to me through the barricades. Last night, despite being entirely consumed by a mass of pillows, I still woke up at 3am to find that my entire left side from shoulder to ankle had gone numb. Stupid pillow fail.

The point of this rant is not to whine about the discomforts of pregnancy (well, not really). This happens to everyone and I am in no way unique. I only found out about it all though once I started reading about pregnancy and talking to women in my yoga class. I think there’s some oath of silence that women who have had children take, to never speak of it again, or maybe they just forget. I’ve already forgotten morning sickness. What I find amazing though is that despite the fact that I have the silhouette of an oversized pygmy buffalo hunter, the bathroom habits of an incontinent octogenarian and the mobility of a Soviet-era locomotive - I’m really quite pleased with pregnancy. As long as I get to rest a lot and drink my body weight in milk - it’s not too bad. We’ll see if this changes over the next twelve weeks or so...


Brokeback Macbook

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I need to buy a new laptop. I think I can actually hear mine sigh with weariness when I turn it on, as if to say ‘I’m old, I’m full, and all I want is to do is nap in the drawer’. I know how it feels. Sometimes it flashes wildly for no reason and I think it’s trying to tell me to leave it alone. Go away crazy person, I no longer wish to be the enslaved vehicle for feeding your hypochondria, penchant for sleazy celebrity gossip and obsession with vacuum storage solutions. Admittedly the vacuum storage thing only started this morning but it is just the latest example of random and innane googling that I sense is breaking my macbook’s spirit. Poor Jacques (le Mac)...once so spritely and white, now kind of sticky and an unhealthy shade of eggshell.

Jacques has been on his way out for a while now. I replaced his battery last year in the hope that this would keep him going for a little bit longer and it seems to have worked. The problem is that he’s still technically motoring on, albeit in a curmudgeonly manner. Can I justify buying a new laptop when Jacques trundles on? So the button on the tracker thingy is stuck but this is because Mr Oh jumped onto the sofa beside me when I was holding a glass of orange juice. It also takes forever to open programmes, multi-tasking is no longer a viable option and sometimes it just seems to grind to a halt and take a few minutes to compose itself. When awake for too long, it sometimes just starts wheezing and whining which makes me think that Jacques might be pregnant. This would be an exciting development were it possible that Jacques might shortly birth me a new, baby macbook to bounce on my lap. Sadly, I’m not sure even Apple have yet cracked artificial procreation.

Another major stumbling block to my plans to replace Jacques with something prettier, is the fact that I won’t replace Jacques with just any laptop, I want a 15 inch MacBook Pro. I toyed briefly with the idea of a Sony Vaio - which I could get in bright green (I have fairly unsophisticated, aesthetically base predilictions when it comes to machinery) - but I also have a strong sense of brand loyalty and a deep respect for interoperable appliances. There is also the slight chance that I might be excommunicated from my family if I did not buy Apple. It would be up there with voting for Sinn Fein or wearing pyjamas to the supermarket. It has to be Apple really, but Apple’s are expensive and I’m supposed to be saving my money for things like moses baskets, tiny socks and machines that sterilise things. (We definitely need a machine to sterilise things - Mr Oh tried once to sterilise a baby’s dummy in boiling water and ended up setting fire to the kitchen, destroying a perfectly good saucepan, releasing a cloud of toxic chemical into the air and almost poisoning a 9 week old baby).

Maybe the baby doesn’t need socks?