Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Two Boobs and a Blanket

For the last two months, I’ve been working for a news and information website that serves the international community in various European countries. The company organizes a massive expat fair in Amsterdam every year—a major event that involves lots of exhibitors and the blood, sweat, and tears of my colleagues.

To remind our readership of the fair’s date, and us of approaching deadlines, there is a ticker at the top of the site that tells exactly how far away the expat fair is: it’s 4 weeks, 4 days, 22 hours, 7 minutes, and 34 seconds from right now. This is of particular interest to me, because the fair date is also my due date.

I’m not banking on the baby arriving on that day, even though 10/10/10 seems like a pretty lucky birthday. But in Holland they don’t allow the baby to stay put more than two weeks past the due date, which means the end of this pregnancy is undeniably nigh. According to my midwife, the little guy is positioning himself well for his big debut, dropping into place and slowly altering my walk into one that will eventually scream “there is a skull in my pelvis.”

As for me, it’s time to nest. Friends have described this phase to me: how they got up in the night to scrub the kitchen floor or how each time they tried to relax on the couch in the evening they had to get up again to investigate something that “smelled musty.”

Parenting Weekly
describes nesting as “the uncontrollable urge to clean one’s house brought on by a desire to prepare a nest for the new baby, to tie up loose ends of old projects and to organize your world.” It’s a natural part of preparing for labor. But what I’m experiencing may be a titch more than that, because my nest looks like this:

This is the second-floor landing of my new house. The bathtub that someone recently asked if I’d be using during labor? That’s going to go right there against the back wall, as soon as the pipes are laid and the floor is put down. And there will be walls, of course. I’ve got plumbers, painters, carpenters, plasterers, and electricians crawling all over the joint, all of whom assure me I’ll have a proper house by month’s end.

October 10 is just one of many delivery dates noted in my trusty blue diary: the tiles arrive Monday, the washer and dryer on September 20 , the refrigerator September 27, the dining room table on October 1—and the list goes on. The only post-baby delivery is the couch, which is unfortunate, but who knew it took 12 weeks—a trimester!—to deliver a couch in the Netherlands?

I’ll tell you who knew: a friend of mine who is an organizational wonder. To give you a taste, last year she hosted a Halloween “pre-party” at which she served dinner to six of us, hemmed one woman’s costume, gave me a haircut, and got herself ready, all in less than an hour. She’s a machine.

Last February I invited her over for tea. We got to talking about her list of things to do before even thinking about trying to have a baby. At the time I knew I was expecting, but I hadn’t made this public, and as she went down her list—get a new mattress, because pregnancy can be hard on the back; buy new furniture for the guest room, because family will want to visit; purchase new furniture for living room, because that's where you spend the midnight hours feeding your baby—I began to feel ill prepared.

I started my own list: Get divorced. Decide whether to refinance or sell the house. Find out if the Dutch government provides maternity leave assistance to the self-employed. See if it’s really true what they say about 18-month waiting lists for day care (it is).

I’ve historically been a more seat-of-my-pants person than some, but in spite of appearances the Irish fella and I actually wasted no time trying to get ready for this baby. We began our house search in March, made an offer in June, and closed the deal in July. Then came August.

Holland shuts down in August. Stores close. Towns are deserted. Everybody—everybody—goes on holiday in August, generally for three weeks. So when you consider how little time we’ve had—less than ten days—to prioritize projects, find builders, and order materials, the house is coming together rather impressively. Sure, there’s a dismantled toilet on what will be my bedroom floor, but I’m trying to see this as a sign of progress.

And behind one of the doors in the photo is a peaceful, freshly-painted room with the most beautiful nursery furniture I’ve ever seen. It’s my sanctuary in what will eventually be a really nice house. I don’t know if it’s the calm-inducing pregnancy hormones, but I’m feeling relaxed.

A few months ago I reassured myself by joking that all a baby really needs is two boobs and a blanket—I can give him that and some. If the little guy shows up early, even if there’s no hallway floor per se, he’s got two parents who can’t wait to receive him and a nice place to sleep. Not a bad start.


  1. I haven't seen it yet, but the documentary Babies shows a baby taking a bath in a bucket while a goat is drinking the water - No doubt your little peanut will do just fine with two boobs, a blanket and sheets of drywall.

  2. Hopefully we'll have the bucket and goat in place in time for your visit in November!

  3. Maybe you can get a donkey instead:

    I like the idea though.

  4. Really enjoyed reading this on Expatica and just subscribed to your blog. Good luck with everything :)


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