Nearly there

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I’m big!!! and tired. and not very mobile anymore… Really, it seems like everything is much further away than it was before 🙂 And I’m down to only a few outfits now. I hope it doesn’t get much hotter this month (or at least this week… I’ll move into R’s t-shirts and sweats during maternity leave).

I’m officially considered to be full term now, so little sprout can make his arrival whenever he wants and won’t be a preemie anymore. Although I have a feeling I will be going over my due date for some reason. We’ll see…

This week is (finally) my last week at work!!! Oh, the excitement! I can’t wait for my mid-afternoon naps! (did I mention I was tired?) I think I have everything prepared for sprout, but still need to wrap things up at work for my replacement. And issues that require my immediate attention have sprung up today… oh, well, just 3 more days!

At least people now seem a bit friendlier on the metro and I usually manage a seat by the first metro stop after I’ve entered. I must say, commuters here aren’t a friendly bunch when it comes to pregnant women. I just love the way they try to ignore my humongous belly that is sticking right in there face while I’m practicing my balancing act standing up. Luckily, there are a few nice people. And more than once, someone standing on the metro with me has kindly insisted that someone seated give me there place. Thank you!!! Real life savers, especially at the end of the day…

Did I mention only 3 more days at work? Yay!!!!!

My bags are packed

Last week I finally “finished” packing my hospital bags. I suppose it was about time, considering I’m past 37 weeks now and considered full term. It still doesn’t feel like it will happen that soon though. I have a gut feeling I’ll go over term, but you never know.

Here are my bags

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This is what the Clinique St. Michel said we should pack:

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And… we have a “crèche”!!!!

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Yay! After visiting a gazillion different nurseries, we finally received confirmation from one saying we have a place for November! We’re so relieved… I was really beginning to get nervous because waiting lists are enormous just about everywhere… that is, if they even accept you on one! I had some place tell me over the phone they weren’t even doing visits or putting anyone on waiting lists because they were fully occupied until Oct 2010! Ridiculous. If anyone living in Brussels is reading this after just getting pregnant, take my advice: find a crèche as soon as possible, even before 3 months pregnant!

Well the crèche we were accepted at is one of the most expensive here, so maybe that’s why we managed a place. It seems nice and is very close to R’s work, so that works out just fine. It’s called Kid Farwest . Sprout will be going there for 4 days a week from November onwards, which will cost us around €630 a month. We will however get around €11/day back from the Belgian tax system after filing our taxes though, so it comes out to almost half the cost per month.

Our new Ferrari and other updates

I’ve been having a busy month at the office, trying to finish things up and preparing the ground for my replacement, so I really haven’t felt like turning on the computer (or doing anything else, for that matter) once I get home. And so it’s March 18th and this is my first post this month!

Everything has been great on the pregnancy side of things: still doing my yoga, we have our last prenatal BCT class tomorrow and I’ve also been going to prenatal kines-therapy (similar to physiotherapy) sessions on Saturday mornings.

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We’ve started to prepare things for sprouts arrival. All newborn clothes has been washed, ironed and put away in my drawers. Unfortunately he still doesn’t have his own room because we are in the process of buying an apartment and the closing will only be in June, so we’ll have to cram up a bit in our room until then. Not that I expect to have him sleeping in his room yet, but it would be nice to have his dresser, etc to put his things in instead of having them in random places throughout the house like we do at the moment!

We also finally brought home the Ferrari my sis kindly gave us for the little sprout (R has been calling it a Ferrari because its red 😉 )!

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We love our red Loola Up! It was very easy to put everything together (minor assembly required), and it’s lightweight, practical to open and close, doesn’t take up much space (when closed), easy to manoeuvre… just great. In the pic you can see the full stroller with raincover on, the carrycot (which will be doubling as a moses basket until we move) and the car seat and car seat base. Everything is set up so that it can air out. It really smells plasticy in that little room now! On the sofa bed behind, you can see some bits and pieces that still need sorting and washing.

I’ve also been collecting some cloth diapers to try out once sprout is here:

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Our stash now includes (clockwise from left) 2 XS Motherease Airflow wraps, 3 S Tots Bots Bamboozles; 2 Onesize Bumgenious V3; 1 S Fuzzibunz Pocket; 1 S Tots Bots Flexitots Organic; and 1 Organic velour Swaddlebees in Newborn. I think they’re adorable. My favourite is the Swaddlebees. It’s a 2 part diaper, which means it need a waterproof wrap (will be using Motherease). It’s so soft and compact and has a little fold down part in the front to give room for a newborn’s cord. I also have some disposable paper liners, sanitizer, a mesh bag for dry pailing and washing and various boosters. I can’t wait to try them, even though I’m a bit worried about them getting stained early on with the meconium… I really hope I’ll be able to use these!

And, just as an update, here is my belly at around 32 weeks:

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Needless to say, I’m much bigger at 35 weeks now!

BCT Antenatal classes

Illustration courtesy of Tine Graf. BCT

Illustration courtesy of Tine Graf for BCT

I’m on a roll here… Trying to make up for the lack of posts this month. It’s just all been so hectic with work and all!

We started going to the Brussels Childbirth antenatal classes a couple of weeks ago and have had 3 classes since. I must admit (and I guess it’s not too hard to guess) that it was my idea and Rodrigo is kindly humouring me without much complaint. He didn’t think they’d be useful and sometimes doesn’t like the activities, but admits that he has learned a few things and that the classes are useful. I agree with him regarding some activities, but overall I’ve found these classes to be brilliant. It’s a great way to meet other English-speaking parents expecting around the same time and to receive helpful information and hints in a very friendly, relaxed environment.

The classes are given by a Nurse/midwife from the UK and so far we’ve covered topics such as what happens during labour, when to go to hospital, pain relief methods (drugs and more natural approaches), breathing, packing for the maternity, how to change diapers (mostly for the dads!), etc. Today we also had a special class on breastfeeding given by a BF counsellor, which we both thought was fabulous! Techniques and very useful info was given, and it’s good to know that after the birth we can call our breastfeeding counsellor and ask for help/hints for breastfeeding. I think this will be great support. Later on we’ll also have a special class on Infant Resuscitation, along with the regular classes.

I highly recommend these classes to anyone able to attend. You can find more info here.

Belly pic

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After being asked for more recent pictures of my growing belly, I decided to upload one taken at 29 weeks (almost 3 weeks ago!!!). Mind you, it is muuuuuch bigger now. Note to self: Take more belly pics! I really hate taking pictures and always end up with a stupid face when I have to pose for them… proof above!

31 wks Scan

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On wednesday we went for our 31st week scan. Little sprout was sound asleep and with no intention of waking up! It was nice to see him again and for the first time he was nice and still, so quite easy for the doc to measure. In the first picture you can see his head and arm, with his hand on his forehead. So sweet:) The second picture is just in case we had any doubts he’s actually a boy… lol. No doubts!!!

Of course by now he’s so big it becomes harder and harder to make out what we’re looking at in the scans. But Dr. Palgen is quite sweet and guides us along, explaining what we’re looking at.  His head is already down and he weighs around 1kg700 and his measurements are all normal, perfectly within average. Which made me let out a sigh of relief! Everybody seems to be astonished when looking at the size of my bump, thinking he’s going to be a HUGE boy or that my dates HAVE to be wrong. Luckily, not the case! Doc says I’m perfectly normal in size for my stature, nothing to worry about. Yay!!!!

This was most likely the last scan (unless he goes past the due date, or anything else that may need further investigation) so we will most likely only see him by the end of April now! Can’t wait!

Maternity tour @ Clinique St-Michel

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Last Wednesday, we went on a tour of the maternity ward at the hospital where I’ll be giving birth, Clinique St-Michel in Etterbeek, part of the Cliniques d’Europe group. It took about an hour and a half and I really feel it was very useful. We came out with peace of mind regarding procedures and plenty of useful information. I strongly recommend going on one of these tours at your hospital if you have the opportunity.

We were showed around and given explanations by the head nurse. We didn’t actually see the rooms in the maternity ward because they were fully booked (yikes), but got to see the labour room, delivery room, a big bath they have available for pain relief, the room where baby will first be cared for and the neonatal section. I am quite relieved to see that, although it’s a hospital setting with all the necessary technology and tools, it is a relatively small unit, the staff seems friendly and they have a good balance between medicalised and natural birthing.

Other information that was given to us was when to go to hospital, which entrance to use, where to park, what to take, pain relief available, alternative methods for pain relief, mobility, necessary documents, procedures, etc. We were quite happy with all information given and all my questions were answered (and they were quite a few). They are also quite supportive of breastfeeding and during the stay (usually 5 days!!!) they teach you little by little how to take care of your baby so you’re better prepared once you leave. Baby stays by your side 24hrs a day, which some people feel may be a bit distressing, but I am very happy to hear. They warn you it will be hard at first, but are very supportive and there to help you.

You can remain relatively mobile during labour (given there are no complications and you haven’t had an epidural) and monitoring is done on and off more or less every 40min, so no wires constantly attached to you. IV is only given if you need it and not systematically. It’s also nice to know baby and mom have skin to skin contact before being taken away for routine examinations, cleaning and dressing (unless baby is distressed). I really feel family time is very important during those first moments after the birth.

I hope I’m this satisfied when it’s time for the birth itself!

The paper chase

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OK, let’s talk formalities (Belgians are famous for these). Here are the steps you need to take if you are employed (self-employed, not working or unemployed have different regimes… I’m going to limit this to my own situation).

Telling your employer you’re pregnant

By Belgian law, you must tell your employer you are pregnant at least 8 weeks before your due date. Ideally, this should be done by registered letter, but any other means by which you get a proof of receipt is fine (e-mail, fax, etc.). Once you do this, you are protected against being fired for being pregnant, you are allowed time off for your appointments, etc., so it’s always a good idea to do this as soon as possible.

The “Mutualité”

This would be the equivalent of Social Security. Everyone who works in Belgium (or who’s spouse/partner does) must be registered at a mutualité for health insurance, etc. This comes out of your paycheck each month, but if you would like additional coverage you can subscribe to an additional top-up insurance. Things differ from one company to  the other, so you may be entitled to more or less depending on the one you choose. However, the basic coverage is the same in all of them.

The mutalité will be paying your maternity leave, so you must let them know you are pregnant and that you had the child. Some of the also pay a one-off childbirth allowance. I’m registered with Euromut, so will be receiving an extra €350 from them once little sprout is born. This allowance is not attributed by law, so it is entirely up to each company if and how much they pay. This is different from the allocation de naissance that you are entitled to by law.

Before the baby is born, you should send the mutualité a medical certificate indicating your due date. They should then give you a form to fill out la feuille de renseignements indemnités that should be filled out by you and your employer so they can calculate how much you’re entitled to.

Once baby is born, you must send them an original birth registration certificate (copies not accepted) as soon as possible (this should be given to you at the maternity if they are qualified to register babies there, or from the commune where your baby is born and registered), along with the feuille de renseignements indemnités. Based on this, they will calculate the maternity leave you are entitled to and will register your baby as your dependant.

At the end of your maternity leave, you must send the mutualité a certificate stating you are returning to work within 8 days of doing so. This certificate is a postcard that is handed to you by the mutualité and that should be filled out by your employer.

If you decide to stay home after ML, then you must say so in writing and send a certificate from ONEM (National Employment Office http://www.rva.be/Default.htm) stating you are taking parental leave or pausing your carreer.

The Commune

You must register your child at the commune where the birth took place (many maternities now have this service available in-house) within 14 days of the birth. This must be done by one of the parents or someone who assisted the birth. The person registering must take along:

  • His/her identification card (or birth certificate if you do not have one) as well as the mother’s
  • The original of the birth certificate
  • and a marriage certificate if the parents are married

They will then give you 2 birth registration certificates: one for the mutualité and the other for the caisse d’allocations. If you had your baby in a different commune than the one you live in, they should send all paperwork to yours directly and you will then be invited to pick up your child’s identification documents there.

Caisse d’allocations familiales

You are also entitled to two additional allowances: a one-off birth allowance (currently € 1.129,95/first child or € 850,15/following children); and a monthly family allowance (amount depends on your revenues). Now this gets interesting… I really can’t explain the logic of it, but if both parents are employed the father must ask his human ressources department or, if there is none, directly to the caisse d’allocations his employer works with. The mother can’t. Even though she will be the one receiving the allowances. I really can’t understand it, but that’s how it is!

So, around the 6th month of pregnancy, you can ask for the allocation de naissance, in which case it will be deposited in your account during the 7th month. This I DO think makes sense. Plus, you’re entitled to that amount even if something goes wrong with the pregnancy, as long as it has lasted more than 180 days.

What you have to do (or your husband) is ask for the forms for allocation de naissance and for allocations familiales, fill them out and send them in. In some cases, you can even get them in English.

For the allocations familiales, you must wait until the birth, and then send in the form, along with the birth registration certificate. You will receive your first monthly payment the month after birth.

And basically that’s it. Unless you are taking parental leave, which I’ll explain in a later post, when I actually know what I’ll have to do ;)!!!

Some websites where you can find additional info are:

http://www.euromut.be/jsp/fiche.jsp?id=6310&origin=Euromut

http://www.euromut.be/jsp/video.jsp?idF=554

http://www.kids.partena.be/Content/Default.asp?PageID=17

http://www.rva.be/Default.htm

Nursery – Take II

Now that I’ve actually been looking around more, I’ve had some changes of heart regarding the nursery: The Stokke Sleepi bed seemed like an excellent idea, but at around €900 it’s quite pricey. Plus, now that I’ve actually seem one like, I sort of fell out of love with it. Another change is the rocking chair. i went to Ikea and sat in it and realised it’s not too comfy for my size (maybe I’m just too small for it?). Since I really hate the look of the gliders sold at maternity stores (plus they’re freakin’ expensive), so we’re most likely going with the Ikea Poang chair which is really comfy and cheap too! I’ll probably be making different covers for it, but that will be a longer-term project.

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As for the furniture, we want something that will grow with sprout, at least until he’s around 7yrs old, so we’ll probably not go with white. Now, I love white in a baby’s room, but not so much for a toddler. Here are some of the rooms we’ve loved:

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This is an Oak and Walnut version of the “Block” room from Kidsmill (a Dutch company). It is solid and semi-solid wood, with all natural paints. The crib transforms into an infant bed, so it would grow with sprout. I also think it is neutral looking, so easy to personalise and not get sick of. We both prefer the Walnut version, but are uncertain if it would be too dark for a kid’s room.

Another one we like from the same company is “Kubus” in white oak.

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This one has more or less the same characteristics as the previous ones, with the added bonus that you could add on furniture to it, such as night table, desk, teen bed, shelves, etc.

They all seem really well made and long-lasting, which I think is difficult to find nowadays when everything seems to be “disposable”. I love that it’s all natural materials and it is much less expensive than the stokke ensemble.

For the colour scheme, I personally like blues, greens, browns and whites. I’m thinking of making the bedding and other textiles myself and avoid the over-cutesy or over-muted baby sets. Plus, we don’t want bumpers because they pose a risk for cot death and most/all baby sets include them.

Some fabrics I like:

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Of course, we’ll only be getting the crib for now because we have still to find a house and therefore a nursery… But it’s still nice to think about these things 🙂