Not long after I got pregnant, I started a huge spreadsheet of all the things we needed to buy and do for the baby. I searched the internet for lists and ideas. The Engineer vetoed the things that were maybe a little over the top (we probably didn’t really need a bath thermometer when our hot water is usually warm at best, and maybe we didn’t need four different kinds of baby carrier straight away). I asked my experienced older sister for advice on what we had missed. And eventually we had a list of 80 or so items, plus a more specific list of clothing.
We worked through the list slowly. We scoped out the (very limited number of) baby shops here, and looked at the department stores. We decided what needed to be bought online, and took into account the (sometimes excessive) shipping time. I took it to New Zealand with me to make sure I was buying the right stuff. I kept track of what was sorted and what was still needed, and checked from time to time.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a panic that the baby was due in 5 weeks, and there was still so much that wasn’t organised (plus a parcel ordered over a month ago still hadn’t arrived!) So I looked at the list once again. About twenty items were still completely not-organised. How were we going to sort out a quarter of our preparation when the baby could arrive in under a month? Why hadn’t I been more organised earlier? How were we going to get anything from overseas at this late stage?
The Engineer came home to a fairly stressed out wife, dragged me away from the spreadsheet, and made me a cup of tea. And as we discussed it (side note: two heads are usually better than one for this kind of thing) I came to a realisation:
We don’t need to have everything sorted out in advance.
Not every decision needs to be made before the baby arrives. We can see what happens, and work it out as we go. In fact, even with all the preparation in the world, that is probably the only way. And better to go without something for a couple of days than to have a house full of things we never used.
So we reviewed the list again, and next to nearly half the items, I wrote “See if we need it”. Rather than anticipating issues and preparing for them in advance, we can wait and solve them if they arise. So simple, but it was a bit of a revelation to my slightly frazzled mind.
For a couple more, we decided on simple solutions. For example, I had been worrying a little about a nappy bucket (how big did we need? where was the best place for it? did we need to soak them? etc. etc.) and this was why it was still not sorted. We thought about it, and decided to get two cheap lidded buckets. They can be used wet or dry, we can have them in useful spots, and two should be big enough to hold a couple of days worth. And if they don’t suit our needs, we can find something else, and we haven’t wasted much money.
By doing this, our list was less than half as long, and suddenly felt a lot more manageable.
The experience reminded me of preparing for our move to Brunei. In fact, there are a lot of ways that a first international move and a first baby are the same. Both hold so very many unknowns, both require preparation, both are kinda a big deal, and most people want to go into both prepared. But because of those unknowns, it is often better to skip some of the preparation, and work on just being open to the experience. There is only so much you can find out in advance, even with the wonders of the internet.
I tried so hard to anticipate what I would need and want in a country I had no experience of. I packed up my cases with clothes from New Zealand that I thought would be suitable. Some were great, but I ended up with long skirts and dresses and sandals that have barely been worn. Instead, I live in some cheap yoga-type pants that I bought here and my jandals (/flip flops/thongs/slippers). We brought hiking and camping gear, but found that the heat and the pregnancy and various other things have rendered that fairly useless too (plus it takes up precious storage space).
Don’t get me wrong, some of the things we packed have been wonderful. I am so glad we put in two sets of lovely fancy cotton sheets – high thread count cotton is something we love, and is hard to get here. And our fairly crap selection of kitchenware is made a whole lot more tolerable with the addition of our two very expensive and wonderful knives from home. You win some, you lose some, I suppose! I am definitely not advocating coming with nothing.
But if I could do it all again, I would certainly pack even less than we did (we brought two suitcases each) and use the money saved to take a shopping trip to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore when we had more of an idea what we would ACTUALLY want/need and what was available in Brunei. And I’m trying to have a similar attitude when it comes to the baby. Get a few things in advance, but don’t spend too much time trying to work out what might happen.
Basically, I need to do less anticipating problems, and more open-minded living in the moment (and I suspect there a few others out there are in the same boat). Because worrying often turns out to be a waste of time, and what you find in the moment can be quite beautiful.
(PS – that parcel I was worried about? Arrived yesterday, in tonnes of time. No need for stress.)