The stork is coming

New parents share what they wish they knew when their baby was born and what they won’t forget next time
By Marina Zietsman

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Medical surprises
Medical aids are not cheap, and neither are hospital costs. Parents-to-be must make sure they’re aware of any hidden expenses before doing the emergency run to the hospital.
 
“Find out if your medical aid covers circumcision,” says first-time mom Leigh, from Cape Town. Leigh and her husband assumed the procedure would be automatically covered by their medical aid. But, most medical aids see circumcision as a cosmetic procedure and thus unnecessary, and will not cover the costs. Leigh and her husband had to pay cash. It is a contentious issue, though. The law states that with parental consent the procedure is allowed if done for medical or religious reasons. The Children’s Act of 2010, however, says it’s a violation of children’s rights, as children under 16 cannot give consent for such an operation.
 
Hospital costs are also never black and white. “Invest in gap medical cover,” says new dad Mark, also from Cape Town. “Without gap cover, we would have been at least R10 000 out of pocket.” Costs for gap medical cover vary between medical aids, but you can pay from as little as R80 per month to as much as R500. Mark says people should also really understand their medical aid. “Your medical aid could indicate they cover 100% [which is 100% of the scheme tariff], but the doctor might charge 400%, and you are responsible for the ‘short fall’.” Medical aids usually cover 2–5% more of the tariffs as recommended by the National Health Reference Price List. If your doctor, anaesthetist or obstetrician asks 300% or more (as up to 90% of them do), you must negotiate a discount, or pay the difference.
 
Part of understanding your medical aid, is to read the fine print. Make doubly sure with your medical aid you are covered for the delivery. Most medical aid schemes impose a waiting period on new members and their dependants when they join. Generally this waiting period depends on how long you’ve been part of another scheme or not part of a scheme at all. The waiting period could be as little as three months, but for pregnancy most medical aids expect you to be a member for at least 12 months before you can claim for pregnancy- and birth-related costs. There are pregnancy hospital plans available, but they also don’t necessarily cover the birth or other hospital costs if you’ve joined while pregnant.
 
Also make sure your new-born baby is covered by your medical aid. “Our medical aid automatically covered our baby at birth, but only for the month he was born in, regardless of the day,” says Leigh. “If he was born 2 July, he would be covered until 31 July. If he was born 30 July, the automatic cover also expired 31 July.” After this expiry date, their son had to be registered as an independent member. But you have to inform your medical aid of the birth, and find out what the window period is in which your baby is automatically covered, before he has to be registered as an independent member.
 
Hidden costs, though, are not the only glitch you might have to look out for. “Be specific and inform hospital staff about your preferences for feeding your baby,” says Ellen, mom to one-year-old Bree. “If you don’t want the hospital to give your baby formula, insist that under no circumstances should this be allowed without your consent.” Ellen was exhausted from giving birth and rested, when Bree was taken for clean-up and routine medical tests. “When they returned with her, Bree spat up, and I enquired if they’d fed her. Some know-it-all nurse confirmed they did give her formula supplementation as they felt it was the right thing to do. I was horrified.”
 
Money is too tight
Okay, so you’ve budgeted for all the gadgets, medical extras and other mainstream expenses, yet, you keep on having to flash your cash. The fact is, your grocery needs will change soon enough – pre-sliced veggies, organic food – and convenience will become a necessity. “Because time is so valuable, convenient shopping will take preference to budget shopping. Make sure you have liquid cash for those unexpected expenses,” says Mark.
 
“Also understand how your UIF payment works,” says Leigh. “I used an agent and they made sure I applied on time. I found that many moms don’t realise there is a waiting period involved.”
 
Just baby and me
You and your partner had an exhilarating, yet exhausting, few days together at home with your newborn. But eventually your partner has to get back to work and you’re flying solo. Leigh says you have to prepare for that first spell alone with your baby. “I was born to be a mom, and it all comes so naturally to me, but being alone with Jack, I suddenly felt very alone.” Leigh says it wasn’t easy at first, but she had to drag herself out of the house. “I felt better just by getting out of the house, and having much-needed contact with other adults. Seeing the world is still ‘turning’ lifted my spirits.”
 
Gale, a single mom to Alyson, says, “I had family around, but eventually life goes on, they went back to work, and I started to panic. I was ‘on call’ – alone. I felt out of my depth. Then I did something I never thought I’d do: I joined a new-mommy club. It’s been a life-saver.”
 
Ellen adds, “Everybody has an opinion on raising a newborn, which can be annoying, but I found that during those first lonely days, asking questions, sharing info, and communicating, was a huge help. In the end, you trust your instincts and discard unwanted advice, but at least you’ve connected to the world.”
 
Gadgets and gears
  1. Co-sleeper – This is a cot that fits next to your bed, with an open side. You and your baby won’t share a bed, but it helps to maximise the breastfeeding and soothing benefits because of the close proximity, and minimise the increased risk of suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids) that’s associated with actual bed sharing.
  2. Nappy buddy – A nappy changing kit includes a changing pad, and it has room for everything else you’ll need, such as nappies and baby wipes to change your baby’s nappy anywhere. “Some even have storage pockets for your keys and phone, which has made my life so much easier,” says new Joburg mom Isabel.
  3. Car seat – Your baby should be strapped into a car seat the moment you leave the hospital. “And make sure it’s installed correctly,” says Leigh. “We drove around with Jack for five months thinking the car seat was installed properly, until someone pointed out that it was indeed not correct.”
  4. Humidifier or dehumidifier – Make sure your baby’s room is not too warm and too dry. Babies sleep better with a cooler, moist environment without feeling chilly. Depending on your home and environment, invest in either a humidifier or dehumidifier to make sure your baby’s sleeping space is comfortable and healthy from the start.

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