There was a time when I went to baby showers content in the fact that I had shopped at the most exclusive emporium for baby goods. I had been assured by the clerk who looked down her nose that my purchases were tasteful, useful and oh, so desirable for the new mother-to-be, and if they offered gift wrapping—which places like that always do — more the better.
I then took myself off to the baby shower, relatively happy to play those silly games because for baby showers there is always cake in the shape of happy animals — rabbits or teddy bears, and I am a sucker for cake.
Sometimes a slightly disheveled sister-in-law would bust in late, a giant package of disposal diapers under her arm. The more spit-up she had on her shoulder, the bigger the package of diapers.
I’d scoff a little to myself, reassured by the receipt in my purse, the one they put in the little envelope, as if it, too, were a gift, because I couldn’t think of a more unimaginative present than diapers.
A couple of weeks ago word reached me that my niece, Katie, was starting to panic, or at least getting a little anxious, as the birth of her first child loomed on a near horizon. Her friends had thrown a virtual shower, with links to on-line wish lists, but still, there was so much she needed, or thought she needed, to feel prepared.
And diapers were right up there with onesies. There was something about having a shelf full of diapers in two different sizes the soothed and reassured her. Ditto, onesies. But that’s not all.
It has been twenty-five years since I have bought baby things, and it is nothing like I remember. There are Boppys, round pillows for the baby to lounge on, and for something called “tummy time.” When my mother thought the backs of our heads were getting funny-looking, she just flipped us over. My sister turned her kids like pancakes because she wanted them to have ‘pretty-shaped heads,” the highest compliment our grandmother could give a child.
Then there are the bottle and pacifier boxes. Katie’s sister, Hannah, and I went shopping last week and we looked for them because they were on the registry. I had no idea what this was. I worked out maybe they were sterilizing contraptions, which I understand for bottles, but not the pacifier. If we spit one out in the dirt outside, my mother rinsed it off with the garden hose. Inside, if water was in the other room, it got swiped across the leg of her pants. I saw the dog lick one clean once.
But no, the bottle and the pacifier box are designed for the child to choose. In each box is a collection of, let’s say, four different pacifiers, bottles. The idea is to let the infant try them out and then somehow “select” the one they like best.
I fear these new parents may come to regret this early encouragement of choice, but what do I know? Maybe a little more ease and comfort early on would have made us all a bit nicer, more tolerant of each other. I know I act my ugliest when I am frustrated and powerless and not listened to, so perhaps there is something to it.
Katie is a practical sort, even so, and while she is enthralled with the idea of the baby choosing pacifiers and bottles, she is keeping it simple, too. Her cousin, Alex, has helped in this department. She has an eight month jump on Katie in the new mama department, and has been the go-to for what works well, what is a must-have, what is ridiculous, and what is the thing you need most at 2:30 in the morning when you have your first cry at the kitchen table.
Katie wants socks the baby won’t kick off. Alex says there are no such things.
Katie thinks four swaddles are enough. Alex, and every other mother out there, says no.
Katie just wants this baby born. Alex, who went long, says, I hear ya.
Katie and Troy are waiting. It shouldn’t be much longer. And of course, it isn’t about any of this, diapers, swaddles, Boppys. It is about this new little life and how it will ripple and ripple through our hearts, forever. Onesies we can buy any time, and all day long.