“Are you going to have a baby shower?” my friend Deborah asked.
“No, you don’t really do it for the second one,” I said.
“But don’t you need stuff?” she asked.
“Not really. The only things we need are a double stroller, dual-room monitors, and some blue blankets. We’re exchanging baby clothes with a friend who’s having a girl, so clothes are covered, and everything else is unisex. He’ll drink from pink bottles. He’s a man of the millennium.”
I’ve heard of showers for the second, third and even fourth baby, but I don’t see the need. I’ve always been very practical, and after experiencing the torrent of stuff that comes with a baby, I’ve decided that I want to be able walk through the house without having to clear a path. Rose was born the day after Thanksgiving. Before she was born, I worried that she’d come in December, thereby cheating herself out of separate birthday and Christmas presents. If I knew then what I know now, I’d have crossed my legs and held out another month. As it stands, she gets legions of dolls, litters of stuffed animals, and assorted toys consisting of roughly three million parts for her birthday, and then a month later, several refrigerator-sized crates full of toys arrive on our doorstep. This phenomenon stems from two sources: the distance between us and Matt’s family and my sister-in-law’s shopping compulsion. At least if Rose had had a different birthday, she might have some time to grow out of the first wave of gifts before she got the second, but this is our destiny.
To top it off, when Rose was born, we lived in an apartment. It was a big apartment, but baby gear and apartment walls soon find themselves at odds. We bought our house right before her first birthday, the same week Matt’s firm announced a huge layoff. Spooked, we almost backed out of the deal, but we looked around at all of our stuff, stroked the bruises we’d collected from bumping into the furniture, and signed the contract.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am for my innate practicality and my anti-clutter conviction. Aside from producing a vulnerability to any magazine headline that screams “Organize Your Life,” (thanks, Real Simple!) it’s saved us from a materialistic focus and the dust devils that come with it.
So when I flipped through The Bump, a mini-magazine at the doctor’s office, the ads and product recommendations read like the jokes in Reader’s Digest (magazines say the darndest things). And boy was I thankful for my status as a seasoned mom. First-time moms are so much more vulnerable to the siren song of unnecessary accoutrements.
My favorite product in The Bump has got to be “BabyPlus.” “BabyPlus” calls itself “a developmentally appropriate prenatal curriculum designed to strengthen your baby’s learning capabilities.” It’s a strap-on speaker that advertises sounds “similar to a maternal heartbeat.” Lord, where do I begin? First of all, what’s an “appropriate prenatal curriculum?” It’s a fetus, for God’s sake. It doesn’t even know how to crap yet. Who sits on the Board of Prenatal Education composing syllabi for a “developmentally appropriate prenatal curriculum?” I was cool with playing classical music (Trans Siberian Orchestra, once) for Rose in utero, and I read to her (“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” to coax her out), but a prenatal curriculum? What kind of educational Nazi do you have to be to buy into that? And this curriculum is composed of sounds “similar to a maternal heartbeat?” I got news for ya, new moms. If baby isn’t already hearing actual sounds of a maternal heartbeat, you’ve got much bigger problems than choosing an appropriate prenatal curriculum.
My second favorite item as seen in The Bump has go to be the “IntelliGender” gender prediction test. This product calls itself “the world’s only in-home gender prediction test,” promising “a fun way to learn your baby’s gender as early as 10 weeks.” Ok, I admit this one’s a desirable product – if it works. But if it did, wouldn’t it appear on the cover of the Journal of the American Medical Association and not as a paid advertisement in “The Bump?” I mentioned it to my doctor. She said, “If it worked, we’d be using it.” And by the way, it’s not “the world’s only in-home” gender test. Those gypsy women who’d dangle your wedding ring over your baby belly have been making house calls for thousands of years.
Another belly laugh came from reading about “push presents.” Apparently there’s a new trend among parents with too much money. A “push present” is a token presented to the new mom in appreciation for all of the pushing she did to give birth. Ok, nice concept in theory: You brought my baby into the world. I love you. Here’s a diamond tennis bracelet. Unnecessary and ridiculous in practice. While I’d love a token of appreciation for popping out a pup – and I get one every Mother’s Day – more timely, and trust me, better appreciated gifts from dad include diaper changes, midnight feeding shifts, babysitting, laundry and ordering/cooking dinner. Got it, dads? If your wife expects a diamond trinket for pushing, congratulations on your trophy, you old coot; and good luck teaching that kid some values.
“Who buys this stuff?” You’re asking. Well, look no further than the “Glow Q&A” column, which features the following reader question: “I can’t seem to find a diaper bag. If it looks nice, it isn’t functional, and the more utilitarian ones are too childish.” Honey, let me set you straight. You need a diaper bag that holds all of your stuff, doesn’t hurt your back, is washable and repels the stench of sour milk. That’s all. Even if you find one that does all this and looks nice, in two weeks it will sport scratches, old vomit, milk stains and pee. And if the reader question wasn’t illustrative enough, the tagline on this page says, “Submit your own pressing fashion and style queries at thebump.com/look.” The only reason an expectant mother should have “pressing” fashion and style queries is if she works for Vogue. And if she does, she’d be surrounded by fashion and style experts with no need to consult a pregnancy magazine. As most of us know, when you’re pregnant, there aren’t a lot of fashion choices and few of them flatter. You make yourself presentable and you take what you can get. That’s how it works.
Well, if there’s a sucker born every minute, then there’s a sucker mom carrying one for the preceding nine months. And new moms are vulnerable to this kind of marketing – moreso if conception was difficult. Many new moms view pregnancy as a beautiful time in their lives to be cherished and commemorated. The rest of us just try to survive morning sickness. Seriously, pregnancy is wonderful, miraculous, it makes babies, we glow, etc. But focusing on the pregnancy instead of bringing up baby is like focusing on the wedding instead of the marriage – transposed priorities. Once you have the baby, its well-being becomes your top priority — at least it should. Once you become a parent, you remember your childhood and you realize how far-reaching your actions can be. It’s up to you to give that kid the foundation for a well-adjusted, productive life. It’s not about the right gear or instituting a prenatal education. It’s about doing your best to raise a good person. And that’s a lot more complicated than picking the perfect diaper bag.