A few days ago, I visited one of those enormous baby depots filled with approximately twelve billion useless plastic contraptions. A friend of mine is expecting and judging by the wish list she handed me, she’s hoping to have at least ten billion of those useless plastic contraptions adorning her home before she delivers the baby.
Oh, I had one of those wish lists once. I remember eagerly anticipating my baby shower. I was so hugely pregnant that I quite nearly had my own gravitational pull and after the baby shower was over, I felt prepared. We had a bouncer! A car-seat! A swing! Strollers! Walkers! Toys! Soaps! Washcloths! Bottles! And at least five thousand newborn onesies.
In retrospect, I would have been better prepared if people kept their money and brought an index card with the best parenting advice they ever received. At the time, it seemed like we NEEDED these things and I could not imagine raising a child without them. But it turned out that all we needed – truly needed – were my breasts, a baby carrier, a dozen cotton diapers, two or three onesies, and a car-seat.
My husband and I joke that our daughter is the cheapest baby on the block. We donated almost all of the baby equipment people gave us. We dress her in hand-me-downs. We crafted natural toys and bought secondhand children’s books. I breast-feed, we cloth-diaper, and we co-sleep. We use baby carriers, make our own soap, and use cloth wipes at room temperature. Her baby food – even her teething biscuits – are homemade and some of it is even homegrown.
Somewhere along the line, our society told us that having a baby is expensive. BUT IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE. My child is living proof that babies can (and will) thrive without snazzy plastic toys or endless stacks of costly disposable diapers or the latest mom-and-me class.
Lately, my husband and I have been talking about what we will do differently with our second child. Next time, we’ll be more prepared – but not because we have more stuff. We’ll be more prepared because we know what to expect and we know what a child needs.
A child needs milk, love, a reliable parent, and not much else. How interesting to find that what a baby cannot do without are those things that money cannot buy.
In the end, I gave my friend a voucher redeemable for one night out instead of picking a plastic behemoth from her baby shower wish list. She’ll find out soon enough that most of those baby items are a waste of space anyway; friendship, on the other hand, is the handiest tool in a parent’s bag of tricks.
How interesting to find that what we as adults cannot do without is another little something that money cannot buy.