I just got off the phone with one of my good friends. When she first called me, I thought it might be Sasquatch or a prank caller. There was so much heavy breathing—and some gurgling.
"It's Rachel," she said, irritated. "I just walked up some stairs."
Ah, yes, I'd forgotten how much fun it is to be pregnant.
"I need your help," she moaned. She told me she needed a blanket. Except it was a question. Like, "I need a blanket?" Then she got angry. "Right? Don't I?" Then angrier. "Answer me! Don't I need a blanket? Doesn't my baby need a blanket?"
"Yes!" I said. "He does."
"See!" she said. "I knew that. I knew it. Fuck this shit!" She started laughing hysterically. Or she was crying, I really couldn't tell.
"What's going on?" I asked. "You sound a little...you know..."
She took a deep breath. She'd been having a good day, she said. She'd slept late and decided to go to Babies "R" Us to register for her baby shower. She thought it would be fun.
Then, reality. This being her first baby, she had no idea what to get. There were things that needed batteries. Pumps. Swings. Cribs. Rockers. Gliders. Tables. Chairs. Slings. Carriers. Strollers. Jumpers. Heaters. Coolers. Tubs. Soaps. Lotions. Creams. Clippers. Sprays. Juices. Oatmeals. Diapers. Frames. Rugs. Bumpers. Sheets. Swaddlers. Nipples. Brushes. Diaper bags. Pads. Inserts. Warmers. Mirrors. Mobiles. Monitors. Rubs. Squeaky toys. Rattles. Rugs.
"I have no idea what a baby needs!" she wailed.
One thing was clear: She knew he needed a blanket.
"Don't I?" she asked again. "But the kid's coming in the summer. If it's hot do I need to cover him? Unless the air conditioning is on. Does he need those pajamas with the feet? Does he?"
Rachel's experience reminded me of my own first trip to Babies "R" Us—that flashy monolith of stuff—when I was pregnant with Junior. I'd gone on my own, like Rachel, to register for my baby shower, and I'd left the store completely fucked up. I might have run screaming.
There was so much. I suddenly had the feeling that everything I'd amassed in my 35 years of life wasn't enough. I needed more. So much more. I needed everything. The message was so clear: your baby didn't need you; your baby needed a continent's worth of shit.
I told Rachel it was okay. I told her about the rectal thermometer women. I told her that the only thing her baby needed after he was born was her. She could buy him a blanket, but he'd probably love one she already had because it would smell like her.
"Like a dog would?" she asked.
She promised she'd take it easy the rest of the night. She promised she wouldn't let her experience unnerve her, but I'm not convinced. I bet when I see her registry, it's going to have 2,675,987,256 things on it, many of which will wind up in the closet.
I don't know when the Baby Gear Movement started exactly, but it's done horrible things to motherhood. When you falsely believe that you cannot mother (or father) without the right apparatuses, you remove everything that is powerful about yourself as a mother. You remove the innate.
Worse yet, if you buy into the belief that if you don't have gear A, B, or C something terrible will happen to your baby, you invite fear into the mothering (or, of course, fathering) experience. From what I've seen, parenting from fear is a rotten way to raise a kid.
I wanted to tell Rachel all this. I wanted her to trust herself.
Instead I told her she could prank me any time she wants.
She snorted and hung up.
About me: I'm 42 and added another gherkin to our pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our 9-year-old Junior, our 6-year-old Everett, our toddler and I live in a town in Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite (aka my childhood hometown). My friends call me Nutjob, and they're right. In my husband's spare time he dresses up as a Viking and chases ghosts (and I'm the nutjob?). When I'm not busy working as a graphic designer, I lie in a ball in the corner.