Having a baby?

Welcome to the Mom Club.

It is a club.

I went to a baby shower yesterday. You might think you’re ready to parent. And you might be right–until you start registering for stuff and get surprised with a baby shower.

It’s not for the weak of heart.

Did you match the sheets to the stuffed animals? 

Hand me downs? Really??

A booger snot remover? I don’t even know what thing IS??

Pregnancy isn’t easy in and of itself. You feel big. You’re tired. You’re worried. You can’ t watch TV because for the nine months before you deliver, it’s only going to be medical emergency shows.

Worst of all, your normal friends will start to do things no normal person could get away with.

In normal-person life, if you walked up to a person and rubbed a person who wasn’t the reincarnation of Buddha, they’d punch you. They’ll do that to you the minute your belly pops.

Then, they’ll give you laundry lists of the stuff you need to do.

And I’m not even going to discuss the feeding question–breast or bottle–because you can’t get away from that topic. And if you say “breast,” expect a seriously long convo about whether or not that’s good, and for how long.

It is safer to discuss religion and politics than baby rearing. The knives will come out.

For example: My kid doesn’t sleep or eat. I’ve tried. I read books. I “maintained consistency and structure.” He doesn’t sleep. Probably never will.

And he eats the same foods every night. I’ve tried. I’e read books. I’ve “maintained consistency and structure.” He doesn’t eat. He probably never will.

Your family and friends will try to solve all this for you for the next two decades.

And they will start you off with a beautiful shower you may be too tired to attend.

The baby industry is designed to make you feel like a failure. If you didn’t read the right books, buy the right supplies, or use the latest parenting techniques, your child will never get into Yale or Harvard.

Two things:

You don’t need these things. Baby magazines are nothing more than advertisements supporting an entire industry designed to make you buy things you never knew existed. A baby wipe warmer? A diaper sausage machine? I NEED that… No. You don’t.

You don’t want your child to get into Harvard anyway. By the time he or she reaches 18 it’ll be $500K.

Baby showers are lovely. They’re rites of passage for women.  Because every single friend who made you wear a bad dress for her wedding wants to sit down and eat cake when she can no longer walk and feels like a whale, while all those women tell horror stories about blood, poop, and vomit.

Near death tales about three-week labor, emergencies and how she won’t sleep for eighteen years.

Baby showers are designed to control the surplus population–if anyone heard those stories before procreating, they never would.

But by the time of the baby shower, it’s too late. You can’t turn back now, and you get to be part of the motherhood club.

Before I entered The Club, I had friends who were moms.  I got “the look” a lot. The look that said, “If you were only a mom, you’d understand.”

“I’m taking hand-me-downs.” I said. “Kid’s only going to barf on stuff anyway.”  I also said I’d take everyone’s cast-off dressers, cribs, and playpens, and that I was not redoing the nursery.

“When you’re a mom, you’ll want the best stuff—and you’ll want your nursery to match.”

Years later when I was a mom, I took hand me downs and didn’t match the nursery. He turned out okay. Or maybe he didn’t–I’ve still got years to go.

I’m glad I stuck to my guns, because it was just the beginning of many years of gun sticking and line-holding whereby I’d be forced to admit I wasn’t going to be like every other mom, and that was okay.

Because every mom is different. And that is okay, too.

If I poured myself a drink for every time I have heard “you’ll change your mind when you have kids,” I’d be in Betty Ford.

Baby showers remind me just how insidious the industry really is.  Sure, getting together to give a new mom little clothes soon to be covered in poop—that’s all well and good.  But in addition to the practical items, there are a ton things on that list that I can’t even identify.  Here are some of the market victories the baby industry achieved at this shower:

Diapers:  Good old petroleum-based plastic.  Most of us go for the plastic.  Who wants to scrape chocolate-pudding poop off of terry cloth in public and carry the diaper around in a zip-lock bag.  This ranks somewhere below using a handkerchief to save snot for later.  This may be the one free pass people get while the rest of us try to save the planet.

Wipes:  Face cloths would work, indeed, but disposable wipes in the wasteful plastic bin are beautifully versatile.  Not only do they clean baby puke—they can be used to detail a car while waiting in line at a drive-through.

The monitor: Just in case the baby doesn’t wake you up every five minutes, this can amplify the sound.

A spout cover: This one was new. Looking somewhat like a hollow, Sesame-shaped phallus, which is disturbing enough on its own, I discovered that it slides over the metal spout of the tub, thus preventing The Child from sliding around and whacking his or her head on the metal. I feel like a really bad parent for never investing in this.  The other day, for example, Declan was playing soap hockey in the tub after it drained.  I told him not to, but he’s not preprogrammed to listen, so “crack,” he whacked his head on the spout.  I simply told him that he had bad karma for not listening, and to stop crying immediately. Clearly this could have been prevented by the Elmo-phallus.

Baby blender:  Why would someone needed a mini blender to make baby food?  It’s pretty easy to squash carrots in the big blender, but I suppose for urban dwellers this might come in handy in saving counter space.  You can cut up an orange in just seven small sections and throw the juice in your smoothy.

A travel system. Never call it a stroller. The one I saw yesterday was brilliant.  It had a separate carrier for every time the baby gained five pounds, and it snapped together perfectly. It came with a gift certificate for ten free lessons from a former NASA engineer, at the end of which the new mom would be able to take The System apart and put it in any minivan in the country in not more than six minutes flat, even with a crying baby. This particular one came with a mosquito net and a rain cover in case they travel to sub-Saharan Africa or the rainforest for vacation.

Lots of knitted things. These make marketing people cringe because they’re handmade with love. Who hand makes anything these days when Marketing Guy can get it wholesale from some village nobody can spell in some small underpaid nation? Handmade with desperation, which is sort of like love, because the poor kid who made them while chained to a tree loved the penny he got for doing the job.  But people love to give knitted stuff to babies.  The blanket he’ll cry over when he leaves it at Chuck E. Cheese, requiring a twenty-mile trip back, the little sweater in which she’ll be arranged for the family picture.  Everyone says, “Awww…” Except I’m noticing now that the age of the handmade artisan crew is shifting. It’s not the grandmas anymore—they’re too busy retiring and having fun. It’s the 20 and 30 somethings who are bringing back these timeless crafts.

Stuff that you’ll lose and have to buy again: This includes, but is not limited to, bottles, hygiene stuff requiring an electron microscope to find, things with two parts, brushes and cleaning supplies, mini Tupperware in which to save the tablespoon of baby food made with the tiny blender, safety silverware and sippy cups without BHT.

Lactation supplies: The husbands who come at the end to pack up the car always look away when these things emerge—the breast pump, the little bags for saving breast milk, and worst of all, the nipple cream, but like it or not nursing is making a comeback. In several states, it’s no longer illegal and won’t get a mom arrested and registered as a sex offender the baby tosses off the cover while nursing quietly in the corner of a restaurant.

These are just some of the things the consumer industry convinces us we need for our children, and often we cave, labeling it an investment the future. Because somehow, if we don’t provide the basics, they’ll be off to a disadvantaged start, then they’ll drop out of school, rob banks, or worse yet–become politicians.

I’m torn between admiring the baby marketers for their genius, and wanting to banish them to an uninhabited island for promoting junk that no human needs. But either way, I love the baby shower—it’s a nice time to get together and induct one more person into The Club.

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