In preparation for the birth of our first child, Jillian and I started putting together the nursery over this past week. It's interesting and extremely fulfilling to see it growing like the baby is growing (I don't like the f-word, the one that rhymes with beat-us). Some of the things in the nursery we've been collecting for months, maybe even years--we have a series of watercolors on the walls which have been packed away since last Christmas (By "packed away" I, of course, mean "sitting in a pile in the closet"). We have a couple stuffed animals we've had for a couple years. Much of the clothing is either second hand or gifted. The crib is brand new but a gift. The other furniture is mostly older hardwoods, mostly gifts, or inheritance. So the room already has a sense of history.
I've become aware, recently, that there is an incredibly large industry built around babies. I'm talking about Stuff--clothes and toys, sure, but also more esoteric Stuff one wouldn't think of without witnessing the need for it. Like a Diaper Genie. Some of this Stuff is obviously useful and even necessary, like a Diaper Genie. Other Stuff, less so, like a changing table, for example, which seems so inherently useful, and yet several experienced mothers have consistently told us that it's more or less useless--because you're so rarely actually in the room where the changing table is to use it. But even eliminating that one thing still means you've got a lot of Stuff to buy in order to have a baby. Some of it, much of it, you don't need, sure (cut to the image of kids unwrapping an expensive present on Christmas and then playing in the box). We have "friends" who insist that to be a responsible mother, one has to buy an SUV. These are the kind of people who believe salesmen. But there's no avoiding the fact that life will be much, much easier with lots of Stuff. And it's intimidating to approach the baby Stuff industry from the outside, until you realize one salient fact: recycling is okay. We honestly didn't know how we would afford all this Stuff, but then friends and family members began stopping by with bags and boxes full of Stuff--clothes, toys, etc. We actually have pretty much everything we need, with a couple minor exceptions (the Diaper Genie) and we haven't paid more than $50.
Which brings me to two points: 1. how do these companies stay in business? I know there are gullible people out there who have to have the newest everything, but just about every parent I know has inherited or been gifted just about all the Stuff they acquired for their babies (except obvious things, like diapers...and Diaper Genies) 2. what a wonderful event is birth. Much like Christmas, birth offers an opportunity for the negative qualities of mankind like greed, sure, but it also offers an opportunity for sharing. Since Jillian became pregnant, friends who we would barely expect a Christmas card from have been sending us things for the baby. Of course, the question becomes one of storage, but let us not complain. It's easy to be jaded. It's easy to listen to the whining--"Your life will change!" "You'll never have personal time again!" To this I say: What are you, retarded? Of course our lives will change. We're having a fucking baby.
The one unfortunate element, here, is that this is the only time this spontaneous generosity will happen, probably. People will not drop by, in ten years, with tennis shoes for the kid, or, in 18 years, the aunts won't pool together to buy baby's first car. I say 'unfortuante' because I'm cheap, but, again, the singularity of generosity surrounding birth throws everything else into sharp relief. It's important that people are so generous because it only happens one time, is what I'm saying. Every time I think about it, I flash to the ending of SCROOGED. When most people think of the birth of their first child, they probably don't think of Bill Murrey singing "Put a Little Love in Your Heart", but I hope you'll give me the benefit of the doubt.
Once upon a time, hand-me-downs were much more acceptable. Siblings, cousins, passed clothes on to each other. Nowadays, we never save things long enough for that to happen, unless, perhaps, this has been replaced with yard sales.
So, anyway, back to it. I've got to track down a Diaper Genie, unless you know anyone who doesn't need theirs anymore. Our lives are about to change, apparently, though our paychecks aren't...