Ok, so it’s out there: I’ve said it. Now that I’ve broken the code of silence about them, feel free to join me – because I know there are some of you out there who hate them too. Despite my mother’s cajoling, I chose not to even have one. I had several reasons for doing so. First: I was living in Ireland at the time of my first pregnancy, and the thought of having more stuff to pack when we left there was too daunting. (Not to mention, I was in such denial about the whole life-altering experience of motherhood that I would try to go shopping armed with the three-page list of ‘essentials’ and leave the baby shop in hives.) Second: I was superstitious about having a room full of stuff to come home to in case – gasp – anything went wrong. Third: I had a wedding shower, then a wedding…how many more occasions could I create in a half a decade that would involve expecting my nearest and dearest to shell out cash or gifts?
What about wedding showers, you ask? First, I like kitchen gadgets, so I like to see what I can upgrade to one day, if I ever decide to upgrade my husband. Wedding showers also allow you the opportunity to see who you’re going to be doing the Macarena alongside in about a month’s time. A good meet and greet before the main event. Chances are, with baby showers, guests who attend will not get the opportunity in a month’s time to be holding hands together in the delivery room waiting for the bub to pop out.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ll go and drink my mimosa and oooh and ahh at the presents, but inside, all I’m doing is stifling yawn after yawn. Another reason I don’t want to go them: I try not to find out the gender of the baby even if the parents decide to find out; I like the anticipation and the surprise. Spoiler alert for me when I attend and all presents opened are either pink or blue. I once thought that I would enjoy them more once I had children of my own, but that has proved to be not the case. If anything, I enjoy them less: the main reason being is that the majority of the gifts given at the baby shower – even practical ones – have a relatively short life expectancy. And that’s true even if you have three kids.
For example: the Bumbo seat? You might get six months use out of it per child, depending on how hefty your child’s thighs get and how quickly. Then you’re stuck looking at this big, useless rubber seat in your garage for the next decade because you picked it, you know it cost a fair few bucks and Auntie Mary would shit herself if she saw it at your next yard sale for $5 when she paid over $50 and you’d have to endure the ‘Young People Today Have No Value for Anything, They Throw Everything Away, Not Like in My Day’ lecture for time immemorial (or until someone – likely you – puts the pillow over Auntie Mary’s face). Clothes? Best kept to a reasonable number, since you can just sit back and watch them outgrow them. The ones for the first year need to be practical, puke-proof and easy to clean (this is true of your own clothes as well). The breast-feeding pillow? Ha. You’ll use it for a couple of months with your first child – when you lay down and bond during feeding sessions, with your soft music, glass of water and nutritious snack handy – as per breastfeeding book recommendation. By the time you get to child number three, your breastfeeding with one arm and manoeuvring hot pasta towards the strainer in the sink with the other while a toddler giggles and throws marbles in your footpath. The giant pillow will be part of a fort somewhere in the backyard.
As anyone who has had a baby knows, babies are a business – and no more so then when it comes time to buying the stuff you ‘need.’ But remember, people have been having babies for a long time, flourishing, in fact, for many thousands of years prior to the advent of the Bumbo (and before pregnancy advice included a ‘zero tolerance’ for alcohol policy; in fact, it was precisely that lack of policy that prevented human beings from becoming extinct). Most of the items on the registry lists aren’t essential. Some are totally superfluous; some might may things a bit more convenient for a while. But there are very few things you need, I daresay there’s about five at the most: a pram, a car seat, nappies, a few changes of clothes and swaddling blankets will get you started. The other stuff you can decide on what you need as you go along.
If the tradition of the baby shower is to continue, then we need to diversify our ‘essential items’ checklist. It should include things that bear in mind firstly, the mum (since it will never again be all about you) and second, childcare beyond the first year of life. Here are some suggestions of things that I would like to see added to a baby shower registry list:
1. Scotch tape – You won’t see the immediate benefits of this one, but trust me, I go through it by the gross. An integral part of any crafting experience, it does everything, from hang artwork on the wall to repair toys. Essential. Also may want to include other members of the tape family: electrical and duct. Works on sagging boobs too.
2. A good coffee maker – The best you can afford. Necessary to kick start the day, but also good for when guest drop by to visit. See also #7.
3. A spa treatment – You will need it. Skip the Bumbo: this is a need, not a want.
4. A Dyson vacuum – One reserved to suck up just the tiny bits of toys that will overrun your house all too soon – Barbie shoes, Lego, Beados, puzzle pieces and the like. The emptying and sorting will fill in many happy hours for your children.
5. Vajay jay tightener – I don’t care what they say, those pelvic floor exercises just aren’t enough if you don’t want to be peeing yourself when you’re 60. You don’t even need to go to a sex shop (although that might be more fun) – they’re a legitimate medical thing now called ‘vaginal weights’. Google it if you don’t believe me.
6. An iPod – essential to block out nightly crying/unsettled period. Also can sing along to ‘lullabies’ for baby. Later, handy to ignore tantrums/sibling fights. How can you get stressed when you’re listening to Aretha Frankin?
7. Chardonnay – An old French saying is ‘Wine makes mummy clever.’ Bless them in their wisdom. Good for unwinding after a hard day of mumming and also to offer guests. Maybe.
8. Pre-cooked dinners – These should remain in deep freeze until Baby #2 or #3 arrive, but are priceless. Even though after your first baby you’ll think you’re ‘soooooooo busy’ it will get worse when you add to your brood. In fact, put an extra freezer on the list while you’re at it, then you can fill it with your dinners. Start cooking during your first trimester of first pregnancy.
9. Book Four of the Twilight Series – after reading about a vampire birth, yours will seem like a piece of cake, no matter how hard it was.
10. Sound-proof chauffeur’s panel fitted into car – Car manufacturers, why aren’t you listening? I would rather this optional extra than a built-in dvd player. Ideally, one that goes up and down with the flick of a switch. This is a good one for your friends or family members to pool their money for. Also could provide extra safety from catapult effect in the case of a rear-end collision (but don't quote me on that one). Alternatively, could investigate buying a former taxi* or police cruiser to replace family car, as ‘sound-proof’ panel is already installed.
These are just some of my suggestions, and ones that I think would make baby showers a lot more entertaining and unpredictable. Rubber smock? Dry cleaning gift certificates? What else can we come up with, ladies? I'd like to hear what some of your ‘essential items’ turned out to be once you joined the club. But you'll have to excuse me for now - I have to go empty the Dyson.
*Can replace taxi driver’s photo on glass with one of the Yellow Wiggle, for example, if less frightening for your child.