I was recently asked by someone representing a big name toy and baby supplies company (yes I am totally bragging!! My first PR contact!) if I would like to contribute to a booklet for new parents on the essential items all parents need in preparation for the birth of their first baby.
And this got me thinking (and of course going yes! yes! yes! where do I sign!)
What DO you need when you’re having a baby?
And my answer came as something of a surprise.
Not much. In fact I struggled to think of many ‘must haves’ at all.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like stuff as much as the next person. But if you’d asked me that question before Kai was born I’d have been able to list off REAMS of items that I was sure were an absolute necessity to raising a healthy child and, most importantly, being a good mother. In fact, I was rather obsessed with having the right stuff.
I spent a long time before getting pregnant fantasising about having a baby. I’d imagine what it would be like to have a enormous bump, spending entire mornings with pillows stuffed up my jumper, admiring myself in the mirror and going ‘Oooh’ when I bent over (and eating lots of chocolate – oh wait, I did that anyway). Of course, in hindsight, I would have had a more realistic experience had I strapped a wriggling 8lb puppy to my tummy that liked to use my ribs as a kick board and head-butt my bladder, and stuffed a water balloon down my kegs that would leak slowly and at embarrassing moments, like when I laughed and sneezed. Oh and then just to REALLY get in the right frame of mind I would have to eat enough cheese to give me raging heartburn and come down off some hard drugs to give me that whole crazed mood-swing psychotic edge. I was a delight when I was pregnant I can tell you.
Anyway. When I did get pregnant I was beyond excited. This was it! Everything I had ever dreamed of! But what I hadn’t realised was that inbetween the getting pregnant bit (which was fun!) and the having your baby bit (not so fun!) there are 40 long weeks. 40 weeks!! That’s a long time. Once I had done with the puking stage (which lasted a good half of it) when I was too busy doing anything apart from trying to sit upright without hurling, I began to get a bit bored. Well, not bored so much. Antsy. I was fed up sitting around on my rapidly expanding ass. I wanted action.
So in typical Josie fashion I bought a file and some index dividers and some pretty paper. And then proceeded to read every baby magazine/book/online guide I could get my chicken-greased fingers on (the chicken is a GREAT pregnancy story – I’ll save that one for another day). And I made notes, and cut out pictures.
I planned god damn it. I planned my giant ass off.
Because I was determined to be a good mother. And reading all these magazines I quickly learned that good parenting = getting the right baby equipment. Obviously! Because bringing a baby into the world without a ready prepared co-ordinating nursery, room thermometer and ergonomic bath support? Well, that’s nothing short of neglect.
And then, after 40 long weeks and one day, Kai arrived. Beautiful, demanding, wide-awake Kai. Who from day one had very fixed views of the world and what he wanted from it. And that was a world in which fancy gadgets had very little place.
Here are the things that were especially useless:
1. The beautifully co-ordinated nursery – he still hasn’t slept in it for any length of time. It is currently surving a far more useful purpose as a place where we shove a lot of crap storage room and place to keep the ever increasing mountain of laundry.
2. The changing bag (that matched the pushchair of course!) – it survived 9 months before being ripped apart by Kai and having various baby-led weaning food-stuffs leak all over it whilst in transit. It was also far too small once I started needing to transport said foodstuffs and toys and sippy cups and spare clothes and sun cream and my bottle of gin (joking) and everything else. My advice? Go to TK Max and get a big, cheap messenger bag or a rucksack and throw everything in there. You’ll cry less when it gets wrecked.
3. The baby swing. Bought in desperation for our power-screaming colicy baby. It was very expensive. It had four speeds AND music. Of course he just screamed all the louder when you put him in it. Only, to music with a kind of rhythmic WAAaah WAAaah. It was quickly retired to the attic.
4. The bath support. We used it, oooh, three times? Then realised it was far less fiddly to just dunk him in there.
5. The Bumbo – Kai HATED it. And at four months old worked out how to catapult himself out over the back. Attic!
6. The very firm and unmouldable (and expensive) breastfeeding support pillow. Probably self-explanatory. When I lay Kai on it it put his mouth about four inches higher than my nipples. So when my back gave in I just used a pillow. A normal household multi-functional pillow. There’s a novel idea for you. Get this – it even comes with removable covers! That don’t cost extra!
And MOST importantly:
7. The baby books. None of them were written about Kai or seemed to bare any relation to the knowing, determined child I gave birth to. And worse, not only were they useless, they made ME feel useless. Life got a lot better once I relegated them to a high shelf and the charity shop.
So the lesson from this tale? Your baby really needs nothing but you. Your arms, your patience, your love. And most of all your permission to be as unique and unpredictible as they like. Yes it’s a soppy ending but it’s true, and a lesson I have learnt every day many times over.
Next time we’re just getting a new baby sling and that’s it. Oh and a vibrating baby bouncer (that one WAS a life saver), and we’ll re-use the co-sleeper crib but OF COURSE we’ll need a new mattress. And I want an electric breast pump next time.
Actually pass me that Mothercare catalogue? Oh and them post it notes, thanks.
So over to you (cause I’m loving the comment love) - what was the most useless item that you purchased or were given for your first baby?