April 1st, 2008


I Should Listen to my Sister

For weeks and weeks Margaret has been telling me to register for baby stuff. I kept putting her off. First it was way too early. I was still in waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop mode. Even though the gestation thing has been going really well ever since we saw the heartbeat in our surviving embryo, I wasn’t convinced that after all the years of waiting we were actually going to succeed. Then I passed that important 24-week mark, and what with the daily kung-fu fest in there it’s hard to not believe that not only will I have a live baby, but she will kick my butt just as soon as she can reach it. I was left with my other objections to registering for baby stuff, namely the vague notion that it’s tacky. I like giving and receiving gifts, but I am a firm believer in the idea that gifts are optional. With retailers doing their all to brainwash people into thinking that gifts are mandatory I often get a queasy feeling about gift registries.

The last time Margaret told me I should register for baby stuff she said, “If you don’t everyone will just buy you baby clothes, and if they know it’s a girl they will all be pink”. My initial internal reaction to this was ‘what’s wrong with that?’ You see, I have wanted children for as long as I can remember and as a result I go a little funny in the brain when confronted with wee baby clothes, especially in pink. If some of my relatives and closest friends want to use the long hoped for good news as an excuse to buy the odd tiny dress or two, who am I to stand in their way with suggestions of boring, practical items? Margaret’s objection to gender specific clothing is the inability to use it as hand-me-downs with the next child is the other gender. My only possible objection to gender-specific clothing is the fact that we aren’t 100% certain that it’s a girl; if I am lucky and lightning does strike twice I am perfectly capable of celebrating by purchasing an entire new wardrobe for the second miracle. So what if the odd friend or two decides my great good fortune was just the excuse they needed to indulge and send me something pink and frilly for the expected arrival?

Last week a package arrived from Warren’s mother, and I realized that I had made a serious miscalculation. Part one of the miscalculation was based entirely on being my mother’s daughter. When a close friend or relative reports a pregnancy the store I go to for the baby gift is almost always the yarn store. Even cute little baby clothes take time to knit, so this is self-limiting, even if you are as systematic about it as Mom*. The second miscalculation was based on the fact that I totally underestimated the power of grandparents, never having had a normal grandparent/grandchild relationship. When I opened the package from my mother in law, there were three little gift-wrapped bundles, and I opened the first to see a lovely tiny dress and four pairs of ruffled girl socks. The other two packages contained much more gender-neutral clothing, but there were five outfits in all, some with matching hats or bibs. A check on my math and psychology skills revealed that of course Margaret was right and I should have listened to her.

The calculation is simple enough. At the time the package arrived from Warren’s mom I could expect to be gestating for another thirteen weeks. That’s thirteen more weeks in which she can notice and be tempted by those tiny, adorable baby clothes. My own parents are also not immune, knitting skills aside, so while they are waiting for now I expect they will succumb to temptation at some point. All five outfits from MIL are in the newborn size range. Given how long one generally expects a baby to fit into clothes that size, there’s a limit to how many outfits in that range a baby can wear, even factoring in clothing changes caused by leakage at one end or the other. I remember friends posting about how easy it is to acquire a mountain of baby clothes that dwarfs the baby herself. Part of showing proper appreciation for a gift is using it, and I’d feel bad if it became practically impossible to use any of the adorable wee outfits at least three times. A registry is thus needed, if only to channel the grandparents into other areas and keep them from duplicating effort; we may only need one diaper genie, but one would be nice to have.

The take home lesson is that I should really listen more to advice from my little sister. Maybe she needs to explain these things to be more thoroughly because I can be really slow sometimes. Also, it turns out that even if you don’t expect anyone to look at it other than you, a registry is a handy tool for making a shopping list.

*For a while when Mom was working at JFK there was such a baby boom among her coworkers that she would always have a baby sweater in production. This was before ultrasounds became routine, and Mom eventually go to the point where she made a pink one and a blue one, and would give the appropriate color once the baby was born, then she’s start knitting another in that color for the next pregnant co-worker.