I took down the crib a few weeks ago. I moved the ‘baby’ into a big girl’s bed (a mattress on the floor), even though it broke my heart to do it. I chose a day that was extra busy, so I didn’t have time to start crying, because I knew if I started, I might not stop for quite awhile.
That crib is the same crib that Jeff and I bought for our oldest, now off at college and nearing twenty-one years. We were newly married, in our mid-twenties, and hardly had two pennies to rub together, when we found out we were expecting a baby due nine and a half months after our wedding. My in-laws gave us seventy-five dollars to put towards a crib and we found one for a little more than that at JC Penney. Everything else we received for our first baby, we were given at two small baby showers and thank God, there were no registries. My mother and mother-in-law, seasoned aunts, grandmothers, and friends and sisters and a host of other relatives chose what they knew we needed. And just like the crib, I still have quite a few of those wonderful gifts.
Back then there were no Targets in our area, no Babies R Us, if Pottery Barn Kids or any designer brand name baby gear stores existed, I didn’t know of them, nor would they have held any possibility for me either. I had a short list I had typed (on a real live typewriter) gleaned from the pages of a baby book and checked off till I felt prepared.
Fast forward eighteen years, when I’m expecting my sixth. I walk into Babies R Us to get a few things and walked out empty-handed and overwhelmed and more than a little annoyed. The choices! So many things marked as necessities! So many bottles and formulas and infant feeding mechanisms! So many different seats and chairs and things with batteries and lights and sounds and motion! The costs! One thousand dollars for a stroller? Three hundred dollars for a stroller? Unbelievable, I thought. A new mom could easily be led to believe that she must spend or receive thousands of dollars worth of items to provide properly for her new baby.
I know that a baby needs some things. Every mother has a list of necessities to take care of baby best with, and has since the beginning of time. I had to fill in supplies here and there with each baby-it’s fun to ‘nest’! But I can’t imagine that moms who aren’t yet “in the know” of what is truly needed, feel overwhelmed and pressured to provide their baby with all sorts of expensive items. Have baby supplies joined the ranks of clothes and cars and jewelry functioning as status symbols of wealth? Have we invented hundreds of ways to not have to hold, or soothe, or touch, or carry, or care for, or feed our babies? Are we trading acquiring things for time with our little ones? It seems crazy to me.
I think today new moms, more than ever, need to step away from this insanity and think.
Our babies need us. A baby needs his or her mother more than anyone or anything else. We should be first on that list. A baby needs the perfect, unequaled food that nature has provided our bodies with to help that baby grow and thrive. That’s free and requires no man-made equipment. That baby needs our arms for holding, it needs our warmth, our scent, our adoration and tenderness. Free again.
No one can adequately take our place, and unless it means starvation or lack of basic shelter for our baby, there isn’t much worth leaving our tiny, innocent, helpless babies for. We have naturally designed intertwined instincts and chemical reactions towards our babies-we are designed to be good mothers, and if we stay connected, and trust these instincts, we will be able to take care of our babies well. Staying connected means staying close in proximity, creating a bond that we don’t allow to be broken for worldly things and cultural trends. It means that we do the bulk of care, and a strong knowing bond will result from that care.
To simplify, there are very few material things to acquire for a baby that are more important than our time spent nurturing and caring for him or her. I want to hang that on a big banner and drape it across the entrance of every baby super store in America.
The old crib went up in the attic. It will most likely be deemed grossly inadequate and terribly unsafe one day and meet the garbage dump, but I will let someone else make that call, hopefully when I’m long gone, and save myself the heartbreak. I have to laugh at my sentimentality and remind myself that nary a baby of mine slept a night in that thing anyways. I recognize it for what it really means to me-the beginning of the journey of motherhood and marriage, how quickly time flies, how being open to life for two decades has blessed me in ways I will forever marvel at…and alas, of course, how “babies don’t keep”.