Part thine waters! Lo and behold! For now that you have bred, there is perhaps no time where unsolicited gifts are more free-flowing and abundant, the kind of gifts that say, we thought of you, if by "you" we mean "us," and you better believe we still want a thank-you note. In other words, hope you don't hate STUFF, cause you're getting it — and how. What, you don't like free stuff for your baby? What are you, from Nazi Russia?
People often remarked to me while I was pregnant that "kids are expensive," followed by a money-weary look, as if they'd just been turned upside down by their children and had their pockets shaken loose for remaining change. 'Twas only misplaced emphasis, though: KIDS are expensive. Babies, far as I can tell, are not.*
Point being, you don't need 80% of what you think you need the first year. Breastfeeding, while often frustrating, can be insanely cheap in the long term, and cloth diapers no longer require a giant cartoon safety pin. If you wanted to be European, or as some people call it, obnoxiously smug, you can even forego a crib for the family bed. People LOVE hearing about this.
*I think I hear an ever-loudening roar of dissent approaching, but I shall continue unfazed.
There's also more than enough used stuff out there to help you determine your own must-haves very cheaply, and you don't even have to have read The Secret for it to find its way to you. Hey, I'm a notch above misanthrope and still managed to get three infant tubs, two strollers, an exersaucer, a swing, a Baby Bjorn, two Maya wraps and a potty chair unloaded on me, all on the free and with no obligation to meet anyone for coffee.
Not that it matters, though 'cause you're about to rack up more useless shit than the world's longest yard sale. You can try to protest — but you'll seem like an asshole. You can ask for the specific stuff you actually need, but you're robbing people of their one chance in life to baby-shop vicariously through your major life decision.
You can cite the environment, extreme gender programming or a minimalist lifestyle as causes for your ban on certain types of pointless gifts — but no, you are a hippie feminist weirdo who probably didn't even get your baby professionally photographed wearing outfits with matching shoes.
Plus, you're taking all the fun out if it for everyone else. That said, at least you are only one kind of awful, whereas the gifts you are receiving are all kinds of effed up. For instance!
Some Stuff Is Kinda Right
When I found out I was having a girl, I eventually realized that rather than try to sucker punch a princess obsession, it'd be easier to just mete out the pink in such a way as to allow it but not encourage it. Just as language shapes consciousness, so does stuff we look at. So I'll pick out the pink shit, OK? So I can make sure it's not like the "I forgot to do my math, tee-hee" pink nonsense. But then I made the mistake of telling people this. That's when the real shit started.
I'd be opening a gift of clothes someone had bought, and it'd be pink, and the first thing they'd say was, "I KNOW YOU SAID YOU DIDN'T WANT PINK BUT I JUST COULDN'T HELP IT AND IT'S NOT THAT MUCH PINK SO THAT'S OK, RIGHT I MEAN, IT'S JUST A LITTLE BIT OF PINK AND I JUST THOUGHT IT WAS SO CUTE IT WAS JUST A LITTLE BIT REALLY AND SEE HOW IT'S GOT THE BOWS AND THE LITTLE HINT OF PINK AND IT'S CUTE RIGHT, I MEAN YOU DON'T HATE IT RIGHT?"
Fine. But then this happened about 113 more times.
I know what you're thinking: You got FREE clothes for your baby, shouldn't you be required by federal law to shut up now? Yeah, I could shut up, because apparently the Cult of the Free reigns (burrito) supreme.
OR, I could do everyone a favor and mention that what was even better and more free was the girlfriend of mine who loaned me her kid's baby clothes, and I gave them back when my kid outgrew them, and she passed them onto someone else who needed them. Karma, baby! Baby karma?
Some Stuff Is Kinda Wrong
Baby shoes. I get it. They are adorbs, like miniature ponies wearing feather boas. But sorry, they are just prop shoes. Shoes are technically bad for babies just learning to walk. What happened to socks? Does that also ruin all the fun, you folks who are obsessed with babies who can't walk but wear shoes? Is it OK?!
Some Stuff Is Horrible
PLEASE don't buy me a photography session with one of those baby photographers who is going to put my kid in a fedora (on a miniature pony with a feather boa) sitting in a fancy zebra-printed designer chair that's sitting against a woodsy backdrop. I will get a photographer to take some pictures and we can all marvel at their crisp professionalism, but please, I beg you, for the love of all things holy, do not make me put my baby naked in angel wings in soft focus!
Stuff For The Baby When The Baby Is 10-Years-Old
Hey, I like Old Yeller as much as the next gal, but this is chancy material for a baby, ya dig? And what, now it comes with us everywhere we live for the next 10 years? Sigh.
Stuff Is Stuff You Like, So You Just Know Our Baby Will Like It
I've read the etiquette columns! Take the gift, be grateful, SAY THANK YOU, then WRITE A THANK YOU note, then quietly re-gift or donate to needy children. But it's a stuffed animal that sheds wisps of chemically drenched hairs that are perfect for inhaling into baby-sized lungs, and its little beady choke-able eyes are just hangin' on by a thread, and look, the tag says it bursts into flames upon hugging. You know you're gonna ask about it, and perhaps I'll have to photograph the child with the animal at bedtime smiling with a mouth full of chemical fur (in angel wings?), and, of course, then I must donate the gift on my own time, all because I decided to breed. I GET IT.
Stuff Is Worst Kind Of Plastic Crap Imaginable
So, you know, they make wooden, non-toxic toys again. Just sayin'.
Stuff Is For A Baby Who Was Just Born
Yep, she's nearly 2 years old but you can never have enough President's Day-themed newborn onesies. THANK YOU. Did you get my thank-you note?
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is really really bad about writing thank-you notes. Do thank-you texts count?
Image via Tim Arbaev/