One thing that has struck me again and again in the two years since my son was conceived is how much commercialism surrounds babies and new parenthood. Mind you, I am the first to admit that I flip through the pages of Pottery Barn Kids, dreamy with thoughts of the perfect coordinating nursery in calming shades of porcelain blue and cream, before tossing it in the recycling bin.
But it's not just the prices that stop me (although my Scottish roots definitely give me pause). Or the thought of offering up a perfectly adorable crib bumper to the crib death alter. It's the fact that I'm distracting myself from the realities of parenthood - the good and the bad - by adding layers of perfection and sheen to a reality that is far from predictable. Doesn't this just set us up for disappointment and disillusionment? And leave us unprepared to deal with the challenges to come?
Maybe, maybe not. There is something very important about the excitement and anticipation of pregnancy, particularly a first pregnancy. It can focus us on the journey ahead. It can encourage us to adopt more healthy habits, for the sake of the new life growing inside. It can connect us with the greater community of parents who have been through this miracle many times before.
But the culture of overblown baby showers, of promoting the idea that every last inch of a baby's nursery need be in place before the baby arrives, that certain products and items are indispensable to new parents, runs contrary to the reality that we learn by trial and error. That not everything plays out according to plan.
This is not to say that sometimes, it would be easier to just accept the advice you are given. When we were expecting our first child, we tried very hard not to crowd our small apartment with what we considered to be unnecessary, commercial items such as baby bouncers, baby swings, video monitors and the like. We took a certain pride in resisting the advice of wise parents who had gone before. And so we still laugh heartily about the desperate late afternoon run to Children's Orchard that ensued on our son's first week home from the hospital when we realized that a baby swing was exactly what we needed to avert yet another evening of restless crying!
But it is lighthearted moments like these, and the more weighty ones left unsaid - the unexpected bumps and valleys - that teach us the most about ourselves and our cherished little ones. As we anticipate the birth of our second child, we have already been thrown a curve ball with the threat of a very premature birth and a prescription for bed rest. And I would submit that no catalogue could have prepared me for that!