Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bye Bye Buy Buy Baby

For Friday date night, my husband and I went to Buy Buy Baby.  We were no farther than the first aisle when I needed to sit in a glider for 20 minutes and take a break. All we'd looked at were cribs but I could see the shelves of stuff threatening ahead.  I was overwhelmed.

How many kinds of bottles or blankets or strollers need to be made available to expectant parents?  How much of my waning energy will be sucked up by researching the difference between car seats or brands of diapers?  And how much is this all going to cost???  We made it through every aisle but we had to stop at the grocery store on the way home. This called for ice cream.

We were demoralized.  It wasn't that the experience made us think we'd be terrible parents exactly.  It's that it's all new landscape and we want to do our best. Having the right stuff seems like it should make the navigation into parenthood easier but the sheer variety of choices just makes it harder.   

After emailing some close friends and family for advice, I quickly learned this is a rite of passage for middle class parents-to-be.  Go to the big box baby store; get totally overwhelmed; feel daunted by the consumerism of this supposedly natural and holy event; eat ice cream.  

It reminds me of when I went into the Peace Corps.  I received a standard packing list for my host country and I began fretting.  I bought tee-shirts and returned them for button-downs.  I couldn't find the perfect dresses so I sewed some myself.  I lost sleep - yes, lost actual sleep - over the question of how much shampoo to pack.  I weighed and reweighed my suitcases a hundred times as I tried to get the perfect 81 lbs of stuff, my sole provisions for 2 years.  

It was not until after I settled into my life in Malawi that I realized how much my stress about stuff was really misplaced anxiety about the transition itself.  After all, people in Malawi live their whole lives with what they can get there.  Duh.  This couldn't have been about the stuff.  It was about my need for control and predictability in a time when everything seemed strange. 

As I fret about baby stuff, I know that it is mostly about trying to control and predict what is uncontrollable and unpredictable: what will happen with our child's life.  All the stuff in the world won't be able to answer that.  It's a faith challenge to trust God, my husband, and myself with the gift we're about to receive. The words of Psalm 23 ring in my ear: "The Lord is my shepherd, I have all I need."

We'll do the best we can to prepare, of course.  The lists from our friends have helped tremendously.  Victory! We've actually chosen a stroller and car seat.  People have been generous with hand-me-downs and our stockpile is growing. Plus, we can actually purchase things after the child is born, right?   

A little perspective helps too: most parents throughout time and history haven't had the luxury of such choices.  Our choices mean we're rich.  We have the basics covered: food, shelter, heat, health care.  I can't imagine the anxiety of wondering how we'd provide for this child's most essential needs.  And plenty of people who long for children and have experienced the pain of miscarriage, infertility or drawn out adoption processes would kill for our problem. We're hardly facing a crisis.  

Still, I'll probably feel overwhelmed by stuff again.  When I do, I'll cling to the advice my mother wrote in the face of my buy buy baby panic.

"I don't even know what a bumpo or a boppy are.  What a child needs most is parents who love it and yours already has that."  

It most certainly does.  

Be at peace,

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