I remember my grandmother being none too impressed with the idea of baby registries.
Asking for specific gifts? Telling people what to buy? We’ve all raised children; we know what a baby needs.
I tried to explain them from a logistical standpoint.
It’s to prevent duplicate gifts. People can buy gift cards or certificates to apply toward larger items. Or you can buy gifts to match the nursery theme.
She understood all these arguments, but she did have a point. Still, I registered.
I spent the excruciating better part of a Saturday at the local baby superstore, one which my husband still laments never being able to get back; one which I still remind him proved he was a sore sport. We took a break at one point, resting in two of the array of gliders on display. Stretching out on the coordinating ottomans, he said how much his feet hurt. Your feet hurt? I am carrying around a nearly full-term human!
My sister-in-law recounts a similarly disappointing experience. She, too, entered the store full of excitement and anticipation, ready to get all the things her little one might need. One look at the wall of bottles and nipples sucked that right out of her.
There’s different flows? I didn’t know there were different flows! How do I know which one to get? How am I supposed to know which my baby will like?
She ended up walking out of the store, the lunch date with my brother-in-law a much better prospect.
I’ve come to revisit this harrowing phase of a woman’s life – the waiting period before one’s first child – because I attended a baby shower this past weekend. I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I’d attended one. I hadn’t realized how much psychic distance I’d achieved from that point in my life.
Scrolling through the mother-to-be’s online registry, I pondered all the minutae we stockpile for one fragile little being. Watching the mother-to-be open myriad boxes and bags, I marveled at the physical objects we amass in preparation for their care. I thought about the stupid decisions we make beforehand – because we have nothing on which to base them. We don’t know whether our baby will like to be bounced or rocked. We don’t know whether they’ll take a pacifier or spit it out. We don’t know whether they’ll take to nursing like a vacuum or suck down formula like it’s going out of style. Yet, we let marketing gurus and product developers make these decisions for us; tell us what our baby will need before we’ve even met them.
I was thinking how wonderful it would be if we instead showered the mother with practical wisdom. Looking back, having been what I’ve been through, I think, would it not be more beneficial to surround the mother with support rather than things? Not to offer harping advice or to scare with harrowing tales, but share our experiences and struggles; to let the mother air her concerns and ask questions.
Is not the combined experience of all the mothers in that room much more valuable than the material trappings?
Modern society may have streamlined gift-giving with the registry process, but it also omitted something special. The human element. The generational wisdom and tradition. The magic and wonder of growing and birthing and caring for a baby. That one little trick your mother learned from her mother that will stop a crying baby better than any toy or tool can do.
Mothers need other mothers more than they need anything else. Love and support, the nest of family and friends. All things that no amount of logistics can provide.