Baby Shopping

My husband is of that breed of man who hates shopping. If he had his way he’d make a single trip to the shops each year to re-stock his wardrobe and not set foot in a clothes shop for another twelve months. He does all of his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, having putting it off until the very last possible moment. He even hates going to the supermarket! So it was something of a shock when he told me that he couldn’t wait to go shopping for Flangelina. And even more of a shock when he actually enjoyed it. And can’t wait to go again!

Armed with good advice, we set off to visit our local baby mega-stores to see what was available and make some purchases. The only stuff we’d bought for the baby so far was a first cuddly toy, a pack of tiny sleepsuits and a car seat. I still can’t believe we’ve reached the point of actually buying substantial stuff, like a pushchair and cot, for this baby. It still feels a bit unreal.

I’m not a superstitious person, and I don’t believe that buying stuff will in any way alter the outcome of the pregnancy, but it did make sense to me to wait until after our anomaly scan. If nothing else, I didn’t want to have to face dealing with a bunch of unneeded equipment if the results from that scan had been less than happy news. I know full well that there are still no guarantees that everything will work out perfectly (and we still have our fetal echo to come), but at this stage an unexpected and unpleasant outcome is beyond what I can imagine being able to cope with. I think it would so overwhelmingly sad that facing an already decorated nursery would be only a tiny part of the horror. On the other hand, and on a very practical level, I can’t imagine being unprepared for the much higher likelihood of bringing home a healthy baby. The idea of buying next to nothing in advance seems unfathomable, although I know there are people who do it.

What I discovered right away is that big baby shops,  the kind that stretch away from the front doors further than the eye can see, are intense. Especially when you haven’t done this before. There is an awful lot of cute. So much so that I kept hearing myself uttering the words “Awwww…. Cute” over and over in response to tiny vests and socks, embroidered bedding sets and miniature outfits. It seems amazing to think that Flangelina is going to fit in to these teeny weeny clothes! But even more than cute, it was simply overwhelming. Despite my now obviously expanded mid-section, I still felt like I didn’t really belong here. Back in the first trimester, I found shopping for a maternity bra overwhelming enough. At least though I’m familiar with bras. I’ve been wearing them in one way, shape, (size?) or form for quite a long time. What we entered today was the realms of the completely unknown and slightly scary.

Alright, that’s a small lie. Although this was our first proper, physical shopping trip, it would be untrue if I said that I haven’t spent hours online researching pushchairs and cots, reading consumer reports and customer reviews and comparing prices. That’s just the way I am. And it was a good way to keep some of my enthusiasm for shopping at bay! So I had some idea of what we wanted to look at and a reasonably long list.

But it’s still scary to be confronted by shelf after shelf of baby paraphernalia that you’ve had no need of before. And confusing too. It seems that a vest isn’t simply a vest. There are long sleeved, short sleeved and sleeveless, those with poppers between the legs and those without, and even “wrap style” vests. How on earth do you go about choosing what you need. Same goes for blankets. There are knitted, fleece, cellular and cotton, in a range of different sizes – cot, pram or crib size. I’d have thought that choosing vests and blankets would be straightforward!

Then there is equipment that is entirely new. Like bottles and sterilisers. A baby bottle, it seems, is not just a baby bottle. There are different sizes, with wide necks or narrow. Teats that are supposed to mimic the action of sucking on the breast and others that are marked with things like “fast flow”. There are even self sterilising and self warming types. For keeping them clean there are microwave sterilisers and steam sterilisers – many of which look like they’ve just landed from outer space – or plain old buckets for cold water sterilising. The boxes aren’t even much help as it’s not really clear which type of bottles and equipment will fit in which sterilisers.

The scariest stuff of the lot, though, is the stuff that isn’t for the baby at all. The big aisle of products for new mums, which included packets of what looked like miniature mattresses but are actually “maternity pads” for post-natal bleeding, made me stop in my tracks and instantly dampened Ian’s enthusiasm for the shopping expedition. There were packages of breast pads to catch leaking milk, which immediately makes me think of it pouring out like a tap. Even odder: breast shells. What on earth is a breast shell and what does one do with it? The answer, according to the box, is to collect leaking milk to save for later and to “protect sore nipples”. Which immediately makes me feel ouchy already. So with that thought brought to mind, I wish I hadn’t stumbled upon the section of breast pumps! The very idea of a breast pump makes me think of being milked like a dairy cow.

I also came across a pack of “hospital pants” which quite frankly looked like something you’d see in a strip club. But less sexy. Kind of like a cross between fish net tights and Bridget Jones style Granny pants.

We’ve obviously thought long and hard about this baby journey and I’ve really done my research. None of this stuff is really a surprise to me. I know about post-natal bleeding, sore nipples and leaking breasts. But somehow being confronted all these big boxes of stuff on the shelves made me wonder what on earth is to come and what I’ve let myself in for. And realising that despite all the research I still have no clue about something as simple as a vest makes me wants to apologise in advance to my child.

I rapidly worked my way back over to the pushchair section to take my favourite model for another test drive. I didn’t purchase any of the scary stuff today. We stuck to bedding, clothes, towels and a cute cot mobile. We made decisions on things like the cot and the travel system. But I left that aisle well alone for now!

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