We barely had to buy either of our children anything. Our kind and generous friends and relatives passed on furniture and clothes, bought us presents and even on one occasion donated baby-related items won in a raffle. I struggle to think of one thing we bought for our son ourselves. Every time we tried, a kind grandparent would jump in and say: ‘Let me get that for you.’
Once we knew our second baby was going to be a girl, I started wandering through town and looking at baby clothes. We needed nothing. Once again, zealous loft-clearing friends had provided us with more than we needed for our little girl, and still mums I barely knew were clinging to my sleeve at the children’s centre saying: “Oh, are you having a little girl? I’ve got baby clothes for you. Really good quality. I can bring them tomorrow.” And yet, I desperately wanted to buy little dresses.
“Maybe I like to show my love through gifts,” I mused one evening. “I just want to buy something for our daughter because I love her.”
My husband, dispenser of harsh truths, observed: “Little babies don’t need or want anything other than milk and cuddles. You don’t want to buy pretty dresses for her sake, but for your own. That’s not love, that’s retail therapy.”
The thought of ‘accessorising’ your baby, especially your unborn baby, is a little distasteful I feel – but so hard to resist. The companies out there know how to get the money out of our bank accounts. Changing bags are a case in point. Yes, they have handy pockets, but really you’re just splashing out on a new designer bag. A friend put me on to this awesome website for the ultimate yummy mummy. Just look at the women on the front page, with their pearls and their pushchairs! Only one picture has an actual child in it, although the ‘mother’ looks too immaculate to be the primary carer – where are the snot and sick stains? But I digress…
Our daughter is here now, and most of the time I am sensible and put her in sleepsuits. Ultimately, she spends most of her time asleep, so it makes sense. But occasionally I let myself go and allow myself a joyful fifteen minutes rummaging through all the lovely donated clothes and picking out a pretty dress – and teeny tiny tights – and a soft woolly cardigan – and tiny Ugg boots. Perhaps I am treating her like a little dolly on these occasions, but I do get to give her a big squeeze when she’s all dressed up and start whispering an important truth into her ear that I will need to keep telling her throughout her entire life, until she believes it: you are beautiful.