We have a favorite story in my family. It was my first pregnancy and we were doing the fun run with a gun (that’s what we call the experience of zipping through a superstore and zapping everything we want, normal people call it “registering”). It was a two parter. Mr. Lindstrom and I had made our initial hit list, and my duty was to go back and zap everything that we missed or hadn’t decided on for sure. I approached the big box baby store alone (first mistake), in the evening (second mistake, it was 10 minutes to close, and I hadn’t eaten dinner). Registry gun in my holster, I waddled through the store. First I was to hit the crib linens, and then the wall o’ bottles. Crib linens were not a challenge, I had done my homework and was armed with swatches and paint samples. With that conquered, I was in position in front of the wall o’ bottles, my weapon was cocked and ready, and… uh-oh… what was my target? “Holy shnikes, there are so very many choices, and this baby isn’t even fully cooked yet, and I don’t know what her preferences are, I mean do babies have preferences?” I dissolved into tears, and groped for my cell phone. My mom was somehow able to decipher what the heck I was blubbering about through my sniffles and sobs, and her message was clear, “Step away from the bottle wall. Step slowly away. Return the gun to the desk, kindly say ‘thank you,’ get in your car and slowly drive home or to the nearest dining establishment. No sudden movements… You do not need the bottles NOW.” End scene.
It was easily (please don’t attempt to confirm this statement with my husband) the biggest meltdown of my pregnancy and likely the biggest meltdown of any of my subsequent pregnancies. I was acutely aware of the fact that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had read the books, I had studied the manuals, I had made list after list of wishes for products, but I had absolutely no real idea of what I was getting myself into.
There is a shorter story of the day that I turned 24 weeks pregnant (the age of viability) and I panicked because we did not have a crib in our house. This is the kind of irrational thought that is common in pregnancy. I realize now that had we actually had a baby at that time, the baby would be tied up in the NICU for as long as it would take for the baby to become healthy. I have friends who have had micro-preemies like this, and believe me, having a crib set up at home was the least of their concerns. My mom talked me down from that ledge, too.
The point is, there is something cruel about registering for baby items. It assumes that you know something that it is impossible to know: What life will really be like once baby arrives. Sure, there are the usual things, onesies, burp cloths, and diapers. You know that the baby will wear clothes, spit up, and poop, but so much of parenting is trial and error, how can you possibly know everything you’re going to need? Secret: I still haven’t found a diaper bag I like, and I’ve got six years of parenting under my belt. I have found myself giggling at registries that feature white changing table covers. Those shouldn’t even exist. Not to mention the fact that the stores will convince you that you need much more of everything than you could ever use (they make money that way…) it’s downright cruel.
Here’s my message: To the gift giver, while you may feel like it’s “unoriginal” or “impersonal,” gift-cards are such a gracious gift to a new family. It gives them the option of making some decisions weeks into their adjustment and yields some freedom that they may not have if they’ve been locked in to a gift. To the new parent, when you’re registering, don’t panic. You don’t need everything. There will be time to round out the collection of bibs, and you will likely realize weeks in that life as you imagined is much different than life as you now know it. Go for the necessities, and leave some openings. You will find that the gifts you receive from seasoned parents that come along with some of their hard earned advice will surpass any boppy cover or pacifier you could ever zap.
Having a baby is a major life change, and the registry should not add to the stress of that. If you want some added stress, though, go ahead and register for that white changing table cover.