[Today’s post is written by guest blogger Leslie.]
Sometimes life puts me in situations that cause me to remember what I knew all along—that love, food, shelter, and clothing are the only real essentials. Sometimes I am reminded of this when I read about survivors of natural disasters. When people are escaping with only the clothes on their backs, they aren’t wondering when they are going to get a new TV; they are concerned with only the most basic needs.
Of course, human nature being what it is, once those basic needs are covered, chances are we are going to start wishing for more, especially if we have been used to having more. Here’s where newborn babies have an advantage over the rest of us; for them, wants and needs are exactly the same. And those needs are simple and few—to be loved, to be fed, and to be safe and warm.
For a while after my daughter, Lorelei, was born, there were stacks of magazines around my house that I hadn’t had time to go through. Finally reading one of them—devoted to the equipment “needed” for a newborn—and making a trip to Babies ‘R’ Us to look at baby gates made me consider the role consumerism may play in the abortion decision.
The magazine (a thinly-veiled advertisement, actually) informed expectant mothers of all the things they simply could not be without. For example, the writers claimed you would want a “station” for the baby in every room in which you would be spending some time: a crib in the baby’s room, a bassinet in your room, a playpen (let’s call it what it is, not by its modern euphemism “play yard”) in the family room, a bouncy seat in the kitchen. I’m thinking as I’m reading, Why not hold the baby?
My trip to the baby store cracked me up, frankly. There I found strollers, now known as “travel systems,” that cost well over $200, have “designer” labels, and match diaper bags, high chairs, and bedding—and of course, you must have them all! High-end car seats come with cup holders and more, costing nearly as much as the strollers and making you feel like a negligent parent if you opt for the $40 model, which meets all federal safety requirements. Baby stores even try to find a way to make money from one of the truly superior free things in life, human milk, by insinuating that all nursing mothers need expensive breast pumps, fancy bottles for expressed milk, and special clothes and shawls to nurse “discreetly.”
I imagine a frightened pregnant girl, without much money or support, picking up one of these magazines or walking through the baby store, wondering what she is going to do. She is probably already wondering what kind of mother she is going to be, how she can afford to take care of a baby, what kind of life she will be able to provide. Society’s message is that having a baby is an expensive proposition, that her baby will be deprived if she can’t afford to give him all these things. I can see her buying into the concept of “compassionate abortion”: it would be selfish to give birth to this baby when I can’t provide it with the kind of life it ought to have.
I like to think I’ve learned a few things after having five babies. You’d think by this time I would have accumulated lots of equipment; actually, I keep getting rid of it. For the way we parent, we don’t need it. With five kids, we’d rather have the space.
Anyone who knows Lorelei can attest that she is the happiest, healthiest baby you could ever hope to see. She sleeps in bed with us; she doesn’t even have a crib, let alone a nursery. Her car seat is the cheapest one that meets safety requirements. She doesn’t have a “travel system.” For now we carry her or wear her in a sling; at some point we will buy a $20 foldable stroller. She wears good old-fashioned cloth diapers with pins and plastic pants.
There’s nothing inherently wrong in having a decorated nursery and every bit of equipment under the sun if you can afford it and it makes you happy. But I wish there was some way to assure expectant mothers that it isn’t necessary.
Babies don’t care what the nursery looks like; they just want to be near Mommy. Mommy has what baby needs: warmth, love, and milk. And those are things even a young, low-income mother can provide.