Baby-shopping-mental vs my shopping shame

My cousin’s wife started it. On a visit to Aberdeen back in November she gave me a bag full of 0-3month baby clothes and a bouncy chair.

Before then, I was still coming around to the idea that the creature existed and was wrecking havoc on my figure, let alone starting to think that she would need things once she bursts out of here. It was a weekend of chatting about buggies and car seats and why babies and socks don’t go together.

But I practised restraint. Christmas and our tight bank balance helped with that. And maybe a touch of superstition held me back from gawking at online baby stores too.

Then the bulge leaped out and I became obviously pregnant. Every time I sat I’d feel a head or a hand or a foot, sometimes lodging itself in quite extraordinary places. And I’d actually be able to guess what body part it was rather than thinking “random kick”.

One night, while we were watching The Hussle on BBC iplayer (please, please, please sort out our TV antenna, lovely letting agency) I lifted my top to let Laurence see where she was kicking me hard. We looked at each other. Man, this is really happening. The visibility of it was startling. “I’m terrified she’s about to jump out and start demanding food and cuddles,” he said.

Anyway, I think that kind of helped him to visualise her more clearly. Which was good news for me because when it made me go baby-shopping-mental he was slightly less bored than he’d been. He still managed to zone out while I was sorting through the reusable nappies we got off a fellow Freecycler (I keep reminding he’s got to get his head around how to use them before the great poo producer emerges) but he held his own at the NCT nearly new sale last weekend.

Gosh, give the man a list and shopping turns into a sport. He held his own amongst the vulturific mummies and daddies. I spent most of my time slowly mulling around, taking things in, occasionally picking something up here and there.

He, on the other hand, bagged a baby bath within seconds of us walking into the place, stalked a moses basket until three other sets of parents turned away and even picked up sleeping bags – a novelty I hadn’t even considered. Check, check, check.

The effect all this has had on me is to make me feel like it’s ok to look at baby things and even buy something here and there. He keeps reminding me it means we’re spreading the cost. For him, it’s all a very pragmatic process. But for me, shopping taps into something emotional or even primal.

We couldn’t do much of it when I was growing up. Mainly hand-me-downs clothed us. Buying a new pair of jeans was something special, often a birthday treat. I don’t mind this now. I think it’s taught me to be a responsible consumer and to embrace material simplicity.

Later on, when money became easier, shopping became something my mother and I would do on holiday or in preparation for something. It was still a treat.

But the idea of going out on my own and buying something for myself “just because” strikes me as frivolous and riddles me with guilt. Food, experiences, gifts for others, I have no problem with, but an item of clothing or makeup or some such thing for myself….it feels wrong.

And that’s mainly what’s held me back from buying anything for this baby. Because she’s seemed like an extension of me, I felt like shopping for her was somehow spoiling myself. But only as others start noticing her growing out of me, especially Laurence, it’s become easier to externalize her, to imagine her as my daughter to whom I’d like to pass on the gifts of simplicity and responsibility but to whom I’d also like to give some things “just because”.

Image: KateMonkey

[she/her] • writer • unschooler • team Soul Farm • Revillaging podcast • breastfeeding counsellor • Trinidadian in Cornwall

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