Okay, so now you’re pregnant. Congratulations! This is probably the most exciting event of your life . . . and maybe the most overwhelming. You know there’s a ton of stuff you’re supposed to do – and a ton of stuff you’re NOT supposed to do. And, as a mindful member of the world community, you know that this one takes ‘responsibility’ to a whole new level. So, where do you even start?! Oh why didn’t you pay closer attention when your sister/cousin/friend was pregnant? And what was that Yahoo news headline about babies and BPA? Damn, there’s a lot to cover!
But don’t you worry, in this series of essays I’m going to address many of the main issues that arise while making – and managing – a ‘green’ baby. From the truth about cloth diapers, to DIY supplies, to why we made the radical and unexpected decision to actually vaccinate our son (no judgments, no worries). But for now let’s start at the very beginning, with the simple stuff.
That’s right: STUFF
Having a baby is one of the most commercialized, consumption-centered events in existence. From the maternity clothes to the party planning to the safety gear – it’s traditionally a product-driven affair. Don’t believe me? Try Googling ‘newborn checklist’ for a laugh at the lengthy inventory that’s supposedly required to bring a baby into your home. Or just go browse Babies ‘R Us for a real fright. Eek!
So in case you haven’t realized it yet (and I certainly didn’t at first), being a parent is all about making choices. An endless series of serious choices. Everyone chooses a different path in parenthood, and that’s as it should be. For me, a lifelong nonconformist, I suspected that my biggest divergence from the traditional route would be in my resolute lack of desire to acquire STUFF.
I try to live lightly and that certainly wasn’t changing because of a baby. In fact, it strengthened my resolve to leave the littlest footprint possible. When I thought of living rooms littered with primary-colored plastic play sets, and all manner of pastel paraphernalia, it made my head spin. That is not for me! No, there had to be a way to avoid over-consumption . . .
The first thing I did was some serious communication, and this is hands down the most important action you can take. Make a list of your criteria, then prioritize. Be prepared to compromise. A shower invitation with a small note that reads, “The parents-to-be would appreciate non-gendered toys and clothes in natural fibers”, is a lot friendlier than one that declares, “The parents-to-be would prefer only second hand items, non-gendered cotton clothing, no plastic or electronic toys, and please keep things exclusively organic”. It may be true, but it’s just not inviting!
For example, my original intention was to have everything secondhand, but after a few conversations I realized that this was unrealistic. I just couldn’t expect my Granny to go digging through bargain bins down at the thrift. And that’s okay. I was willing to compromise here, with the understanding that not everybody shares – or even really understands – my lifestyle. There were other areas where I was less flexible (***)
There’s many ways to subtly communicate your wishes. Enlist those who know you best to help spread the word (I’m thinking bffs, moms, and mother-in-laws here) It’s really easy to drop a hint in general conversation – “Oh man, I saw the cutest organic onesie from Company X. I think their entire line is organic . . . wouldn’t it be great if all the baby’s clothes were organic? So much better for their precious little skin, ya know?” And there you have it: message sent!
The bottom line is, if it’s important to you (and I’m guessing it is), you’re going to have to communicate.
*** Just an aside for vegans, you may need to gently remind folks of unsuitable items. This includes fibers like wool (very common in baby clothes and people think us crunchy types are all about it), toys which may include bits of fur, feathers, and leather, care products which commonly include beeswax and lanolin, and books or toys expressing animal exploitation, ie farm stuff. A lot of loved ones forget that veganism extends beyond diet.
So once you’ve been clear on what you *don’t* want, it’s time to focus on what you DO want – and that’s the fun part! (for everyone) As noted above, you can find hundreds of ‘new baby needs’ lists all over the Net. Yes, I looked at these. I used them as a rough guide and made my OWN list, which was about 1/3 as long. Making a list is important. It means that when people ask what you want/need, you’ll be able to give them a specific answer. If you don’t, you’ll just end up with tons of clothes. And believe me, you’re already going to get plenty of clothes. They’re just too cute! People can’t resist them! (myself included)
So know what essentials you’ll really need, write it down, and keep track. You don’t want to end up with 3 changing tables and no car seat!
In this day and age it’s likely your loved ones are spread all over the world, so it’s a good idea to register, and it’s key to register *online*. This gives you a lot more creative control, and yet another way to indirectly express your wishes. If everything you pick is organic, they’ll get the message even if they don’t use the registry. There are tons of online registries like Babies R Us or Target, but I chose Amazon. There’s a couple different reasons for this (and no, Amazon is not paying me to say this, haha)
1) You can get so many things used! In your Amazon profile, under your picture, is a spot for a quote or caption. In mine I wrote ‘please buy secondhand when possible’! Books, music, toys – your relatives can get lots of secondhand baby stuff and satisfy your eco-leanings.
2) The options on Amazon are astounding, and surprisingly progressive. BPA-free baby bottles? Check! Organic hemp wipes? You got it! You really will be able to meet all your greenest needs here.
3) Amazon is not just baby-centric. You probably already have an Amazon account, maybe even an Amazon wishlist. One of the main reasons I keep a registry/wishlist is to simply keep track of things, so they don’t slip my mind forever. I’ll hear some amazing interview with an author and quickly pop over and add the book to the list before I forget about it. Or I’ll remember some song I loved as a child, track down the CD, and add it to the registry for when Waits is older (can’t wait!!!) It’s super handy when you’re already juggling 5 million things with breastfeeding brain fog on top of it all.
4) The ‘universal registry’. This is a spectacular feature that allows you to add pretty much anything on the entire internet. That’s how my wishlist is full of Herbivore stuff, and that’s how *your* baby registry could be filled with one-of-a-kind handmade Etsy toys, or whatever else your heart desires. Awesome, awesome feature.
So once you’ve whittled down your wants, you’ve expressed your quirky hippie desires to all the baffled elders, and you’ve helped them out by building a badass registry full of eco-friendly options, there’s only one piece of advice left: Be Thankful. You WILL get stuff you don’t want. The vegan WILL get wool, the BPA-paranoid WILL get freaky cheap made-in-China teethers, and team gender-neutral will get TONS of frilly pink dresses. And it’s okay. More than any other event, having a baby is a time of coming together, and people love to share in it. They may not see the world like you do, but they are being generous, and you should be grateful and gracious in return. Because when it comes down to it, they’re just lovin’ on your baby in the way that they know how. And your baby deserves all the lovin’ it can get!
( . . . and nobody says you have to use the item, or even keep it, but that’s for discretion, and a later date)