Until I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was oblivious to the immense pressure our culture puts on pregnant couples to have about 1.2 million ducks in a row before their babies arrive.
As my pregnant belly grew, the questions from loved ones and even complete strangers intensified.
“Have you chosen colors for your baby’s nursery? Does your nursery have a theme?”
“What type of stroller are you going to use? Which carrier/wrap are you going to use? Is your home baby-proofed yet?”
“Do you have a wipe warmer? You do have a video baby monitor that is magical and can do circus tricks, right? Do you have a diaper genie trashcan thing in your nursery so that you are forced to go to the baby’s room 34 times a day to throw away all the dirty diapers?”
So I did my best to keep up with our society’s expectations and not to suck as a mom. I tirelessly worked on a baby nursery, which I decorated with the theme of “world traveler.” You know how it is — one-month-old babies love flying around the world and exploring new places, so it made a lot of sense. And would you believe our ungrateful baby never really did embrace our theme?
Of course, we also set up a crib and prepped all the sheets, dust ruffle, blankets, bumper pads, gizmos, and gadgets on the bed in the most perfect way possible. That crib was ready just in time to collect dust for six months after our baby was born while she slept in a small bed next to mine or napped in a swing.
We even had a special nursery room smell permeating from a baby-themed diffuser, of which the baby finally got a whiff around her half-year mark. There were also really cute toys and adorable books filling the room, but babies don’t play with toys and I didn’t really read to my kids until they were big enough to sit kind of still and look at the book (great mom here, I know . . .).
But the weird part was that, once our baby arrived, NONE of that preparation helped us much or seemed to improve our baby’s life at all.
During my first two pregnancies, we lived in a neighborhood in Arlington surrounded by my closest friends who happened to be ethnic Kurds from a smaller, somewhat rural community in Iraq. We would spend many hours each week visiting each other.
While I was pregnant, many of my Kurdish friends were also expecting, so it was very insightful to observe how they prepared for babies versus the way I felt obligated to prepare.
I would pepper them with all kinds of questions as to what they were doing to get ready for their babies’ arrivals, and they were always super calm and pretty much not worried about anything. They felt that having babies was normal and that things would work out one way or another. What good would worrying or overthinking things do?
Some of these friends had no baby items until maybe days before their babies arrived and then often just had a few basics like a car seat, bassinet, and a few baby outfits.
Keep It Simple
They were also minimalists. Their babies had what they needed, but not a lot extra. They didn’t worry about a baby nursery or tons of random baby gadgets. This meant preparing for baby was a LOT less work.
Of course, setting up a nursery can be very fun; it can help parents mentally prepare for their little one’s arrival and feel more connected to their baby. It can be a beautifully meaningful activity. But for some parents, it is a lot of pressure for something that is probably more for the them than for the baby.
This community of my Kurdish friends was also generous and pulled together when a baby was born to help others get what they needed. Besides everyone bringing gifts of clothes after a baby was born, people also typically passed on any baby items they weren’t using at the moment. I didn’t see them hang on to baby items if they weren’t using them. Instead of saving things for their next child, they usually gave whatever they weren’t using to someone who needed it at the moment. Instead of storing things for later, they gave to others and felt confident that they’d have what they needed when they needed it.
I think as a society we make many parents feel a lot of anxiety for their baby’s arrival because they believe so many things must be perfect before baby is born.
But ironically, babies have no clue what’s done or undone and what stuff they do or don’t have. Of course, it is nice to have some extra things to make life more comfortable, but there are stores open all night and Amazon delivers, so it’s not like we can’t get something if we need it after the baby arrives.
As I’m currently pregnant with our fourth child, I feel more strongly than ever that I want to imitate these wise friends and be calm and generous and not freak out about stuff before our baby arrives. In reality, babies would probably rather have relaxed, happy parents than a “world traveler” nursery painted with a perfect color palette of coordinating pastels.