For the last couple of weeks I’ve been struggling to pull together a baby registry. In part, it’s a way to get myself organized and figure out what I need to have a baby. Or at least, not be an absurdly underprepared parent. I’ve talked to friends, consulted my alternative parenting listserv for tips, pondered what my small apartment will look like filled with stuff, and have done my best to select only what I need. So, cloth diapers? Check. Between Zulily and my friend Farida, I am going to be swimming in cloth diapers. Crib? Meh, even if we wanted a crib there’s no place to put it, so I bought a used co-sleeper that will work until the baby is big enough to snuggle up next to me in bed. Stroller? We went with baby carriers instead, and I figure that when the time comes when baby is too heavy, we’ll find something on Craigslist. Plenty of stuff I don’t need because I’ll be breastfeeding until the kid is eighteen. I’ve got bags of Craigslist clothing, some of it never worn, and a new car seat that we picked up when Isis Maternity went out of business. I’ve made my own flannel and gauzy swaddle blankets, got a bathtub, a breastfeeding pillow, glass bottles, and so on.
But I also saw this today, portraits of Egyptians in their homes. I remember that I live in a country where babies, like weddings and pets and cell phones, come with a culture of commodification that tells me that I “need” things. When I was fretting about the apartment size, my mom told me that as a baby, she slept in a box on the dining room table of her parents’ apartment in Warsaw. Some of the portraits show Egyptians sleeping an entire family to a single room. Discussions of wealth and privilege aside, I’m aware that I’m being sold a story about how to parent that I and my husband need to carefully consider in order to make choices that are right for us. And it’s not even about the rhinestone encrusted pacifier or cheeky onesies. It’s about all the stuff that, these days, feels like it’s already getting in the way of me and baby.
Incidentally, I’m sure I’ll find some things very useful. As an aspiring minimalist, however, I’ll be sure to jettison what I don’t need back into the Craigslist universe. Check in with me a year from now and I’ll tell you what I actually held on to.