There are books. There are leaflets. There are even little checklists in the free catalogues (of which you will receive approximately seven million during your / your partner’s pregnancy).
I’m pretty sure, if you look for them, there will be classes at your local community centre. All of them designed to take the stress and deliberation out of that most horrifying chore of a choice; what do I need to buy for my baby?
Naturally, they are hugely useful to many people, who swear by them. Naturally, I despise them. A lot of it is basic common sense; you are not going to be able to feed baby their milk from daddy’s beer glass, nor are you likely to get very far using a dog harness to sling baby over your shoulder like a Chanel handbag.
Therefore, it follows that you are going to need some Stuff. In fact, you are going to need some Specialist Stuff.
And when you’re a deaf parent, it brings a whole new ball to the game. (Incidentally, balls, as in the toys, are very popular but not essential. Balls, as in a robust, iron-willed approach to enforced insomnia and screaming-until-I-go-blue-oops-I-stopped-breathing tantrums, are of the highest, incalculable necessity.)
I shall leave the genuine listing of nappies, bottles, bum wipes and other assorted common sense jollop to the seven million publications you already have, but let me present you with my small List of Stuff They Don’t Mention. It’s too late for me, but save yourselves. SAVE YOURSELVES.
THE LIST OF STUFF YOU REALLY DON’T NEED (but will buy anyway)
TOYS -: You do not need to buy toys. The reasoning behind this is twofold; firstly, along with newborn sized clothes, all the presents people send you will be toys.
Despite it being the 21st Century, you are likely to get dinosaurs for a boy and pink rabbits for a girl. I personally was delighted to be presented with a pink dinosaur, which has sadly since been lost to the cavernous depths of Morrisons freezer aisle.
Secondly, no toy you buy will be as fully excellent in your baby’s view as the ones they find for themselves.
Toilet rolls, saucepans, pillowcases, envelopes, discarded baby wipe packets, dirty nappies (um)… These are all far superior playthings. Don’t waste your money on plastic, educational stuff. They’re busy making their own noisy, stinky education right now.
BABY BATH -: They are so cute, those weeny little plastic baths. They are also ridiculously cumbersome and will be used only until your beloved can resist (starfish position) or adore (massive splashing over the sides) bathtime. Then you will abandon the cuteness and use the human sized bath instead.But what to use while the child is small, pre-starfish sized? The sink. Just take the knives out first. And if you have only a shower? Well, I have no advice for you other than to move to a proper house. I jest, of course. Just install a horse trough.
MINI-ADULT BABY CLOTHES -: I don’t like these anyway; I think humans spend a large enough proportion of their life being adult and have no wish to hasten this along.
However, there is a far more pressing reason not to indulge; adult-style clothes have no neck poppers or easily stretched bits. They have tight little drainpipe legs and beautiful but fiddly sleeves that baby fingers will never get through.
If you still want to buy them, do so in the knowledge they will look lovely on the hangers, but will never make it onto your child unless you have four hours and a pair of shoehorns/salad tongs.
THE BABY ALARM THE SHOP ASSISTANT INSISTS IS PERFECT FOR DEAF PARENTS -: It isn’t.
THE LIST OF STUFF YOU PROBABLY REALLY NEED (but might not have realised yet)
MIRRORS -: For a deaf parent, the temptation is there to put baby in the front car seat (I should probably point out that, due to safety issues, this is not recommended by any manufacturers, etc), just so that you can see what they are up to.
My own car has no way of disabling the airbags, so we had to put the new, small person in the back. Clearly, a mirror for the seat back was the way forward. Do not be tempted by the small ones. They are cheap because they are stupid. You see nothing except maybe an eyeball.
Buy a huge one and you can see every smile, dribble and snore without taking your eyes off the road for more than a millisecond.
Another point on mirrors; when my son became bored of looking at me, I turned his pushchair to face outwards and promptly realised I had no idea what he was up to. I didn’t really see a way round it so just kept stopping to peer under the hood.
Then his grandma bought him a buggy driver. It is amazing. He ‘drives’ his buggy all around town and I can see in the ‘wing mirrors’ exactly what he is doing. Winking at strangers and picking his nose, it would appear. A MOBILE -: Do not Google for ‘baby mobile’ unless you wish to be plunged into a pit of despair as every returning link shows you a gaudy toy telephone.
Perhaps that’s just me; I’ve already mentioned my disinterest in babies being mini-adults. Search instead for ‘wooden baby mobile’ or ‘musical baby mobile’ and choose one, or twelve, of the bright, simple, wonderful things. They are like catnip for babies.
Hang one over your little one’s favourite resting area and you could probably clean the kitchen before they realise you’ve gone. Damn, if you were quick enough, you could probably move house.
EASY TO USE WEATHERPROOF TRAVELLING GEAR -: I don’t mean hiking boots. I mean buggy covers, car seat covers and baby covers, to shelter your baby from sun, rain and wind.
There will always be something out there that is less than ideal. A waterproof plastic buggy cover that takes fifteen minutes to assemble is not your friend. One that slips over in the mere seconds it takes to give everyone else on the bus a smug smile, is.
Of course, all this stuff is for baby; don’t try to take all-weather clothing for yourself. Count yourself lucky if you remember your shoes.
THE BABY ALARM ALL YOUR DEAF FRIENDS SWEAR BY -: They’ve been through this. They know. They don’t even snigger talking about vibrate functions. Well, apart from that time… Actually, I’ll leave that one there.
Emily Howlett is a Contributing Editor to this site. She is a profoundly Deaf actress, writer, horsewoman and new mum. Emily used to be found all over the place, but motherhood has turned her into somewhat of a self-confessed homebody. She now has not one, but four grey eyebrow hairs. C’est la vie.
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