Monday, July 11, 2011

eBaby Gear

So what's the worst part about getting ready to become a parent? I mean besides the water retention and having to take off your engagement ring because otherwise it'll get stuck on your now-sausage-like fingers. Oh yeah, and not including how much harder it is to sit up in bed because your wildly distended baby-full uterus renders most of your abs useless. Or the fact that your baby will decide that your bladder makes the world's best pillow. You know, besides all those minor things, what's the worst part of prepping for parenthood?

Give up yet? Here's a hint...

Got it yet? It's the heinous amount of money you can easily spend on all those "necessities" for your kid. Don't believe me? Let's take just a fifth of this sample list from to prove my point...

[  ] Crib, cradle or bassinet*
• Slats no more than 2 3/8 inches apart
• Corner posts no more than 1/16 of an inch above frame
• No cutouts in headboard or footboard
• Top rails at least 26 inches above mattress
[  ] Firm, flat mattress fit snugly in crib (less than two fingers should fit between mattress and crib)*
[  ] 1-3 washable crib mattress pads
[  ] Bumper pads covering inside perimeter (secured by at least six ties or snaps, with all extra length removed -- we suggest breathable bumpers)
[  ] 2-4 fitted crib sheets*
[  ] 4-6 soft, light receiving blankets*
[  ] 1-2 heavier blankets (for colder climates)
[  ] Rocking or arm chair
[  ] Music box, sound machine or CD player
[  ] Crib mobile with black and white images (remove when baby can support self on hands and knees)
[  ] Baby monitor
[  ] Nightlight
[  ] Dresser
[  ] Toy basket
[  ] Swing or bouncy chair

See what I mean? Anyone else having a "holy crap" moment yet? I sure did. There's no way I was getting all this stuff for the Piggly Wiggly! I sure as hell didn't need a white noise machine as a baby. And as for the baby monitor...I can see where it could be useful, but our apartment is laid out so that in the night, it takes me maybe ten steps out of my bed to get into my baby's room. So scratch that one off. Crap tons of blankets? Go for one of those little overall sacks that you clip over the baby's shoulders to keep them warm. Added bonus? Baby can't kick it off and get it tangled around his head.

Basically, the rule of thumb with this is to take the lists of baby gear as friendly advice. This is not a mandate on how to spend your money. This is not a Commandment From On High exhorting you, yea, with much strictness, to go forth unto the store, and verily to spend all thy monies on much costly raiment and accoutrements for the fruit of thy loins. What it is, is a list of things that lots of other people have found either absolutely necessary (let's not be putting baby to sleep in a laundry basket, after all!) or pretty useful for their given situation (some babies love the automatic rocker - others scream like their lives depend on it).

However, even when paring down the list to what your family deems the bare essentials and a few convenience-enhancing devices, you can still spend a wheelbarrow full of your hard-earned cashola. Proof? If we'd bought the crib, mattress, car seat, car seat base, and stroller we wanted all brand new from the store it would have set us back about £463.50. That's not including a mattress cover, sheets, a bumper for the crib, cloth diapers, a dresser - or some other means of storing baby clothes - blankets, a few toys, a diaper bag, clothes...see how this list grows so quickly? What doesn't help is that people price quite a lot of this stuff far beyond what is reasonable. As if your decision to have a kid meant that you signed up to be robbed blind and financially violated.

Our solution? eBay. Oh yeah. Before anyone shakes their head in dubious wonder and skepticism, let me say that our decision to eBay a lot of stuff is not based solely on the desire to save money. We want to be smart. It's not like I'm going up to a van with blacked-out windows to buy a used car seat from a disreputable-looking entrepreneur with a trench-coat and Burt Reynolds' moustache...

Let's take the car seat we bought the other day:

We got it for the princely sum of £17.00, all told. And that included the base that is now strapped into our back seat. Brand new this would have cost us about £250. You do the maths. I still recommend caution in going this route. It's not like I haven't heard all the manufacturer's warnings that basically say: "if you don't buy your car seat from us, your car will get hit and your baby will die. If you don't strap the seat in correctly, your car will get hit and your baby will die." (Okay, I'm being facetious, but they definitely play on people's justified fears about how best to keep their kids safe.)

So what did we do? We thoroughly stalked scoped out the lady we bought our car seat from. She lives about 20 minutes away from us (the only reason we agreed to do that auction: it meant we could easily see the product we were getting our hands on) and reasonably assured us that the seat hadn't been involved in an accident (if I drove a BMW like that, I'd probably be pretty darn careful about not getting into accidents, too!), and that it hadn't been around smokers or pets (we found no signs of either when we went to her place to get the seat). Her eBay rating was ideal, but not too good to be true, and she was getting rid of a bunch of other small baby gear at the same time. What really helped our confidence, was that she was really up-front about anything that was wrong with the stuff she was selling. The only thing wrong with our car seat? Some fraying of the fabric on the padding around the harness buckle. Easily fixable. And she not only included the original instruction manuals (completely intact), but also offered to help us figure out how to work the thing if we were a bit car-seat-retarded.

All this said, there's definitely still some stuff you ought to buy new. Cloth diapers? Yeah, I'm really not a big fan of wearing someone else's underwear, so I shouldn't expect my baby to do it either. Crib mattress? Unless it's in pristine condition and you're committed to thoroughly steam-cleaning it, let's skip the Oprah-induced bed-bug nightmares and just get one new. The cost may be higher, but it negates the hassle and the worries.

Seriously? Give me a minute to choke back that vomit...

So I'm not saying that you should don your organic freecycled Birkenstocks, sip some wheatgrass juice, and settle down with the free wifi in your favourite vegan cafe to viciously snipe every baby-related eBay auction you can. But for things like gently-used strollers (you can always buy the padded inserts new) or inexpensive discontinued crib frames (that will still fit your new mattress), eBay's definitely not a bad way to go.

In the meantime, excuse me while I go hunt down the £243 jogging stroller I intend to snag for a measly £20. (Please tell me someone recognised Beatrix Potter's Hunca Munca: the mouse with a frugal mind!)

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