Since we live in a very small urban home, we’ve had to be super selective with baby crap. Most of our baby supplies have been hand-me-downs, but I’m even picky about those: if it can’t collapse and slide under a couch, tuck into the closet, or fit on a shelf in Tavi’s mini-nursery, we probably don’t need it. Vibrating baby recliner? Don’t need it! Motorized swing? Don’t need it! Baby stimulation station with dangling toys, which we call The Neglector 1000? Ok, but only because it folds up for easy storage.
Other than one horrific trip to Babies R Us to get a breast pump and a couple sleep sacks, our very few baby supplies have all been hand-me-downs, gifts, or Craigslisted. As we ran screaming from Babies R Us, filled with pink and blue plastic crap we didn’t need, Dre said to me, “I never want to go there ever again.”
I nodded. All that molded plastic made me feel panicky, and most of it you don’t even need! The baby industrial complex tries to convince you to buy everything, but really all you need is blankets and burp rags.
One of the things I decided early on that we absolutely did NOT need was a baby bathtub. When Dre brought up the idea before Tavi was born, I poo-pooed him…
“We have sinks!” I said. “We don’t need some special molded plastic baby bucket to wash him in. If the sinks don’t work, we’ll just use that old dishtub with a towel on the side. We totally do NOT need a baby bathtub.”
We gave Tavi little washcloth baths for the first week of his life, since we’d been advised not to give him full baths until after his umbilical stump fell off.
His first real bath came at about 10 days old. Deciding the bathroom sink would feel too crowded, we opted for the kitchen sink with its spray faucet. It’s a deep stainless steel thing surrounded by granite counter tops, and it was immediately clear that the situation sucked.
Tavi screamed and screamed as we shuffled him around, Dre supporting his slippery body in the suddenly ENORMOUS sink while I juggled the faucet and the soap and the little tiny hand-me-down baby washcloth. Dre fretted about how insecure his grasp was on the baby (“He’s all soapy! I’m worried he’s going to slip out of my hands!”) as I tried to navigate Tavi’s flailing arms and beet-red screaming bobble-head.
“Next time we use the bathroom sink,” I said, as we dried Tavi off with a hand-me-down hooded baby towel.
Two days later, we repeated the trauma in the bathroom. Tavi fit a bit better in the sink, but the faucet didn’t detach and Tavi screamed and screamed as we used a little cup to pour warm water over his tiny angry fists and tried to clean out his milk-soaked double chin creases.
“Someday this will be really fun,” I tried to reassure the baby, chatting amiably with him as he screamed until he ran out of breath. “Bath time is going to be fun with rubber duckies and bubbles and toys!”
The baby was unconvinced. Dre looked like he needed PTSD therapy afterwards, moaning, “I’m sorry, Mr. Beebs” over and over again as he toweled off a still-miserable Tavi.
We spend Christmas in Portland with Dre’s family, including his brother and his wife who had a baby girl six weeks before Tavi was born. (Yes, there are going to be some crazy cousin times in the future!) My sister-in-law Sacha casually mentioned how much her daughter loves bath time, and I asked her about how they did it.
“Oh, we got this baby bathtub,” she said, taking me into the bathroom and showing me a molded plastic baby tub, complete with a little suspended baby hammock.
“Daniella loooves it,” she told me. “She dangles her little feet over the edge of the sling into the water and just smiles and smiles. Seriously, I think it’s the best part of her day.”
I thought of Tavi and his screaming and Dre’s white-knuckled hands trying to support him as he slipped around in the sink. Bathing was not the best part of Tavi’s day. Or our day. It was awful, and the plastic baby bathtub would make it not awful.
And so when we got home, I got on Craigslist and looked up baby bathtubs. There were a million of them, because of course the upside of the baby industrial complex is that everyone’s constantly shedding their crap. The most recent listing was a $10 tub just like the one my sister-in-law had. I sent and email and made arrangements to go pick it up.
The seller, a young Russian mom with a toddler, came to the door of her home with the tub.
“How old is your baby?” she asked me, making small talk as I dug into my wallet for cash.
“Oh, he’s just about a month old,” I said.
She looked at me with horror, and held up the tub. “But this tub — IT IS PINK!”
I waved my hand in the air. “Oh, HE doesn’t care,” I said. She still looked aghast, holding the pink tub limply like she expected me not to take it.
“Plus,” I reassured her, “pink matches my hair.”
She seemed unconvinced, but sold me the tub for 10 bucks.
The first bath with the ridiculously pink molded plastic bathtub was that night. We filled it up with water, stripped Tavi down, and prepared for the worst.
Reclined on the baby hammock dangling in the warm water, he looked up at us with a surprised face … and then kicked his legs and made his happy snuffle. As we cleaned out the crease under his third chin, he waved his Michelin Man arms at us and cooed.
In other words, Tavi loves his bright pink bathtub.
And I had to admit that sometimes, JUST SOMETIMES, every once in a great while … certain molded plastic baby industrial complex supplies are actually useful. I reassure myself that I bought it used and that it thankfully hangs out of the way in a hidden corner of the bathroom.
So now I must know: what ONE stupid piece of kid crap has actually turned out to be mission critical for you?