14 Things Nobody's Bringing To Your Baby Shower

We've learned a lot over these past ten weeks since Veda's birth, to say the least. And not just vocabulary expansion, either. (Though I'll admit that terms like Meconium, Vernix, Boppy, Bumbo and Receiving Cloth were certainly new to me. Still not clear on what Thrush or Brickdust are, and not inclined to find out unless I have to.)

Among the new discoveries has been a host of what I'd call "Parentools": stuff you never really needed, or never needed in quite this way, until having your first kid, and then you need them intensely.

And of course every parent has his or her own list, and I imagine they all enjoy sharing it as much as I'm enjoying sharing mine with you. Makes me feel like I know what I'm doing, you know?

Furthermore, on the off chance that you actually are expecting a baby in the immediate future -- we've got a few friends who happen to fall into just this category -- this list could prove not only interesting and (ideally) entertaining, but useful as well. I can personally vouch for the usefulness of just about everything on it, and I can almost guarantee you that no one, as I said, will buy you any of it for your baby shower. (Which is understandable. Cute little "onesies" -- another vocab word added to my lexicon here of late -- are just too much fun to give instead. An industrial-strength set of hearing protectors admittedly seems to lack whimsy by comparison.)

So here goes. (Note: this originally appeared as a shopper's guide on Amazon.com, which explains why all the items are available through that site. You can access the list, in fact, by clicking on the title text of this entry.)

Peltor 97010 Ultimate 10 Hearing Protector
The product that spawned the whole list. After those first couple weeks of deafening shrieks in our ears, courtesy of our beautiful new baby daughter, I finally headed down to the basement with an idea: Why not try the hearing protectors I use while running the table saw, lawnmower or other high-decibel devices?

At first it seemed silly, and possibly wrong, but my wife and I were quickly converted. They're amazingly effective and much more convenient than earplugs. I haven't measured with an SPL meter or anything, but I'm pretty sure our daughter's change-my-diaper-right-this-minute cry at just a few inches from your head is at least as loud as our 16-hp riding mower in an open lawn. So there's a definite need.

And here's the thing -- this device will protect your hearing, yes, improving your chances of being able to carry on a conversation with your kid as old age approaches, but it'll also protect your sanity. Ask a drill sergeant; it's a challenge to perform any task well with a person yelling in your face. And when your baby is upset over, say, a dirty diaper, it's critical that you do the job as quickly and efficiently as possible, soldier. Which is a lot easier when you can think straight.

Some parents may say this is callous and cruel. In fact, we hesitated to tell our friends about our little discovery, but shielding oneself from the full blast of an infant in distress is just good sense. You can still hear everything perfectly clearly through the earmuffs we keep on a little peg by the changing table; just not with such ferocity. Takes the edge off. Makes it easier to sympathize and read your baby's face, instead of wincing from the wall the sound she's generating.

So aside from looking a little silly, everybody wins -- you get presence of mind without pain and suffering, and your kid gets parents who aren't panicked or peeved. Or deaf. I just wish they made them in baby sizes, for protecting the little one as well.

Keep them around for when she first discovers Alanis Morissette.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens
A snap-happy parent's best friend. Add this lens to your Canon digital SLR (There's one for Nikon owners too) and take easy, amazing pictures of your brand new offspring. I can't explain precisely how it manages this; for that you should consult Bob Atkins's website, as I did, but my understanding is that its lack of a zoom allows it to have great glass inside for a low price, and that great glass, in turn, allows you to take sharp, accurate photos of your little one in very low light -- which happens to be most of the photo opportunities you'll get. No using a flash to floodlight the poor child and make her look like a tiny fugitive, and no explaining to her that you bankrupted her college fund to purchase a megabucks camera kit.

As a bonus, the 50mm size on most cheaper dSLRs (like our Rebel) makes for a nice, intimate range of focus. It's far from a wide-angle; leaning over the crib will result in a gorgeous, frame-filling portrait of your little angel's face, snoozing peacefully or looking up in wide-eyed wonder. And you can take all the credit for the resulting picture. *I* certainly do.

Save your zoom lens for later, when you're shooting from the sidelines of a soccer field or dance recital.

Chaney Instruments Digital Alarm Clock with Green LED display
A big, easy-to-read clock is essential for learning your baby's schedule. Knowing when she last ate -- or emptied -- makes anticipating her upcoming needs much, much easier, and as more and more of us these days forgo wristwatches in favor of checking our cell phones to see what time it is, know that you won't always be able to reach the phone or fish it out of your pocket. Rig up one of these oversized, backlit bad boys in the room where you spend most of your time and watch your parental rhythms fall into place. (Kudos to my friend Larry for pointing out the necessity of this item. His daughter was born a few weeks before mine, and when he called to check in on us his first question was whether I had a watch or not. When I answered in the negative, he swore to send me one immediately.)

Maxxima MLN-10 LED Night Light With Sensor
You won't suddenly become scared of the dark as a new parent; don't worry. It's actually the opposite -- in the middle of the night as you creep across the floor to change your baby or feed her, the last thing you'll want to do is flip on the overhead room lights and wake everyone up. Array some night lights, or dim bulbs in your usual household lamps, to facilitate low-lumen mobility.

OCEAN WAVES (Sounds of Nature Series) Much like the night lights, this item is all about creating a peaceful environment for the new baby. The soft, rhythmic crashing of waves can help lull the little one to sleep, as well as gently masking any potentially disturbing background noises once she's nodded off. (For instance, the sound of furtive typing as Dad jots descriptions for an Amazon list.) We actually got an MP3 download from Amazon for 99 cents, if I recall correctly, but you can buy the whole disc if you want.

Sweet Dreams Contoured Sleep Mask with Earplugs and Travel Pouch - Black Having a newborn in the house is a little like taking a cross-country train ride. The scenery is amazing, but you can't really go anywhere. And since you'll be sharing your cabin with a new little person who hasn't been acclimated to your existing sleep schedule, you'll want to grab every opportunity to sleep when you can -- when the baby is sleeping. Even when that's in the middle of a bright, sunny afternoon.

Fisher & Paykel Intuitive Eco Top Load Washer The statement below is an understatement:

You'll also be doing more laundry than usual.

An energy-efficient washing machine -- one that can automatically adjust its water usage for differently sized loads -- will lower your utility bills and offer you the freedom of just tossing a few recently soiled items in for an emergency cleansing. No need to wait for more stuff to get dirty (though it certainly will). We love our Fisher & Paykel top-loader pair. We doubt it loves us back.

Canon Powershot A1000IS 10MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Grey)
This? This meager mini-cam as the mighty, dad-ly, big-and-bad-ly video rig? Yep.

I looked at lots of high-definition, mega whiz-bang digital video cameras, and it would indeed have been really sweet to capture our new baby daughter in full 1080p glory, no question.

But ultimately... even "1080p" is going to sound hilariously antiquated by the time our daughter starts school, and the best camera at any given moment is always the one you have with you. So I stand by my choice of a cheap, high-quality pocket-sized point-and-shoot with a built-in Movie function. 640x480 clips look pretty good on a DVD for the grandparents, and are easier to email anyway.

Sapporo Ichiban Ramen, Original, 3.5-Ounce Packages (Pack of 21)
Just kidding. Do not give anyone ramen noodles as a shower gift. But the fact remains that new parents don't have much time for cooking. So if you can track down some really good instant meals -- it's tricky, especially when shopping for someone else -- or, better yet, cook something yourself and deliver it ready-to-heat, you'll have a friend for life. Our doula, for instance, showed up when our daughter was only a few days old and was carrying a spinach quiche, black bean soup and raspberry scones. All homemade. Mom brought us spaghetti casserole, chocolate cinnamon cake and other treats. For days to come we sang both their praises, always with our mouths full.

Bonus Items

There are, of course, many other fantastic things to give someone to help ease the transition into parenthood, but unfortunately many of them aren't sold on Amazon.com. Some of them, in fact, aren't sold at all. Maybe someday.

- A Flickr account, for sharing pics with far-flung and impatient relatives. Who has time to print and mail anything these days?

- An iPhone, which my wife now swears by as the key to stationary-parent communication. Baby in one hand, internet/email/texting in the other. It's a beautiful thing.

- Time. If only there were a few guaranteed back-to-your-old-life hours in each day, in which you could catch up on work, grab a shower, go see a movie without having to turn on the subtitles because you can't turn up the volume without disturbing the baby, clean up the house -- what, did a bomb hit in here? -- this new-baby stuff would be a lot easier to cope with. Alas, it's more of a total-immersion experience.

- Patience. There may be parents who never, not once, not even for a split second, forget that their howling baby dragon is actually just a helpless little human being, and never take it personally or get frustrated when they're unable to calm their child for hours on end, and never need to resort to witless tactics like earmuffs and ocean sounds and light-blocking eye masks. There may be those parents somewhere. But not in *this* house. We could all use a little more patience, whether we have a brand-new person in our charge or not. Too bad it can't be sold or bought. Earned, though, and grown, I think so.

- An Amazon "So You'd Like To..." List. Lastly, I think every new mom and dad breathes a sigh of relief when they first hear themselves dispensing parenting advice to someone even more clueless than they are. Pretending you know what you're doing -- and are even remotely qualified to offer tips to others -- is not only fun, it's a comfort and a privilege I wish for everyone. New parents and nonparents alike.

I hope this list helps you out.


coloredsock said...

dang! great list, colin. i'm adding the large number LED clock to my quick town run tomorrow (to 'quickly' take care of a tooth i cracked during labor...). i've been sleeping with a phone next to the bed and search for it every couple hours every night to check in on time, how much Tulsi has (or hasn't) slept, when she last ate, got changed, etc...how revolutionary this will be! ha. hope Veda is doing awesome!

Hello, I'm Ryan Noel. said...

This is brilliant. I was wondering when you'd next do some bloggy brilliance.

Micah, who you know, gave me a frickin' case of Clif Bars before Simeon was born and couldn't see the brilliance of the gift at the time. It's sorta like the iPhone of food. You can consume a whole meal's worth of calories and protein with baby in tow.

Anonymous said...

Benefits of Ear Muffs for Children & Babies:

With NRR 22 noise protection in a low-profile muff, these kids' hearing protection ear muffs are just right for concerts, races, games, shooting and other general noise protection.
With ear muffs you do not have to worry about getting a good fit - they will always fit comfortably.
They can also be worn with earplugs, to keep the plugs from falling out when you are not looking.
And one more benefit to these junior muffs is that they don't pose a choking hazard, as earplugs sometimes can when used by very young, unsupervised children.

Thought you might find these interesting. I just bought some for my daughter who is 15 weeks. :) My husband races and I don't want the noise to bother her ears. I may try them for crying too though! Great idea! Ha ha! www.earplugstore.com

May said...

Other things whose existence you definitely won't want to know about but unfortunately a lot of the time will have to learn to know about anyway, particularly if your kid will ever be in a social gathering type of place like preschool, are: 5th disease, 6th disease, pinworms, lice, and of course the four first diseases whatever they are.

Magnoliawhispers said...

another thing is a good supply of Barbie or Dora bandaids

Colin said...

6th disease?! Good garden grapes, I had no idea. I felt bad enough over giving poor Veda a cold last week. Though one of her grandmas told me that it'll help bolster her immune system early on... let's hope that this little episode -- and an ample supply of antibacterial bandaids -- can help her stay one of the lucky ones.

Apple-Pine said...

Great post, Colin!

Inspirational, fun and useful ;)

Wrist digital watch with a back light and WATER (and everything else watery) RESISTANCE worked great too.

And as Veda gets just a tad older - this camera: http://www.amazon.com/Olympus-Stylus-Digital-Camera-Optical/dp/B000LXXJ1I/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&s=photo&qid=1241200237&sr=1-11 might be helpful too - as it is water resistant and can be dropped from a high place without any damage to it or the owner ;)

Looking forward to your next post ;)

Anonymous said...

Two and a half weeks ago: "What a funny post."

A week ago, when our baby hit 3 weeks and The Colic Crying started: "OK, ear plugs/ear muffs are sheer brilliance."

I continue to enjoy the baby posts and look forward to the next one. It's nice to hear posts from the future.

Thank you.
~Ann K.