On Baby Registries (including ours)

Michelle and I have finally made a registry for our baby which, although not complete, can be found at Amazon.com and Target. After getting feedback from friends of ours who have recently had babies, making several visits to Carrboro’s The Red Hen, and doing our own research on ConsumerReports.org, Coop America’s Responsible Shopper, and other places, we compiled all the results into an unwieldy Excel spreadsheet and began our registries. It is our hope that this will help all those looking to give gifts to our daughter–whether they prefer shopping online, in a store, or buying from excellent local shops like The Red Hen. From those friends of ours who sent us their recommendations we also were able to compile a list of useful links which we’ve listed below.

We began really thinking about the kind of things that we needed for our daughter some months back and decided to take a late Sunday afternoon stroll through the behemoth Babies Я Us. I think it was there that I began viscerally fearing that all our previous efforts toward simple living were going to be thrown out the window with the birth of our daughter. I do not want her to be used an excuse for excessive consumerism, rampant exploitation of resources and labor, and–even before being born–become part of a global crisis wherein North Americans, a mere 5% of the world’s population, use over 35% of the world’s energy. At each turn up and down the corridors of Babies Я Us you’re brought face-to-face with another realm of commodities your child must have and that you, the loving parent, must provide for them. I found myself wanting to scream (with Arthur Simon) How Much is Enough? If you take to heart not only the advertisements but also the commodification implicit in the so-called-sound advice of popular pregnancy and parenting books, the medicalization imposed upon us by the medical culture surrounding birth, and complexification inherent in both that deines the naturalness of both giving birth and rearing children, you would certainly begin to suspect that not only is the over $200,000 life time Expenditures on Children (USDA) an underestimate but also that having and raising a child was impossible before the advent of plastics, professionals, and other technical disciplines of alienation. All of this leads me to reflect on `Awet, the now three-year old son of the family with whom I stayed when I was in Eritrea who, in terms of material resources, was provide with little of what an American family would assume must be provided for their children and yet remained happy, healthy, and normally functioning member of society largely due to the sacrifice of time that his parents made to be with him even at the expense of their own desires. Depressing, or rather ominously scathing, as this reflection may seem I am reminded of Pope John Paul II’s assessment of social sin wherein all such systems of exploitation and injustice must always be understood as having their origin in individual actions. And so we’re trying to make individual choices–hopefully good individual choices–in order to recognize that men and women have been doing this for millions of years (not something in which we can indulge due to the mastery of science), to see and celebrate both the pregnancy and our daughter as a natural blessing from God (not an illness to be treated and controlled), and ultimately to maintain our commitment to simple living (as opposed to succumbing to heart tugging excuses to ease our perpetual malaise by buying more).

So do help us out, but also remember that ours is not the only girl being born on this planet, we can support her and stand more in need of your prayers, your helping hands, and your calling upon us to remain faithful to our commitments than we are of your purchasing power. Help us make the birth of our daughter an occasion for joy for all not just for the mighty but also for the lowly without the blessings we experience and in whose faces we are given the opportunity to glimpse the face of God.

Some resources:

Coop America’s Responsible Shopper

Catholic Near East Welfare Association: sponsor a child

Christian Foundation for Children and Aging: sponsor a child

kellymom :: Breastfeeding and Parenting

BabyCenter: everything you ever needed to know about pregnancy and babies

philandteds.com: equipment for the active family


9 thoughts on “On Baby Registries (including ours)

  1. Very well said. I have thought about and continue to think about two of the issues you raised. The first time my attention was drawn to the medicalization of birth and pregnancy was in a Womens' Studies class at Duke and ever since then, I haven't been able to get over how wrong it is in so many respects. I am quite sure I will never buy into that paradigm, even when someday I'll be forced to navigate it. As for simple living, that is something that calls to me, and we have taken some steps toward, but that there's still MUCH room for improvement. With respect to children, it seems to me that one challenge is that other children can be ruthless in their requirements for "fitting in", and so unfortunately in our culture, having the right "stuff" can also touch on someone's sense of community and inclusion. Anyway, I will be very interested in your thoughts and experiences on all this as you and Michelle venture into parenthood.

  2. It's easy for today's generation to be skeptical about the "medicalization of birth and pregnancy." We have the luxury to quickly dismiss what a risky business pregnancy and birth can be and many have forgotten or are ignorant to the fact that maternal mortality rates in this country are down by 95% since 1933.

  3. Critiquing the medicalization of pregnancy, birth, and child-rearing is not the same as simply dismissing the certain benefits that medicine can bring by improving and saving lives which should be used when necessary. Medicalization is a term from medical anthropology and sociology that refers to the ever increasing way in which aspects of human life are defined exclusively in medical terms, therefore come to fall under medical jurisdiction (removing them from other discourses) and are constituted as pathologies to be treated by experts whose goal is restore to 'normalcy' that 'defect' which has been defined as 'deviant.' Medicalization is a social problem that results in whole classes of persons, life states, etc. being removed from the fullness of social life; quite the opposite of the goal of healing which is precisely to restore to the fullness of human dignity those who have lost it due to disease. (Cf. Romanucci-Ross, P Conrad, et al.).

  4. Speaking strictly about buying, registering for baby stuff, one book that Ben and I used a ton is the Baby Bargains book with the purple-ish cover. I’ll bet you guys have come across it too. It was really helpful because they really take the “must-haves” baby registry and cut it to size. Also, they speak a lot about product evaluations, safety, and cost.

  5. Wise, as we have all come to expect, Andrew! I have long observed that pushing back against much of the modern incursions into the natural experience of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting requires a generation available to serve as mentors and guides.In that vein, please know that if there are lots of us who determinedly pursued a simple, natural approach to becoming and being parents & we'll share what you can anytime you want it!Written as my home-sick-from-school child is downstairs playing WII. 🙂 We can't win 'em all!

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