Baby Shopping: From “Aww So Cute” To “What On Earth Is That?”


Baby Clothes on the Bed, Ottawa, Sep­tem­ber 2012

Mark was born on Octo­ber 12, 2012. These arti­cles were writ­ten shortly before his birth (it was a great cathar­sis!) and doc­u­ment the nine months of preg­nant where I was def­i­nitely not glow­ing. Up-to-date sto­ries com­ing up as well!

Between us, I don’t know any­thing about babies. Please don’t report me to social ser­vices (yet).

Sure, I’m the first born of the fam­ily (my sis­ter is six years younger and my brother nine years younger) but I was still a kid when they were grow­ing up. Plus, it was in France, and it was a dif­fer­ent era—same goes for Feng who grew up in China. None of us ever had a car seat, slept in a crib or wore Calvin Klein onesies.

And still between us, I only real­ized I was actu­ally hav­ing a baby a few weeks ago. And that I should really start buy­ing… I don’t know, baby stuff?

My mother had a head start and I strongly sus­pect she had started shop­ping when I was just a few weeks preg­nant (or maybe even sooner!). When we were in France in August, she gave me a few oh-so-cute out­fits and I grate­fully brought them back to Canada.

And then I decided I would start shop­ping when the time comes. I’m a bit super­sti­tious too, I guess.

But one day in August I woke up in the mid­dle of the night and decided it was time for me to buy some baby stuff, because it was actu­ally happening—the baby would be there soonish.

The only prob­lem was, I didn’t know where to start. What should I buy? Where should I buy it?

Many women here sign up for a reg­istry and host a baby shower, but this is a for­eign cus­tom to me and I decided to skip that step. After all, when we got mar­ried, we eloped and never asked for gifts or any­thing. Call me silly, I’m just not com­fort­able with the whole baby shower etiquette.

Online “Lists of things you need for a new­born” were so exten­sive and included so many optional items that I was even more con­fused. I mean, we do have lim­ited space and a bud­get too!

So on a hot sum­mer day, I headed to the shops to get some baby clothes. I fig­ured that would be step one—babies need to be dressed, right? Zellers turned out to be a good place to start, and I bought some bath tow­els, blan­kets and a few out­fits. It turned out to be harder than expected though, because every­thing seemed to be either blue, pink or yellow—apparently, every­one here knows the sex of the baby.

My sec­ond stop was a gold­mine: Win­ners. While I’m not a huge fan of the store for women’s cloth­ing (pants never seem to fit right, I guess there is a rea­son why brand names are so dis­counted!) it was a great place to pick up more clothes and a few basics, like bot­tles and toys.

I later dis­cov­ered that Old Navy also had cute baby clothes (although a bit pricier). I drew the line at Baby Gap—I’m not spend­ing $30 on a piece of fab­ric that will get peed and pooped on.

I also stopped by Babies “R” Us (there is “baby” in the same, they must have some baby stuff, right?) but I was kind of dis­ap­pointed. The store is very expen­sive and employ­ees aren’t exactly help­ful. A lot of the stuff they sell are gimmicks—sure, every­thing is super cute but I doubt I need all that they advise you to buy. Plus the pres­sure to open a baby reg­istry and out­fit the per­fect nurs­ery was annoying.

When you shop for baby stuff, you step into a com­pletely new world. You learn new vocab­u­lary, from “one­sie” to “playpen”. You dis­cover brands you have never heard about, and acces­sories you don’t even sus­pect existed.

Shopa­holics may like it—I found the expe­ri­ence stressful.

It’s hard to know what you will actu­ally need, and some employ­ees prey on your inex­pe­ri­ence to make you shop till you drop.

Case in point: the bed. We looked at cribs (huge wooden beds) and playpens with bassinets. We were lean­ing on buy­ing a bassinet because it was cheaper, lighter and eas­ier to carry from one room to another. A lot of store employ­ees tried to make us sound like bad par­ents: appar­ently, invest­ing in a $1,000 wooden crib with Hello Kitty blan­kets is giv­ing your kid the best head start in life (bonus points for buy­ing the match­ing wooden dresser!).

We bought the playpen with bassinet. Again, don’t report me to social ser­vices. We will even­tu­ally get a crib, I swear!

All in all, we bought the basics and got the room more or less ready. We have clothes, blan­kets, a bed, toi­letry and bath prod­ucts and a cou­ple of cud­dly toys.

I can’t help think­ing that stores will still be there once the baby is born, and that we can buy what­ever mis­cel­la­neous we sud­denly real­ize we need.

Mean­while… all you need is love, right?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


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  3. This is so true! My hus­band and I have a beau­ti­ful wooden crib that his father bought for us… our daugh­ter has slept in it once. She gets changed and naps in her playpen/bassinet and sleeps with me in the bed. Baby show­ers are a lovely sen­ti­ment, and I am truly appre­cia­tive of the one my aunt threw for me, but I never would have had one oth­er­wise. I received many acces­sories I feel guilty for not using. Kudos to you for being practical!

    • I totally under­stand! Don’t feel guilty though, peo­ple like to wel­come a baby with gifts, and it’s always hard to know what he/she will be using. I think it’s the same for everyone!

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