Businesses sure do enjoy pumping the pregnancy market. As soon as word gets out that you’re baking your very own bun, the scent of fresh blood (to wildly mix metaphors) draws the advertisers out of the dark crevices in which they’ve been lying in wait. The race to win the contents of expectant parents’ wallets is worth the extra effort: whoever wins has a chance not just at immediate profit and potential product loyalty, but at training a brand new consumer to recognize their brand and logo. With the chance to sack two very profitable birds with one stone, advertisers start throwing boulders.
Left: Click Clack Gorilla exhibiting baby hats made by Grandma Gorilla.
Sales pitches aimed at expectant parents (and folks who are already parents for that matter) is some of the sickest bullshit I’ve ever seen. Everybody wants to be a good parent; it’s a physical instinct. So advertisers prey on the inevitable worries that you won’t be able to be as good a parent as you would like and that you don’t have a fucking clue what you’re doing by sending the message that being a good parent corresponds to purchasing products.
It’s not any different than the tactics used to target folks who don’t have children—we’ve been seeing the “create a product and then manufacture a feeling of inadequacy that makes consumers feel that they need your product to be whole” spiel since advertising really got started—but strikes me as being correspondingly more malicious the more vulnerable the targets. And expecting parents, particularly pregnant ladies, are a very vulnerable bunch. Let me give you an example: the line drawings in the book The Birth Partner have actually brought me to tears. Knowing that they are simply designed to illustrate the points made in the book (aka they are drawings of midwives and partners helping pregnant women through labor), I can’t fathom what a well-targeted advertisement could be capable of.
I’ve been lucky not to have come into contact with much consumer-parent propaganda. When the doctor gave me a bag of advertisements (“And we have a present for you!” the woman who checks my blood sugar at each appointment told me as she handed me a plastic sack full of trash), I saved the info booklet and trashed all the catalogues and “money-saving coupons” (aka “shop at my store and spend way more than you intended to” carrots). Then I read the info booklet, realized that it, too, was full of advertisements, and trashed it as well.
While waiting for a train recently I slipped into the book store to flip through magazines and wrinkle my eyebrows at the parenting magazines. They were, of course, also full of advertisements, though more striking than the bulk of ads and product placements were the pregnant models doing their sexy model stance. It was incredibly absurd. Didn’t anyone ever tell them they don’t need to stand like the ladies in the bulimia magazines to look sexy because they are the embodiment of sex, and sexy? Apparently not. Or maybe the magazines just don’t want the pregnant ladies to know that because if they did, they might not feel like they needed to buy a new wardrobe to make them feel sexy behind their new bellies.
Treacherous as advertising can be, I do enjoy hearing about a product that is genuinely useful and whose purchase could help me avoid the purchase of many other products. Once upon a time in a far away land where the rivers flowed with honey and the clouds were made of popsicles, advertisement was about communication, about spreading information. Imagine that. Considering the bent of most advertising around us today, I find it damn hard to.
But take maternity wear. As a lover of stretch pants and owner of many flexibly fabricked t-shirts and semi-flow-y dresses (and occasional borrower of a sewing machine), I have no reason to buy maternity wear—though I am feeling a bit short on pants and winter jackets now that neither will zip over Mount Peanut. And an advertisement in that same parenting magazine presented a solution: the belly band (see a mini picture below).
It works like this: you put on your favorite pants, the ones that don’t fit anymore, and you leave them unzipped. Then you pull the belly band over them, and it helps keep your pants up, hides the fact that your fly is down, and keeps your belly warm while doing it. Which means that even if you don’t like stretch pants, you can still wear your favorite pants while pregnant, without having to buy a closet full of new ones. As for the jacket, I’m just going to steal one from the Beard, though if you’ve ever seen him, you’ll know that I’m going to need to find someone larger to thieve from come December.
So lay ’em on me parent and parentally interested readers. What are your tips and tricks for a non-consumer pregnancy?