16 weeks pregnant: if you do not buy our products, we will kill you

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?

0 Comments on “16 weeks pregnant: if you do not buy our products, we will kill you

  1. My trick was asking myself “did people use this to raise babies 100 years ago? no? then I don’t need it.”

    But, being one who still consumes somewhat and likes modern day conveniences, I did buy some stuff. Well not even that really, I accepted (and returned) a lot of gifts. People love to buy stuff for babies and give you their old baby stuff. Wish you lived closer, you could borrow all mine!

  2. My husband is the youngest of 9 (!) siblings so we hardly bought anything, they were happy to trash all their baby-stuff on us. Most of it I didn’t use either. You really don’t need that much. A crib (can be anything, use your imagination), diapers and some baby clothing. And a baby sling is handy (I made one myself, the kind that is just some soft fabric about 2,5 meter long and you have to wrap all around yourself – works like a charm!).

    If you have a sewing machine you can make your own maternity clothing by altering your clothes. I did this in a way so I could alter it back to normal after the kid was born (proved to be not very useful though, I never lost the pounds I gained during pregnancy…).

  3. FVM: Yeah, I like your control question. I tend to think about things in a similar manner. I’ve already got just about everything we need, excepting a few small things, from the fleamarket and in the States have a registry to try to get all the cloth diapers we need together as gifts. I love how breastfeeding drastically reduces the number of things you need to buy.

    Ellen: Hand-me-downs are the best. (!!!) I like the looks of those sling carriers, though I wonder how good I would be at fastening them. Either way, we’ve already got a really sweet back pack-y kind of carrier from the fleamarket so I guess I won’t have to figure it out after all. But they look really comfy!

  4. Ha! Its the knee hat! (the white/gray one which I wore on my knee when your mom showed it to me, so it is especially infused with love)

    My friends use the sling and swear by it, mostly because it is so easy (though don’t ask me how they wrap it), comfy, and also convenient for breast feeding. Some of them also have backpacky carriers and those things are nightmares to get babies into, at least all the ones I’ve experienced.

  5. Ah yes. Sometimes it feels like Buying Stuff is supposed to be the main rite of passage into motherhood rather than, say, actually giving birth to a baby.

    Seems churlish to say it when you have the advertisement right there, but you can make those belly band things by cutting up any kind of close-fitting cotton jersey top with a bit of Spandex or Lycra in it.

    And while you’re at it, stock up on other old T-shirts and soft cotton jersey clothes that have reached the end of their useful life (ones that are really nice and soft but just not repairable any longer) cos they can be used as a substitute for all manner of other stuff that retailers will try and convince you you need for when the baby’s born. Pay them no heed. Instead, get your scissors out and cut your stockpile of old t-shirts into three sizes, according to the size and shape of the original garment. #1 will be face flannel-sized squares — these will be your washable babywipes. #2 approx 50-60cm square — these will be muslins/bibs/cloths for covering your shoulders/ nappies for newborns. #3 anything over 90cm or so will be cot/pram/crib sheets or blankets or swaddling cloths.

    You can zigzag hem the edges if you really want to, but jersey doesn’t fray much so you don’t need to.

  6. By a homemade baby sling I meant this model: http://www.zwangerschapsshirt.nl/basis-instructie-a35.html

    Sorry it is in dutch but I think you get the picture.

    BTW, those baby backpacks are awful things, always a stuggle with baby’s arms and legs, they are quite heavy and uncomfortable and you cannot use them until the baby can sit up straight, so you’ll need something else for the first 8-9 months.

  7. Fishie: Haha, knee hat. I think of it as the garlic hat because when the moms sent me a picture of it, she put a garlic head next to it for scale.

    The carrier we have is really easy to get a baby into. My friend at the other Wagenplatz has the same one, and I’ve watched her put it/the baby on many times. It’s not really a backpack, more like a peice of cloth you strap to yourself, with the baby in between you and the cloth bits. It just sort of reminds me of a backpack, but isn’t actually one at all. And you wear it in front. Etc.

    Freya: Amen. And I was thinking the same thing about the belly band and how easy it would be to make one. I don’t really care if someone sees that ad on here and thinks they should buy it, I just needed (wanted) a picture. Those damn things cost 20 euros in the store here! HA!

    Good call on the T-shirts. I don’t have any to cut up, but we have a free “shop” in the house at the front of our property that is constantly filling with stuff too ugly for much else. Aaand the fleamarket has already supplied with with a HUGE pile of burp rags or whatever for a couple of euros. Wohooo.

    Ellen: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking of when you said that. I can generally understand written Dutch, so thanks for the link to the how to. Still have to admit that the whole tying on instructions still don’t make me want one. Oh and as I said to fishie above, the backpack-ish carrier we have is just that, backpack-ish (to me), but not one at all. It’s very easy to use, etc.

  8. I agree with the person who said that buying was like a rite of passage. And with you, feeling a little abused by the stores offering unthinkable products for problems that might never happen, or worse, don’t help at all with.

    I use old towels/t-shirts/pieces of bed sheaths to cover the pad where I change baby’s diapers. Of course there are some for sell (Circo’s I think) with elastics to fit the pad’s corners, and that’s nice though overpriced, but the piece of cloth is good all the same.
    It’s been extremely helpful because baby, even though it’s a girl, loves peeing in that moment where there’s no diaper anywhere near her bum. The cover catches the pee and prevents it from running all over, to the floor and other clothes baby’s wearing. OK, if it’s a lot of pee then she might get a little wet, but still.
    We have a BabyBjörn carrier, which is cool and nothing wrong with it, but we haven’t used it much. It really doesn’t fit our lifestyle, and we very much prefer going out with baby in the stroller. We couldn’t have known that beforehand, really.
    I wore a belly band (probably with tighter elastics than the one you picture) after the delivery. Against my common sense and initial reservations, it made me feel very comfortable because it was like it helped everything inside my tummy going back to its place. I still wear it from time to time (baby is 1 year old), to easy a mild lower back pain.

    The hardest part after my daughter was born was going through a mild post partum depression. I used to believe that ppd was something that happened only to depressive prone people, or that I needed a reason to feel sad – so it didn’t make any sense feeling so helpless in spite of having a wonderful healthy baby, loving husband, etc. Well… I hope it won’t happen to you (or anybody else for that matter), but if it does, try to recognize it for what it is as soon as you can. Once you put a name on it, everything becomes clearer and you’ll be able to decide what to do about it. Cheers!

  9. Although I home-birthed, which made it easier to avoid some of the advertising hoopla, most of my decisions were for after the birth… I never used a pacifier, totally nursed until they grew some teeth, (even tandem nursed), made my own nursing tops, never bought any baby food/formula just made my own, etc. I saved some big bucks doing that, which I used for a diaper service.
    The really hard part resisting advertising came even later when we started buying toys. Naturally you have to have the really cool wooden (usually in my case) traditional European-made toys. I was a sucker for all the natural cotton clothing and so forth. Spent an awful lot of money avoiding things made in China and getting European stuff just for the aesthetics and so forth.

  10. Really, other than cloth diapers, clothes, and a few simple toys, the only thing I needed or wanted were comfort measures for myself. A shaped and scented buckwheat pillow that can be heated or frozen and put on my shoulders, a body pillow for sleeping in late pregnancy, stuff like that. I spent our money on chiropractic appointments with my second child. I swear it made a world of difference to the labor and delivery.

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