After the first scan went well, I started hitting up the charity shops and a nearly-new sale for baby grows, vests and anything else that looked in good condition. At first it was a few things here and there, then we found that the charity shop at the end of our road sells all its baby clothes for 30p a garment! Umm, I went mental in there and hoovered up all the nice things, regardless of colour (i.e. gender) which seemed to really confuse the more conservative shop assistants, particularly when I told them we already knew the sex of our baby! And then the donations started to come in. Friends and relatives with babies and toddlers started giving us bags of baby garments (and heaps of equipment and other stuff). Even an associate of my best friend's dad who I have never met kindly gave us what must be over a hundred pound's worth of stuff.
Sorting through it all I realised we had more 0-3 months things than we would possibly ever need so I had to place an embargo on myself when near charity shops and start donating some things to a friend of mine who is also expecting but not quite as prepared as we are in terms of 'stuff'. These two drawers pictured above and below are stuffed full with all of the 0-3 months clothes we now have, except for a couple of outdoor padded suits that won't fit in here.
So, aside from a few pairs of tiny socks (eye-wateringly cute, BTW) and the trousers I have made (blog post to follow), EVERYTHING we have acquired so far, clothes, equipment, furniture, etc, is second-hand. The reasons behind this are predominantly ethical and secondarily financial.
As I have talked and written about many times, I dress myself exclusively in self-made or second-hand garments, aside from bras and hosiery. I do this consciously and deliberately for a variety of reasons that I feel passionately about. My feelings about the environmental damage caused by the production and transportation of mass-produced garments, the welfare of the workers in those industries, the 'disposability' of fast-fashion and the comparative lack of satisfaction shopping awards us compared to sewing or thrifting are not going to go away because I'm about to become a mother. In fact the opposite is happening. I'm more aware than ever of the shitty state our global eco-system is in (BTW, have you watched 'The Island President' yet? Such an amazing film) and the way our capitalist financial systems prioritise profit over human life, safety and well-being, and I feel guilty and embarrassed about the world we are leaving our children.
My daughter is not going to be in any danger from second-hand clothing that has been thoroughly laundered before she wears it. Nor from unbroken equipment or furniture that has had a good clean before she touches it. There is so much damn baby stuff already out there in existance that has barely or not even been used (so many of the garments I've bought second-hand or been given still have the original price tags on), it will not make me a bad mother for (re)using those existing resources rather than buying more brand-new mass-produced items that will be useless to us within a couple of months.
In fact I believe the opposite. I believe I'm a better mother for trying, at least in some limited way, to put less pressure on the social and environmental fractures that unchecked consumerism is causing. I am the first to admit I live a far from 'perfect' life (if such a thing exists) in terms of my carbon foot-print etc., but I will at least be able to have something to say for myself when she inevitably asks me what me and her dad where doing to stem the damage our generation is inflicting right now.
Aside from the ethical reasoning behind buying (or receiving) second-hand things where possible for our baby, ourselves and our home, there is no denying that there are real financial benefits to be enjoyed. I've written and spoken in the past about how being self-employed since losing our jobs has had its ups and downs and how it helps to have a certain disposition to ride those waves.
Recently Pat and I attended a four week course called Parentskool that was chock full of advice for first-time parents of 0-6 month babies. A lot of the discussions revolved around what items and types of items are good and not so good to buy for a baby, including buggies/prams, high chairs, breast milk expressing machines, clothing, cots/bedding, nappies and much more. After a couple of sessions it dawned on me that none of the other couples had any intention of buying second-hand items for their babies, aside from the items that friends and family had already given them. I guess prioritising second-hand options when sourcing things is now so ingrained in me that it occasionally surprises me when people that I can really relate to in many other ways don't feel the same about that too. Then thinking about it a bit deeper, I realised through all the discussions we'd been having that all the other couples were in a much higher income bracket than Pat and I so they didn't have that extra incentive to source the cheaper second-hand options.
We are kind of in a funny situation in that we are classed (in the UK) as a low-income household, but not low enough to be entitled to any assistance or benefits. I have applied for and been told I'm entitled to Maternity Allowance (the self-employed person's version of a salaried employee's maternity pay) which isn't much but will help with my disappearance of income at the end of my pregnancy and first chunk of our daughter's life. Plus, when she comes along there are some benefits and assistance we will then be able to receive that are designed to help make sure she is secure and well-nourished. As I've said before, I'm not in the habit of overly planning or worrying about the future, so we'll see what happens.
However, the upside of being self-employed and therefore more flexible is that, unlike the other Parentskool couples who all have complicated plans for their maternity and paternity leave and for what will happen when those allocations dry up, we have time on our side. All being well, touch-wood, Pat and I will be able to share childcare so one or both of us will be with her all the time. We won't need to worry about finding the cheapest nannies or nurseries to leave her with, or experience the guilt (not that anyone should necessarily feel guilty about going back to work) of leaving their baby with strangers, or wrestle with the frustrating reality that childcare costs about as much as the wages you are going back to work to earn.
We've had a tricky spell, financially speaking, recently. And I'm sure that if we'd gone out and bought new all the things we've so far acquired second-hand, we would be in a really difficult situation right now. And there really is enough to concern ourselves with at the moment with the prospect of very shortly becoming parents.