Finally, reality has hit! You’ve taken out that scan photo a hundred times and stared at it. You’ve dutifully showed it to all your friends, co-workers and even your boss. Slowly, but surely, acceptance has taken hold: you are going to be a father.
With this new found acceptance comes, pride, happiness and a swagger. It doesn’t matter that your life has been turned upside down, you’re now in a place where you are feeling empowered.
Pregnancy books and websites are now slowly replacing all your normal reading material. For your wife, pouring through articles, advice columns and blogs like this has become a new type of religion, searching for answers. She’s even bought you a ‘Dad’s Guide’ which you’ve promised to read (but have only casually flicked through). There’s even talk of antenatal classes. (I’ll get to those in a future post).
Soon thoughts turn to tangible matters such as cots, baskets, nursery furniture, car seats and pushchairs.
I pride myself on being a practical person. When my wife said we need to start thinking about pushchairs and car seats, my immediate reaction was, awesome I can finally contribute. Let’s go look. So we jumped in my Alfa Romeo (yes, still driving a sporty car) and drove to the nearest large baby shop, in our case it was a Mothercare.
Baby shops are something you might have visited in the past for presents for other people’s children but not really looked in depth or spent too long in. Some have never set foot inside. It is a different world.
So, we pulled up. I was feeling all powerful, knowing and had the swagger. I walked in and see all the baby clothes near the counter, ready for a quick purchase and dash. But we were here for a different purpose. As you walk past the clothing, it hits you like a full blown kick to the groin…
Pushchairs, travel systems, baby carriers, Moses baskets, cots, changing tables, baby wardrobes, car seats, seat bases. Brands… oh so many brands. You’ve never noticed before but 3/4 of the shop is full of baby transportation! Not only that, at the back is a floor to ceiling display, with models showcased so high up you can’t even make out what you’re peering up at.
I felt my confidence sliding away, there was sooo much choice, different colours, sizes, types, which one was the right one?
I went to the nearest one, it was on a small display stand, really beautiful chunky thing with chrome and big fat wheels. It was beautiful. I pushed it around a bit, felt the weight, it was sturdy and solid. I could see myself pushing this! Then I saw the price tag………. WTF?!?? How much?!?? It was £800.
My first car was £250, a small white Toyota Corolla with brown interior. And here was this pushchair that cost more than three times as much. How is that even possible? My wife came over and spoke what I assumed was a word of outrage and disbelief too. Bugaboo!
Bugaboo indeed. Nope, I was wrong, apparently, that was the make of the contraption and was considered THE pushchair to have. I could see my wife’s eyes caressing the thing, as if it were the love of her life. She then went to push it but struggled. The irritation on her face was quite funny. I quickly moved her on before she developed superhuman strength.
Mamas and Papas, Silver Cross, Jolie, Quinny, iCandy, Gracco, Mothercare, Cybex, Maxi-Cosi, McLaren, it was like learning another language. To top it off there are different types too. 3 in 1 travel systems, strollers, prams, pushchairs, baby carriers, infant car seats, Group 0,1,2,3 and so on.
What I should have done (before so brazenly entering this temple of babyness) was a bit of research. I felt totally overwhelmed by it all.
My initial reaction was: £100 for a pushchair, job done. Oh, how wrong I was! Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
It boils down to this. Your baby will need a baby carrier, which is basically a plastic expensive shopping basket looking thing. You may, or may not, want a base that fits permantly in your car, so the carrier clicks in and out. (Highly recommend getting one for the main car baby will be traveling in, saves all the hassle with seat belts) for the first few months the baby will pretty much live in this carrier whenever you’re out and about so you need a pushchair chassis which it can be clipped into. Maxi-Cosi carriers are compatible with pretty much all pushchair chassis.
Travel systems are all-in-ones: you get the carrier, pram and a stroller. They are generally more expensive because the theory is that you won’t need to buy anything else for a while. It ‘grows’ with the baby. And, more importantly for the wife, it all matches. The downside is that they are very rarely compatible with other brands.
As I mentioned earlier, for the first few months the carrier is going to be the most used part of any system. The current advice is that babies should lie flat as much as possible, so being in a carrier should only be for a limited time, that’s why there is a pram attachment. The theory is that you use the carrier for the car and pram when you’re walking. (Great theory, in practice however moving a sleeping baby out of a carrier is a cardinal sin and an attack on your sanity). But if you feel you need a pram, it is there to use. The stroller part will NOT be used until baby is sitting up, which can take months.
The other things to consider are what type of lifestyle you have. If you are a ‘travel by car to get from A to B’ type of family, a travel system that folds into nothingness and doesn’t take up much boot space is awesome. If you are walkers and public transport users, a light framed small wheeled pushchair will end up shattering your baby’s spine, a sturdy robust system with big fat wheels and suspension is for you.
Also, bear in mind no matter how much you spend, you will not have anywhere to hang shopping bags, or storage space underneath, it is one of the most frustrating things about pushchairs with a baby in it, you not only have to push the damn thing you also have to carry your own shopping.
Please consider your wife’s stature! A great big hulking travel system may be the one you want because it makes you feel manly but if your wife, who is the one who will be using it the most, can’t get it in and out of the boot. It’ll cause you no end of heartache and nagging.
After looking around for a while and you have narrowed it down to a few, the next thing to consider is folding the pushchair down. Some you press a button and it folds down into a neat small package, press the same button and it comes back up in one smooth motion.
Other pushchairs… well some of you will wish you had pursued that engineering career that you father desperately wanted for you. First, you have to take apart this bit, then fold that, then twist that, it goes on and on until all you’ve managed to do is create a large pile of metal, fabric and plastic at your feet along with your manhood.
Suffice to say some pushchairs are easy to use others are not.
In my experience, if you approach buying a pushchair the same way you would to buying a car, you can’t go wrong.
Do your research. Decide what you can afford and what you want to spend, be realistic. Pushchairs can be divided into categories like cars:
Ferrari/ Lamborghini. Very beautiful but impractical. Expensive
Rolls Royce/ Bentley. Beautiful, practical, luxurious. Expensive
Mercedes/BMW/Audi: Good looking, practical, desirable. Expensive but not prohibitive.
Toyota/Nissan: Can be good looking, functional, practical, the right ones are desirable.
Ford/Vauxhall: Functional and practical.
A quick look online will tell you which brands are which.
Again, using the car comparison. In most cases your parents helped buy your first car, if they want to lend a hand now, let them!
Buying a baby carrier/pushchair/travel system is a massive decision because it is the first major purchase you contemplate for your child. Also it is the first salvo fired at your fellow new parents, when the competition begins.