The catalog arrived before we had ever begun to discuss a child. “Consider this…” the cover suggested over a stock image of two parents lifting their grinning baby, Simba-like. Each interior page detailing a reason we were ready to become parents: we had been together six years; we were in our early 30s, not quite geriatric territory if we hurried; we had two stable incomes; Marie had always enjoyed grasping baby’s toes when they appeared in public, in her reach. An odd specificity to the mailing, but so many of these things could be said for so many other couples in our orbit—there was no real harm to it, we agreed, some faceless marketer surmising that we might recognize ourselves in a series of broad facts and stereotypes.
It wasn’t a day before our Nile cart updated to include the essentials for new babyhood: a breast pump, nursing bra, breast pads, dozens of bibs, multiple lotions, burp clothes, animal-printed onesies that somehow recalled to us the majesty of new life. All of this, we agreed, was really just an enhanced wish list. A thoughtful step on the part of the Nile Corporation, enabling us to get a sense for the costs of early parenthood, to really consider things, before we took any of the necessary steps. Likewise, the copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting deposited next to our mailbox at no charge. A tome as intimidating as any of the biology textbooks we had bought in college, and which we turned through before the flickering television. Prenatal vitamins, ovulatory romance, exercising but not so as to raise body temperature.
“Do you think,” we said, and “Have you wanted,” and “Where would we.” We found the tape measure buried beneath sauce packets and paced the bedroom, spacing out how this dresser would move, and this desk, for a crib. Debated whether it was strange to consider a child on the basis of targeted marketing—but no, we agreed, we had only received helpful nudges—no actual new ideas had been implanted. Our mothers described patterns for baby blankets and baby socks, a baby-sized cardigan with patches at its elbows and pockets the size of a new baby’s fists. “It’s so funny,” they both said, “but this pattern was emailed to me—and the yarn—”
We recalled how our parents had detailed the months leading to our births. Longing conversations about parenting strategy, considerations of whose nose would prove most dominant in the amniotic stew. Our conversations hadn’t been so different, really. When prompted by our NileHome we, too, debated public and private schools, cultured city life against the beneficial germ dirt of the countryside. Maybe some details we would exclude, like the Nile-branded apology that arrived in the second trimester. A new Head of Marketing, mixed customer lists, an upgraded CRM to preclude future error. This a detail no child needs to know, let alone ours—let alone this child, who we are so sure we always wanted.