It turns out my clean, agile, software developer livin’ is helping me stay sane as we move into parenthood. I can see that it would be easy to be let yourself be sucked right into the tumbling, rumbling avalanche of YOU NEED THIS that follows a positive pregnancy test. Every baby website has a hundred (sponsored) products to shove at you. Every baby-stuff-selling store has a list of Must Haves that is a mile long. The baby shower tradition (a rather uniquely American one, I’m learning) is for the mother to be downright smothered in a pile of baby stuff, essential and frivolous. All the recently-minted parents have bushels of baby goods they’re looking to ditch… erm, hand down. And naturally each parent found those one or two lifesaver items that they will insist we need… and there’s curiously little overlap there, so if we listened to all that, we could open our own baby store with all the stuff we’d accumulate.
Most people love this. It is the way of our people. But it just doesn’t sit right for me, I do not like collecting material possessions. (I can see the irony.) My style is more of a do it lean, do it yourself, keep it simple aesthetic. After a couple decades of doing application design and development, I can smell an over-engineered problem pretty easily, and lemme tell you: baby-having stinks of over-engineering to high heaven.
That said, of course there are some things that we really do need. In the approach to software development I use, you start simple at first—stupid simple—and only add in new features in an incremental fashion, when a real need is truly justifiable, and add them in priority order. This is how you make sure that the important stuff gets in there, instead of being sidetracked into adding features that seem important but wind up unused or irrelevant.
So, okay, what does my baby TRULY need? Food, shelter. That’s kinda really it. Food has an easy answer, it’s what my boobs are for. Shelter, well, we’ve got a house. Done. We’re pretty much guaranteed to succeed right there.
Ah, but the boob route may not be so simple. There’s a learning curve there. It may take time for my milk to come in, there could be latching problems, I may find myself incapacitated if delivery goes sideways. I may need to pump breast milk, so I’ll need a pump, and bottles, and nipples. And a way to sterilize the bottles, and warm the bottles. And storage bags for my breast milk. And a drying rack for the bottles. And nursing pads for when my breasts leak. Am I going to need nipple shields? Oh, and nipple cream, because ouch. And a special nursing bra, but which style? This mother insists on one style, but this other mother insists on a different one. Better get both! Oh dear, what if I can’t get the milk going fast enough? I’m going to need formula, just in case. And I was lactose intolerant, so what if my girl is? I should get soy-based formula, too, to be safe. Hm, we’re going to need bibs. And a car adapter for the breast pump. And this paddle game. And this chair. And this magazine. And… and…
If we were building a piece of software, someone would have spat out the words “feature creep” right around the words “I’ll need a pump.” Feature Creep is the bane of every developer’s existence, it’s how interesting ideas and good intentions make a project balloon into something unwieldy and undeliverable. Good developers know to nip it in the bud quickly. If you try to anticipate everything in advance, you will anticipate the wrong things, and you will fail. Instead, you keep yourself flexible (“agile” in programming parlance), and react calmly and realistically as new desires enter the picture, always keeping a weather eye on the large picture. You continually remind yourself to keep it simple, to do just the bare minimum first, and to add in a new idea or a new feature only after considering how much you really need it, and why. Now this approach, I like.
Okay, back now to the boob & house solution. We do know that the hospital will not let us leave unless we have demonstrated that we have a properly installed car seat. I can get behind this, we will likely want to take our baby places. That becomes our highest priority after boob and house. Car seat. So that’s the first thing we purchased (actually, my Mom did. Thank you, Mom!).
The kid is going to want to do some sleeping, and our floor is pretty hard. The guidance for SIDS prevention suggests that the best option is to have the baby sleeping in the same room as you, but not in the same bed. Like security considerations in software development, safety considerations are a constant running question in the background, and are a key quality concern. We keep it simple—stupid simple—but not unconscionably simple. So, some research is done, and a co-sleeper bassinet is selected. A crib, well, a crib can wait. Don’t need it yet.
The Baby Stuff Selection process has been happening for us in this way for the past few months. Question, research, prioritize, occasionally select, and even more rarely, purchase. It’s not just about saving money, it’s as much (more?) about saving space, saving sanity, just living streamlined. What happens when I need formula after all? Well, I go to the 24 hour supermarket that stocks lots of different formulas and is half a mile from our house. It’s not exactly a looming catastrophe.
This isn’t to say that we’re not going to do a full preparation before the baby comes, I know now is the time and it will become harder later. We’ll get the crib sorted before she’s here, but since it’s lower priority, we’ll make sure we take care of higher priority questions first. And thankfully, while purchasing isn’t my style, researching totally is, so I’m having fun reading up on all our options in case we need to make decisions quickly.
I figured out a few weeks ago that I need to keep in mind a lesson learned from our wedding. There, too, I did not buy into the Matrimonial Industrial Complex, instead opting for a simple, homemade affair. I had naysayers, so many naysayers. And I had a wonderful wedding, and wouldn’t change a thing about it. This is scary, uncharted territory for us but I need to be true to myself and do things the way that feels right for me. My instincts have steered me true in the past, and more likely than not, they will again.
And my instinct says I do not need much.
p.s., I do like traditions, and I really like parties, so we are having a little celebration. Check your Facebook event invites for The Trottening 2, and RSVP if’n you can. If you want to be even more traditional, we do have a registry. Please, please, please no pink!