For years I struggled to have a baby, and the sight of toys and layettes made my heart hurt. For me, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us were a complete no-go zone, a reminder of everything I was missing out on. My mom would walk the long way around Target with me to avoid the sight of baby clothes. It was just too much. For me, and I'm sure for many parents, Babies "R" Us was a symbol of a life stage you reached, or were still reaching for — of what you did or did not have yet. There is still something about that "Expectant Parent" parking sign that hits on a tricky, secretly hopeful emotion. You walk in, and all the must-haves are there on show — the bottles and strollers and bibs — but there also is an insane amount of fun stuff you desperately want for your kid — ride-on horses and ridiculous onesies and elaborate jumpers. I wanted to be the parent buying all of that stuff.
Then one day, I got the call. A 17-month-old little girl needed a foster family, and my husband and I were picked. There was no guarantee she would be with us for more than a few weeks, but it was good enough for me. I stormed my local Babies "R" Us in a breathless sweat throwing binkies and bathtubs and diapers everywhere, pausing intermittently, to cry, hug my mom and celebrate my impending baby bounty. I couldn’t believe I finally made it inside.
After my toddler was delivered by a social worker I was totally unprepared in every way, but Babies "R" Us was just a few blocks away. She arrived without shoes, so my mom drew outlines of her little feet and took the sketches to Babies "R" Us to find the perfect pair.
I would walk the aisles along with moms-to-be registering for their showers, feeling like I was floating on air.
Over the next months, I became a frequent card-carrying member of the Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us club. It was a symbol I had finally arrived. And every Elmo doll, baby bathing suit and My Little Pony purchase was a complete joy.
I would walk the aisles along with moms-to-be registering for their showers, feeling like I was floating on air. I would look at everything and read the labels, like they held all the secrets any good mother needed to know. Babies "R" Us was my crash course.
Now that little girl is a glorious 7-year-old and she’s all ours, adopted years ago. I’ll always cherish those early years I logged in those stores, looking for just the right Caillou set when she was a toddler, the right first shoes, moving onto Sesame Street, then Barbie, My Little Pony, Monster High, LOL Dolls — I still savor every phase.
I’m really sad about the end of Babies "R" Us and Toys "R" Us. It’s not really the convenience or the big-box vibe I’ll miss most. I’ll miss the hours spent wandering those aisles, negotiating toy purchases with my kid and endlessly browsing the bath products. Those stores, as silly as it sounds, represent a huge milestone on my journey toward motherhood.
In some ways the end of Babies "R" Us is yet another bittersweet milestone crossed and left behind. But I’ll always remember those happy places, where I could feel my aching heart heal and grow several sizes. Those stores ushered me into motherhood, and for that I’ll always remember them with love.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.