When she searched for her own name in the baby registry, Erinn stumbled on nine other Erinns, and into a philosophical echo-chamber: what kind of mom was she going to be?
It happened unexpectedly and on the internet, as many things in my life tend to do. Theoretically I was looking for my own baby registry, made painstakingly by my me and my husband a few weeks ago. At the top of the list of swaddles and pacifiers and places to put the baby when he won’t be physically attached to me was my name. As the lifelong owner of a uniquely spelled first name and now a somewhat-uncommon married last name, I wasn’t expecting there to be another person like me out there.
One search. Ten names. None identical to me, but nine other women due to have babies in the same year as me and all of us named Erinn. And so I fell, down the internet rabbit hole, into the tiny intimacies and idiosyncrasies of this cadre of women who have all been given the same one extra letter name.
There’s the minimalist Erinn. No massive baby gear for her, only soft carriers, diapers, a set of bottles. I imagine her in a tiny San Francisco apartment, carving out a space in a studio, light and plant-filled. They haven’t found out the gender yet, or they’re not telling, and there’s nary a pack and play to be found. I see myself in her living space, with tiny pots, no, a wall of succulents that they’ve painstakingly mounted for maximum baby safety.
I thought our registry was simple until I encountered hers, not even anywhere for the baby to sit while he eats. Kon-Mari has deeply simplified her life in a way my sentimental self fears. My husband hauls boxes of things down from the attic that I stashed there when we moved in five years ago. Scrapbooks, third-place ribbons from pre-Y2K swim meets, toy horses that cluttered my childhood bedroom. I find myself surprisingly ruthless at culling everything and consolidating into one sturdy cardboard box. Maybe minimalist Erinn and I aren’t so different, maybe a baby is such a huge insinuation into your life that you have no choice but to clear out the past to accommodate him.
Crunchy Erinn and her husband have registered for everything you could possibly need to cloth diaper your baby.
Single Erinn hasn’t registered for things so much as she has experiences, and gift cards. Babysitting — unlimited. Books — unlimited. Pre-made meals, requested. She is constructing her own village to rely on when the baby makes its arrival. I try to imagine going it alone, no one to listen to the litany of body complaints I have at the end of my pregnant days, no partner to change a diaper in the middle of the night. I find myself wishing I could somehow donate labor from my own husband — here, he’ll warm a bottle for you while you’re napping. I realize that I’m actually just trying to predict my own future, to figure out what a division of labor looks like when you add a baby into the mix. So much of pregnancy and childbearing precludes male involvement, no matter how equitable of a partnership you’ve discovered. I want to send her solidarity even as I worry over how I’ll lose myself in becoming a mother.
Crunchy Erinn and her husband have registered for everything you could possibly need to cloth diaper your baby. Special sacks for the soiled ones, a locking steel pail. She is sensible, I’m sure, and her bottles are glass, the toys she’s chosen all soothing wood, no riotous plastic color explosions. “Secondhand is great! :)” reads a message at the top of the registry and I recoil in horror.
Sure, I’ve spent my fair share of time perusing Facebook swap sites, and I’ve even bought a few things in addition to screenshotting the weirdest possible posts and sending them to my sisters. Yet grabbing someone’s once- or twice-used disposable diapers is (shudder) a poop bridge too far. Still, I peruse her registry and feel pangs of guilt that as she is taking concrete steps to make her baby’s tiny footprint even more carbon-friendly (and smaller?), I am birthing another human to live on the planet, green lifestyle be damned. I think fondly of my ubbi diaper pail, try to not to think about a landfill somewhere filled with my specific baby’s diapers, and consider sending an extra $25 to the climate change charity we support at the end of the year.
Adoption seems like such a hard path and it’s in reviewing her registry that I finally find myself reaching some kind of future mom nirvana.
Adopting Erinn’s registry stands out from the rest of the pack. No infant sizes, no diapers, no throat-catchingly cute tiny shoes. A casual Google search (yes, more internet stalking) leads me to the GoFundMe she and her husband had launched to fly home with their adopted daughter from Uganda. I look through her Instagram, marveling at this completely different way of becoming a mother, and still finding similarities to my own current situation. A much-wanted child, time spent behind a screen imagining what life would be like with her, trying to predict what will make that baby happy; in my case soft cotton fabrics, and in hers a play kitchen, food items in it that her child, raised half a world away, might not even recognize. Adoption seems like such a hard path and it’s in reviewing her registry that I finally find myself reaching some kind of future mom nirvana, a we-are-the-world feeling brimming up somewhere underneath where the heartburn lives.
And that’s the crux of it. There’s 10 of us out there in the world, some with partners, some alone. East Coast, flyover state, at the edge of the equator. And yet with all the individual pieces of our registries we’re preparing for the same colossal shift. In the next year our homes will transform the way our bodies have, expanded, accommodating someone other than ourselves. We may be stocking up on different brands of diapers, tiny jerseys unique to our own local sports teams, but we’re facing down a life change together. I will never meet the other women in my “class,” as it were, but as I obsessively check my own registry to see what’s been purchased, I wonder if they’re doing the same.
Is Erinn in Oklahoma counting down the days until her sage green gliding rocker arrives? Or is she somewhere on her laptop, scouring my registry and wondering what in the world I was thinking with that Oscar the Grouch hooded bath towel? I wish I had some way of reaching out through the ether of the internet and checking in with these women, but instead as pregnancy has taught me, there are some things I can’t ever know. All I can do is hit refresh.