A Look at Life: Prams

13th November 2015

Precious Or Pretentious?

By Kathy Walton

ONE of the most uplifting stories I have ever heard concerned an Australian couple who were told that their premature baby son had just minutes to live. Still in the delivery suite, the mother asked the doctor to leave and got her husband to take off his shirt and climb onto the bed beside her. Together they sandwiched their tiny baby between their naked skins, still expecting him to die, but wanting to have as close an embrace as possible with him in his final moments.

Miraculously for the couple, the extra heat helped their new-born bounce back and he made it – a happy ending to a literally heart-warming tale. I recalled this story recently when I was in a café and couldn’t help but overhear the high-volume conversation at the next table. A group of young mums with toddlers strapped into buggies the size of bubble cars were offering advice to a friend who was expecting her first baby.

As I remember, having your first child is like having a hand grenade lobbed into your life; you need all the advice and support you can get. Stitches that feel like barbed-wire knickers, sleep deprivation and car seats with instructions in Taiwanese are all uncharted territory for a new mum and however many child-rearing manuals you devour BC (before childbirth), the survival tips you get from other mothers AD (after delivery) are usually the most helpful and supportive.

Or so I always thought, until one comment caught my attention. “You absolutely must get the Venicci pram,” insisted one blonde in skinny jeans, briefly looking up from her mobile phone. “It says so much about you as a couple.” Really? One’s social standing depends on the make of equipment you put your blissfully unaware sleeping infant in? I nearly choked on my latte.

I should mention here that the dusty Silver Cross pram I bought for my twins cost me a mere £10 from a charity shop (and was much admired by aunties and grannies); and that the four second-hand cots (two for our house and two for my parents’ house) bought by my frugal Yorkshire mother cost less than one brand new model. And have I irretrievably blighted my daughters’ prospects for ever more? Well, possibly, but not because of the cots I put them to sleep in.

Now I enjoy my coffee with biscotti amaretti as much as the next woman, but why anyone would want to shell out more for an Italian ‘baby travel system’ than I would spend in a week on Capri, has always been beyond me. Similarly, it breaks my heart to see perfectly serviceable high chairs being taken to the dump because parents are too precious to accept cast-offs from friends. One grandmother I know fell out with her daughter-in-law when the latter refused to put her toddler into a second-hand chair at Granny’s house because she ‘didn’t know where it had come from.’

And, keen as I always am to catch up on Hello! magazine in the dentist’s waiting-room, I simply can’t understand why the ‘designer’ blue shorts sported by little Prince George should become a ‘must-have’ when you can buy an almost identical pair for a tenth of the price in any chain store in the country. Upmarket baby clothes may say something about your position in society, Madam, but it won’t stop your child growing out of them within six weeks.

And while we’re on the subject of royal baby gear, avid readers of Hello! will know that when George’s great-grandfather Prince Philip was a baby, he was spirited away from the military coup in his native Greece – not in an eye-wateringly expensive fur lined cot, but in a humble fruit box.

So three cheers for the ‘kangaroo’ parents, who are now the proud mum and dad of a strapping toddler son. Even more touchingly, they expressed their gratitude for their son’s life by founding a charity to help premature babies.

Which rather puts designer prams into perspective, doesn’t it?… And it says so much about them as a couple.

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