It was that special brand of 2020 pessimism and a hefty dose of first-mum nerves that turned me in the pregnancy Grinch. Everything was new, overwhelming and expensive. List upon list grew with every 3am bolt from the blue. Cribs, bassinets, prams, nursing chairs, eco-nappies, cotton nappies, bamboo nappies. I was trapped in a cutesy-wootsy duckling-print plastic hell.
“We’re going to kill the planet with every dollar we spend,” I grumbled to my partner as I waddled the aisles of Baby Bunting. Shopping secondhand seemed like the better option – I could save the planet while avoiding anything printed with baby animals.
My aversion to prenatal shopping sprees was also grounded in a deep anxiety that something would go wrong. I decided to source everything preloved – you know, just in case I wouldn’t get the chance to love it myself.
My first Facebook Marketplace purchase was a bundle of maternity dresses from a woman in Tamworth, snapped up in a late-night fluster after realising not even my underwear still fit. It was that first rush of first-trimester horror that things were happening. It was like the seller had known this, for her parcel included a handwritten note to wish me well in my pregnancy, and not to worry, you get used to the strange side flap made for breastfeeding.
The dresses smelt familiar, homely, like fabric softener and someone who still wrote notes on stationery. Despite my unwillingness to settle into my new role, the exchange tickled something in me.
I slowly started to gather up more baby items, a tentative bowerbird peeking around corners. I found myself shyly chatting on Marketplace with complete strangers, women who would ask things like, “Have your nipples started leaking yet?” or “What’s your birth playlist?”
The first nursery item we collected in person was a crib and bassinet combo from a grandmother who lived an hour away. Her house was high up in the hills, and she rocked her granddaughter on her hip as she squinted at the sun setting through the gum trees.
“Say bye-bye to your bed, Georgie,” she instructed the toddler, the child’s blonde curls glowing in the sunlight. A chubby hand flapped farewell as my partner loaded the crib into the back of our hired truck – a passing of the torch, perhaps. The next generation.
The grandmother asked what we were naming our daughter and gave a serious nod of approval. “That’s lovely,” she said. “A strong name.”
Of nappies and nursing chairs
My partner and I have had several road trips since then, my maternity overalls straining a little more with each trip. I have come to look forward to these trips, wondering who I would meet next.
The oversized pink nursing chair – chosen to match the mural we painted on the nursery wall – was sold to us for $50 by a lady who was downsizing. The now-adult son that she breastfed in that same chair 20 years ago was there to help us load it into the car. She and I stood chatting on the road as the boys tried to manoeuvre the chair into our tiny boot, removing spare tyres and laughing like old friends.
“I can’t imagine my baby being 20 years old,” I said to no one in particular, absentmindedly rubbing my round stomach.
“No, you never do,” she replied, her words hanging with a sweet heaviness.
Then there was the young mum from whom I bought a bundle of eco-nappies. She had insisted on driving them over – in a torrential tropical rainstorm – and chatted at the front door for almost half an hour, teaching me how to clip this and wash that.
“First baby?” she asked, pointing at my stomach.
“Oh yes, very much so,” I replied. “Bit scary.”
The look she gave me was so unexpectedly warm and tender it felt almost sisterly. She told me not to worry about it, that motherhood is the best thing that would ever happen to me. And looking at this complete stranger, dripping wet in a raincoat and teaching me how to change a nappy, I marvelled at how strongly I believed her.
Community was never something I put a great deal of emphasis on. I moved around a lot in my 20s, and I liked it that way. If anything, I found the touchy-feely nature of female friendships to be overwhelming, unattainable, too intense.
But pregnancy changed all that with a swift rush of hormones, and I found myself needing community, especially women. Through an online marketplace I have furnished a nursery with items that come with both a story and a community. I’ve connected with a slew of women, young and old, who have managed to ease my anxieties with their stories of motherhood. The mother tribe.
One year on from the pandemic outbreak, we are still a community disconnected. These fleeting encounters have been welcome moments of genuine connection. Stories shared, hugs exchanged, totems passed on to the next nervous mum, and a nursery full of items that make me smile when I look at them. It might take a village to raise a child, but you know what? It’s taken a marketplace to prepare a mother.