The Stork Patrol
They descended upon us like a swarm of locusts. First, there were the coupons. Then the department store portrait deals. The cases of formula. And the capper, the dire advertisements saying that we’d better up our life insurance levels, or else.
The minute you have a baby, the whole world knows about it. And I’m not just talking about your friends and family. I’m talking about people who you’ve never met, never did business with, and never want to run into in a dark alley.
Somehow, they always know.
It’s almost as if the minute a child is born, the baby patrol sends the word out all across the country on its little stork phones and via stork e-mail. At a mailing house somewhere in Topeka, Kansas, new promotional letters are hurriedly printed entitling the new parents to a “great offer” to buy a bible with the name of the new family member delicately written on the front with a genuine glitter gun in pink or blue glitter.
In San Jose, the baby bootie-bronzing place starts melting more bronze in anticipation. The guys who make the infant formula in Detroit start rubbing their hands together. “Hey Jack,” the formula king yells to the head formula chef after getting off the stork hotline, “get another few cases together and ship ‘em out. We gotta get ‘em hooked on this stuff now. Gotta get ‘em now. They try our samples, and they’re ours forever baaay-bee. Cha-ching.”
A day or so after I brought my twin boy and girl home from the hospital, little “gifts” started arriving in the mail. We got fliers for things I never knew existed. Who knew that you could get a poem using each letter in your child’s name framed in a beautiful pine frame painted blue or pink (it’s always blue or pink) for just $59.99? Or a set of toy blocks made of 14 carat gold, engraved with rattles and teddy bears for four installments of only $99.19, sure to become a family heirloom?
Of course, we got the typical coupons for baby food, diapers, diaper samples, wipes and pain medication (to be used in the event that your precious little bundle drops one of those hefty gold blocks on her tootsie). Each package of coupons congratulated me — and it was always me, not my husband — on the new addition to the family. But along with the promises of getting a whole $1 discount if you bought 48 jars of organic blueberry-rice-free-range-chicken baby food, was the unspoken message that by choosing their products and showing brand loyalty, I would tell the world that I really cared about my baby. If I didn’t buy the organic food, then I was being reckless and wanted to fill my baby with sugar, starch and, gasp, pesticides.
Then came the formula. Cases of it. Delivered by UPS. They were left all around our house. On the porch. In between the screened door and the front door. One case sat at our front door for two weeks before we even noticed it (we only use the side door). And we never requested anything from them.
The junk mail kept coming. We got pleas from so-called medical groups for us to save the blood in the baby’s umbilical cord and store at their facility for a small yearly rental fee in case our child becomes gravely ill in the future. Perhaps it would’ve been a good idea, but that note came a little too late. The cord had already been cut, but maybe the hospital could rummage through the medical waste pile . . . But it wasn’t too late to save our baby’s first nail clippings so they could be glued to a little frame. The Nails-to-Frame-Keepsakes Co. could preserve our cherished memories for years to come, and at a mere $15 for a do-it-yourself kit.
The most diabolical of all the offers were the insurance pitches. Bearing cherub-like baby faces on the glossy brochures, the companies warned that if we didn’t stock up on our insurance, we’d leave our kids vulnerable and unprotected. They used more subtle language, but the message was clear: Buy more insurance or your kids will wind up like the orphans on Fox’s “Party of Five,” having wild teenaged sex, getting pregnant, arrested, drunk, unshaven and perpetually unemployed. If we had the right insurance plan, even if both my husband and I died, our kids could have Mary Poppins follow them around and feed them organic grapes for the rest of their childhood. Most of the junk that filled our mail box landed in our circular file, which is lined with one of the 4,000 trash bags we got for only $89.95 with the guarantee that nothing we put in there, not even dirty diapers, would stink up the house and disturb the new, sensitive nostrils of a newborn. The case of air freshener is on back-order.
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