Handing Down The Hand-Me-Downs

When I was pregnant with Viv, we got a lot of thoughtful gifts, but my favorites were the boxes of hand-me-down clothes from mommy friends who had been there before me.  Sorting through those cartons was Christmas morning level exciting.  Adorable playsuits, girlie party dresses, cozy pajamas and, um, these?


Onesie crotch extenders, it turned out.

For every pink frilly item that begged me to play dress-up, there was some totally confounding oddity.  But no matter–I welcomed it all.

Lovingly rewashing everything with Dreft and folding those tiny clothes into brand new drawers felt like my first real act as a mom.

Now, two and a half years later, I find myself packing up Viv’s baby clothes for another set of expectant parents – my brother and sister-in-law.  I’ve been waiting for them to have a baby and I’m thrilled it’s a girl.  (Is it sexist to fantasize about family vacations where we braid hair, paint nails and play Barbie?  I can’t help myself.)   As a sister, an aunt, and a person who badly needs to de-clutter, it’s exciting packing up Viv’s clothes.  But as a mom, it’s emotional, too.


The woman who unpacks her first box of baby hand-me-downs has everything in front of her – the dreamy haze of the newborn days, feeding and sleeping and not sleeping, confusion and chaos, magic and mystery, and such rapid growing and changing that one day soon the items from that first box don’t even fit any more, and it’s time to open the next one.

The woman who packs such a box has experience, knowledge and memories.  She’s mastered the art of swaddling (so what if it took five different blanket brands to get it right?).  She knows the onesie extenders aren’t worth the trouble, and puts them in the Good Will pile instead.  She remembers fondly her go-to pajamas–the ones she could fasten in the dark.  She’ll never forget the coming home outfit, and puts it aside.

I’ve been both of these women now, and while I know there are still many, many parenting milestones ahead, it feels strange to have already closed the lid on these boxes.

As much as I treasured my daughter’s baby phase, it’s impossible to want it back.  I’d never give up our new communication – the relief of being able to ask, “What’s wrong?” and receive an answer.  The joy of hearing “I love you.”  Still, I don’t like to think that there will never be another baby in the house again–sleeping on my chest, staring into my eyes, smiling for the first time.  I’d be so good at it now, too.  Less afraid, more assured, but also less available, I know.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know we’ve been trying for nearly a year.  It’s in fate’s hands, this baby thing, though I have trouble letting go of imagined control.  I make myself crazy with fertility nutrition books (“eat full fat dairy”) and Chinese medicine (“avoid dairy”), all my information sources contradictory and not especially scientific.

I do know one thing in my gut, and that’s that bringing an umbrella will almost surely prevent the rain.  Hand down the baby clothes, and hope that little cousin lovingly destroys them with spit-up and blow-outs and teething like a beaver.

Take away the umbrella, and maybe it will rain.

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  1. Wendy
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink


    • Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Thanks. I’m sure you’ve been there, at least with the packing up part. It’s weird!

  2. Kirby
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I totally get how you feel packing up that box. I packed up Diva #1’s clothes in hopes of another little girl in the future but also gave the other half away to another family. Now I’m packing up Diva #2’s clothing to hand-me-down to another family expecting a girl and I’ll admit, it’s not easy. Especially knowing this is my last baby. Prayers being sent your way for another little one and congrats to you all on the new baby girl!

    • Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Thanks. Enjoy your Divas :)

  3. Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I have a garage full of about 10 plastic totes of my daughter’s newborn to age three clothes that are a testament to how hard this is to do. In the last year, I’ve started getting rid of her clothes as I take them out of the closet for being small, but I can’t yet bring myself to sort through and give away her little baby clothes. I battled infertility to have my daughter and I won’t have another baby ever, so it is very emotional. Best of luck to you on your journey to have another baby-it’s such a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Beautiful post.
    Sonya recently posted..40’s the New 20, or the New Black, or Something Fab, Right?My Profile

    • Posted April 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Sonya, I seriously thought about dressing my daughter’s dolls and teddy bears in her baby clothes so we wouldn’t have to get rid of them. It’s so hard. So is infertility. Thanks for writing.

  4. Lyndsey P
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I know the feeling. It wasn’t until I sold a bunch of baby stuff at a garage sale that I got pregnant with our second. Best wishes.

    • Posted June 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      That seems to be the ticket, Lyndsey. A good friend is having a baby soon so I finally have a good reason to evict the rest of stuff (even the crib). You never know!

  5. Samantha
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    My daughter was 6 when I finally gave away the last of my baby things. 7 weeks later I found out I was pregnant!

    • Posted June 25, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      I love happy success stories – thanks for telling me.