Rhona McAuliffe explores the concept of 'push-presents' - an ad-lib concept of extravagant gifting post-baby-pushing - and she has come to the realisation that she doesn't want to be a part of the fad.
I used to think 'push presents' were generational. Expensive gifts my Mum and her friends received from their husbands on the birth of each new child. In my Mum's case, a diamond eternity ring for me, floor-length fox fur for my brother and diamond solitaire necklace for my sister.
Growing up, this made sense; my Mum — who has ten siblings — wasn't really into babies. Her post-birth gift was, by her reckoning, a well-earned war trophy, a mark of her extreme endurance in the face of abject horror — from coal-eating nausea to the final, bloody event. She would sign off on her nine months of misery with a two-week girls holiday, pre-booked within six weeks of our respective due dates. Each new-born was deposited in a central Dublin nursing home where our father would visit us once per week while our mother raged on in Crete. But that was all fair game in the seventies, right?
Push presents today
When I had my own daughter, almost ten years ago, my mother wondered if I had my eye on some post-fight bling. I laughed at the notion and told her it was a medieval tradition, perpetuated by status-obsessed, vacuous women beholden to their men; that a piece of jewellery was irrelevant compared to the touch-and-go delivery of our premature but healthy baby and that I wouldn't be taking a holiday either. No Grecian escapes or no show rocks; co-parenting was where me and my continent-roving musician husband were headed.
My aggro, self-righteous response surprised me. I figured that it was rooted in feminism and a strong belief that the baby really was the reward but was too sleep-deprived and emotionally wild to think on. I only knew I was uncomfortable with the concept.
As more of my friends — in Ireland and the UK — had kids, it became apparent that most of those who could afford to mark the occasion with a sparkly something, did. It wasn't announced or thrust at your nostrils, the way an engagement rack might be, but casually referenced amid another eighty half-started conversations (sentences) as the 'baby present.'
And there were multi-levels of commitment to the practice - some had pinned their prize by their 20-week scan, counted the carats, measured up before the big swell; others chose a chain with the baby's initials or commemorative charm after the event.
The fact that celebrities are baby gifting on turbo — I'm looking at you, Kim Kardashian West, and your million dollar choker from your bankrupt husband — likely means it will continue to permeate the consciousness of our next-gen mothers. Some will buy into it and some won't, but it is now undoubtedly a thing — a commercial opportunity for global retailers and additional financial stress and guilt for new cash-strapped parents.
My problem is...
Still, that's not my issue with the creeping norm of 'push presents.'
For a time, I put it down to my aversion to diamonds and jewellery in general; and my finger, wrist and neck dysmorphia. Both inter-connected, obvs. My odd attempts experimenting with tiny strands and bands of gold and silver over the years have always ended in me channelling Mr T, or more recently DJ Khaled. Not in a good way.
But that theory expired too. I didn't want a present at all. I'm not very good at receiving them and am practical to the core. I have no patience for suspense, a disappointing reaction to surprises and covet almost nothing, other than the health and happiness of my nearest and dearest, long-term financial security and an endless supply of CoYo yoghurt. Small things.
Then I figured it out. In the same way, I would never accept a drink from a stranger — to avoid an abusive parting later in the evening when said stranger would likely expect a sleepover in return for a €10 cocktail — a push present essentially neutralises your significant child-bearing efforts and renders you and your partner quits, IMO. I know it's just a gesture, and a loving, deeply appreciative partner is not attempting to patronise the shell-shocked mother of his or her cherished first born, but still there's a sense that the gift equals the act.
Which prompted another thought. If the gift really tried to equal the act, what would we be looking at? Maybe your partner could:
- Donate a kidney — to family, friends, the broader community.
- Volunteer, when the time is right, to undergo a vasectomy — easy win and star points here.
- Change their name by deed poll, taking your surname.
- Go savage and make like a garden spider. Female spiders often eat their smaller mates once they've been impregnated to ensure that they have enough nutrients to cook their squillions of babies. The only downer here is, once the female deposits her eggs in a specially woven cocoon she too dies, which is not ideal.
The list got a bit dark then, so I stopped, clapping in my final self-revelation: if we're getting into a tit for tat, I want blood, not a Cartier bangle. This admission nudges me into a psychopathic territory and out of the worthy feminist zone; which is disappointing. Especially as I had to rummage deep in my subconscious vault to pull it out and my rabid quest for vengeance may never have been exposed.
But growth is good. And, the learning — my learning — is, if you're not going to eat your partner or subject them to punitive medical procedures, please do enjoy your diamonds.
Oh, and Namaste, Dada.
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