x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Pregnant mums and credit cards: a match made for business

When the maternal instinct is aroused, nothing can stand in the way of a pregnant woman and her need to shop.

If the marketing department could have created two human experiences for the sole purpose of revenue and profit, they would have been these: pregnancy and parenthood. That is what I thought when I stood, for the first time, inside the doors of a vast shop catering to expectant parents and their offspring. I surveyed the realm before me and realised with a mixture of naivety and terror that this journey to the next stage of the circle of life was to be many things: exciting, adventurous, challenging, rewarding and utterly unpredictable. Above all, however, it seemed it would be especially one thing: expensive.

Only recently had I discovered I was expecting. It seemed too early to be shopping for cute little baby cardigans, cuddly toys or those must-have mobiles to hang over the cot that would double my child's IQ every two weeks. And yet now that the little blue line on the test stick confirmed that I was indeed pregnant, I had become susceptible to the magnetism of these vast babylands.

I wandered through the aisles and gasped at "baby transport systems", which cost more than my last car (admittedly, I had owned it for 10 years and it had a temperamental engine). They had multiple reclining positions and three different kinds of seats, and were suited to multi-terrain travel, including through snow and over rugged hills. I was mesmerised by pretty frilly dresses in which to display your new baby girl, made of the most luscious silk and replete with bows. They were less than a quarter the size of one of my dresses and almost twice the price. And the wooden rocking cribs, ooh, the rocking cribs: straight out of a Disney fairy tale. Did I mention they were expensive? And how I wanted them all immediately?

For the first six months, I resisted - strenuously. All the advice from aunties, magazines and the internet suggest that, for the first 12 weeks, quietude is the best approach to dealing with pregnancy. Announcing it uproariously and beginning the shopping spree is not advised, because the first trimester is a risky period.

In the second trimester, everything seemed too surreal to get down to what I considered the dirty chore of baby shopping. I hadn't yet registered in my own mind my change of status from independent human being to mother. Yes, I had felt nausea and fatigue; yes, I started to feel those intensely cute kicks on the inside of my stomach that only I and nobody else could feel; yes, parts of me started to expand in ways that words cannot describe.

And then, somewhere between my seventh and eighth months, something remarkable happened. I realised what everyone around me had known for many, many weeks: a baby was coming. And soon!

I had to prepare to welcome a new person into my life, and I was responsible for its entire well-being. I had to begin making choices that would enable it to be healthy and well cared for. The fact that millions of babies around the world, and many more millions over the course of centuries, had survived without baby monitors, cellular cot blankets or eggs that glow in the dark to show room temperature, was irrelevant to me. All I knew as an expectant mother was that these were things I had to have. And my plastic cards were duly flexed.

I succumbed.

After all, both mothers and marketers know that when the maternal instinct is aroused, there is nothing that can stop its power.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk