Why I Can’t Let Go – Holding on to Those Tiny Baby Clothes

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My husband considers himself a minimalist (we have to agree to disagree on this; his collection of home brewing equipment proves otherwise), and he considers me a hoarder. Now, I think this is a bit unfair, as I pride myself on having an uncluttered and fairly tidy home, especially considering the three-year-old that runs rampant. I will, however, admit that I tend to get attached to physical objects and baby clothes more than the average person.

Our neighborhood recently had a community garage sale, and it happened to coincide with the timing of our idea to clean out our basement to make more room for the above mentioned home brewing equipment (and a larger workout space to burn off beer calories.) I was really proud of myself for getting rid of a lot of stuff that I had been holding on to just in case. Consider home decor- it’s cyclical, right? Look at the mid-century modern trend; we laughed at the style of the Brady Bunch house back in the 90’s but now mid-mod is a major style trend. So I worry that the pair of glitzy lamps with the three stacked glass balls that no longer fit my style preference may become my taste again in the future. And then there’s my chrome antelope head… I may be all about gold now, but I could come back around to silver! And faux taxidermy! But I did it; I put them out and they sold almost instantly. Luckily it was my next-door neighbor who purchased them, so I could always beg to buy them back if I change my mind.

The thing I struggle with the most is my son’s baby stuff and baby clothes. I just can’t seem to let it go. Luckily, my best friend of 30+ years had a baby boy this spring, and I was able to give her a number of larger items like a Bumbo, baby tub, walkers, swings, etc., and I am not too concerned about getting those back. But then there’s his baby clothes.

Oh, his sweet, tiny clothes. This is where my attachment is abnormal. I let her take as many of this 0-6 month clothes as she wanted, however, I did ask for those back (easy enough task for a new sleep-deprived mom to keep track of which tiny onesies belong to me; not inconvenient at all.) I was pretty proud of myself for selling and donating some larger baby items that she wasn’t interested in to clear out space, but there is no way I am going to permanently part with any of his  baby clothes.

I will keep his newborn outfit forever and ever.

Anyone who is familiar with my wardrobe would not be surprised by this. I have always been the same way with my own clothing and hang onto things for years and years, far past their prime. I associate clothes with memories. I take a lot of photos and always have, even before cameras were conveniently located on our phones and I had to carry around an actual camera. For that reason, I tend to associate what I was wearing in those photos with whatever was going on in that photo, so the clothing becomes sentimental to me.

Now take that sentimental value and multiply it times 100. My clothes compared to my son’s? Who cares, light ’em on fire! But don’t you dare touch the onesie we brought him home from the hospital in. Or the PJs he wore on his first Christmas. Or the shirt he was wearing in that video of the first time he waved. Literally, I could tell you a memory from every piece of his clothing; I see those moments so clearly in my head thanks to my thorough photographic and social media documentation.

How could I ever get rid of this too short romper from his first trip to Disney?!

My son was almost four years in the making. We didn’t know if we would be able to have a biological child, and there were so many times we thought we’d have to make peace with this. And once we finally had him, I swore I would never, ever take any moment with him for granted. I have without a doubt fulfilled that promise to myself… and then some. The dozen plus bins of baby clothes in the basement that I refuse to part with prove it.

These Santa PJs were second-hand but that doesn’t make them any less valuable to me!

Part of it is sentimental, but part of it is the what if?, like with my antelope head. People ask me all the time if we’re going to have more kids. The answer is not an easy one. Never did I imagine having only one child at the age of 34 after eight years of marriage. I always thought we’d have a house full of kids before 35. But never did I imagine going through years of fertility treatments- the physical and emotional pain, not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars spent. Would we do it all again for my son? Without question, I’d do it 100 times over.  Would we do it for a second baby? I don’t know. Would we consider adoption? Not sure. Fostering? Don’t know. Could we magically get pregnant on our own without medical intervention? Probably not, but who knows. Would we have another baby if it were as simple as it is for most people? 100%, without a doubt. Are we perfectly content with our family of three at this point? Actually yes, but I probably wouldn’t turn away a baby if it showed up at my door looking for a place to live.

So I hold on to the baby clothes. If the day comes that I’m fortunate enough to need baby clothes again, great! I’m prepared. And how precious would it be to dress him or her in their big brother’s clothes, eliciting memories of first smiles, steps, and words. And if that day doesn’t come, I know I can pull out any piece from those bins to bask in the memories of my one and only child, the center of my universe, my dream come true. I’m sure there will come a day that we part with most of it, but for now I guess we’ll just be hoarders of baby clothes and home brew equipment.

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Stephanie Dougherty
Stephanie is a Columbus native, having grown up in Dublin. She attended Ohio University where she met her husband over a friendly game of flip cup. She has been working for the same talent acquisition outsourcing and consulting company since graduating college, going on 14 years and is currently the Director of Implementation. After a three-year stint in Tampa, she and her husband decided to settle back in Ohio in 2008, and Stephanie won the Columbus vs. Cleveland debate (her husband says she's not tough enough for Cleveland anyway.) After almost eight years of marriage and three years of fertility struggles, they had their son, Dexter, in April 2017 thanks to IVF. They currently live in Grandview Heights after living in the Short North for almost 10 years. They love exploring the city as a family and are frequent COTA bus riders. Stephanie is determined to stay hip to all the new restaurants and places around town even after becoming a mom. Their family goes out to eat way too much, but she still loves cooking, especially recipes that use cauliflower as a substitute (is there anything it can't become!?) She is obsessed with bargain hunting but still manages to spend way too much money. You can follow along on their family's adventures on Instagram at @thecbuskid. Stephanie also has a dog, Athena, but she doesn't have her own Instagram because all she does is sleep and steal food right out of their hands.

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