Three babies wearing novelty onesies with three more novelty onesies beside each baby
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Down With Tasteful Baby Clothes — I Am Here For The Novelty Onesie

For an infant, these are very chic times. Too chic, one might argue.

The New Parents Issue

For an infant, these are very chic times. Take it from my 4-month-old, whose wardrobe is made up of gifts and hand-me-downs: brushed cotton wrap tops in sage and ochre, bamboo swaddles printed with watercolor fruits, and a sailor sweater knit with marled sea-glass-colored yarn. I wanted adult-sized versions of most of what I received at my baby shower, and, at some of the trendiest baby clothes brands, that’s the whole business model. Instagram-friendly infant fashion and pandemic-practical athleisure are converging on one stretchy, machine-washable, cheerfully colored look.

Stuffed into all this tasteful fabric, my pink-jowled, fat-fingered baby looks like a mythical elf from an alpine culture. It is so cute. And yet, his appearance never brings me more joy than when he is trying to suck eight fingers at once, cross-eyed with frustration and drooling onto a camouflage bib that says “Handsome Like Daddy.” His messy little existence is no match for his dignified little wardrobe, and every week I am grateful that some people ignored my carefully cultivated registry and instead bought me baby gear emblazoned with cheesy sayings.

The slogan sleepers and bibs I received (“I’m New Here,” “Couch Potato,” “Perfect”) stayed in the back of the drawer until about a month after my son was born. Then he started puking nearly every time he ate, soaking his organic, ribbed cotton knitwear in white slime. He was gaining weight, so the reflux was “a laundry and social problem rather than a medical issue,” or so claimed a Kellymom article I read over and over in the middle of the night. As a first-time parent with no nieces, nephews, or pets, though, it unsettled me. All of my previous knowledge of projectile vomit came from The Exorcist.

One fateful day, we were sitting on the couch, each of us in our last clean outfit, and he puked so violently that I gasped and shut my eyes. When I opened them, he was grinning at me, oblivious to the altered state of his clothes, my clothes, my hair, and a nearby pillow. Through the curdled milk, I could still make out the words embroidered across his chest: “Mommy’s Little Genius.” It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that cutesy sayings on baby clothes are not meant as a sincere statement about a baby’s character. (Though I obviously think my baby is a genius.) They’re a sign taped to the back, a joke at his unwitting expense that I am entitled to make because I am the person he vomits on, his happy servant who files his tiny, sharp fingernails while he eats from me and shits on me simultaneously.

Or maybe having a baby ruined my sense of humor? When I was pregnant, I read aloud to friends from a viral Reddit thread of the “most cringe” onesies. The offending clothing (always a gift from an in-law) said things like “Proof Daddy does more than play video games” and “I’ll have a bottle of the house white.” At the time, I was horrified. Now, I think they’re pretty funny? The fourth trimester is a torrent of uncontrolled bodily functions, and one could be forgiven for leaving it with a boardwalk souvenir shop sensibility. What makes me cringe these days is the $60, newborn-sized “take-home outfit” printed with antique aircraft that I registered for.

Well, cringe and cry. It’s twisted how little time — weeks, really — one gets to spend with all these lovely, well-made baby clothes. Packing away my son’s newborn sleepers in a plastic tote bound for an unborn cousin was the first time I could see, through the fog of sleep deprivation and oxytocin, how quickly time was passing. Soon he will have an opinion about his clothes, and then he will put them on himself. One day very soon, it will feel cruel to dress him for my own amusement. Before then, please, send more novelty onesies!

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