My smallest of two babies had just had his second birthday and my partner and I have decided that three is certainly a crowd (I think!). The time had come to ‘move on’.
Rewind nearly five years, when I had calmed down somewhat from excitedly discovering my pregnancy with child number one and the harsh realisation set in – this human about to turn our life upside down was going to cost some serious cash.
A knight in shining armour
In came my ‘knight in shining armour’ in the shapely and gorgeous form of my beloved sister. (It’s worth pointing out here that my sister is the proud mumma of two wonderful boys on the cusp of teenage hood so she’s certainly been there and done it in the baby stakes). She bounded in to my home with what can only be described as a baby gear windfall from heaven – almost everything I could possibly need for the first six months and beyond of my new baby’s life…clothes, bouncers, slings, stair gates, Moses’ basket, you name it, she had it; cleaned, packed away and neatly stored (and taking up serious space) for nearly 6 years and now brought down from the loft about to get a second/third wind.
Now, I would certainly not describe myself as being poor, but my partner and I are part of generation y/millennials with no savings, low wages, high rent etc. and very little left at the end of the month to make a significant difference. So, the thought of how much we would need for the essentials was slightly overwhelming.
That bundle of goodness that she so lovingly kept hold of, just for me and my potential offspring that would one day join the family was an utter joy to receive and a very welcome relief. Those items would see me through the up/downs…more spills than thrills of early motherhood. That loft full of wonder was saving us up to £11,000!
Let’s come back to where I began, with the massive sort out about to begin. I had managed to shed a considerable amount, passing some clothes and toys on to friends over the years who had subsequently fallen pregnant or the odd bundle onto a charity shop; but still a large stash remained in my house, twiddling its thumbs and taking up space.
Some much-loved dungarees
The more I sorted, the more memories came flooding back and, eventually, I came upon the dungarees. This is no ordinary pair of dungas. They hold a special place in my heart…they were the first gift I had bought for my sister’s newborn, handily passed down to his baby brother, then onto my to my oldest in the gift packs from my ‘knight’ all the way through to my tiniest tot.
All four boys had worn them and they were still in pretty good shape. I’d taken those dungarees along to several sales and popped in charity bags but I always sneaked them back out at the last minute as I couldn’t bear to see them leave our family. I’m quite the hoarder. I love stuff…but it also makes me edgy. I adored each and every single baby item, after all, they had seen my babies through their early days and special moments but quite frankly, the piles of disorder were beginning to feel like a bit of a burden now baby number three was off the cards. I’d had several false starts with eBay and Gumtree, a few baby sales here and there but I had generally given up with trying to sell.
I resigned myself to giving it all away, but somehow that didn’t seem right. The more I gathered, the more I was reminded about how emotional it felt to have this bounty handed down to my children and how much of an impact it had made on us as a family in the early stages when money was very tight. I made up my mind that I wanted these hardly-worn clothes and pre-loved toys to go to the best possible home and given to a family who would really need them.
A much-needed Baby Bank Network
After many fruitless local searches of organisations giving baby essentials to family for free, I finally stumbled upon Baby Bank Network. What a relief! Not only was I finally going to get rid of the baby stuff mountain but I would be doing something incredibly valuable and worthwhile for the community and families who need a little helping hand. I won’t even get started on the environmental pros.
This time, everything decent and reusable was going to go. No messing. And that’s it, right? Well, to cut an even longer story short, I had watched Baby Bank Network grow from a distance after discovering and following on Facebook. I had felt a really strong connection with what they were embarking on and hoping to achieve – I decided to volunteer (my first ever voluntary stint I might add). I now get to be a small part of the inner sanctum and witness the many wonderful and inspiring goings on behind the scenes through the Team BBN group page.
I’d already dropped my donations off to their first big sorting event at Big Yellow Storage and was eagerly watching as the team were starting to build the very first referrals going out to families in need and posting photos of what they were achieving.
A young refugee in need
Then, at the end of August, Baby Bank Network had put together a pack after they had received an urgent referral for a 5 month old baby boy who was (and maybe still is) living in a refugee shelter. The pack included a pram, clothes, play gym, toys and a change bag full of goodies and a post was uploaded to the Facebook group. I made a double take at the picture and there, lying at the top of the clothes bag were the dungarees. The dungarees. A large lump started to form in my throat and I could feel that stinging sensation behind the eyes you get when you’re about to cry and want to hold it all in.
For a millisecond my little heart heaved as I realised I’d accidentally sent them in a donations bag rather than keeping to one side for the ‘special’ box. But quickly, the words refugee, shelter, baby started to whirl around in my head. And very, very quickly I began to feel a sense of pride that a small item that had been so precious to me and had involved all the special children in my life was making its way to a little boy that truly needed it.
What good were those dungarees doing for me or my boys, who are lucky to have plenty, sitting in a box gathering dust when it could be creating a whole new story with the baby boy living in the shelter? I hope he played, puked and pooed in those dungarees just like all babies are supposed to do and for a brief moment, I was part of a process that became a ‘knight in shining armour’ to someone, somewhere.