NEW YORK—Two years ago, Manhattan married couple Ron Garver and Becky Meyers weren't sure they were cut out for parenting. They worked long hours, had a thriving social life, and their East Village apartment was small and cramped. But 24 months and 73 outfits later, Garver and Meyers are the proud parents of a 10-month-old dress-up doll.
"I didn't think I was ready for a baby," Meyers said Monday. "In my mind, Ron and I were too irresponsible. But next thing you know, I'm pregnant and we're buying sundresses, headbands, little Converse sneakers—you know, I was doing all the important things you need to do in preparation for a baby."
Meyers said she began to read everything she could get her hands on, from catalogs to articles on nursery decorating.
"I was so relieved when our little girl arrived in perfect health," Meyers said. "It's almost impossible to find cute outfits for preemies."
Since their baby's birth, Garver, a staff writer for New York magazine, and Meyers, who works in acquisitions at a small film company, have spent nearly 30 percent of their income on baby clothes.
"We don't just buy anything, though," Garver said. "It has to be something that's missing from her wardrobe. Last week, I got Daddy's little girl a little Knicks jersey to wear to the games. Everyone thinks it's adorable. She's already been on the Jumbotron!"
Garver said his daughter is not always in an athletic mood.
"Did you know they sell Clash shirts for babies?" Garver said. "Everyone at work gets such a kick out of my little punk!"
After Meyers gave birth to the baby, she said she had to adjust to the "full-time job" of primping their child for display.
"For a while, we never got any sleep!" Meyers said. "She'd wake up in the middle of the night, and we'd have to get up, take her out of her sleeper, put her in her breakfast PJs, and feed her. Sometimes, I barely had the energy to plan her outfits for the next day."
"Having a child is a lot of work," Meyers added. "Coming up with the idea to dress your baby like a farmer, a police officer, or even a little sunflower is difficult enough on its own. But if she's sleepy or fussy, it can take a half an hour to dress her. Still, when you hear the coos of the neighbors who see her in the Baby Jogger, it's all worth it."
Garver and Meyers have discovered many unexpected responsibilities, such as making sure that their daughter is bundled up in an adorable snowsuit when it's cold.
"Every trip outside requires a hundred decisions," Meyers said. "Should she wear her bear coat or her cute red-velvet Santa jacket? Is today a bunny-ears kind of a day, or does it feel like more of a plaid-wool-cap morning? Sometimes, if our social calendar requires it, we have to pull together three or four outfits in a single day."
The baby does not always wear special outfits, however.
"If we're spending the night in, she might just lounge around in a Nike sweatsuit, some grubby old T-shirt from two months ago, and one of those sweaters Grandma sent," Garver said.
Garver and Meyers said they had to make some sacrifices after they became parents.
"We've had to make some changes in order to save money," Meyers said. "But we've learned to rely on accessories to freshen up a look. And we keep an eye out for sales. It takes a bit more time than just heading to Macy's, but we've scored some really great little sunglasses and backpacks. Nothing is too much for our little doll."
Even though she spends a great deal of time shopping for her baby, Meyers said she believes that the best gift she can give her daughter is her time and attention.
"Just last week, I thought, 'Wouldn't it be cute if I took a picture of her on the phone?'" Meyers said. "I spent an hour figuring out how to strap her hand to the telephone. Then, I had to make it look like she was talking by giving her a little baby food to chew on. If you snapped the photo at the right moment, it totally looked like she was talking on the phone. My sister told me I was crazy, but I said 'You just wait until you see the photo!'"
Garver and Meyers said that, in spite of the financial and social sacrifices they have had to make, they have "never once regretted the decision to keep the baby."
"This isn't about Becky and me," Garver said. "This is about building our child's self-esteem, because we love her. Which reminds me, we're really looking forward to Valentine's Day. We found an adorable pink dress with little wings on the back for our little Cupid. How can she not be happy with all the attention everyone will give her? Plus, her hair's finally growing in, so we can stop using the hats. She never seemed to like those."