Pepin sleeps in a box. A cardboard rectangle with two handles punched out the sides—the California King of banker's boxes. You could store your summer clothes in there or 10 years of tax returns or your VHS tapes of Friends. Or you could do like we do and lay your child inside it to snooze.
When a relative heard about this, she offered a bassinet, and maybe later called the cops. She might have pictured Pepin in a greasy banana box from Cub, covered in Brazilian wandering spiders. But we already have a bassinet, and an heirloom cradle, and a swing with six motion settings that also plays sounds of nature and probably walks her around the park when we're not looking. But for now, it's bedtime in the box.
I bought the box after learning that every pregnant mother in Finland is given a maternity starter kit by the government, a box filled with clothes, blankets, health kits, and a mattress. Because this is Finland, the box is impeccably decorated with charming designs, and includes a snowsuit, balaclava, and sleeping bag (for leaving your baby to nap outside coffee shops) as well as condoms (for the parents). When baby outgrows it, you stuff it with summer clothes, tax returns, or Friends tapes—or recycle it. You can choose to receive a couple hundred dollars instead, but—because this is Finland—nearly everyone opts for the box.
This has been going on since 1937, during the Great Depression, but it was only after the BBC reported it in 2013 that much of the rest of the world caught on. In fact it became the most-shared story in the 15-year history of the BBC website, topping even "Sudan Man Forced to 'Marry' Goat."
Finland has a lot of this living thing figured out: Its infant mortality rate is the lowest in the world and its schools are among the very highest-ranked. While America's power brokers clobber affordable healthcare and pollution regulations and include a man in charge of environmental policy who believes that supernatural beings are benevolently controlling our climate, the Finns are inventing sustainable everything, designing scenic, environmentally sound cityscapes, and have one of the lowest income equality gaps. And they house their babies in cardboard.
You can't get a real Finnish box unless you're a bonafide Finn. So I bought one from the only business in America that makes an approximation, the Baby Box Company: no balaclava or condoms, but just about everything else. (There's now a trio of Finnish fathers selling a homegrown version.) It has a good mattress and is decorated with tiny elephants. We set it next to our bed, and when it proved too low for Lucy to comfortably reach into at night, I strapped it to a coffee table with bungee cords (cleanly and tightly), as the Finns probably would if they weren't all sleeping on low-slung Ikea platforms.
It was a novelty but aspirational—if Pepin couldn't grow up with all the benefits of a Finnish baby, at least we could pretend. I'd like to think that having a child doesn't mean a household of plastic, helping destroy the very environment I hope Pepin will enjoy. But it will take more than a recyclable bed to make that happen.
Pepin sleeps as well in the box as anywhere else, but it's still a bit cumbersome for Lucy, and in the next few weeks we'll probably move Pepin to the cradle. We'll fill the box with clothes or toys and put the lid back on it. The box was the least we could do—a hard standard to maintain.