by Michelle Downing
My little sister is expecting her first baby in the spring, and my other sisters and I were recently discussing her shower. My husband asked why we never had a shower for our daughter.
“Well, I did have one, before,” I replied. Before he was around, I meant. With my oldest daughter, when I was married to her father.
We never got to experience any of that, because I had already done it when I first became a mother more than nine years ago.
Granted, the situation could have warranted another celebration. My oldest was almost eight when our daughter was born. I had put the high chair and swing on Craigslist. I’d given away the crib and clothes to friends. A lot of things had ended up at Goodwill. I had never expected to remarry and find a man who was so great with children and who so badly wanted one of his own. And I had never expected to want to give him one.
My family had offered to throw us a shower when we made my pregnancy announcement. They wanted to celebrate this new chapter of our life and were so excited for a new little girl in our family.
But I declined. They had already thrown me a shower.
To me, a baby shower is just as much a celebration for becoming a mom as it is for the new baby. All the cheesy games center around being a first-time mom. Friends and family gift her with diaper genies and wipe warmers and a surplus of supplies she’s probably never seen and never knew she needed.
All the other moms get to offer their sage advice of tips and tricks. They get to share their sweet stories of the first time their son said, “I love you.” They share the horror stories of their daughter’s first blowout at the grocery store.
Once you’ve had children, you’ve done all of this. More importantly, your family and friends have already gone through the trouble of throwing a shower for you.
Unfortunately, showers aren’t always a celebration of a new birth. Sometimes they’re just a ploy for gifts. I’ve even seen etiquette rules for a second shower. The number one rule? Don’t ever throw your own shower.
This. This is appalling. The shower is not the problem. It’s the sense of obligation behind it.
People argue their kids are far apart in age (I know the feeling!). Or now they’re having a baby of the opposite gender, and they don’t have everything they need.
Yes, kids are expensive, it’s a daunting task to go out and get everything you need to raise a little person of your own. But it’s part of being a parent. It is your responsibility and yours alone. No one will come over every night to buy groceries and supply your little one with dinner. No one will write your weekly check to daycare. No one helps with school supplies, larger clothes as they grow, a new car, college tuition, etc.
When a baby is brought into the world, it’s a joyous event that should be celebrated. But a celebration doesn’t have to include balloons and invitations with storks. It doesn’t have to include every woman you interact with. A celebration doesn’t even need to include gifts. Why do people have to buy you something to prove they’re excited for you?
I had a nice brunch with my family before my daughter was born. We received lots of well wishes and cards in the mail. We had tons of visitors at the hospital, and at home once we were settled in. Some people brought gifts and some did not. I never once doubted how happy everyone was for us, and I have no doubt about how much that little girl is loved.
Each child is a blessing. But let people do it on their own terms, however they feel it’s appropriate.
Congratulations to all you first-timers preparing for your first shower. Make it a memorable one.
by Sarah Broussard Weaver
I have four children, and each have had a baby shower, or at least a gathering of friends to mark the event. Each of my shower gatherings had a very different flavor, corresponding with the situation my husband and I were in at the time.
My first shower was kind of a flop because only three or four people came. It was a combination of the wrong day, the wrong location, and a community I was out of touch with, having moved away a year before. But it was mortifying for me. My mother-in-law and friend planned it and had prepared so much delicious food and fun games to play. The recollection of it was a painful thought for me for years.
When I had my second baby, I was given another shower, and the second baby was also a girl. Many people came to that one, and I felt strangely healed from the embarrassment of the first.
For my third daughter, work colleagues threw a small shower, and I went to see “Wicked” with my best friend.
For my last baby and only boy, my three best friends took me out and plied me with Mexican food and gifts. That was more of a pamper-the-mother thing, and it was just what I needed.
Baby showers are a time-honored tradition, born of needing to help a young couple gather the things needed for their first child. After receiving the layette of tiny nighties, socks, a crib, and later, the more modern “needs” such as a Bumbo seat, baby food makers, co-sleepers, and boutique baby slings, the new parents are prepared for any following children. Worn out nighties or other items can be replaced as needed by the parents themselves, because they would presumably be established in their lives and capable of doing so.
But modern baby showers seem to mean more than just providing the baby’s needs. The shower for a first baby is still the biggest affair. But often subsequent children will merit their own shower, especially if the baby is a different gender than the first (or than the first two or three, as the case may be).
So many baby necessities are color-coded these days – rose-petal pink or baby blue – and some parents don’t want to ignore these societal cues. I can tell you from personal experience that even if you have your baby girl all robed in pink, strangers in the grocery stores will still coo, “He’s so cute! What’s his name?” so there’s not much point in that.
Multiple baby showers are fine in my book. They’re celebrations, gatherings to celebrate the child coming soon. I think the practice of multiple showers started slowly, with some mothers getting another shower when they had a “surprise” baby long after they got rid of their baby things, or when they were having a girl after two boys.
Now subsequent showers have themes like “diaper shower” where people only bring diapers and baby wipes, Diaper Genies, or cloth diapering supplies. There are “book showers” where people bring their favorite baby books. Showers to replace worn out baby supplies are called “baby sprinkles.” (Get it? Not a full-out shower, just a sprinkle. I guess that sounded better than drizzle!)
Sometimes showers for non-first children focus on pampering the mother before the baby’s arrival. They don’t have to be a huge fancy deal, but rather a great way for people to get together and celebrate.
Parents need different things at different times. When my son came, although I had nothing geared for a boy, we were in a place in life to provide it all ourselves. I just needed some relaxation, and a night out with friends gave me that, plus a feeling of the coming baby being honored and recognized. Sometimes parents need or could really use new supplies they might have difficulty providing. Others just need a nice celebration.
Just as people celebrate birthdays every year, I think the arrival of a new child is an event that deserves recognition. If you don’t agree, just RSVP your regrets, and all will be fine.