A Womb of One's Own

A Womb of One’s Own: Shower Stories

I’ve heard (well, read) a fair amount of debate over showers: baby, wedding, or otherwise.  Are they selfish?  Are they pointless?  Are they a symbol of our corporate culture of greed?  Are they a meaningless focus on the physical when we should be focusing on the mental and spiritual aspects of what the shower is connected to?  Or are they just a great way for your friends to buy you cute baby clothes?

From what I understand, the idea of the shower is an American thing: fellow Tumblrs from Germany and the Netherlands were unaware of the concept of a baby shower.  Maybe the baby shower is wrapped up in our American consumer culture, maybe it’s an easy way for greedy expectant parents to take advantage of friends’ and family’s well wishes.  I would like to propose a middle ground, one which acknowledges the fact that it is nice to get gifts, while also recognizing that showers are more than just checking off items on a registry.  Three showers were thrown for me, and what meant more to me was the feeling of community and the discussion of shared experiences, both those related to child-rearing and not.

I registered for baby items at Babies R Us and Target, a decision that on its own was a subject of debate (online, not in my house.  We started the pregnancy with a tight budget and no baby supplies whatsoever).  Some saw a registry as a very obvious symbol of personal greed, some saw it as a necessity.  All of my friends and family who’ve had children in the past ten years have registered–for us, it’s a convenience issue.  By providing a list of items we’d like or need, people who want to give gifts have a list to work from.  We knew we didn’t want our son to have an “all sports all the time” themed nursery or collection of baby supplies, and by being able to register for items that were visually appealing to us, we managed to keep the sports paraphernalia to a minimum.  The registries also ensured that, post-shower, we could see what necessities we hadn’t received and then fill those gaps in before he was born (which is why I spent Sunday night ordering bassinet sheets, hangers, and swaddle blankets online).

Gifts-wise, showers are a way for other, more experienced moms to offer the supplies that worked for them to the new mom.  I would have never thought of an Itzbeen timer as a necessity, until hearing one new mom rave about it to an expectant mom last year.  I registered for the Itzbeen and the original new mom gave me one this weekend.  My mother-in-law raves about infant gowns, but I’d never thought about the ease and accessibility they offer, so she was able to give us gowns, along with her explanation.  Another mom gave me a diaper bag full of small baby-care supplies that she loved (as well as a bottle of witch hazel for post-birth perineum care).  One mom gave me a box of maxipads and a bottle of first-aid spray for post-birth perineum care.  Someone else gave me a Mobywrap sling because she’d loved hers so much.

Beyond the gifts, baby showers are a way for us to bridge the gaps between us, strangers sharing their birth stories and commiserating over sleepless nights, epidurals, baby poop blowouts, and the ups and downs of breastfeeding.  When I hear experienced moms share their stories, I file them away in the hope that I’ll be able to reference them when the kid and I have our inevitable bad days and blowouts.  Shower guests who don’t have kids or don’t want to have kids still have stories from their lives to share about births they’ve known.  I’ve heard stories of water breaking on Rodeo Drive, babies vomiting on over-enthusiastic dads in tuxedos, births that broke tailbones, frantic all-night drives to retrieve a lost baby blanket, and more.  It’s refreshing and relieving to know that parenthood drives everyone a little bit nutty out of love and concern for their kid– that I’m not alone in this mindset.  While the gifts are wonderful and very much appreciated, the stories I’ve heard are appreciated just as much.  When I sat in a shower, I knew that I could look around and see the women who care enough about me and my emerging family enough that they would reach out to help and strengthen the social bonds among us–I left every shower tired, happy, and feeling more connected to the shower guests than I had previously.  I can only hope that that sense of connection will be something I feel comfortable calling on when I’m at the bad end of a week of sleep deprivation and a colicky baby.


By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

16 replies on “A Womb of One’s Own: Shower Stories”

I’m in Australia and I had my shower two weeks ago.

I was hesitant initially (when my friend offered to throw it for me) but decided to make it more about getting all my lovely friends together and eating great food. They all still bought me really thoughtful gifts but for me it was more gratifying seeing friends from different parts of my life sit next to each other and chat away without me having to prompt and introduce (and then seeing them later friend each other on Facebook). We played a couple of games and I did a quiz that meant my friends from different areas had to work together (friends who I’ve known for 20 years having to work with my friends who picked up on all my Whedonverse baby questions – there were friends who didn’t know Wesley and Willow are married in real life!) but again all getting along and having a laugh.

I honestly wouldn’t have minded if they hadn’t bought gifts – I did supply the hostess with a list of some items that I really wanted but it wasn’t a formal register.

Ipomoea – when are you due? I seem to remember you being a bit ahead of me. I’m 36 weeks on Tuesday.

yup, baby showers are not at all a thing in Ireland (where I live) – and the UK and western Europe, from what I know. You’d get baby stuff either yourselves or informally from family and friends (one cot in my family has been passed around for 20 years or so…). And I think it’s a superstition thing as well – why celebrate something that hasn’t happened yet? Celebrate when the baby’s born and everyone’s all good!

A US friend of mine had a baby shower last year and I was happy to buy things off her registry for her. Not sure why I had to send my baby pics for the shower but I did it anyway…

We have baby showers in Australia and New Zealand. Maybe we’re greedy too! I just think of it as a lovely reason to make a fuss over someone who might be getting to the point where things are getting difficult, physically, mentally, emotionally. It doesn’t need to be present-oriented at all – one of the ones I threw for a friend, we asked people to bring afternoon tea treats instead of presents and ended up with the most amazing spread of cupcakes and scones and cookies. It’s just an excuse for a party :D

I find this interesting – I’m in NZ and the only baby shower I’ve ever attended or even heard of happening here was for an ex-pat American friend hosted by another American ex-pat. I love the idea, actually, and we had a wonderful time, but I certainly haven’t found it widespread here.

The thing that stuck out to me most in this post (and I have been loving this series more than I can tell you) is that places provide baby registers in the U.S. Definitely that bespeaks of a greater culture of baby showers than in NZ, where I’ve never seen a baby register service offered in shops. But bring it on, I say :)

The only problem I have with baby showers is that I often feel obligated to buy something off of the registry even if I find something else that I feel might be perfect (for close friends). On the flip side, I love registries when buying for co-workers I don’t know too well.

Also! I found out this year that in Spain (and Europe at large?) they don’t have baby showers because they don’t want to jinx it and instead celebrate AFTER the baby is born. (According to my Spanish co-workers).

I had so many people ask me what I needed/wanted as showers approached that it was nice to just point to the registries. I didn’t put clothing on there, because regardless, you’ll always end up with mountains of baby clothes. What kills me is that even though everyone knew that both my husband and I were good-sized babies, we still got a bunch of newborn-sized stuff that I honestly don’t think our kid will ever fit. My mom drilled “3months and up” into my head w/r/t baby clothing as gifts, because she received newborn-sized clothing for me and I was too big for it when I was born– and I was two weeks early!

When it comes to feeling obligated to buy off a registry, I say don’t worry about it. If you know someone well enough to say “This is perfect for them!” then I think it’s OK to trust your judgement and surprise them with something they might not have seen yet. Alternately, if I’m feeling unsure about something great that isn’t on the registry vs. something that is, I’ll get the great thing and something small from the registry list as well (if I can afford it).

I can understand being superstitious about celebrating an event that hasn’t happened yet, but I agree with Ipomoea and all the other pro-shower commenters. It’s a wonderful excuse to get together and talk about baby stuff and/or gather together people who you don’t get to see on a regular basis. And presents are cool. I love giving them as much as I love getting them.

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