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.