The (Baby) Shower Before the Storm

February 29, 2008 at 7:48 am (Uncategorized)

Sorry this is happening so late in the day – I’ve been interviewing and transcribing for an article so I’m sure you’ll forgive me because it pays and you – much as I love you – don’t. I’m still sick with the flu, by the way. It must be a new record for me. And if I hadn’t been feeling ill already, I certainly would have by the time they were finished with me yesterday. I had to have an internal dye ultrasound examination – more rounds of secret women’s business (you know what? I don’t want the secret – keep the secret, it’s all yours) – and it was just as unpleasant as it sounds. In fact, it left me feeling very shaky, teary, and violated. I have three carefully chosen words for you: don’t do it. If you can possibly avoid it, DON’T DO IT. The combination of the probe itself and the pronounced lack of bedside manner from the male doctor was traumatic. Once it was finally over and they left me alone – after more than an hour of hell, mind you – I wept as I got dressed. All this and a non-rebatable price tag of $445? My lucky day! Let’s have two!

Aaaaaaanyway, I’ve got a friend’s baby shower coming up in a couple of weeks, and it’s prompting me to put a radical idea on the table: why don’t people have these things after the baby is born? Oh, I should probably explain what a baby shower is as I understand they don’t happen everywhere. Basically, the mum-to-be is thrown a little afternoon tea by either a relative or a friend, and all the women in her life come along with a gift for the unborn baby. We all sit around for a couple of hours chatting and eating and opening presents and ooohing and ahhhing and then the exhausted pregnant woman waddles off home with leftover cupcakes, a bursting bladder, and lots of cute outfits and things for the baby. It’s all very nice.

But traditionally baby showers occur before the baby’s arrival, which I’ve never really understood. A lot of people don’t find out the sex of the child until it comes screaming into the world, so this creates a lemon coloured dilemma come baby shower time. Boy or girl? Nobody knows, so some women opt for supposedly gender neutral lemon clothes. And too much lemon in any wardrobe is an unfortunate thing to behold.

The other thing is that there’s no baby, so it all feels – pardon the pun – premature. There’s a weird disconnect – you hold up all these jumpsuits and toys to show everyone, but there’s no one to dress or play with… And it has to be kind of surreal for the pregnant first timer. It’s all still so abstract and remote at that point, which means it’s probably hard to properly appreciate or even care about that basket of face washers and talcum powder and baby oil and nail clippers. Besides, if the baby shower took place once there was an actual baby, we could all see it! How convenient would it be to see all your girlfriends in one hit after you’d had enough time to recover and adjust to your strange new sleep-deprived world? I know from personal experience that the wait to see a friend’s new baby can sometimes seem interminable – everyone’s baby is different, every new mum has a different experience, and sometimes, well, they’re just not ready for us. But once they felt ready, it would be nice, lovely even, to have the excuse of a baby shower to get everyone together at once. Because maybe new mum is finding it tough. And isolating. Lonely. Hard. Not a lot of fun. And I bet any advice sought by a new mum at an after baby shower would be much more desperately needed and much more deeply appreciated and much more well-remembered than any advice sagaciously dispensed by all and sundry in the know (and they’ll line up, I’ll tell you, I’ve seen them) at a before baby shower. A good friend of mine had an after baby shower because she didn’t have a whole lot of choice – her first baby was born about 8 weeks early, impatient little miss – but I thought it was great. It put the ‘baby’ back in ‘baby shower.’ It just made so much more sense. We all got to fuss over and have a hold of Little One, and we all got to see that our friend was intact and happy and coping, and we all got to see each other. And there was no lemon.

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