“A baby shower is a way to celebrate the expected or delivered birth of a child by presenting gifts to the mother at a party, whereas other cultures host a baby shower to celebrate the transformation of a woman into a mother.” Wikipedia
I have been to many baby showers. Have been the beneficiary of a couple and even hosted a few. Mostly they have been fun. However, there is something about baby showers that almost always happens that makes me cringe to the very core of my being. Inevitably, someone starts telling their horror stories about their own birth. A quick glance at the mother-to-be always reveals bug eyes and a sudden change in emotion from pleasure and excitement to sheer terror. Any attempt on my part to change the course of the conversation to more positivity and support is usually futile.
I truly believe it is important to share ones traumatic birth experiences and work through them to find healing. However, I do not condone this rhetoric for the ears of a first time mom who is already somewhat nervous and anxious about her upcoming labor. We need to find language that honors our own birth experiences but also supports the women who are soon to experience it for the first time.
Another thing that I think often happens at the baby shower is a sudden change of focus from the mother-to-be to the baby. For the entire pregnancy she has been the center of attention (true, some of it is not wanted) but now suddenly everyone wants to talk about the baby, are excited to meet the baby and after the baby is born the focus is on the baby. Mother suddenly feels abandoned and not special anymore. I can recall so many times with babe in my arms, people make a beeline to the baby without even looking at me. Because I can be a bit obnoxious and forthright, I have told people they need to look me in the eye and talk to me before they can have a peek at baby! Not everyone is comfortable speaking out like that.
An old Navajo ceremony is called a Mother's Blessingway which celebrates a woman's rite of passage into motherhood. There is a “westernized” version of this ceremony called “Mother Blessing” that is taking a foothold. A Mother Blessing is all about nurturing the mother-to-be and celebrating motherhood rather than giving gifts for baby. It's a time for the mother-to-be to be with the women closest to her toward the end of her pregnancy to cultivate positive energy for her upcoming birth experience. You can read more about Mother Blessing at bellybelly and birthwithoutfear.
This kind of ceremony may feel too spiritual or hippyish for some maybe but there are many other ways to nurture women in this phase of life. An example: For several years now, I have been giving gifts at baby showers not just for the baby but something that will make the woman herself feel special and pampered. Mother-to-be has looked at me with a special kind of gratitude in her eyes upon receiving such gifts. I believe it is important to make women feel special and loved. This is an exciting time of their life but also a vulnerable one. Some things that are appreciated:
lip balm (very much appreciated during labor as lips become dry with deep breathing)
snack bars (helpful for early labor and postpartum on the fly)
fuzzy socks or slippers
freezer meals for those early weeks
gift card for massage, mani/pedi, pre/postnatal yoga or housecleaning
gift card for date night to favorite restaurant and coupon for childcare
sweet nursing robe or pajamas
pitch in with friends to get her doula services (birth, postpartum or both)
poems or a journal
There are many other possibilities that you could come up with as you think about the women close to you and what they might appreciate the most in their own unique way.
While a baby shower celebrates the baby and Mother Blessing celebrates the mother, there's no reason why we can't celebrate both as long as we are truly celebrating. Not a commercialistic show case nor a time to vent ones own trauma. Will you join me in creating this type of celebration?