My Inaugural Baby Shower
I was eight months pregnant with my first baby, and I wanted everything - everything - to be perfect. I ate all the right foods, and none of the wrong ones; I exercised; I read to my baby; I researched every prenatal test and procedure; I took natural childbirth classes; and I read all the pregnancy and new baby books. Of course, I wanted my baby shower to be perfect, too.
Three of my mother’s best friends, women whom I had known intimately since childhood, offered to hostess my shower. (We were so close, in fact, that one of the hostesses was my mother’s midwife when she delivered my brother twenty-five years earlier.) The hostesses all lived in separate states - separate from me and from each other - so they did much of the party planning long distance over the phone, and they left a significant amount to frenetic last-minute shopping trips when they arrived in town. No one was fazed by the task, and I had unshakeable confidence in my team of experienced party throwers.
The day of my baby shower arrived. The venue was my parents’ home, which my hostesses expertly transformed into a baby-themed wonderland. Blue and pink rocking horse streamers decorated the perimeter of the room. White linen table cloths overlaid pink and blue ones on round tables. Chairs were covered in white linen and tied at the back with blue and pink organdy ribbon. Each table had a centerpiece, in a different theme, of gifts from the hostesses: stuffed animals, books, bath toys, and blocks. Sprinkled around the tables was pink and blue baby-themed confetti of rattles, pacifiers, and bottles. A few bunches of balloons - pink, blue, yellow - floated in the corners of the room. Potted tulips adorned the side tables and gift table.
We sat down to a wonderful buffet lunch featuring some homemade dishes, as well as several dishes provided by a friend’s gourmet catering business. Although I wasn’t typically comfortable being the center of attention, on this day, I relished it. I thought, “Ask me how I’m feeling. Go ahead, put your hands on my belly and feel this little miracle growing inside me.” The midwife/hostess did just that, placing her skilled hands on my belly and showing me how she thought my baby was positioned. I was soaking it all in.
After lunch, we began the traditional games portion of the baby shower. The hostesses brought out baby food jars with labels removed. Thankfully, we didn’t have to taste the pureed mess, but simply guess from observation what food we thought each jar contained. I did not identify a single food correctly. Apparently, “marshmallow” was not a baby food choice. I hoped my failure at baby food identification didn’t portend anything awful about my mothering abilities.
The next game was one in which everyone was asked to write down suggestions for baby names, as well as suggestions for names the baby could call his/her grandma and grandpa . I was asked to write names, as well. Then, we shared the names aloud, and the guest who had the greatest number of names matching mine received a small gift. It was fun and funny, some of the guests suggesting completely silly names, like Gonzo or Boogedy Shoe, or ones with ridiculous illiteration, like Allie Alberta Allegra.
Finally, the guests were asked to record in a keepsake book the best and worst advice they had received when they were pregnant or as a new mother. The book was then passed around the circle, and the women read the words of wisdom and foolishness. One friend shared advice she had learned the hard way: to sleep when your baby sleeps. Another recommended drinking a full glass of water each time I breastfed in order to keep up my milk supply.
One guest told me that the worst advice she received was not to pick her baby up when he cried. Yet another dear friend told me she couldn’t have lived without her baby sling for soothing her fussy baby. I felt privileged to receive these pearls of knowledge from a group of women whom I trusted so well.
When it was time to open gifts, chairs were arranged in a circle. My chair was brought out with great fanfare - a beautifully hand-painted rocking chair, a gift from my mother. This rocking chair was the same one my father had been rocked in as a child. My grandmother passed it down to my mother, who rocked each of her children (including me) in it. My mother had painted the chair in a Victorian style, and in a color theme to match my crib linens. On the rungs below the seat, she had painted the names of each baby who had been rocked in the chair, as well as his or her date of birth. It was an amazing heirloom gift, and it served as my throne for the event.
I received so many of the items that I needed, from high chair to stroller to playpen. And, there were so many thoughtful, personalized gifts, like a handmade crocheted blanket and booties and a sterling silver cup and rattle. Some of the gifts were presented in clever ways, like the “diaper cake” of diapers, nail clippers, and pacifiers wrapped to look like a cake, and the wicker basket with clothesline that, when I pulled the line out, had 20 or more small gifts attached to clothespins on it.
But, my favorite gift of all was one from someone who could not be present, my 86-year-old grandmother. She had hand-stitched a baby quilt, piecing together postage stamp-sized quilt squares and finishing it with at least a half mile of intricate, decorative stitching. It had undoubtedly taken my grandmother many months to complete, and she had labored over it with the kind of wisdom and intensity that must certainly be reserved for welcoming one’s first great-grandchild. It was truly a masterpiece, and one I knew I would pass down, just as the rocking chair had been passed down, to my children and grandchildren and beyond.
When I reflected on my shower in the days that followed, I really felt that it had served as an inauguration to motherhood. In some ways, my shower was very traditional, but it brought together an amazing group of women, most of whom were already mothers.
I really felt the most important gift that my baby shower guests gave to me was an initiation into their ranks, blessing me with their mother wisdom and love. I would learn on my own, over the subsequent months and years, that perfection is an overrated concept, especially when it comes to parenting. But, at that moment, and for that time, my baby shower was an absolutely perfect celebratory event.
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