Why I don’t want a baby shower

This week one of my closest friends (the father of the little girl who was born a few days after my daughter’s due date) called to chat, as he does every week or two.  At the end of our phone call, we had the following exchange:

Him: “Oh, hey, I wanted to talk to you about something.  I really need your help, or at least you need to go along with this.”

Me: “OK, what can I do to help?”

Him: “[Wife] and I love you guys a lot.”

Me: “We love you guys too!”

Him: “We want to throw you a baby shower at our apartment in January.”

Me: That… is so kind of you… and I… [Bursts into tears]

I surprised myself as well as my friend by bursting into tears that way.  I wish I could say they were happy tears, but they weren’t.  They were “but we can’t have a baby shower because I still don’t actually believe that our baby is going to be born alive” tears.  And they continued for about 10 minutes as we finished our call, and then started again when I tried to talk to my husband about it.

The way we left it was that I’d think about it and I’d talk to my husband, and then we’d talk again this weekend.  I really want to say yes to my friend — I found out afterwards that my mom was in cahoots, and thought that he should be the one to ask partly because she knew I’d have a harder time saying no to him (she was right)… but I think I have to say no.   It’s taken me a while to figure out why.

My poor friend was confused too.  “I just thought… you’ve started letting your mom buy some baby clothes, and you’ve started letting people give you hand-me-downs, so I thought you’d be OK with it.”  And he’s right… I am more or less OK with those things, at this point.  Partly it’s that we had some hand-me-down baby stuff when our daughter died, so I’ve already dealt with that.  Partly it’s that my anxiety over not having things ready when the baby arrives in January is getting stronger than my anxiety over having to pack up a bunch of baby stuff if our son dies, so the practical side of me is ready to start acquiring stuff.

But my feelings about a baby shower are really not about the stuff.  We’ll acquire stuff for the baby one way or another — that much is clear.  I’m not about to burst into tears at the thought of our friends giving us baby gifts.  We’ve already gotten a few, and I’ve been able to thank the givers profusely and write thank-you notes on the cute baby-ish stationary I bought for the purpose.  I also know that if this baby dies, we will use the baby stuff on our eventual future baby (since we will be parents one day, one way or another), just as we’re planning to use the stuff that people gave us for our daughter when our son is born.  So I really don’t think my discomfort about the idea of a baby shower is about the stuff.

When I think about a baby shower, the part that freaks me out is imagining sitting in a room full of friends and family with everyone excited and happy about a baby who might never be born.  I’ve gotten pretty good at pretending to be a normal, happy pregnant lady on a day-to-day basis, but I’m really not.  Every time I answer a well-meaning “Is this your first?” from an acquaintance with a “yes” (twice today!), I feel sad and anxious.  Every time I keep my mouth shut about my fears for our son and my memories of my daughter, it hurts, and imagining the concentrated pretending I’d have to do even in a room full of my nearest and dearest just makes me dread the idea.  Most days I manage a pretty good impression of a normal pregnant lady who’s getting ready for her baby to be born, but there’s still a surprisingly large part of me that doesn’t believe he ever will be.  Somehow the smaller doses of gift-accepting and even the little bit of looking at baby items that we’ve done have felt mostly manageable, but this larger celebration does not.

As my husband said, it’s not as though we really need to have a shower.  Babies don’t actually need that much stuff, and we are fortunate enough to be able to afford the stuff that we do need on our own.  I get that our friends and family want to honor this exciting transition in our lives, but I think there are other ways to do that (many of which they’re already doing, because we are lucky that way!).  I’m also pretty certain that the decision to skip a baby shower is not one that I’ll come to regret later.  I was also not into the idea of a bridal shower, for much less significant reasons than this time around, so I didn’t have one, and I’ve never regretted skipping that ritual either.

So, I’m planning to say a very loving and appreciative “no” when I talk to my friend later this weekend.  I think I will probably suggest that we aim for a “meet the baby” gathering at their house (which is in a major city two hours from us, where many of our friends and family live) a month or two after our son is born instead.  That will give our friends and family a chance to honor the transition in our lives without freaking me out about having a party for a baby who might not be born alive.  And I’m sure there’s still plenty of baby stuff that will be useful at that point, if people want to give us gifts (like, clothing for older babies!).  And if they want to give us gifts before the baby is born, that’s fine too — just not in the context of a baby shower.

Baby shower drama aside, things are still going well.  I’m currently 29w2d, which means I’m firmly in the third trimester.  Our growth scan this week was right on target (55th percentile), and our little guy now weighs three pounds and is still very active.  I’m still feeling physically fine — my day today was extremely active (two 45-minute dog walks, three hours of volunteering at the therapeutic riding center, laundry, cooking, and a chorus rehearsal), and I’m just sitting here with a slightly sore back, but feeling good about everything otherwise.  My biggest medical concern at the moment is that our baby seems to favor a breech position and hasn’t flipped over yet, but they tell me I shouldn’t start worrying for another few weeks (easier said than done!).  All in all, things are looking good, the end of the semester is in sight, and February keeps getting closer.  It still can’t get here fast enough.


20 thoughts on “Why I don’t want a baby shower

  1. sewingbutterfly

    I am definitely a big believer in going with your feelings. If you would find it upsetting and uncomfortable, I see no reason to agree to a baby shower. You have lovely friends who I am sure will unserstand. I have seen it referred to as a ‘sip and see’ party. With your son snuggled in his cot or in your arms, you will be able to relax and enjoy the outpouring of love from your friends and family.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      I love the “sip and see” idea — I hadn’t heard of that before, but it sounds like exactly what we want. Thanks! That gives me something a little more mainstream to present my friend with when I talk to him later — what a big help! 🙂

  2. sewingbutterfly

    Oh and I forgot to say, glad everything is going well! Try not to worry about the breech position just yet 🙂 plenty of time yet.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Yes, you’re right, of course. There’s still plenty of time. And now that I can feel his head, I’m pretty sure it was in a somewhat different position today than yesterday, so hopefully he’s still flipping around in there. The ultrasound tech told me to drink lots of water to keep my amniotic fluid levels up so that he’s got more room to somersault. Thanks for the good wishes! 🙂

  3. Sondra

    I’ve felt this way for so long. I’ve always said I’d never have a baby shower and I’d never buy before the baby is born. We joked that my husband would be running out for a car seat on our baby’s bday. So much in this post connected with me. But, at least for me, I want to celebrate this baby, because a part of me fears I won’t get to bring her home either. I agreed to a small shower, but I’m with you it’s not about the stuff. I just want people to celebrate her now. I often feel like this baby should get the excitement instead of my fear. I totally understand what you’re saying and I believe it’s important to handle this the way you need to. I even talked to my SIL and she promised to pack up the nursery while I’m in the hospital if something goes wrong. Most people don’t have to think like this. Sending love.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Good for you. I get the desire to celebrate this baby, no matter what the outcome, and I can totally respect that. One thing that my favorite pregnancy book (Expecting Better) does so well is to explicitly acknowledge that given the same information and set of circumstances, two pregnant women might choose very different actions — and that’s totally normal. Nobody knows how they’ll feel about this sort of situation until they’re in it, and more power to you for wanting to take every chance to celebrate your baby! I hope your shower is awesome. 🙂

  4. jwhitworth7

    I’m in tears reading this post. My head never stopped nodding in agreement. I have said these exact same things so many times. I declined a baby shower too for the exact reason you mentioned. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a shower because the thought of having to pack away gifts if something happens and this baby doesn’t make it. I didn’t want a shower because the thought of being the center of attention and having people ask questions about the baby would have been extremely emotional for me. I also felt like in the grand scheme of….well….life a shower felt extremely trivial. It’s not about gifts and cake and silly games it’s about trying to do everything in my power to ensure this baby makes it here alive. I think the thought of a gathering after the baby arrives is a great idea. I’ve heard of “sip and sees” where visitors come and see the baby. I think it’s great you are takin care of yourself and deciding what’s best for you! Congrats on being in your 29th week!!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Yes. You totally get it. I love the idea of a “sip and see,” and that’s absolutely what I’m going to suggest to my friend as an alternative. Thanks for the congrats, and I hope things are continuing to go well for you too! I just realized that you’ve started posting on your blog again, and am looking forward to reading all the updates!

      1. jwhitworth7

        Just realized other comments suggested the “sip and see” idea too 🙂 keep chugging along and you’ll be in the 30s before you know it! I think the holidays will help speed the time up a bit for both better and worse 🙂

  5. theskyandback

    I completely understand all of this. I think a “meet the baby” party after he is born sounds perfect. In the meantime, people can still get you gifts if they want. It’s great to read that everything is still going smoothly at 29 weeks — I can’t believe how close you’re getting!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thank you! I know, I can’t believe how close we’re getting either! Somehow getting into weeks that start with “thirty-” seems like a pretty big milestone all on its own — all of a sudden 40 doesn’t look quite so far away! I hope things are going well for you too — you must be right about at the end of the first trimester now, yay!

  6. hopingforatakehome

    Congratulations on week 29 first of all 🙂 Sometimes the floodgates of tears need to open to truly know how we feel about something. Your reaction to your friend’s offer was so spontaneous, and then you thought more about it after. I think it’s important that you honour what’s best for you and your family. I have opted for a meet and greet after the baby is born as well. I am getting more comfortable with purchasing some things and with receiving a gift or hand-me-down here and there from a friend. But I’d still like to wait on a gathering. I’ve never heard of the term ‘sip and see’ – I like that 🙂

    1. lyra211 Post author

      I think you’re right that sometimes the spontaneous tear floodgates tell you something important — I couldn’t have predicted it, but it’s helped me realize that this is the right decision for us. Thank you for the congratulations, and I’m so glad that things are continuing to go well for you too!

  7. xykademiqz

    I come from a culture where it’s considered bad luck to buy or bring anything for the baby before it’s born. I never had a baby shower for any of my kids — didn’t want to jinx it with the 1st even though I was in grad school and broke and needed the stuff (my friends were broke as well so several pulled funds together and got us a crib which lasted us through 3 kids!) and with the other two it made no sense to have a shower since we already had what we needed. Babies actually need ridiculously little.

    I’d say after the baby is born, send DH to Target to get a car seat and a pack’n’play (much cheaper than a crib, and then when you later get a crib you can still use the pack’n’play for travel and as a playpen), also 10 pairs of onesies, and a box of diapers. That’s it! If people want to be helpful they can send you gift cards or give money.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Yeah, you know, my friend’s wife is Jewish, and observant enough that I’m pretty sure she’s familiar with the idea that some people just don’t want to jinx things before the baby is born. That said, she had both a bridal shower and a baby shower, and so I think they’re just “shower people.” I did talk to them about it yesterday, and we negotiated a “sip and see” to take place a couple of months after the baby is born. It is still clear that they really don’t get it, though, as my friend was trying to convince me: “Well, just remember that this would be in January. You’ll be far enough along that if something does go wrong they can just deliver the baby early and he’d be fine!” Um, no. It does not always work that way. If it did, there would be no such thing as full-term stillbirth. One of my chemistry professor colleagues said something similar to me the other day — and she’s had two kids of her own! It’s frankly a little alarming to me that even highly scientifically educated people don’t understand the risks of childbirth, or how little the label of “viability” really means. (I’m at 10x higher than average risk for a placental abruption, for example, which is one of those things that is capable of killing a baby before you even know there’s a problem — that’s what happened to us the first time around!)

      We’ve actually already been given both an infant carseat and a pack ‘n’ play as hand-me-downs, so we’re pretty well set on those fronts. We do need diapers, and probably more onesies than we have (we’ve gotten a couple as hand-me-downs, but I hear that babies can dirty many in a day), but I don’t feel like we need to be in a rush to acquire those things. As you say, a Target run after the baby is born is not a big deal.

      It’s very sweet that your grad school friends pulled together to get you a crib. Grad school wasn’t that long ago for me (I’m ~6 years post-PhD), and I definitely remember doing similar things for friends who went through major life transitions at that point. It’s pretty amazing to realize just how much more comfortable we all are financially just half a decade later (thank goodness!).

  8. Wifey

    I’m glad you are open to doing, what we call here in the South, a “sip & see” after baby boy is born. That sounds like it will be a lot less stressful and a lot more enjoyable for you. I hope everyone understands and plans around your feelings. So glad you and little man are doing well otherwise!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thank you! I’m happy to hear that you’re familiar with the term — so it’s a real southern thing and not just something northerners made up and called southern. 🙂 I’ve talked to my friend now and he was great about it — it was the perfect compromise. Little guy is doing great, and kicking me plenty hard today. Just saw that you put up a new post and am on my way over to read!

  9. dandisnow

    Oh, me too! Sadly, our daughter passed away just 6 days after her baby shower, with all of her gifts still strewn about the house when everything went down, so the thought of having one for our son is completely out of the question for me. I’m way too traumatized and also have those same feelings of celebrating something that may not be.

    We will be having a little meet the baby party within a few weeks, assuming all goes as planned (I see from the other comments that it is called a “sip and see”). I think we make our special memories and they don’t necessarily have to fit in with the norm.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Oh, hooray, I’m so glad to hear that someone else is guiltlessly putting off the celebrating until after there’s an actual baby to celebrate! The sip-and-see idea has turned out to be the perfect compromise for us (I think… ask me again after we’ve driven two hours each way to our friends’ house with a 2- or 3-month-old…). Everyone has been really understanding when we’ve said that we don’t want to do a registry or a shower before the birth — I hope your nearest and dearest will understand as well! How horribly sad that your daughter died six days after the baby shower — it must have added so much to your pain to have to deal with all of the gifts when you got back from the hospital. Here’s hoping you’ll get to make some lovely new memories as a family of three during your meet-the-baby party!

      1. dandisnow

        Yeah, I am totally looking forward to still celebrating our little man, just not while he’s still inside.

        I think people have been pretty understanding so far when they realize my reasons for it, and hopefully they will be for you guys as well. It’ll be so special getting to show off your babe at the same time you celebrate too!

        Thankfully, a kind friend went to our house and cleaned up the baby things as best she could before we returned home, but there were still so many reminders that she missed or didn’t realize were reminders. It was tough packing up all those sweet gifts too. :/

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