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.