Beverley Turner gets to grips with ante-natal celebrations and yak-milk-drinking hippies as she explores the idea of baby showers
Nothing leaves me as conflicted as the ‘Baby Shower.’ As a party girl at heart who will never refuse a glass of fizz and adores hanging out with fecund and fabulous pregnant woman, I should love the idea of a pre-baby celebration. But I don’t. There – I’ve said it. I’m an ante-natal teacher and Baby Showers make me shudder.
There’s a good chance that I must simply chill the hell out. So, forgive my bah-humbug. But what exactly is a Baby Shower? It’s a well-intentioned get-together of busy women to wish the mum-to-be success on her birth journey and shower the baby in gifts. It’s a celebration of an impending human being. Or – while paraphrasing writer Dave Ramsey – is it yet another way to get young women to spend money they don’t have, on things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like?
Shouldn’t we be mortified to ask friends to part with their hard-earned cash because we decided to have unprotected sex? Turning up empty-handed is not an option. The very wording strong-arms attendees to ‘shower’ the ‘baby’ in gifts. But the baby doesn’t give a crap about gifts – they will only want mum (possibly, dad), milk, cuddles and love. They don’t need wet-wipe-warmers and 17 new-born babygros that they will inevitably be too big for. Of course, having a baby comes with costs and I get the appeal of a helping hand.
But once a baby has arrived, folk will keenly arrive with gifts in exchange for a baby cuddle and a cup of tea. These tokens of love are wonderfully uplifting for weary new mums. A Baby Shower places your mates in the awkward position of having to buy a second present when they come and visit you and the bubba. It’s either that, or they rock up with a hug apologising for not bringing anything while clumsily asking if the cashmere cardigan they bought fits him (answer: it does, but he vomited on it and you’ll never have time to do a hand wash). The icky, American-style commercialism of the Baby Shower is perhaps something that a younger, more materialistic generation are much more comfortable with. They would similarly be appalled by the notion of oldies like me not wishing to ’tempt fate.’
Women of yore knew that labour was a risky business. They kept a healthy emotional detachment from their foetus as they dug potatoes from the fields. They certainly wouldn’t ‘count their chickens before they’d hatched,’ never mind counting how many cupcakes they’d need for a party before baby had even arrived. Effective scans did not even exist until the 1970s. Too many women today feel blindly assured that modern medicine will ensure the safe arrival of their unborn. If only that were true! Yes, positivity and preparation are the key to a happy birth. But there is merit in knowing that getting the baby out safely remains a bloody big deal. The Baby Shower allows no pause for thoughts of disappointment – or even worse – disaster. We underestimate the physical and emotional requirements of birth at our peril.
I rather like the idea of women sitting around telling empowering and uplifting birth stories over a pot of tea while helping the centre-of-attention become filled with confidence. But when does that ever happen? Depressingly, most Baby Showers consist of already-mums telling birth horror stories and warning the mum-to-be that she shouldn’t get her hopes up of having the birth she wants. This negativity is never helpful. But surrounded by well-meaning mates, how can the polite host request that everyone shut the hell up about stitches thanks all the same?
There is a less capitalist version of the Baby Shower which is struggling to catch on: The Blessingway. This is a ‘spiritual’ occasion intended to bless the mother-to-be with love and kindness before she crosses the pantheon into parenting. Sounds ace. But there’s only one thing worse than a room of Kardashians and that’s a room of yak-milk-drinking hippies massaging each other and chanting. In a Blessingway, friends tell the pregnant woman a lovely story about her and thread a bead onto a bracelet that she will look to in labour to give her strength. This sounds lovely! So why does it make my whole body cringe?
Ultimately, babies are best left to cook quietly under the gaze of mother nature and good medical care. Mums-to-be are best looked after by responsible employers and compassionate mates. And once baby has arrived safe and well, helium balloons and boob-shaped cakes are wonderful ways to make women smile.