On baby showers

So I’ve been meaning to write on this subject, and I guess the time is now, because on Matthew’s 18 month birthday/death anniversary, I received a baby shower invitation in the mail, which was so fitting considering that my life has been like one giant (albeit dark) episode of Punk’d ever since he died, but it’s disappointing because I have yet to meet Ashton Kutcher (although his doppelganger works at our neighborhood St. Louis Bread Company, so we took a picture of him while he wasn’t looking), which is probably because he is busy with his new baby boy, born on November 30, Mark’s birthday. (See what I mean?)

So OBVIOUSLY, the guest of honor does not read my blog, because if she did we all know that she wouldn’t have invited me, or, at the very least, she would have invited me in a far more delicate fashion, as I don’t leave much to the imagination when it comes to my feelings regarding certain types of mail.

But, of course, no such luck.

So I considered sending the following text to the host: “Hi, Thanks for the baby shower invite. I don’t actually attend baby showers since my son died tragically and unexpectedly just days before mine.”

But instead I showed some incredible restraint and sent: “Hi. Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend the baby shower for X.”

And then I ripped up the invitation and threw it into the fire, and I’ll be sending a $100 Visa gift card in a couple of months, as I am not in the mood to shop at an actual baby store for babies other than Joel, or maybe other rainbow babies. Does this make me bitter and selfish? Perhaps. Do I care? Absolutely not.

I’ve been to enough support group meetings and met enough other bereaved mothers to know that, unfortunately, receiving a baby shower invitation soon after your own baby’s death isn’t uncommon. But it sure makes me wonder what in the actual eff is going on and highlights that most people just don’t understand baby loss, which is why bereaved parents constantly feel so isolated.

Because apparently a mother can anticipate her baby (and shower), have a traumatic birth, meet her beautiful-but-dead child, spend only a couple of hours with him, have to say goodbye (FOREVER), leave the hospital empty-handed, have him cremated and bury his ashes, cry every single day (and wish herself dead repeatedly) for an entire 18 months, go through a terrifying and also-traumatic subsequent pregnancy, and then be invited to someone else’s baby shower like it’s no big deal.

I just don’t get it. And, I don’t think, had the roles been reversed, that I would have done the same.

I’m not at all opposed to celebrating a baby before he/she is born. After all, I, perhaps better than most, know that life can be short, and can end abruptly, so it might be prudent to celebrate things while we still can. I think I could tolerate some kind of celebration preceding a baby’s birth, provided there were some acknowledgement of the uncertainty, and people were like, “We’re so excited, but nothing is guaranteed, and we’re hoping for the best, and please don’t bring gifts, because it would be crushing to have to return them to the store.”

But this isn’t how baby showers are, usually. Instead, they come with cakes and stupid games and swapping of birth stories and attendees squealing (orgasmically), “Oh my gawwwwd – that one’s my favorite!!!” at another fucking Aden + Anais receiving blanket, whilst I’m sitting there thinking, “Anais is pronounced like anus – I know it.” And EVERYONE is asking those they don’t know how many kids they have, and the guest of honor’s baby is being discussed as though his/her survival is a foregone conclusion.

So I don’t know that I’ll ever attend a baby shower ever again. In fact, I’m pretty sure I won’t. The only exception might be that, if presented with the opportunity, I’d attend one someday for Joel or his significant other (or for any other living children I have and/or their significant others). And even then I’d probably be white-knuckling my way through it.

I really don’t think, if people took like three seconds to ponder, that they’d want me at one of these events anyway… I mean, I can’t discuss pregnancy without also discussing death or the Maternity Trauma Center or decreased fetal movement or heart tracings or emergency C-sections or umbilical cord imaging. It’s truly impossible.

I think what would burn me the most at a baby shower is the whole foregone conclusion talk. It’s amazing how many people will speak like this in my presence – speak as if something tragic couldn’t happen to them, KNOWING what happened to me. It feels quite insulting. I just cannot handle it.

Of course I can appreciate that, after losing a child, some would rather be invited to a shower over being excluded. I recognize that, as a result, it might put people in a quandry when deciding whether or not to invite one of us. After all, people aren’t mind readers and thus often can’t predict where a griever might fall on the “I’m clamoring for a baby shower invite” spectrum.

I guess I just wish people would show a little more care regarding this subject. Like maybe text and be like, “I understand why baby showers might be completely off limits for you, but I’m having trouble deciding what to do, because I don’t want to exclude you.”

And I still would never attend, because, again, my son died just days before my baby shower, and there is honestly no recovering from this trauma for me, but at least I’d feel fractionally less hostile over the entire experience…

 

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26 thoughts on “On baby showers

  1. I don’t like baby showers either. I really do not like this new trend where people now have showers for babies #2 and #3. I mean, you already have baby stuff! Are you looking for a handout?! Traditionally it was always a shower for your first baby. Regardless, they are awful triggers and my outlook on pregnancy is just like yours. It’s just not guaranteed so why do we all pretend and/or act so naive and expect a living baby in the end? It’s hard to get excited or truly happy when you’ve lost a baby! On that note, I don’t like family Christmas cards either. We have friends who had a baby after Sullivan died. Sullivan and this baby would be the same age. I wish they knew I do not need a xmas card from them! It’s just a gut wrenching reminder and trigger. I can only see their baby on my terms. I don’t like unexpected surprises! Thanks for this post!

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    1. Have to add….I totally get having another baby shower after a loss, especially if you lost your first child!!!! My previous comment was about people who had a successful pregnancy and then went on to have more successful pregnancies and had a shower for each of those!!

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      1. Ha – no worries! I get what you mean… That being said, I didn’t have a baby shower for Joel. I just couldn’t. But I respect that not everyone feels the same and some might want to celebrate, and more power to them… At least if someone’s having a shower for their rainbow baby they aren’t doing it with all of the nauseating optimism rather as more of a need to celebrate while they can (usually).

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    2. OMG the family Christmas cards can be awful. Like you there are some families who send Christmas cards to me, and it’s fine, but there are others that are so triggering that I want to send a text and be like, “Could you just please fucking spare me?”

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  2. I think you know that I 100% agree with you on this topic. I wrote about a baby shower invite I received some months back, and it took me a while to recover from that damn evite (Evite! I had no warning! Just a “You’re invited to this baby shower!” invite. The person who suggested I receive the invitation is someone who reads my blog (or did, before I made it private)). WTF?

    I thought I might be able to attend them again someday but you know what? You’ve made me realize that is likely not to be the case, and that’s ok! Why put myself through that torment just so that someone sees my face at the shower? Is my absence going to ruin their ignorance? No, but my presence might!

    Thanks for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Was that for the shower on pregnancy and infant loss awareness day? I couldn’t even believe that one! And it is totally okay if you choose to never attend one again. I always say I have things to bring to the table as someone’s friend, and attending their baby shower isn’t one of them. Take me or leave me.

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  3. I got invited to a baby shower for a student this week. I won’t be going. As you said, I’m not sure I’ll ever go to one. And for me now it’s slightly less about the grief/pain triggers and more about the part of not fitting in, not being comfortable talking about babies like they are a sure thing.

    I got invited to my best friend’s shower about 10 months after losing Eliza, but the invitation came in a thinking-of-you card with a note just like you described and when I replied and said I couldn’t make it but would send a gift, the hostess asked if I wanted to go in with her so I didn’t have to worry about shopping. So people CAN be thoughtful. It just doesn’t seem to happen very often.

    And I think it goes to show how thoughtless or self-centered most people are. They don’t mean to be unkind, but it’s so hurtful how quickly a dead baby seems to fall off their radar.

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    1. That is nice that your friend included the note. That is the very least someone can do. And “They don’t mean to be unkind, but it’s so hurtful how quickly a dead baby seems to fall off their radar.” Yes, this. It’s so hurtful and sad.

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  4. Funny that you post this today, because EXACTLY one year ago today was a baby shower at work. I purposely took the day off. A week before it, I tore the invitation off the staff fridge and crumpled it in the trash (I mean was it really necessary to have a big fucking picture of baby feet on BOTH fridges, that sat side by side, when they know my baby died 8 months earlier!?). Also, isn’t it a little premature to say “Welcome Baby X”, when really no welcome is guaranteed. I’ve also either taken off or left early for the other 2 baby showers at work since then, as well as when one of the living babies, a girl of course, was brought in to “be shown off”. Baby showers suck and not sure I’ll ever be able to go to one again. Love you, my friend. 💔

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    1. I’m glad you took the liberty to tear it off the fridge. And “Welcome Baby X” is a little premature – FFS!! It’s so hurtful when people celebrate as though nothing can go wrong, in our presence, when they know full well what happened to us. Love you. xoxo

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  5. I agree! Nope. Never going to one again. Sorry not sorry. I really feel (like you’ve said before) that we took the hit for everyone we know, but I too hate that they don’t even pretend it could happen to them. I understand people don’t want us to feel excluded but I honestly can’t imagine being offended for not being invited.

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  6. I haven’t read your post but I have to just comment that I’m getting ready to attend my own shower thrown by my mom and sister for this baby, and I’m kind of shitting my pants nervous. I can’t wait to read this post later.

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  7. It’s hard and people don’t understand or think about it, I remember when I lost my daughter Rhianna which was 18 years ago, and with the miscarriages I have had I would choose routes in the shops to avoid anything to do with babies.

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  8. I relate to your feelings about baby showers so much Christine. Freddie actually died (we were told there was no heartbeat) in the evening, after I’d had my baby shower that morning… it was like the cruellest form of torture. The ladies from my quilting group and some friends had hand-made all these beautiful clothes and quilts for Freddie, I was feeling so effing full of joy and love for my baby who I was 5 days away from meeting (I’d left my shower that close to my induction “to be safe”). Had the shower in the morning, rushed off to my diabetic clinic appointment, via the Maternity Assessment Unit as I was concerned he’d been too quiet, it was our 4th visit there but got turned away ‘cus they were too busy and then later that night was told Freddie was dead. Having to return home and be greeted by the big pile of baby clothes and gifts that I’d literally unwrapped a few hours earlier was the biggest “f*ck you from the Universe”.. I felt so foolish and stupid for having assumed I was going to meet my son in a matter of days… I had to sit there looking at all the cards and wrapping and gifts knowing he was dead inside me… 😦 People have no idea… they think “oh well it’s been ages since that happened, of course they’ll want to share in my joy”… you don’t recover from your baby dying.
    I hate baby showers now. Anything to do with babies or hearing people talking about “when they’re here”.. xxx

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    1. OMG – tears in my eyes as I’m reading this. How fucking cruel can the universe be? This is cruel beyond cruel. And I am just so beyond sorry you have these memories of having had Freddie die on the same day as your shower and then having to return home to all of these happy memories/cards just hours earlier? Holy shit. There are no words. And I cannot fathom how people could think about us, “oh well, of course they’d want to share in my joy!” You don’t get over your dead baby, so, no, actually. I’ll pass on the freaking joy, and we’ll talk sometime after the baby is born…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I still have trouble around newborns and pregnant women, so a baby shower would be something I would definitely avoid, if they were a thing in my culture.

    That being said, I don’t think I would have hated having a baby shower for Nadia before she died.
    We got her very few things because she was our second child, and I keep those in her memory box as prized possessions – a pair of tiny shoes, a hat my parents got her. I had the impulse to buy her a Christmas jumper this winter, for the size she would have been had she lived. I didn’t do it, but the wish was there, and I struggled with how real she is to me, and only me.

    If he had a baby shower, I would now have some items that show that other people out there imagined her, looked forward to meeting her, and bought gifts with her in mind. I would have loved to have gifts like that to keep, together with her footprints and pictures.

    Or at least, that’s what I think. You never know which way emotions around these extremely things will go.

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  10. OMG THIS IS PERFECT! It’s been 9 months since I said hello and goodbye to my son, ONLY 9 months and my bitch of a friend has the nerve to text me “what’s your address, I’m hosting my baby shower in June and I’m trying to find a place.” First hold the phone, she is like 13 weeks pregnant and how the eff does she even know she will make it to her baby shower and second how dare her think I am nonchalant going to say sure let me go and celebrate your child that you assume you will get when in fact after a healthy perfect pregnancy my son dies!!!! I was livid and just could not believe she had the nerve. I soo badly was going to say something so mean but instead explained to her I can not attend and it is still so hard for me and I am terribly sad for my son and I and she does not even text me back. Like she just brushed my grief off and figured shit, but she could’ve said she was so sorry or something but noo she ignores it ughh. I’m a little hostile as you can tell but thank you so much for writing this blog because it is everything I feel too!!

    From one of you bc friends,
    Kristina

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  11. Like you read my mind or something. I guess having a baby shower a week before my son was born sleeping has me reconsidering ever having another one. I have boxes and boxes of my son’s stuff I’ll probably never use ! I’m sure there is well over $2000 just sitting in boxes but I can’t bring myself to sell or even get half my money back! Why celebrate a baby who you have no clue will make it? I was invited to my Cousin’s baby shower and I ripped up the invite! I told my mother I would not be attending, I would celebrate the baby when it was on earth ! I guess the Moms who are suffering should hide behind a mask and attend a baby shower, Hell No! We have the right to grief , they would if tables were turn. I don’t feel sorry for not going not one bit! They don’t like it even they need to take a day to walk in my shoes!

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  12. I’m never ever ever attending a baby shower again. Even for my kid or a daughter in law. Nope. And even if I change my mind a few decades from now my I might have to warn the host that I will likely 1) wear black and/or drink heavily, 2) cry, 3) correct people when they use the word “when” (it’s “if” people), and 4) periodically holler out “keep the receipts”. Needless to say, I don’t think anyone would want me there either.

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  13. I have a pregnant coworker and 17 days after my stillbirth she sent me a text asking me for my address so she could send me an invite to her baby shower. Um, no. I just ignored the text.

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