Sunday, July 1, 2012

Baby one, two, three - shower me!

For the past four years, I've been suffering from a pretty bad case of 'The lady doth protest too much!'. It's partly personality driven - I'm sure - but I put a huge part of my reluctance to be showered with baby gifts at a party thrown in my honor as cultural.

We Brits can be a stuffy bunch at times. We like our nay-saying, and we've a negative habit of 'NOT' looking on the bright side of life (contrary to Monty Python's advice).

Back home, giving gifts for the baby before the birth was always thought to be premature and done in poor taste. You didn't congratulate a Momma before she'd safely delivered her baby - that was just asking for trouble. Don't temp fate! I guess it's all part and parcel to that poultry idiom 'Don't count your chickens before they hatch!'

But what's the sense in always thinking the worst will happen, when more often than not everything will be OK? 
I guess the thought of the additional heartbreak - if the worst should happen - caused by all the untouched baby paraphernalia is what shys us Brits away from making Momma feel special. Thankfully those tragic situations are rare (knock on wood), and if there's a grain of truth in the philosophy behind the 'Secret', then a baby shower can only be conducive to heralding a happy ending! 

I was first introduced to a baby shower in the sitcom Friend's, where all Rachel's girlfriends and female family members overwhelm her with gifts of thought-to-be baby must-haves. She hasn't got a clue what most of the mod baby cons are for, prompting her to beg her Mom to come stay with her - much to Ross's horror! I found it funny when I first watched it, but I couldn't really relate

My time over here in Texas has definitely led me to look at Baby Showers under a different and more flattering light. Why not celebrate the upcoming birth? It's as much a way to get Momma in a birthing frame of mind and a chance for everyone else to bestow advice and wish Mom and baby good luck as anything else.
Friends' Rachel getting Monica to confirm her cluelessness!

In hindsight I can laugh so much harder at Rachel's panic - when the sudden realization of what she's getting herself into sets in. 

When we're expecting our first baby, most of us haven't a clue what we're getting ourselves into - possibly on the plus side for procreation -
 and so a baby shower is a fun, friendly and focused way for Mom (and Dad) to begin boning up on parenting (if they haven't already) and to start accumulating all that 'necessary' baby equipment.     

It's also a great excuse for a bit of lark. Baby showers are a well loved American tradition and such a big deal that you can't help but get sucked in! 

Before moving to Texas, I was lucky enough to experience a shower thrown for my sister-in-law, while we were on vacation over here. It was for her third baby - her first boy, and the excitement in the room was incredibly infectious. Everyone was animated and happy and chatting non-stop. They were all quite obviously loving lavishing attention on her. All that time ago, I remember cringing on her behalf at all the attention she was receiving - but she didn't seem to mind at all. 

Ridiculously, that right there is another reason we Brits get all silly about showers. It's the uncomfortable feeling we get from being thrown into the limelight. The idea of having to sit in front of an 'audience' and open presents is mortifying to most Pommies to say the least. 

I'm sure there are a few British exceptions to the rule; however, this is a cultural trait that I've witnessed time and time again in my travels - but never more so than during my first trip to the states, when I helped wait tables at camp in Maine.

A dance had been organized for all the staff to get acquainted. Unfortunately, it was nothing like the 'underground' staff dance in Dirty Dancing, and sadly there was no alcohol allowed due to the fact that the room was half-full of International traveling working irresponsible minors! 

But the lack of liquor didn't seem to matter to the American constituent who were able to sashay their hot stuff effortlessly across the dance floor stone cold sober! At the time, I remember hiding my mortification beneath a 'way too cool for school' attitude, like all my fellow Brits in the room. We were the wallflowers secretly poking fun at the ridiculous Yanks - who in truth were having a whale of a time. 

I remember watching in wide-eyed terror as they took it in turns to do their 'thang' in the center of the circle. In hindsight, we Brits were pretty much in denial and blind to our own insecurities. It was much easier to unleash our superior sarcasm skills on our American allies than admit we were too afraid of being laughed at. Ironically, we were the only meanies doing the laughing! 

Stage-fright, however, was still not the bee all and end all as to why I was initially so weird about having a Baby Shower. The simplest and possibly most pathetic reason of all was I simply didn't feel worthy of all the attention. I couldn't fathom why anyone would want to buy ME a present. 

When I finally acquiesced to a shower, creating the invitee list was my first stumbling block. It just felt plain rude asking anybody to come along and buy me something for my baby: it felt presumptuous and greedy. Ironically I ended up leaving too many people out, inadvertently causing offence, the very thing I desperately wanted to avoid! It turned out that people who barely knew me wanted to be included, and many were put-out by my exclusivity. In spite of this, they still went ahead and bought me a gift regardless.

At first I was so incredibly confused and overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness of these -somewhat- strangers. 
I soon realized, however, that it wasn't all about me. The people around me genuinely wanted to give a baby gift - not least of all because they got a chance to go baby shopping! 

"Never look a gift horse in the mouth" was starting to hold a new meaning for me. Gifting was a two way street - and by not inviting folk I was denying them their rightful happiness - I was being selfish!

Creating a baby registry was also a tricky step. How could I let people know what we needed without being too cheeky? And did we really need any of this stuff? My first tentative registry was a modest list of low-priced items - which didn't help anybody, especially close family who were hankering at ticking off a few big hitters.

With a little encouragement (not least of all from the hubs who didn't suffer the same issues as his wife) I got ballsier and added a few big ticket items. In the end, building our baby registry was incredibly enlightening for the hubs and me. We used the time to really think about what we needed. It became an exercise of mental preparation.   

The day of my very first baby shower I felt sick with nerves. I was so terrified about being the guest of honor, and having to open my presents with all eyes on me.

Gift table at library baby shower
I ended up surprising myself. It was simply wonderful being the 'guest of honor' and everybody there was genuinely excited for me and my baby boy.

We played baby games, nibbled treats and cake and the room was adorned with flowers and baby deco - and most impressive of all was a three tier diaper cake in the center of the room. I'd never seen anything like it and I was blown away by the magnitude and creativity. It was truly a labor of love - and so very thoughtful. How do you not spill tears in that situation?

When the scariest part arrived and I was seated up front so all could ooh and aah at the gifts as I opened them, it only took me a couple of presents to get into the groove before I was loving it! It wasn't so bad this shower malarky - in fact, I soon realized I was lapping up the attention. I needed it!

Opening baby's wind chime gift with all eyes on me!
Although I may have appeared to be blooming, at almost seven months pregnant with my first babe, I was feeling tired, and unattractive, and somewhat terrified of the looming birth experience. This special attention was just what the Doctor ordered! 

Much like Christmas is rumored to have been created to 'warm
-up' the harsher months, a shower is thrown to pick-up and possibly distract soon-to-be Mommy from the panic and pain of the labor and motherhood itself! 

Quite ludicrously this sensational shindig was a warm-up library work 'do' thrown by my incredibly considerate colleagues. The family was hatching to throw me an even bigger baby shower later on in my first pregnancy - by which point I knew the drill.

Identify the candy bar poopy diaper game!
My palms were still sweaty on the day - and I'm sure the blood was running high in my cheeks - but I absolutely loved it!

We played the classic diaper taste and sniff game, which was a hoot! And, once again I was delighted by a dazzling diaper cake - so much so, that ever since, building a personalized diaper cake has become my baby shower gift of choice. I can't help but want to make others feel that same thrill that it gave me!

Snowman cake for baby boy#2 
Seeing as though my shower demons had been somewhat exorcised you'd think I'd have been cured by the time baby number two came around - not so the case. My 'issues' with being showered were ever more so present with the second baby. I'd already been bought gifts the last go, so I still had all my stuff from the first baby - and it was another boy, so we didn't need any more clothes. 

In the end my friends twisted my arm, and I conceded to a casual couples Christmas shower. Again it was a lovely occasion and my hubs finally got to feel the love also. Thankfully we stocked up on much needed items like diapers and wipes and creams - for which we were incredibly grateful!    

Winter wonderland diaper cake for baby boy#2
After all the gift rallying and food support (in the form of a care calender) we received for baby number two I started to feel a burning need to 'give back'. We were no longer newby parents caught up in our own private panicky world of fevers and diapers and sleepless nights. We finally had time and energy enough to share.

Our best friends were having their second baby, and I seized the opportunity. I desperately wanted to shower her like she'd never been showered before. I couldn't think of a better way than to do it covertly. 

Thinking about it, I guess my motives for throwing a surprise shower were partly based on my own issues. Somewhat hypocritically I could have accepted all my previous showers more easily had I known nothing about them. All my fear of offending could have been waylaid, with all accountability on someone else's shoulders. 

Besides which, a surprise just seemed like a helluva lot of fun! And the pleasure it gave me was equal to (and perhaps even more than) that of my own showers! I was a little worried I may have been depriving my friend of the fun and anticipation in the build-up, but the shock on the day surpassed all my expectations, and definitely made up for it. The moment of reveal was a tear-jerker - picture perfect - and overwhelming for everyone involved. 

And that's when the penny truly and finally dropped. People love to give. It makes them happy, and I was ecstatic to have pulled off a surprise shower for someone so special to me. I still feel warm and fuzzy inside today!       

This third time around - as you can imagine - a baby shower was not even on my radar. I didn't expect or really think I deserved another one - especially with my bairns being so close together. These days I'm dropping babes almost as frequently as I'm having birthdays! 

We're having a girl though, and what better excuse for another shower? My friends didn't have to work so hard this time to 'twist my arm'. Why not?! Although I was still quick to suggest a no-fuss, no presents required except your presence sort of a shindig - you can take the girl out of Yorkshire but you can't take Yorkshire out of the girl - of course I got presents anyway - even some stuff specially for Momma! 

And now I'm simply buzzing in the afterglow of yesterday's baby shower. The generosity and thought that went into making this day special for me was out of this world - even though my pal played it down perfectly for me. I got the queen of all diaper cakes - a humongous pinkified castle cake with turrets! I'm tinkled pink. Every girl deserves to feel this special - at least a handful of times in her life. It's enough to keep on wanting more babies!

Finally I'm a complete convert, just as I'm getting warmed up to basking in the glow of center stage! But quite possibly I've had my run this lifetime - although never say never!

I'm sure for the rest of my life I will look forward to throwing, and gifting, and building diaper cakes for many other soon-to-be Mommas that step foot into my world  (perhaps even one day for my own daughter - or even granddaughter..)

So, of course I'm blogging about it, when I really should be writing Thank You cards. I can do it here too!

Thank you to ALL of you -Texan family and friends (you know who you are) - who have played a part in showering me over the past four years. I'm overwhelmed by how welcome and special and loved you've made me and my baby bumps feel - over and over and over!

It goes a long way in helping dispel the sadness and homesickness of being so far away from my homeland family and friends at such a special and emotionally powerful period of my life. The heartfelt generosity and guidance has helped - I'm sure - in molding me into the Momma I am today.     

Sniff... I've been reduced to a heap of American Mommy mush - and it aint half bad!


  1. you've got a great way with words. i even teared up a couple of times!

    1. Thank you Terri, for your comment... and for everything else:)

  2. As your bessie Brit mate, I feel I have to comment. Firstly, you know that Brits love to drink and the thought of celebrating with the new mum when she is not allowed a drop of alcohol just seems ludicrous to us. Wetting the baby's head after it is born is far more acceptable (do they do that over there too?). I'm a bit puzzled by baby showers in general (the poopy diaper game?) so I hope you don't mind but you're getting nowt from me until that beautiful baby of yours is born. I know you won't mind. And I have to LOL at the thought of all attention on you. I just know how cringy it is to you. Have you been working on your "surprised but over-the-moon" look? love ya! Julie xxx

    1. LOL - Julie! The good thing about our situation is we get the best of both worlds! Prezzies before and after the birth:) I was just talking about wetting the baby's head the other day - I thought that was a dudes only deal - you know; cigars and whisky and big slaps on the back! Oh, and I'm getting better at having all eyes on me.. I still burn red, and bumble my words of course! x

  3. You gave the perfect journey of finding the essence of baby showers. I had no idea that brits dont like the spotlight. Made your read that much funner to have to be thrown into a world where everyone wants to be the center of attention and such. Gift giving does have it's limits. Baby showers are a more intimate thing that everyone wants to be apart of. BUT it's the graduation announcements (given to anyone and everyone) that come off as money trolling. So happy you've crossed over to the 'dark side' of baby showers. haha!

    1. hey Mud Puddle! I hope you enjoyed your trip over to Blighty! I'm sure you found a few Brits who don't mind center stage so much as me - after all, Big Brother and other reality shows work across the pond also! In general though, we're a tad bit reserved (bit of an understatement), y'all have us beat hands down for basking in the limelight - almost everybody here wants to be a celebrity:)!

      I've not experienced any 'graduation announcements' yet - if I'm still living here when my kids get to college age I'm sure I'll struggle with those also (unless by then I've fully crossed over to the dark side;)!