Rethinking baby showers

The first time I met with a therapist after Genevieve’s death, she told me to make a list of the steps I wanted to take to start leading a normal life again. Some of my early goals were: feel comfortable leaving my house and be happy for other people who have good news. I started therapy four months after Genevieve died, and even though I was leaving my house, I didn’t want to be. Every trip to the grocery store came with the possibility that I would see a happy pregnant lady or a newborn. Either of those things would leave me crying for the rest of the day.

As for being happy for my friends, that took much longer than I expected. I could not accept that good things kept happening to other people when my life had collapsed. It took me years to recover my generosity. I don’t think I really celebrated for anyone until Henry was born. Let’s all give thanks that he is here so that I no longer have to live as an evil troll (even though I totally earned that right).

My long-term goals, things that I wanted to accomplish in six to twelve months, were: be okay around babies and be emotionally ready to have another baby myself. I did start seeing friends who had babies, though I didn’t want to initially. And I was certainly ready for a baby. Going through that next pregnancy would be sheer terror no matter how long I waited.

One goal that I didn’t put on my list was to attend a baby shower. I swore off baby showers after Genevieve. Really, I wanted to avoid baby showers until my own children had kids. I couldn’t stomach the hope, people assuming that they would bring home a baby. And what could I say at such a party? Shower conversations inevitably turn to labor stories or memories of colicky newborns. And if your baby was born breathing, your labor doesn’t sound that bad to me. I imagined speaking up — ruining the party. Or, more likely, I would say nothing and then spend days fuming about the unfairness of it all.

Some friends of mine wanted to throw a shower after Henry was born, and I agreed. It was lovely. Everyone knew my story, so no pretending was required.

Now one of those friends who threw my shower is about to have a baby, and I am invited to the shower. I am going, and I bought the baby gift without tears. I didn’t even think of crying. I continue to be amazed at the way time can change me. Where once I saw pregnancy as a minefield, I now know that is true for only an unlucky few. (There are a lot of us, but statistically we are few.) And if everyone at that shower doesn’t know what I have been through, that’s okay. That is no betrayal of Genevieve. I know that I’m her mom.

I still get messages from mothers who have just gone through a stillbirth, and all I can say is keep going, keep going, keep going. Eventually, some of that dark space is going to fill with joy, enough joy that you will even be able to share it with others.

6 thoughts on “Rethinking baby showers

  1. Thank you for this. My baby was stillborn Feb. 2, 2014 and I hate that I feel so much resentment–particularly toward pregnant women. Right now, I can’t even begin to imagine being in a place where I would feel comfortable at a baby shower.

  2. This is so good. Baby showers continue to be a grief trigger for me. I think it’s because Eliza’s death followed so quickly on the heels of her baby showers and so many friends of mine were pregnant and having showers just before or right after she died. It was all too much. Right now, I’m still of the mindset that I won’t attend another shower unless one of my daughters has one, but I am open to the idea that time could still change that. I am also glad to say I can happily buy baby gifts now, which means I’ve still come quite a long way.

  3. I am with Brooke. I will buy baby gifts, but still prefer to send them along. I think I could attend, but part of me uses this as an excuse to prolong my stubbornness and tantrum of having to endure baby things at all. I sort of feel like in avoiding such things, I am noticed and oddly, he is remembered. It’s maybe a little sick of me and I don’t think I’ve admitted that to myself yet. Typing it here makes it a little more clear that it’s more selfish than it is grief-trigger focused.

    I want to boycott because I didn’t get to keep him. So childish. And yet, I still hate the thought of an invite popping up in my inbox. Bah.

  4. Brandy, I completely understand what you’re saying.

    I think I’ve been making snap decisions about baby things for a while now. Of course I won’t participate! Don’t people realize that I’m still sad? When I thought about the shower, I knew that I didn’t have a good reason for avoiding it other than habit. There are definitely some things that still make me a mess (references to sisterly bonds), but baby showers are lower on the list now.

  5. I thought it was just me. I never really liked baby showers, but since we have lost our darling baby girl I absolutely hate them. I simply cannot grasp how anyone could plan such an event without having their baby home, healthy and breathing. I have to attend two baby showers in March and I will go, but even if we have another healthy child, I will never throw one myself.

  6. This might seem silly or ridiculous, but I’m just now allowing myself to grieve our daughter that would be 32 now. I was young, in high school, when I was pregnant and our baby was stillborn. Everything had been good, great heartbeat, and by all indications everything was on track and fine. Third trimester, baby shower gifts set up in my room, and at the next appointment there wasn’t a heartbeat. Everything basically went black for me, and to make things more confusing and empty was that my family wouldn’t allow for a naming or burial. I was told that “it” was over, “it” was gone and I was to never speak of “it’ again. This wasn’t an it to us, she was and is our daughter. I was a shell of a person for quite some time, on sedatives for several months and then self-medicated when the doctors no longer prescribed them. I have privately thought of her and cried in the shower many times over the years, especially holidays and around the time when she was born. It finally came to me, why??? Why have I continued to keep this a secret because my family felt the way they did about her? She was our daughter, and she deserves to be remembered, not swept under the rug like she didn’t matter or wasn’t real. I am now searching for articles like this, and sharing her story and hoping to find a way to honor her memory, perhaps a piece of jewelry or a small tattoo. I still haven’t decided, but we have named her Shira, which means singing or poetry because we hope to give her a voice now. Thanks for hearing our story!!!

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