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Are you having a baby shower?

Friday, 7 February 2014  | 

I have only ever been to one baby shower – nearly two years ago now. I remember at the time finding the concept really strange. I have to admit, I hadn’t really heard much about them before I went. There was a fair distance to travel to it, but I hadn’t seen my friend (whose baby shower it was) for a long time and was really looking forward to seeing her and celebrating. Except, with a big group of people, I didn’t actually get to speak to her that much, and, while it was a really lovely and fun afternoon, I just had this niggling feeling that it was all a bit early to be celebrating. I sort of felt that I’d rather celebrate after the baby was born, so that I could bring a present for an actual person. One that had a name. And its own little identity.

I was asked the other day if I was going to be having a baby shower and I really didn’t know what to say. I know baby showers are popular in America but I think they’re still fairly uncommon in the UK and whenever I’ve mentioned it to people, particularly in my parents’ generation, they’ve said, ‘oh no – they’re a very odd idea – a bit like hen parties.’ Now, I don’t really agree with this statement. I think we’ve got pretty used to hen parties and stag parties and there does seem to be a genuine reason for a party in that case – celebrating the end of single life and waving the bride or groom off on a new adventure. I’ve been on several hen ‘dos’ and never felt that it was too early to be partying.

When it comes to baby showers, however, I just don’t really feel totally comfortable with the idea; I suppose in theory I would be ‘waving goodbye’ to child-free life and it will certainly be a new adventure, but I would much rather celebrate after I’ve gone through the birth and emerged safely on the other side. I’m not hugely superstitious – I’m happy to have the baby’s things in the house, for example, and I don’t really believe that you can ‘jinx’ something or tempt fate, but celebrating a baby before he’s made it into the world makes me feel a bit uneasy.

And then there’s the gifts. Part of me dislikes the fact that baby showers are the latest in a big commercial enterprise to get people to spend a lot of money. I really don’t want my friends and family to feel that they *have* to buy my baby and me a gift because they’ve been invited to a party. I’m sure they would be happy to, and I certainly was when I went to my friend’s baby shower and I knew exactly what I wanted to get her baby. But saying that I would like a baby shower feels a bit like saying I want all my friends to buy me a present. And that feels a bit greedy.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking this. And perhaps I won’t have a choice and it’ll all be organised secretly for me (oh no – then I’ll sound like the most ungrateful friend ever!). Or maybe it would be best to just let people come to visit when they would like to and bring a gift – or not – at their leisure. If people came independently, I would be able to chat properly, they would get to have a cuddle with the baby and I’d get to feel sociable but not under pressure to be the ‘host’.

Which makes me wonder – do people ever have baby showers after the baby is born? I’ve been trying to find this out. Perhaps I will feel too exhausted and won’t want lots of people expecting to drink tea and eat cake in my house when I have a newborn baby. But if they are going to come all that way to see me, surely the person they really want to see ought to be there – and if I have the shower beforehand, then he’ll still be hidden away in my tummy! I’m trying to think of an analogy – maybe having a big leaving do and still having several weeks left at work. I don’t know – that doesn’t quite seem the same, but it’s close. My mum’s advice? ‘Oh just have a Christening.’ As she sees it, that way, we get to invite all the people we want to be there, they all get to eat cake, and the baby gets to be the centre of attention – not my belly!

What do you think? Have you or would you have a baby shower? I’d love to hear your reasons either way.

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