Thursday, April 15th, 2010
I’ve attended a lot of baby showers in my day. Sisters-in-law, cousins, friends, co-workers. I’ve bought tiny baby outfits and Raggedy Ann books and light-up soother thingies. I’ve cried in the baby aisle at Target, while clutching a registry print-out. I’ve pushed down bitter feelings and painted on smiles and responded with blank stares to comments from well-meaning, older-lady fellow shower guests who’d say things like, “Doesn’t seeing all this baby stuff make you want to have a baby next?”
All these years, I never thought I would be the one registering for baby stuff, or sitting in the chair of honor at a shower, looking big and hot and uncomfortable but blissfully happy. Even when we were adopting, I couldn’t envision a scenario where a traditional before-the-baby-gets-here shower would work. Because of the uncertainty, I figured an after-baby (or child) meet-and-greet would work better, and by then we’d have bought much of the stuff the baby/child would need anyway.
So when it came time to plan my actual shower for this baby, I had myself convinced I didn’t really want one that much. I’d gotten used to the idea of buying my own baby clothes and blankets and diapers and bottles. Even with the shower looming, I couldn’t resist doing a little shopping in advance, when the seasonal clothes went on clearance, or when I heard about a 40 percent off coupon at diapers.com.
We decided to do one big shower for both my and D’s sides of the family, plus people from our parents’ churches, and a few friends. My aunts and sisters-in-law were throwing it, but my mom ended up taking over the organization because she was, frankly, a little obsessed with getting it absolutely perfect for her much-anticipated first grandchild.
She tried to engage me in this obsession – and a new one, with what to hang on my door at the hospital – but I kept saying, “I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine,” and “I don’t care – do whatever you want.” I just wanted to show up and eat my slice of cake (okay, it turned out to be two slices) and open my gifts and smile a lot.
But as the day of the shower approached, I began to feel really excited, and even a little nervous about being the focal point of a such an event. The afternoon of the shower, I changed my dress four times and settled on the one D liked best. My mom was planning to wear red for Ruby, so I wore red shoes, too.
My sister and I arrived a few minutes early, and the shower hostesses had everything already decorated and ready to go. All Mom’s obsessing paid off; the room looked really cute with pink and red polka dot balloons, pink bows and napkins imprinted with Ruby’s name in red, pink punch, strawberries, pink and red cupcakes. My sisters-in-law and nieces all wore pink, and everyone was shocked I was wearing blue. Mom pinned a fluffy pink stork corsage on my shoulder.
Then the guests started arriving, and my sister shot photos of me hugging everyone. More and more people trickled through the door until the room was full, and the gift table grew laden with bags and boxes – pastel polka dots, circus animals, hot pink tissue paper, white curling ribbon.
Quickly, we started the gift-opening because it was clear it would take a while. My aunt sat next to me and wrote everything down, while my cousin crouched next to my chair and assisted me tirelessly for more than an hour of non-stop box and bag opening, accompanied by much oohing, ahhing, and oh-so-cuteing. They fanned with me greeting cards when I got overheated from all the bending over (and the ill-chosen synthetic fabric dress), and eventually another cousin brought me an electric fan from the church nursery.
At my cousin’s baby shower last summer, she cried every time she opened a gift, and I had already decided I would not do that. Nothing wrong with a little emotion, but you know me – suppress, suppress, suppress. So even when I opened a beautiful pale pink batiste dress and bonnet from Aunt Ruby, and hand-made quilts from my grandmother and my cousin, and a little purple gingham dress with Ruby’s name embroidered on it in hot pink, and an engraved silver cake server with a note that said we could use this for her birthdays and then her wedding, I didn’t allow myself to dwell for long – I just kept smiling and oohing, ahhing, and oh-so-cuteing.
I don’t think I stopped smiling for the entire two hours of the shower, and not a second of it was forced. I was so happy, so grateful that all these people had cared enough about us to give us a gift (I had more than 60 thank-you notes to write), so amazed that all of this was really happening to us and that in just a few short months, Ruby would really be here, wearing these little outfits and sitting in that Woodland Animals swing and shaking this hot pink rattle. Many of the people at the shower knew how long we’d been waiting, and every card saying things like “Happiness is coming your way” and “Is any miracle more wonderful than the birth of a baby?” seemed like a personal message for me.
Afterward, some friends and cousins hung around to help load up the gifts in D’s truck, and they filled up the whole back seat and toolbox, with the bigger, boxed items in the bed of the truck.
Tired and back-achy and hot, I dragged myself up into the truck, too. My aunt, the one I mentioned in January, who lost her only baby at 19 weeks pregnant six years ago, had left me an additional present in the front seat. It was a white puppy-dog quilt made by my grandmother and a yellow duck hooded towel and onesie, and the card explained that these had been Annie’s, her baby’s, and giving them to me was her way of “letting go of the past and letting it be a new beginning.”
So that’s when all the suppressed tears of the day came rushing to the surface. I cried because of the unfairness that her baby never even got a chance, and mine is still thumping happily away in my belly. I cried because after all these years she has stopped hoping for a baby. I cried because I, too, had almost stopped hoping, and yet here I was, surrounded by gifts for my baby, my little girl, who I will meet in less than two months.
Later that night, even D shed a few tears, when I showed him all the photos from the shower. It really was overwhelming – in a good way – to realize just how many people are wishing us well, and will be here to welcome this baby and love her.
Mom and my sister came over a couple days later to help me unpack and organize the gifts, which filled up the whole nursery. Now, Ruby has a closet crammed full of clothes; a stack of blankets, many hand-made; a basket full of bibs and one full of burp cloths; an impressive collection of safety covers and latches; a vibrating bouncy seat; a swing; a high chair; a Baby Einstein jumper; a bathtub full of hooded towels, baby washcloths, and a rubber duck; and a bin full of rattles and crinklies.
She wants for nothing, really. I want for nothing, too, because I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of – a husband I adore, who will be a wonderful father; a charming – if eccentric – old house; and now, a child, my child, who I can’t wait to get to know.