More love than you can shake a stick at

I had a baby shower last Saturday. I say that this was my first baby shower, though technically I suppose I should count the small group of women who somewhat reluctantly gathered together for me in Austin as a shower. I’ve had this idea in my head since I was a kid, though, about what a baby shower looks like, and the small gathering of women I barely knew in Austin just didn’t cut it. Since then I’ve been to at least a dozen baby showers for friends, and these showers have all been what I envisioned as the “archetypal” baby shower: a gajillion women, a table overflowing with presents including at least a couple of diaper genies, a giant cake decorated with plastic novelty diaper pins, and perhaps a few silly games. The main ingredient though was bodies. Lots and lots of bodies.

Over the years, I’ve been known to make snide comments about these kinds of baby showers, especially the “oohing” and “ahhing” that spontaneously erupts through the crowd when a cute outfit/blanket/burp rag has been opened. I’ve also been know to indulge in some feelings of superiority about the kinds of presents that are typically registered for and given at baby showers. I was a minimalist with my firstborn: all we needed were our cloth diapers, a few onesies, a sling and a few wooden toys, right? I parented the natural way and didn’t need all that silly gear and paraphernalia. What I could never really admit to myself and certainly not out loud was that I really REALLY wanted a big baby shower. Even once I realized I wanted one (probably sometime around pregnancy # 3), I still didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted, or to dare to allow myself to have one. For one thing, what if no one showed up? And really, wouldn’t all those baby outfits and diaper genies be wasted on me since we have perfectly good hand-me downs and use cloth diapers? Surely there were other women out there who deserved and needed a baby shower more than I did.

So, even though a friend actually offered to host a traditional baby shower for me when I was pregnant with Scout, I turned her down. And this actually worked out perfectly because Mara organized a lovely pre-natal baby blessing for me, which was exactly what I needed and was ready for at the time: a small, intimate gathering of close friends.

Enter pregnancy #4, and I was ready for a new experience. A lot of my crazy, self-defeating thinking had gotten a lot quieter in the interim and I was willing to put aside my pre-conceived ideas about what a baby shower is and who gets to have one long enough to ask my sponsor if she would be willing to host one for me. And then for two solid months I obsessed about who to invite and, of the women we invited, who would show up. In fact, right up until I was at the party and there was no longer standing room in the living room I worried about turn out. In the preceding weeks, I had realized that THIS was the real reason I had never had a conventional baby shower before. It wasn’t that I was a minimalist and didn’t want the latest gadget essential to parenting. It was that I was too afraid that nobody would show up. Or, conversely, that a lot of people would show up and that I would spontaneously combust from all that attention. I admitted this to the ladies at the meeting I went to before the shower and, in voicing my fears out loud, I was given a moment of clarity. This baby shower was going to unfold exactly the way it was supposed to; the people who were supposed to be there were going to be there, no more no less; and I was going to get out of this experience exactly what I needed, no matter what it turned out looking like.

And I’ll be damned if there weren’t 30+ people there! It was an extraordinary, beautiful, and overwhelming experience that filled a longing I didn’t even know I had. As I looked around the room at all these women who had shown up for me, I could literally feel old wounds being healed, like Lucy herself had come and administered her magic healing ointment. I could finally admit to myself that for all these years I had been jealous of my friends who had big baby showers and, because that feeling was so ugly, I had covered it up with the pretense that I didn’t need one. Ha! I did need one. Not for the oohs and ahhs, not for the generous collection of money that was taken up for a double jogging stroller, not for the adorably embellished burp rags, not even for the incredibly practical pocket diaper covers I received, though I am so grateful for all of the above. What I needed was the love and the support of all those amazing women surrounding me and filling me up, and apparently I needed it in volume.


~ by jenzai on July 17, 2008.

5 Responses to “More love than you can shake a stick at”

  1. Oh, go you! I only wish I could have been there, but the idea of you basking in love makes my evening. So impressed with you knowing what you want and need and asking for it, and letting it be what it was, and so happy to think of #4 basking in your being loved. You do deserve love, lots and lots of love.

  2. I can’t think of anyone who more deserves a loving baby shower, or anyone who has worked harder to create a community for herself and her family. Go Jenny, indeed!

  3. I’m really sorry I couldn’t make it, but equally glad it turned out well. The account is almost like being there, though, so I’m grateful for the post.

    And yay for cloth diapers! I was just explaining to somebody the other day about how I never used paper ones at all, and she was looking at me like I had dropped off another planet. Good for you!

  4. i love your description of the process and journey you went through to realize why you needed a big baby shower. That is beautiful!!!! Thank you for sharing it!!!

  5. one more note – you are an awesome writer!

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