Baby Showers Are a Bizarre American Tradition and I Want No Part in Them

A mom-to-be smiles at her baby shower, as a friend touches her belly.
Image source: Thinkstock

Hands up if you actually like attending baby showers? Okay, now answer truthfully …

Recently, a mom-to-be in the U.K. posted that her friends had shunned her baby shower, making her feel “unpopular.” She wrote that she assumed people would make the effort to travel an hour to her home, but that due to the lack of attendance she felt like canceling it.

No doubt the woman, whose first baby is due in February, was hoping for some sympathy, but instead, she received comments like, “Sorry but I think you are being unreasonable …  I would however be happy to send a gift once baby had been born.” Another woman responded, “I’d be busy too if invited to a shower. Ridiculous events. You are not American! Go out for a nice lunch with your sister instead.”

Now before you shake your head at the uncharitable responses, I should add that us Brits only recently picked up this American tradition of having a baby shower. In the past, British women waited until they had their babies before friends and relatives dropped over with gifts to meet the little one.

But now that baby showers have started to become a thing in the U.K., we’re all very confused about the protocol. Do we give the gift at the shower, or when the baby is born? If the parents-to-be know the sex and aren’t telling anyone, then what do you buy?

Of course, I can appreciate that preparing for the arrival of a first baby can be daunting — I remember going to a department store when I was six months pregnant, staring at all the cots, strollers, highchairs etc. and weeping because I genuinely couldn’t afford even half of it. So when family or friends express that they want to buy you something that you’ll need, it makes perfect sense to point them in the direction of a gift list, so you don’t end up with a million onesies and blankets when what you really need is a sterilizer.

But as a gift-giver, the pressure to spend money — and quite a bit of it — is a bit much. Especially when you factor in that the mom-to-be is going to open every single one in front of the entire party. After all, who wants to be the cheapskate that only sprung 10 bucks for a pacifier?

And then there’s this: The majority of births these days happen not too long after the wedding — doesn’t it feel just a bit much to set up yet another gift list for yourself so soon after her wedding one? It’s like, “Hello everyone, I’m asking for stuff … AGAIN!” I’d be more interested in asking friends to bring second-hand stuff that they had used — to borrow — which is just as useful. Loaning out a stunning Moses basket that has only be used for six weeks seems like a much more thoughtful idea than being asked to spend spend spend!

Doesn’t it all reek of consumerism? Just another life event that is now dictated by marketing experts and our need to emulate celeb lifestyles?
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But most of all, I just can’t help but find this tradition a little bizarre. I mean, for one thing the baby isn’t even here yet! Call me superstitious, but shouldn’t we wait for their safe arrival? I have known women who have tragically lost babies close to full term and are then beyond devastated with grief. Wouldn’t being surrounded by all those thoughtful baby gifts that are no longer needed just bring them added stress?

When a baby is born, safe and sound, then by all means — celebrate, give gifts, meet the little bundle. But to arrive to a sea of pink or blue, with a blooming mom-to-be, giving gifts for the future feels somewhat hollow. I can’t help but feel there’s something tacky about a party which is essentially just about getting gifts. Then again, us Brits find receiving compliments or gifts awkward at the best of times, and even more so when the recipient of the gifts hasn’t even arrived.

Doesn’t it all reek of consumerism? Just another life event that is now dictated by marketing experts and our need to emulate celeb lifestyles?

In case you are wondering —  no, I didn’t have a baby shower for either of my kids. Mainly because I loathed the thought of any party where I can’t drink! Watching everyone else drink mimosas while I sit sipping water isn’t my idea of fun, but even as a guest these things cause me to break out in hives. How ridiculous is it to watch a woman open gift after gift exclaiming, “Yay another set of nipple shields!” and “Woohoo, some more bibs!” Tedious.

Then there’s the task of having to play embarrassing baby shower games — including ones that have ridiculous toilet humor. Ugh. Who wants to look at a potty filled with Prosecco and attempt to drink it? Not me! And don’t even get me started on any games having to do with diapers and their contents …

You have to ooh and ahh and coo over a bump. Meanwhile some poor woman, who has just recovered from all her duties as being your bridesmaid, has to organize the whole thing —and who needs that stress? Plus, if the mom is onto her third child, doesn’t it feel a bit like “here we go again?” Frankly, I would go a bit crazy, like Kirsten Wiig in Bridesmaids, on the whole number because it feels like an indulgent, expensive waste of time.

Finally, why celebrate being pregnant more than you’d celebrate gaining a degree, getting a huge promotion, passing exams at college, or getting that first job? Why are women’s achievements celebrated only when a man is involved? A wedding and a pregnancy are not the only valid accomplishments in a woman’s life and the more we choose to celebrate those above all, the more we pigeonhole women in society. Baby showers tend to be predominantly filled with women — but why? Men played just as big a part in the getting the bun in the oven, so why don’t they all sit around cooing over onesies and eating chocolate nut bars out of diapers?

With all that said, I (kind of) get why you Americans do love it; and I admit that you do have many great traditions. Indeed, I am jealous of Thanksgiving (it looks amazing — I have never eaten pumpkin pie and this needs remedied immediately). I have even adopted some myself, with Halloween being my favorite holiday. However, the baby shower tradition? At least for this Brit, that’s one you can keep.

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