Even now, almost 10 years after the birth of my only child, I find myself still faced with the occasional, “What was your baby shower like?”
The question usually surfaces during a chat amongst moms or with a pregnant friend. They’re either reminiscing about the fun they had at theirs, or anxiously anticipating their own. And, each time, I reply with the same answer: “I didn’t have a baby shower.”
Despite the ensuing 10 years since my son’s birth, I’m still not quite used to the looks of confused pity that almost always result from it.
Jewish tradition—and really, superstition—dictates that to ward off any chance of the evil eye before a baby is actually born, we shouldn’t do anything to tempt fate, so to speak. We don’t give the baby a name before birth, we don’t decorate or stock a nursery, and we don’t have baby showers.
I understand and do appreciate where this tradition comes from. It’s not that I actually believe that properly preparing for an infant will attract any bad spirits or luck. But, I do love that there is a small dose of real world practicality in this. I can only imagine the anguish a family must feel coming home to a house full of baby items if something terrible happens either during the pregnancy or birth. To be reminded of what could have been must feel crushing. And in that sense, I see the kindness in this long-held tradition.
So, when I became pregnant, I knew that I wasn’t going to have a baby shower. And I was OK with that… somewhat.
As a self-professed hyper-organizer, I make lists for everything. Beyond the usual ones for groceries or packing, I have lists. I have lists of lists. Organizing calms me down. Nesting? It felt like a comforting, warm bath as I got ever so achingly close to delivering my son. But, beyond cleaning and re-cleaning our home, there wasn’t much baby stuff to actually organize. And I won’t lie: It felt weird.
To this day, I still look with a little bit of envy at those who have sweet baby showers.
They’re feted and honored by friends and family before the baby is even here. They’re given stuff. So much stuff (most of it—let’s be honest—unnecessary but oh so adorable). I loathe cutesy games, but even I might have gone along with a “what candy pooped in the diaper” one if meant having a shower.
Because while I can understand the superstition surrounding baby showers, there is also something about them that reminds you: This is real. This is happening. For a person with pretty severe anxiety, that can be an incredibly comforting thing, especially compared to an empty room with little more than a handful of outfits for the first few days.
It might actually have been nice, especially as a first time parent, to have some of those visuals around the house that said “baby on the way!” beyond my expanding belly and piles of clothes that no longer fit.
This isn’t about being ungrateful. My son had a bris and our growing family was inundated with good wishes and incredibly generous gifts after he was born. My husband and I were beyond thankful for all of it. But at that point, my son was here in my arms—happy and healthy—and I didn’t really need that reassurance I had thought I could possibly get in the form of a pre-birth shower, as I had the real deal.
Obviously I survived not having a baby shower, and plenty of folks all over the world survive not having one as well. But that doesn’t mean I don’t envy the folks who do. The ones who are fussed over and are as prepared as one can possibly be when expecting a new life… before it actually arrives.
And, as someone who—10 years later—still has catalogued bags of newborn clothes despite zero plans for another baby ever (sorry, mom!), perhaps it’s just the planner in me that wistfully wonders what a baby shower of my own would have been like. And while we’re obviously all well and good despite not having one, that doesn’t mean I won’t always have a little bit of envy each time I hear about someone else’s.