Lesson 1: Thou shalt not plan your own shower
A few months back I figured I'd get the ball rolling on my baby shower, so I talked to my mom about hosting at her big round house, and we picked and date and I talked to my friend Megan about designing the invitations. Since she did our wedding invitations, it felt right to have her do the shower invites too.
Then I got an email from a group of my closest ladyfriends saying "We want to plan your shower!" and I was like "Oh y'all are so sweet, but I've sort of already started." To which I got an email saying, "Planning your own shower!? HURRUMPH!"
At that point, I stepped back from planning. I heard horror stories of mamas micro-managing their showers, and that was NOT going to be me. My ladyfriends are all awesome, and I trusted them to make the day wonderful. No need for me to drive. All I did was put up the baby shower informational page that was linked from the invites. (Use the password nov7 to view it, if you want.)
Lesson 2: When you have a feminist husband, he will micro-manage the baby shower
That said, as I stepped back, Andreas stepped forward. Dre has prickly sensitivities about gender issues, and impending parenthood has only brought those into sharper focus. We would of course have a co-ed baby shower, but Andreas got upset when people called it "Ariel's shower." He got frustrated when he wasn't CCed on even the most boring of emails about guest mailing addresses. He had impassioned conversations with his mother about how American culture is still too damn slow in its shift toward including fathers in the parenting process.
Thankfully, these strong strong convictions about gender and family and relationships are part of what our friends appreciate about Andreas, and so our ladyfriends went above 'n' beyond to be patient with his frustrations and requests and made sure he felt good about the shower. He contributed some ideas for activities, and got CCed on all emails, and it was all good.
Lesson 3: Give people things to do OTHER than silly games and gift gawking
With my and Dre's strong agreement, our ladyfriends made a point to focus the shower on arts and crafts, food, and socializing — completely de-emphasizing gifts and games. Here's what we did for four hours:
I've gotten soooo many questions about how Joriel did the onesies that I've actually asked her to write up a little how-to for Offbeat Mama. Be watching for it later this week.
The heart of the event was the onesie decorating table, which people were immediately drawn to. Joriel took it way beyond puffy paint decorations, with fabric and decals that people could use to create amazing little bits of onesie art.
- Belleh decorating
One of Dre's suggestions was that in addition to the onesie decorating, there also be belly art. And so at a certain point I exposed my enormous 8-months-pregnant belly, and plopped down on a chair to be decorated. Friends took turns drawing on my belly with eyeliner pencils, adding bindi accents here and there … while the baby squidged and wiggled around. I think he liked it.
- Blessingway beads
And then it was time for the blessingway! I'm an agnostic pragmatist and have knee-jerk response to any sort of ritual or group activity that feels sanctimonious, but this particular "circle time" was awesome. It was nice to have everyone gathered and focused in one big group, and Andreas and I had the opportunity to thank everyone. We went around the circle of our 40 or so friends and family, with each guest holding up a bead they'd brought and blessing it with their wishes for the baby. I can't even really recount all the sweetness.
- Blessing tree
We also had a blessing tree. In a nod to the guestbook tree we had at our wedding, we had guests write their blessings for the baby on left over bits of the same paper (yay for being a packrat!) and then hang their blessings from the branches of a "tree," which was actually a large downed branch brought in from the forest. It was beautiful with the little blessings fluttering there.
So, there were lots of afts and crafts and blessings at our shower. But you know what there wasn't much of at all? Plastic baby crap! We were pretty clear that with our small home, we really do NOT need much baby industrial complex products, and we also let people know that no gifts would be opened at the shower. We got some wonderful heart-felt gifts (children's books, gift cards to our favorite cafe for baby & dog caffeine walks, baby diaper service, bottomless box of fabulous hand-me-downs from Dre's sister, etc) but there was not a single noise-making toy and the only baby clothes were onesies and tshirts hand-decorated with love. Yay!
And so, the reward for not planning my own shower? A day of blessings and amazing food and a wonderful sense of community and love. No diapers filled with melted candy bars. No plastic baby crap. Just lots of hugs and crafts and art and love.