3 lessons for an awesome offbeat baby shower

3 lessons for an awesome offbeat baby shower

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.

Onesie decorating"My life is about to change too!" he said. "This baby is just as important to me as it is to Ariel!"

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:

  • Onesie crafts
    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. Decorated bellehFriends 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. Sage works the circleWe 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.
Photo by Ben Haley

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.

A very special thanks to my ladyfriends who organized: Cienna, Joriel, Ariel V., Ellen, and Dawn!

  1. Wow! I am speechless. I've always thought that your standard baby shower was strange for a multitude of reasons but wasn't 100% sure what the alternative would be. Your shower had all of the elements of the unique, meaningful gathering that should serve as a milestone for this incredible journey you two are on. Thank you!

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  2. You know what I love, that's the 2nd time the Offbeat Empire has linked to that poopie diaper game page. We are awesome. :)

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  3. what an awesome shower! ah, a girl can dream. i live a very long way from all my family and most of my husband's family (the nearest folks from his family are a 5 hour drive downstate, and eveyrone else is pretty much a 2-day drive), and it's not likely with my scant PTO that we'll be able to get together with family before tadpole comes in april. we'll be visiting my fam next week for thanksgiving, but i think we can all agree that 19w is a smidge early for a shower! so i likely won't be having one. it's all good though…i didn't have a "wedding shower" either and it didn't break my heart.

    these ideas are all noted though, in the event i get to plan a shower for a friend or family member!

    • I will say that while there was definitely some family present (Dre's dad & sister made it from Montana, my parents were there) our shower was mostly friends. I don't know that family is necessary for a shower?

      (That said, I skipped a wedding shower too — so I certainly don't think showers are necessary.)

      • haha, most of our friends are far far away as well! i'm originally from the east coast and now call the UP of michigan home. not a lot of off-beat people around here, i have to say, so i've had a little trouble connecting with people. it's ok though, i'm kind of a homebody and was a bit of a loner growing up too, so it's not a BFD.

        i agree that showers really aren't necessary. they are nice though, and yours looks like it was particularly awesome! i especially love the onesie-decorating! i can't wait for the how-to. the mushroom one in your pix is my fav!

  4. your mom lives in a yurt?! So do I!!

  5. Ariel, your shower looks so wonderful! We just had mine the other weekend, too, with my mom, mom-in-law, sis, and aunt-in-law in attendance. I chose to do it a ladies-only affair (save for two gestating little boys) since I wanted to share this time and space with my visiting women relatives, as well as my awesome women friends. We also did a craft project, a big wall art piece for the baby's room, and my friends said that they loved the fact that we didn't play any baby games, and instead all contributed to something permanent for the baby's new life.

  6. your shower sounds so awesome and lovely.

    • I don't think that's gross at all. I totally want to do that. (If I'm ever able to get pregnant, sigh.)

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  7. yea for an offbeat shower success!! i am really wanting a blessing for this 2nd baby….i'm still trying to decide if planning on my own blessingway (since no one has stepped up yet) is appropriate or not

  8. Thank you so much for this beautiful shower description – what a caring, loving group of people. I have to especially thank you for the bead blessing idea. Trying for the behbeh won't start until next year for us, but when it comes that time, if you don't mind, we'd like to borrow that idea. I make jewelry and the hub makes resin pendants and beads, so it would be incredibly meaningful for us.

  9. This looked like such an awesome shower and it makes me pine for our long lost shower. My daughter came 6 weeks early and thus 6 days before the wonderful shower that was planned. :-(

  10. This looks like it was so much fun! My friends just threw me a shower this past weekend, and I was similarly delighted with the lack of plastic crap and shower games. Instead, guests brought gift certificates for babysitting, handmade quilts and mix cds, and everyone decorated my belly with face paints and spread out on the floor with markers and fabric scraps to make a set of prayer flags for the Bundle's room. Beautiful.

  11. My sweetie and I ended up having two baby events. We knew we wanted to have a blessing, and we were both uncomfortable with the mom focus, so we called it the family blessing. We had his mother and her best friend organize it, after talking with us about what we wanted. They threw us a beautiful little party with about 12 of our closest friends. My partner's dad played "Forever Young" as we walked down to the forested yard, where our friends brought a token for the birth altar, and explained what it meant to them. His mother read her gift "I love you forever", and my mom who lives 9000 miles away, sent a blessing of her own. At the end, we handed out candles for the candle tree, and when I went into labor, a friends called to have our friends light their candles and send blessings out to us.

    A friend of my mother-in-law's wanted to throw us a shower, and because we had kept the blessing fairly quiet, we decided to have her throw a baby book shower that a wider range of our community would be invited to. We got lots of wonderful books, and no plastic baby crap!

      • my mother-in-law was in Chicago, in support of her sister and brother-in-law, who had just found out he has a terminal illness, the night I was in labor. It was a rough night for them, but they had their candle burning, and it was a reminder of the new life that was coming into the world. I got a very sweet note from my husband's cousin, saying how it gave him hope that night.

        • Wow that is very special Hillary, I find the thought of it incredibly moving

  12. I loved the post! And actually squealed with excitement when I saw the yurt! I got to stay in one over the summer right before my wedding and it was wonderful! I loved that your shower wasn't filled with the plastic baby crap. I have a theory that all that crap is where people get the idea that babies are super expensive 😛 And I am so going to have to copy some of your Amazon registry things Ariel, you and Dre have and awesome list 😉

  13. I love all of these ideas. It's really inspiring for future baby showers I might help coordinate, as well as for my own (eventual, someday) baby shower. I feel very awkward and out of place at traditional baby showers. Sticking your face in a diaper filled with melty candy bars with a gaggle of skwawking women sounds like a perfect Saturday afternoon for a lot of folks, and that's great. But for me? I'd probably vom on my diaper cake and cardboard stork cut-out.

  14. I love you painted belly! So cute!

  15. This is exactly the kind of baby shower that I hope to have.

  16. What a beautiful shower. I do not have the most supportive family and have been embraced by my tribe of friends in this process so we already decided to do a co-ed shower. At 12 weeks I already have two friends fighting over who gets to do the shower and I really hope they are down for aligning forces. I also have one of those feminist hubbies and just like he was uber involved with the wedding planning he is in the mix with the baby preparations (as well as being the "wedding planner" for one of our friends wanting to do my shower since she wants to duplicate our Costa Rican wedding). Thank you for sharing your shower, it is encouraging. We are also opting to avoid a household of plastic, light-up, noise-making crap for baby. In researching we are either going to register (and yes we have been talked into registering) with a web program we make ourselves, amazon, or the new american dream. Ideally I would just want a BBQ and pick-up soccer game like one of my fave wedding receptions, but I don't see me in a pick-up soccer game at 8 or 9 months. I would watch though :)

  17. Is it wrong I just sent this link to a friend and my SIL for future planning? :) I love love these ideas. Super awesome. :)

  18. I feel so happy to read this – I feel very at home with this particular post, I suppose! While I was pregnant last year with my second kiddo we did a baby shower which was a little hard for us… we already had stuff saved from KidUno, and didn't "need" the Plastic Baby Crap ™. We opted for a gift-de-emphasized (lanisoh, YES, battery operated baby toys, NO) shower, more of a get-together brunch. It was alarming and very hurtful to both my husband and I to find that most of our friends' and family's reactions ranged from "you're nuts" to "you're depriving your kid" to "we're going to do what we like, including buying Princess emblazoned crap, and you're going to smile and thank us in the end, you delusional kids". It was awful.
    I teared up a little reading this post and comments following, it felt like I got to be included in the lovefests and I THANK YOU all for sharing. So much. Really! I feel less like a delusional kid and more connected to love and loving folks than ever. So corny, but there you have it.

  19. Is it weird that I don't trust anyone enough to plan my dream gender-neutral, super fun time, no stupid game shower?! Do I need a lesson in faith and trust here? (lol)

  20. I'm curious as to how you passed the word on to request no plastic baby crap and have people gift heartfelt gifts. This is something I really want to happen, but I'm having a hard time with my in-laws. They are big shoppers and I'm not interested in starting the baby's life out this way.

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  21. Good points, Cheryl — that said, I certainly had NO expectations that anyone was hosting the shower for me. As I note in my post, I started planning it myself, and only stepped back when my friends approached me about it.

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