February 23, 2023

Baby Showers Sans Gifts

 We’ve had several people say to us, “No gifts? What’s the point of a baby shower without gifts?” Because we wanted to get as many items second hand as possible we’ve asked our family and friends not to get us anything. Other than our cloth diapers and crib (which my brother insisted on gifting), we’ve been able to find most everything else used (some friends actually gathered a ton of free used items from Craigslist and FB in the Bay, and brought them to us in NM which was the kindest gesture in the world). It’s less a desire to conserve expense and more a desire to reduce consumption. But we know people like to give things, and it can be a bummer for them not to. Which is why we tried, unsuccessfully, not to have any showers--yet I ended up having five of various sizes and sorts. But I’m really happy to have had them, because I found how much more there is to be given at these gatherings than material items.

The first was a small get together with two of my friends living in Oakland, who met each other through me and have sons the same age. They gifted me hand-me-down clothes and consumables like tea and perineal balm, which was love enough for me, but the joy of the event was seeing their kids bumble around together. I love that my friends connected with one another, and it was so heartwarming to see the connection continuing through another generation.

Then my family surprised us with a family baby shower, kids abounding. I’ve loved seeing our nieces and nephews grow over the years, and seeing them anticipate the arrival of our own child made the process more real for me. The kids decorated a million onesies for their new cousin, and it made this sense of a new generation very visceral for me. I’m also happy to have reminders of our family connected in a material form to the baby, since they won’t be close by when he arrives.

Our Santa Fe friends organized an in person shower, and it was really touching to see our new community of friends come together. Leaving a community of friends we’d created over almost a decade in San Francisco, we weren’t sure how we’d form connections in Santa Fe. We’re so grateful to have organically found really wonderful people, uniquely bonded by how we deliberately moved to this unusual place. They stayed true to our desire not to have gifts, instead focused on what we always do together: eat, play games, converse and connect.

A small group of my college girlfriends did a zoom shower, where we spent time catching up with each other’s lives. Then they did an exercise where they posed a question to the group and had everyone answer. This was unexpectedly so meaningful for me. When asked what their hopes for the baby were, people mentioned hoping the baby would always feel loved and accepted through all the pressures and expectations placed on us through life. When asked what they hoped the baby would get from mama, they mentioned qualities that I perceive as my primary goals in life - thoughtfulness, openness, and sense of adventure. When asked what they hoped the baby would get from dad, they mentioned G’s love for me, his capacity to walk with me through anything, his ability to venture into uncertain spaces, and of course his handiness.  Then they talked about what they wished they’d known about pregnancy, labor, motherhood. They told me to always advocate for myself, prepare for peeing while laughing, and to ask for help - and told me each in turn that they were there for me any time. One of the things I love about friendship is having parallel experiences, and this felt like the epitome of why. I’m so grateful for how friendship enables you to be seen with love, and held with warmth, through difficult, joyful times.

The last was another virtual shower with my medical school friends, many of whom are already parents. In some ways, the phase of medical school felt like a kind of childhood and coming of age for me, so it’s still striking every time we catch up now to see how we’ve grown. It’s still surreal to me to see their babies and kids flitting in and out of the zoom screen. They gifted us a newborn photo shoot, which feels emblematic of how all these times and people are framed and treasured in my life. 

Sometimes it can seem like a dark world we’re bringing children into these days, but when it comes to our lives, I can’t be more grateful for how much community surrounds us. Connection is what I seek most in life, and I can’t wait for our child to develop those neurons and sensors and feelers that will grasp all the loving hands extended toward him.

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