Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Why We Won't be Having a Baby Shower
First, let me preface this by saying this is not a post about knocking all those who have had or plan to have a baby shower. For many, a baby shower heralds a time to celebrate the upcoming birth and new life of their baby. It presents an opportunity for new or existing parents to be showered with the generosity and kindness of family and friends.
Over the years I have been invited to quite a few baby showers and from what I have witnessed, there appears to be one key feature of each that stood out as something that just doesn't gel with me personally: Unnecessary excess.
From plastic decorations and wall banners, tables filled with plates of artificially coloured sweets overloaded with refined sugar (generally an abundance of these at baby showers where the sex of the baby has already been announced), to pointless gifts that serve no purpose for an infant or their parent(s). Think processed and painted timber cut-outs of words such as 'destiny' to mount on the wall.
Somewhere along the way some of the fathers lost their invitations and the mamas-to-be were expected to organise a lift home for the father from the local pub. Thankfully, this was not always the case for every shower I have attended.
For us, the celebration of new life is just that and no amount of tacky, over-priced, environmentally unfriendly stuff should be celebrated in it's place.
For some, the thought of purchasing an item for a baby shower can be quite challenging. Especially when one does not have children of their own. What to purchase that will be considered generous and useful? How much to spend is enough? Is it likely that Mary and Joe might already have this item, but a shinier, more expensive version?
In the past I have gifted digital thermometers (as requested), nipple ointment and other natural products that have as minimal a detrimental effect on the environment as possible. I have ummed and ahhed and compared prices, shopped around for weeks and tried to present something that will be useful. Ideally, I try to purchase a gift that continues to give- Beyond the first six months because let's face it, babies grow up.
The stress and sadness I have felt when, as a motherless woman I have given something that I thought may be useful only for it to be cast aside in place of a 'birthing cake' (yes, this happened on one occasion where my gift was tossed aside in favour of a baby doll's head emerging from a chocolate cake covered in a cream-frosted vagina, complete with pubic hair sprinkles) or I have been ridiculed during a baby shower game because I didn't know how long the average length of a newborn baby was...
When did baby showers become so materialistic? I have never been to a baby shower where something was repurposed, up cycled or gifted as a preloved secondhand item.
I once suggested to the cousin of a mama-to-be that I was thinking of recycling a neglected wooden rocking horse. I found it at a garage sale and planned to sand, paint and repair the wonky little treasure. In all honesty, I wasn't expecting, nor was I prepared for the sound said cousin made. It was a combination of scoffing laughter laced with disapproval that I would dare to consider making a gift.
When I asked for assistance to be guided in the right direction, the cousin simply shrugged and said she hadn't even decided on a gift yet, but I could always purchase a $200 breast pump. We then discussed decorations and food, which entailed me being told which caterers to collect the food from (wait, we aren't preparing it ourselves?!) and what time to arrive to assist the other girls to hang the ribbons, balloons and other plastic-fantastic items (that inevitably ended up in the trash, not the recycling).
When mama-to-be was opening her gifts, her cousin had gifted her with a $300 rocking horse from a department store in the city (which cousin boasted about being a steal at 25% off the retail price).
I stayed to help wash up, then left feeling rather deflated. The whole experience was exhausting and rather disappointing. Instead of feeling thrilled for mama-to-be, my breast-pump sat on a table with two others (and a pair of baby high heels...seriously!) and I barely had time to talk to her to wish her my sincerest congratulations. I was happy for her and her partner and that's what the whole afternoon should have been about- Celebrating something so precious with friends who I had witnessed grow together on their journey to becoming a family.
Thankfully I was able to share my time after her baby was born. I held her baby girl whilst mum showered and had a nap and I left a moussaka in the fridge with some homemade iced tea.
So that particular shower left me feeling a little off put. The next was better, although very similar in terms of theme and the overall overspending and general waste. I was surprised at the number of disposable nappies and chemical-laden products labelled as 'natural', 'bio' and 'baby safe' with images of happy babies on the packaging. The sheer number of clothing items made from polyester, nylon and other non-organic materials that have possibly been sewn together by tiny blistered fingers in third-world factories and scented detergents, fragrant baby shampoo and perfumed alcoholic baby wipes astounded me.
The last baby shower I attended I brought with me a gluten free cake, warm from my oven. I gifted cold-pressed coconut oil, clary sage essential oil, cloth nappies and cotton baby clothes from the local opportunity shop, which I had pre-washed.
Now to explain our decision: We simply do not need all the unnecessary excess. We've been in the process of decluttering our lives for the past couple of years. This has been a challenging but liberating process as we learn the value of less-is-more, minimalism, and giving. We share, we donate and we recycle what we can. We don't make purchases on a whim, nor do we wish to willingly part with our savings for fad-purchases, which let's face it, are very easy to make when you're expecting your first child.
We don't claim to have it all figured out, for us that is an ongoing process. We don't need no-tears, pH-balanced baby products. We will use the natural products that we use on our own skin for our baby. We don't need an off-road, all-terrain buggy pram in addition to the secondhand one I purchased off gumtree. We do not, I repeat, do not want battery operated toys that take the imagination out of childhood.
We don't want friends and family to feel pressured to purchase us gifts to attend a gathering to celebrate our little family of two, growing to three this winter.
We don't need and don't want to accumulate any more things. We've been carefully selecting items for a little while. The majority of baby clothes have been gifted as hand-me-downs. Our beautiful neighbours donated their timber cot (itself, a secondhand gift to them for their now two year old), cotton sheets, outgrown clothing, and a high chair. The condition of these items is impeccable, some as-new and others barely worn or used.
My mother gifted us with a secondhand baby carrier, infant car seat and some silicone bottles. As for the rest, well if we need it, we'll source it. Ethically and responsibly.
There is no need for plastic banners announcing the impending arrival of Pecan. We don't serve junk food and carbonated sugary drinks to our friends and family at other gatherings.
We simply want to be surrounded by love and support. Generosity for us comes in the form of time given, rather than items purchased.
People are more important than things. Respect for our environment and our future are just as important as the next generation and for this reason, we won't be having a baby shower.
Have you ever been to a baby shower where gifts were handmade, refurbished or donated pre-loved items? I'd love to hear what those items were...