Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alternatives to Baby Showers

I was recently discussing the concept of baby showers with a friend. She had asked on her blog how many showers are thrown in other's parts of the country. Some places do one shower per mom, some do one per gender, others do a shower for every baby and some do a big shower for the first baby and a smaller "sprinkle" celebration for subsequent babies.

Her question had led to some interesting discussion, as it provoked me to ask several of my friends how they felt about traditional baby showers in general. In this tight economy, the biggest issue is money and what is an appropriate gift. In our area, it is common to do a big shower for each baby. When there are a lot of babies due around the same time (in our congregation for example we are expecting the arrival of seven babies this year, five of them in the months of September and October) it can be a big financial strain.

Other issues included times and dates of the showers, activities (okay....I'll say it, games. Not going to lie, I hate shower games....and it appears a lot of others do as well), length of the shower, who is there, what is being discussed, etc...

If you are like me, you believe every baby should be celebrated. This is a new life! A tiny, adorable, sweet new life that is about to make it's presence in the world. Um, of course we want to celebrate. But there are other ways to do this than the typical everyone-bring-a-big-gift women only shower. Here are a few ideas I've gotten from friends over the past few days!

Blessing Way Ceremony
Those of us in the crunchy circles know all about Blessing Way Ceremonies. But for those of you who haven't heard of them, let me do a brief explanation. It is basically a ceremony or event which takes place towards the end of pregnancy. It is designed to celebrate the mother and baby and the journey (labor and motherhood) they are about to embark on together. A Blessing Way ceremony can be done in many different ways, and can be tailored to fit a mother's religious preferences. Since I am a Christian, I love the idea of a Blessing Way Ceremony with close friends, where prayers are said asking for a safe arrival, praising God for His wonderful blessing of life, reading of scripture and enjoying positive and encouraging discussions of birth, motherhood and raising children. This could easily be adapted for any belief system. Gifts as we normally think of them (clothes, strollers, diapers) aren't typically a part of the Blessing Way. Often times a small gift is bestowed upon the mother, beads from each woman in attendance so she can have them to wear in labor, maybe encouraging letters or something meaningful mean to encourage the mother. Other activities during a Blessing Way can and should include pampering the mother, typically by brushing her hair or massaging her feet. It can also be a good time to celebrate the mother's body by doing a belly cast or painting her belly. However you decide to do a Blessing Way remember that most importantly, it is considered a time to encourage the mother and celebrate the amazing blessing she has been given.

A Casserole Shower
New mommies NEED to eat. So do their families. A great idea for gifts...everyone brings a casserole which can be frozen and cooked at a later date! You could easily provide meals for a family for several weeks doing this ritual! I know MANY mothers who would readily accept and greatly appreciate meals for after birth, and many fathers who would be thankful for this as well. Other options for this would be provide a gift certificate for a meal, present the mother with a meal list of who's bringing meals when (this would be especially helpful if she is short on freezer space), provide momma with ingredients and EASY recipes her or her hubby can whip up themselves.

A Book Shower
This could be done in several different ways. Everyone can bring a copy of their favorite children's book as a gift for the new baby. Another idea would be for everyone to bring a copy of their current favorite book for momma to read, perhaps if she is on bedrest or has a rough recovery after birth, or just needs something to read while the baby nurses.

I like the term "Sprinkles" for smaller showers. My understanding is that this typically happen for mothers on subsequent babies. These could be just a small gathering of friends taking momma out to a dinner, or an afternoon tea. Gifts can be optional, or kept small, or the ladies in attendance can go into together and give momma a gift certificate for a massage or pedicure.

Diaper Showers
This is kind of self-explanatory. Everyone brings a package of diapers. Cloth diapering mommas? Tell everyone to bring one diaper from the registry, or diaper accessories like a wet bag, snappis, cloth wipes, detergent.

Co-Ed Showers
I think these are also known as cook-outs. But this is a time to celebrate the couple and their new family together! Gifts can be optional, but it would be a good idea to have a time to share words of wisdom or funny stories with the parents-to-be.

Post-Baby Showers
I remember catching a snippet of an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. One of the ladies had just had a baby and invited her friends over for a "Sip-n-See". Supposedly it's an old southern tradition but, I spent the first ten years of my life in the South and never heard of it. Maybe it's just a wealthy people thing? ;) But the idea was simple and sweet. It was a come and go event, where people could come see the baby, congratulate the new parents, hang around for a glass of champagne or tea and leave.  There was a specific time frame set up, and should be done at the mother's discretion. It's also important to note that post-baby might be as far out as six or eight weeks, depending on time of year, how mother is feeling, what is going on in their lives. This is not an event you plan a day or two following birth!

There are lots of options for baby showers, and most importantly it should be focused on celebrating a new life. Some mothers might not want a big shower, or anything at all so find out what the mother wants and what she is comfortable with!

What alternatives to baby showers have you heard about or planned/attended? What would be an ideal shower for you?

EDIT -- I meant to add this in and it completely skipped my mind.

Don't forget showers for parents that have just adopted a child. A lot of times parents of adopted kids get left out, and are forgotten about. New parents new help regardless of whether they just gave birth or they are bringing home an adopted baby. All of the above showers would be perfect for families who are adopting! So don't forget about them!