For a while, I have had a category titled: ‘Real Stories’, but I’ve not really used it. In keeping with the ethos of my site I wanted to share other people’s stories as well. Not many have come my way but I am so privileged to be sharing this real story with you. A friend of mine is setting herself up for a vulnerability hangover once this goes live and that takes courage. She writes beautifully and truthfully. Reading her story might help you empathise with her and those who have experienced something similar. It might be uncomfortable but it will do you good. Of course, if you have experienced baby loss it may be extremely challenging so proceed with caution and be kind to yourself.
I’ve never been overly enthused by baby showers but it seems this American tradition has crept its way over the pond and become a rite of passage during pregnancy.
A get-together with girlfriends to celebrate your ever-blooming friend and her baby; usually accompanied by cake, games and lovingly prepared gifts in anticipation for the arrival of a wee bundle of joy.
What’s not to love?
After my son was born silently in January 2013, my lack of enthusiasm for baby showers became a passionate hate. I would avoid baby showers at all cost – often making up exceptionally poor excuses that my sweet, gracious friends accepted without question.
Despite never being the greatest fan of the baby shower phenomenon, the after-loss-me found it utterly mind boggling. I was unable to comprehend why we celebrate so enthusiastically when there are no guarantees of bringing a baby home or why we’d buy gifts in anticipation for the baby’s homecoming; perhaps those gifts would require assembly (from experience that tends to be shortly after the shower) and all of those gifts are placed lovingly in the nursery awaiting their first use but making the nursery look especially cute in the meantime.
But what if that baby never comes home?
What if those items need to be returned/stored/sold?
What if those parents had to leave the hospital with empty, aching arms and broken hearts?
What if that room will never be used by the precious baby it was intended for?
Goodness, seeing that written makes me seem bitter, jealous and angry – and I am. I’m jealous of the innocence that mum-to-be emulates, I’m angry that I will never again know that fullness of joy as a baby grows inside me because there will always be The Fear and I’m bitter; I’m bitter that my baby, my precious son couldn’t stay.
By avoiding baby showers, I preserve myself from another onslaught of tears that won’t cease and I pacify the pain in my chest as my splintered heart beats faster.
Recently, a very dear friend of mine had the good grace to tell me of her pregnancy before posting her scan photo on Facebook – I’m grateful to her for that; for some reason, even this far down the line, scan photos take my breath away and make my insides tense – and announced she’s going to have a baby in 6 months’ time.
As I sit and look at her scan picture I whisper that I hope her baby lives. I pray to God that she never experiences the pain of saying goodbye before she’s truly had a chance to say hello to her precious baby, despite my somewhat fractured relationship with the Lord.
Yet I’m paradoxically already thinking up a lame-ass excuse to decline the invitation of the inevitable baby shower that will celebrate her and her baby.
When it came, the invite included the now statutory disclaimer that she understood fully if I chose to decline… I’m pretty sure she knew I wouldn’t be attending.
I want fervently to support my friend as she grows her baby and I want my innocence back so I can fully embrace the celebration of my friend and her baby. I’ve forgotten the excuse I formed some months ago – I ignore the invite.
On my post loss journey, there have been numerous times when close friends have thrown baby showers.
On one occasion, I drove down her road as the shower was starting before losing it, bursting into tears and keeping my foot firmly on the accelerator, driving past and returning home feeling guilty and relived in equal measure.
Another time I got as far as my friend’s front door before catching my breath and running back to the safe-haven of my car.
Three days before my friend’s baby shower, my dearest friend phoned me and asked if I wanted to go with her to the shower; she understood how I find such occasions so difficult, she knew I wanted to support our mutual friend. She also set 4 rules:
Rule 1: We would sit in her car as long as we needed to before entering.
Rule 2: We would leave whenever I needed to, I just needed to give her “the look”
Rule 3: She would field any awkward questions
Rule 4: She would bring the Sauvignon Blanc.
I am so incredibly grateful for this friend of mine; for taking the time to support both of her friends and for understanding that 4 years on, such occasions are still so challenging.
The day of the shower arrived and having settled in a corner with cake, on my second glass of Sauvignon Blanc and having reassured my sweet friend that I was ok by myself for a bit I took a moment to look around the room, to really watch.
What I witnessed was an epiphany.
Baby showers aren’t about crazy superstitions or peaking too soon.
They are not about innocence or expectation.
Baby showers are about love.
They are a room full of people who love that ever-growing baby – before (s)he takes his/her first earthly breath. All the people in this room already love this sweet baby and are here to celebrate his/her life…before birth. That baby is living inside their mummy. Baby’s heart is beating, baby is moving and full of life.
This baby shower is acknowledging that wee human growing inside that beautiful mama and how we love them both, wholeheartedly.
It’s about saying: We love you. We can’t wait to meet you. You’re important, you’re valuable and oh sweet baby how you matter. We love you!
Somehow, in my quiet corner of the room with tears threatening to fall and against my better judgement I see the value of a baby shower that I’d never considered before; my friend isn’t going to be a mummy in two months’ time, she already is a mummy; she was from the moment those two lines appeared on her pregnancy test.
My darling friend is already a mummy and her sweet baby is so loved. The people gathered in this room will be the ones to see her through the next months and years after baby arrives, whatever the outcome.
It’s all about love. Isn’t that beautiful? I think so.
The following week another friend invited me to a baby shower (with the statutory disclaimer) I found another lame-ass excuse not to attend because despite my epiphany, I’m still grieving and whilst I see the value in celebrating a life – however brief or lengthy their stay – I’m still human.
Nikki is a 30-something mum from the South Coast of England. In 2013, she found solace in writing after the stillbirth of her and her husband’s first child; a son, named Baby David. In 2014 she gave birth to their rainbow baby, a daughter who shined light into her and her husband’s lives when they were in the darkest of places. She writes with passion about grief, love, loss and parenting alongside other adventures and every day predicaments she finds herself in. Nikki will be writing at www.nikkiallingham.co.uk, which will be live very soon.