This week, the gossip rags are lauding us with details of the magical, whimsical baby shower Christina Aguilera and her fiancé have just thrown, vagina cake and all.
Again? Hasn’t she already had a kid? Hasn’t she already had baby showers? My guess is that even if she isn't recycling, that baby’s nursery is already completely stocked with ironically-sloganed organic cotton onesies, receiving blankets woven from the hair of mermaids, and gold-plated soothers.
Why on earth does Christina Aguilera – or anybody, for that matter – need to have a baby shower after the first kid?
I was given two baby showers when I was pregnant with my first daughter. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law hosted a lovely afternoon for my husband’s side of the family, and my work friends threw me a book-themed shower in Toronto. Jews don’t throw each other baby showers, so I didn’t have one for my side of the family, and that was fine. Two showers were great; we came away well-stocked on items both big and small; practical and twee. We were well prepared for our daughter’s arrival, at least in material terms.
Less than two years later, I was pregnant again. And although I hadn’t known the gender of my first child until she was born, this time I knew I was expecting another girl. Clothes that my first daughter had outgrown had been saved and were now transferred back into drawers, awaiting the new baby. Blankets were laundered, books re-shelved, seats, swings and mats that I had received the first time around were dusted off and made ready for use again.
Besides a stroller for two, there was really nothing additional that I needed to accommodate this new baby. So when a friend suggested she host another baby shower for me, I balked.
How greedy did she think I was? How greedy had we all become? I had already been shown the tremendous generosity of friends and loved ones, and thanks to that earlier generosity, my baby stores were still quite nicely supplied. Why on earth would I ask people for more? What could I possibly still need?
In the end, my friends and a I enjoyed a very modest “going away” lunch before my mat-leave, at which several people did in fact bring me a gift for the new baby. It was very nice and very appreciated, but in no way was it requested or expected.
People magazine devotes reams of paper to celebrity baby showers, whether the star’s first, or fifth, child. The excess, the greed, the spectacle, is mind-boggling. And it sells magazines.
But even closer to earth, a shower for every child seems to have become the norm.
Is it because so many of these new kids seem to also come with new dads, and with showers no longer relegated to the realm of women, these newly-created families reset the counter and feel entitled to a fresh start, with fresh gifts and fresh onesies that some other guy’s hands haven’t held?
Or is it that I’m just completely cynical, and baby showers are meant simply to be an expression of love for an unborn child; an opportunity for friends and loved ones to gather and support the growing family?
Have you ever been invited to a baby shower and asked not to bring a gift? Because I’m invited to baby showers where cards directing me straight to registries are included in the invitation. The only time I have ever been invited to a baby shower and asked not to bring a gift was when the parents simply requested money. Classy.
And if you are invited to a baby shower for a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) child, what do you do about the other kid(s)? Here kid, take this to the table full of stuff for your unborn sibling, who will continue to upstage you until he learns how to whine and you learn how to get your own snacks – oh, and by the way, I got nothing for you. Move along, try not to cry in the crab dip.
So what I mean is, an invitation to a shower for a subsequent child practically demands a gift for all those older, less special kids you already bought gifts for at their showers.
Sometimes, it's a simple case of a new group of friends throwing a mother a shower for a second kid because they weren't around for the first kid. I get that, and that's fine, because chances are, nobody at the second shower will have been to the first. So maybe the point is not, one shower per mother, but, one shower per guest. Pretty please.
Because it’s all too much.
And it’s all become completely accepted, and, it seems, acceptable. We expect when we are expecting, whether it’s our first and we’re too dumb and excited to realize that our babies don’t need Uggs, they need bibs, or it’s our third and we’re just tired of seeing the same sleepers cycle through the wash, day after day.
Somehow, having a baby makes us think we are deserving of stuff; that our procreation should be constantly funded by our friends, that the words, We’re pregnant! is somehow synonymous with, Bring gifts! And though I do get great joy from hearing the former, I’m getting quite fatigued with the latter. So I’ve embraced two more words that do also accompany the seemingly endless cycle of baby showers we feel no shame in endlessly throwing: