There are several schools of thought regarding any kind of celebration for a new mother (whether she has other children or not) and her baby. Most of these schools are exclusive of one another. Arguments happen frequently. Traditional vs Non-Traditional seems to cause the most upset.
If I can't ask on a message board,
how should I know what to do?
I'll walk you through a few of your options.
First, let's cover some baby celebration terminology.
Baby Shower: This is the most traditional form of baby celebration involving gifts. Traditionally, this is held fairly late in pregnancy and in many cases is even held after the baby is born and includes a guest list of only women. The purpose of the Shower is to shower the mother-to-be with gifts that will help her care for her child. This is a time when elders share their wisdom from their parenting experiences whether the new mother likes it or not. This is a time when it is expected that guests may want to rub a pregnant woman's belly or discuss otherwise taboo subjects (circumcision, after birth pains). This type of celebration is typically reserved for a first time mother or when children are at least 10 years apart in age. More recently, Showers have started to crop up during the expectant mother's second trimester or earlier. A variety of silly games are common place at these events.
The Sprinkle: Thought of as a miniature shower, the sprinkle is an opportunity for a mother who has already had a shower for a previous pregnancy to supplement her stash of supplies (most notably diapers and anything that covers the gap if her last child and next child will not be of the same gender or born in the same season). This celebration is ideal for those who have children close together and who know that they will be having (or trying to have) more children in the near future. These mothers are more likely to already have the big tickets items such as a crib, playpen (Pack N Play), stroller, infant car seat, etc. There are a few traditionalists who believe that a mother who has already had a Baby Shower should not be having any other celebrations regardless of how many children they have or which gender the future babies are. Often, they label these events as "Gift Grabby".
Open House: A more modern take on a baby celebration, these events include less of an emphasis on gifts and more of an emphasis on gathering together those who wish to celebrate the new child with the family. The guest list for an Open House is much larger and more inclusive than the guest list of a traditional event. Co-workers, friends, family; everyone is welcome. Expectant fathers and the baby's siblings often attend. The event is not expected to be for women alone. Gifts and registries can be a part of the event, but they are not required. Generally, a small spread of snacks and desserts is prepared for guests.
Host: The host is whoever has offered to throw the party or event. It is considered by most to be extremely tacky for an expectant mother to host her own event. This is considered "Gift Grabby" and inconsiderate. Many expectant mothers fear that no one will offer to throw them a Baby Shower (or other event) if they have not received an offer early in their pregnancy. It is often recommended that they wait to see if such an offer presents itself.
Gift Grabby: Many newer events and ideas for Baby Showers (etc) are considered "Gift Grabby" - or a rude attempt by the mother (and/or father) to convince others to finance their child through gifts. Some concepts (Asking guests to bring a book for the baby instead of a card with their gift; Including detailed registry information with invitations; Diaper parties for fathers, etc) are considered more audacious than others (The Sprinkle, for example).
With these basics covered, we can delve a bit deeper into the expected etiquette of a modern baby celebration. Many objections in the name of etiquette are regional. In some communities it is considered clever for a Host or Hostess to ask guests to fill out their name and address on an envelope for the Mother-to-Be to make Thank You notes easier. In other communities, this is considered extremely rude. Some families hold separate showers for each side of the family; some families combine showers. Where one group may find it Gift Grabby and an attempt to score extra gifts when they receive an invitation suggesting they bring a baby book in place of a greeting card with their gift; others see it as a very smart way to help a family start their baby's home library for approximately what would have been spent on a card anyway.
Here's the cold, hard truth:
You cannot please everyone. All you can do is try to be polite and considerate. In the end, each person will decide for themselves whether or not to attend an event, bring a gift, or participate in a game. Try not to let yourself get bent out of shape about it.
It's easier said than done. Personally, I have pondered whether or not to have a Baby Shower this time around. I guess I'm more traditional than I thought. No, I don't own baby furniture or bottles or any of that stuff anymore... But isn't that my own doing? I chose to pass those items down the hand-me-down path followed by so many baby supplies. I did not believe I would have another child. I'm overjoyed with my opportunity to have a son and I'm more than willing to take on the costs involved. I have been offered events hosted by several friends and family members and have opted to attend an Open House hosted by my Mother (with the help of some cousins who have volunteered). I did not want to do any kind of celebrating during the first two trimesters of my pregnancy out of fear more than traditional mindset. What if something happened? After all my miscarriages, what if I miscarried again? What would I say to all those people who showed up and brought gifts? The fear was too great.
My own Open House will not be traditional, but I intend to be polite and grateful. My Open House will be attended by my husband and our daughters. The high risk nature of my pregnancy means that I will not likely be mobile come February. Because of this, the Open House will be held in our home. All of our interested friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors will be invited to attend. Children will be welcome. I've been told that more than one of my male friends plan to attend. I can feel good about this celebration. Abe and I have created a registry (more as a shopping list for ourselves than a list of things we expect others to buy) and we have tried not to shop from it so much that there's nothing left for anyone else. We're putting off certain purchases and reveling in the amazing Christmas gifts and hand-me-downs that we've already received. Though I did create a Facebook event for the Open House, I also asked anyone who would like a traditional invitation by mail to send me their address. I had few replies and found that I received more messages from friends saying that they'd rather keep track of the event through Facebook. We do not intend to do a diaper raffle, though our feelings on this have less to do with what's traditional and more to do with our desire to use cloth diapers. We're agreeing to everything we can agree to without making ourselves feel out of place or awkward. I'm just so grateful that people are actually interested in coming to celebrate my son with me!
What to get the Mom-to-Be that has Everything
Pregnancy and those first days with a new baby at home can be rough. You want to find a helpful gift, but it isn't always easy. When the family has been particularly on top of their baby preparations, it can seem impossible to find something fun to share with them. If your friend's registry is bone dry with only a few line items for disposable breast pads, burp cloths, a nasal aspirator, and infant socks, it may be time to look beyond the registry. If you're the sort that has no qualms with providing the tiny left-over items from the registry, then by all means: DO IT! But if you're like the majority of gifters, you would rather bring a gift that is creative, thoughtful, and appreciated. You wouldn't want everyone to think that you waited until you were on your way to the shower to pick up her gift (even if that's exactly what you did). Here is my list of my favorite items to find on or off of a Baby Registry:
1. The Meal Assistance Gift Bag: This one is easy to pick up even at the last minute. Gather a package of disposable plates, forks, knives, spoons, and cups. Add ons could be a roll of paper towel, a roll of plastic food wrap, or a package of Gladware or Ziploc containers. Put it all together in a cute gift bag and BOOM. You're done. Want to add even more? Include a gift card to a restaurant you know she'll like. Make sure it's a place that offers delivery! She's not going to feel like doing dishes or making dinner any time soon. While people may be planning to bring her meals after she delivers her baby, those people are not likely to stick around to do the dishes for her.
2. The Registry Gift Card: Pick up a gift card for wherever she had her registry. There's a decent chance that she'll be taking a few things to exchange or return in the next few months. Put the gift in a thoughtful card with a handwritten note telling her that you wanted her to be able to get anything she may have forgotten to register for.
3. Something handmade: This is not as simple, fast, or universal as the previous suggestions, but it is one of my favorites. I can sew just enough to avoid hiring someone to make my kids' Halloween costumes. When it comes down to it, I can fake a lot of my sewing with a hot glue gun and a visit to the craft shop. I cannot, however, sew anything so elaborate as a crib sheet, quilt, car seat canopy, or nursing cover. I cannot knit or crochet. This is why I love handmade gifts. I'm on Pinterest. I like cutesy stuff. I just can't trust myself to successfully recreate the things in those pictures. My friend Laura, however, can knit. For Christmas, she knitted an adorable blue baby hat with matching booties - and an infant sized Jayne Cobb hat. Considering that our friendship originally budded at a charity screening of "Serenity", this gift held even greater sentimental value. She included a note that only a "Firefly" and "Serenity" fan could possibly understand and I spent the hour after opening the package rewatching "Firefly" and trying to hold back tears. When it's handmade, you know it's made with love.
4. The Stork Stack: If you have time to order something online, you've simply got to check this out. The Stork Stack is a one time surprise box full of awesome Baby Shower gift items valued at $75 - but you only pay $40! You can add on a subscription for other boxes to arrive monthly for as long as you'd like.
5. Llama, Llama, Love that Mama!
Pair the toy and book with THESE perfect little red pajamas and you're all done!
I've even made it easy for you. You can click on either/both of the above images to be taken directly to the site to order them. I recommend getting the large size in the pajamas. This ensures they'll still fit when Baby is old enough to pay a little attention to the book.
6. If she truly has everything... You can always book a pedicure for both of you at a local day spa and tell her you can change the appointment date and time if the ones you chose don't work for her. Pregnant feet are sore, swollen beasts. They need all the care they can get!
What say you, pregnant women of the internet? What would YOU most like to receive?