I went to a baby shower earlier today. The mom-to-be is a former co-worker from the oral surgery practice.
She is part of a couple who never really planned to have children. There were always reasons not to, until the time when they realized that, perhaps they wanted a child…perhaps. They chose to utilize the ‘if it happens it happens stance’ and as those sorts of plans tend to occur, they found themselves on the road to parenthood.
It’s been quite a while since I attended a baby shower, the last one probably being my own daughters when she was pregnant with Miss G over three years ago. They are silly, and sentimental, and sometimes long and boring.
They always include stories, and advice.
I tend not to talk much at baby showers. My pregnancies were so long ago, and my three birth experiences were very different. I also see no point in making someone else’s baby shower about me at this point. I do however, offer my knowledge about childbirth to couples still, but privately, and only if they choose to meet with me where they are open to ask questions or seek opinions. I don’t relate much about my labors even then because my focus needs to be on them and there concerns. I find that those who share during baby showers, who must comment extensively on their own experiences, are often those women who have never worked through their own experiences. They are often women who still struggle with a difficult pregnancy memory, or a birth that strayed from what they expected or wanted. They may very well need to tell their stories in communal settings, such as a baby shower provides, in the hope that someone will finally, truly hear their voices, and maybe even their pain.
From a historical perspective (I imagine) and a social perspective, I lean toward the belief that women getting together to celebrate the birth of a child holds a great deal of significance. In bygone days, before books on childbirth, or prenatal classes, or the internet, women taught other women about pregnancy and labor and birth. I have often wondered if the modern baby shower evolved from those moments when the towns women gathered to encourage and support a young, inexperienced women in late pregnancy or during labor.
These were women who birthed at home with the assistance of a midwife and/or other female support. These were women who had no idea, nor really cared, what a textbook claimed as normal labor. These were women who knew nothing of the future of childbearing and childbirth, in hospitals with male physicians and managed care in impersonal, sterile rooms…alone and often unaware of the natural process happening to their bodies.
The evolution of the modern baby shower certainly serves a primary function, which is to provide assistance to a mother by fulfilling a social need that dictates the giving of items necessary to care for a child after birth.
Baby showers also often fulfill a secondary function, and that is, simply by their nature, they open wide the floodgates for some who have experienced a less than satisfying birth experience. It’s difficult at these moments, to be silent. What I want to do is pull these women to another room and let them speak. I want to allow them to have full voice, and perhaps feel that they have gained back some control of that specific time in their life. I want to tell them that they are being heard, that they should have been heard during the days and hours and moments when their voices were silenced, or told that they didn’t matter. I want them to know that they can move beyond what may still be painful.
I want them to realize their potential in the support of other women during childbirth, just as it used to be when a ‘baby shower’ was simply a group of women empowering another woman to bring a child into the world.