I went to a baby shower this week with Clara and our Mama, held for the impending birth of our cousin Jenna’s first child next month. It was lovely to go, and Clara voiced that her favorite moment was when someone in the circle of women present commented to Jenna, “Yesterday you had nothing, and now you have everything you need” and the relief that shone through Jenna’s face was beautiful and satisfying. There are not many rituals left in our culture where a group comes together to launch someone into a new phase of life like this. Babies really do require lots of Stuff that is unique to their care, and it is wonderful to have everyone gift what they can and then the new mom is suddenly materially prepared.
But can this ritual be more than the stuff? Yes, definitely. In the car on the way home we discussed the types of interactions that were expected and elicited at the shower and the kind of social space that was made. Of the four hours of the shower fully three were opening presents rather quietly and passing them around the circle. Most of the items were brand new and some were kind of silly (Mom especially balked at the three foot foam pad for resting the baby on while nursing. It straps around the mom’s back and looks like a platter. Wouldn’t a pillow do fine to rest the baby on?). We played some cute baby games, well organized by the grandmothers-to-be, but very little social time or story-telling time was on the “schedule.” I am not interested in parsing apart Jenna’s shower, it was lovely to see her, I’m glad that it happened and the shaping of that experience is firmly in the hands of mom and grandmas. But I am in using the experience to think about what I would want a ritual around birth and motherhood to look like at our community if I were to be the one baking a bun in the oven.
So I switched into positive and personal terms, what would I like to have happen? And I decided that what I want to make is a Mother shower pre-birth, and then a Baby-shower something like three weeks after baby is born. At the Mother shower I would want a celebration of being a mother. I want the circle of women to go around and talk. Are you a mother, lets make a space for telling birthing stories and stories about being a mother. This can also be the food part, eating and storytelling. Perhaps there should also be some back and foot massage going on here. Get in touch with each other and make it comfortable to tell stories. In this moment everything changes in a woman’s life! Discuss. I would also want some talk about me, the mother, what I was like as a child, tease me about my birth, my youth, tell stories of my growth. Maybe baby pictures or videos of me growing up. This is a way to remember, babies really do grow into parents! I would definitely want the material aspect too, prepare me to take care of this child please! Bring gifts of things you used with your babies, many already loved items and some choice, multifunctional new things. And tell everyone about them, what they mean to you, or what worked and didn’t work in your experience of raising an infant. Have fun and get to know the community of women. Yes, I like it being a circle of women.
At the Baby shower however, everyone woman man child is invited! See the baby, make art around the baby and for the baby. take footprints and handprints of baby, make a guest book and have everyone write things to baby. Baby can read it, see it, when ze grows up. Introduce baby to the community. Eat, drink, party! Maybe songs? Yes. Sing together.
It is so exciting to plan out awesome celebrations like this. Yes of course I want to celebrate moments like this that launch us into new phases. And we’ll have to make them up, because they are really lacking in our traditions! We GET to make them up! I’m sure there are lots of other moments that will need celebrating like this.