Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). 

Despite winning, baby showers were my least favorite kind of parties. There’s no dancing. The focus is all on babies. Babies are not my thing, not after spending my teen years taking care of multiple baby siblings. Traditional showers also reinforce traditional gender roles and stereotypes. While it’s nice for women to bond over pregnancy horror stories and share advice on newborns and nursing, you know who really needs an education on everything from perineal tearing to colic?

Men.

Something like 50% of all men don’t know where the vagina is. Kinda sad for women. Occasionally these numpties will double down on their mistake–even when when a gynecologist tells them off. Most men are pretty self-centered bastards; if it doesn’t impact them, they don’t bother learning about it. We women often enable this behavior, becoming uber competent, shoving “useless” men aside, and rolling our eyes over male befuddlement on everything from bottle warmers to umbilical cords. 

So-called progressive men become Beto O’Rourkes, merely “sometimes” helping with childrearing. They get kudos for babysitting their own children.

Not in my house. My husband was the driving force behind our decision to have a baby. Yet I was the one who had already suffered through 8 months of misery, with (spoiler alert!) the worst part still to come. No way was everything else gonna be on me, too.

Yeah, I made those.

Starting with our baby shower. We planned a coed afternoon tea party and invited seventy of our friends, neighbors, and relatives. Andy was in charge of the little tea sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber, and curried egg salad). I baked for days, creating petits fours in multiple flavors, plus iced cookies and scones. 

Our house is small, but our patio and yard are large (for Los Angeles). We planned an outdoor event during what is usually a not very wet month. About a week in advance, I checked the weather. 

I discovered that of course Los Angeles was going to do its best impression of Seattle for an entire week. The heaviest rainfall was expected on the day of Baby D’s shower. Because that’s the kind of relationship I have with precipitation

I checked the weather every hour for 48 hours. The raindrops in on the weather icon grew more numerous.

We would never fit seventy people in our house. I called around and got the last marquee tent in Los Angeles for our patio. Andy was so relieved he didn’t even complain about the cost. 

Since this atmospheric river was swooping down from the north, it was unseasonably cold. We begged, borrowed, and bought multiple space heaters.

Once the tent was up, our rescue dogs thought their new patio cover was the bomb. They ran in and out, wrestling. An hour before the shower, they wiped out one of the supporting legs. The tent listed. The decorative swags we’d hung were in jeopardy. I held up the tent while Andy corralled the dogs. Rain dripped into my hair.

Fey and Woofie were banished to the garage to contemplate their sins (i.e., howl in protest until they got bully sticks). 

Boyfriend Stealing Baby Sister and her California Boyfriend arrived just in time to help Andy repair the tent. Then they were drafted to make sandwiches while I dried my hair (again). They were were still cutting off crusts when our first guests arrived.

Mike and Enid were original homeowners in our neighborhood. He was a big man who’d lived through combat in World War II, yet was scared of coming to a baby shower for the first time. “I don’t know about this,” he boomed as his tiny wife pushed him into our house. “Enid said everyone’s invited, that it’s the modern thing, but men at a baby shower? Maybe I should go to the VFW instead.”

Tea party

I steered Mike over to a chair on the patio with a plate of goodies. Another elderly neighbor joined him. They admired the food and the cozy tent before reminiscing about all the babies born on the block in the fifties.

My Japanese volleyball comrades arrived next. They also exclaimed over the tent and the decorations. Next came Andy’s cousins. The cousins brought their husbands and wine. Multiple bottles, in fact.

As I waddled around delivering wineglasses, I overheard cousin-in-law Bubba telling Andy about filming his daughter’s delivery via C-section: “They put up this sheet, so my wife couldn’t see what was going on, but I’m standing, so I film over it. But man, they’re not just cutting her open, they are literally pulling out organs. And next thing you know, I’m starting to sway and they get a chair and I sit. So whatever you do, if there’s a C-section, man, do not look.”

Other husbands nodded in agreement. One mentioned how he freaked out when his baby was born yellow. He got some wicked side-eye from a few of the Asian Dads until he clarified that he meant jaundice and showed them a picture of his newborn wearing goggles under a lamp. 

Showers are usually a socially acceptable way to collect baby loot, but not for us. Andy and I had gotten a ton of baby hand-me-downs from my older siblings. We had two infant car seats already, a slightly gnawed regular crib, a portable crib, and a ton of gender neutral clothes ranging from newborn to age two (thanks to Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister, who refused to allow dresses or the color pink near her two daughters). Our tiny house couldn’t house much more baby paraphernalia. There was no registry on our invitation.

Despite this, my friend JK brought Baby D his own soft blanket. Andy’s aunt and uncle staggered in under the weight of an enormous jogging stroller (which had to go into the garage immediately). A few other guests brought cute outfits or toys, but many just showed up to eat and swap stories. Just like a regular party.

And no, we didn’t play any games, though we sent our guests home with mugs bearing a snowflake and the warning message: “Baby D, Arriving This Winter.”

On their way out, we encouraged folks to fill their snowflake mug with baked goods and candy. Most of them didn’t need much urging.

Our neighbor Mike was the last to leave. “Enid!” he boomed, waving a mug full of cookies. “I got a party favor, see?! How about that? I can’t believe you and the girls have been holding out on me all this time, having baby showers like a secret club. Those sandwiches were good. And cakes! The VFW is small potatoes compared to this.”

I gave Mike an extra mug with some petits fours and said, “See, Mike?Showers aren’t all bad.”

And that C-section advice from Bubba? Yeah, that came in real handy. But that’s another post.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

35 thoughts on “Showers (#250)”

  1. Baby showers are even worst than wedding showers. It’s not fun for non-baby people. Back in the day the games were stupid and involved baby names or something like that. If I was lucky, I got sick right before. If I wasn’t lucky, I got sick afterward. Can’t wait for the c-section post. I’m definitely not looking! I almost passed out when my doc showed me how he intended to do my bunion surgery. (Spoiler alert — it was an easy surgery) Just don’t like body parts chopped up.

  2. You sure know how to throw a party. The food sounds great. I’m sorry about the Seattle rain. We apologize.

    I kind of liked baby showers–maybe because I didn’t go to that many of them and they never last all that long. I think I lived somewhere else when most of my friends had babies.

    My nephew teaches a class called “Intentional Fathering.” He’s been teaching it in the evening for 2 or 3 years and is very enthusiast about it. He’s also an enthusiastic father of his two little kids. I wonder if he’s ever been to a shower. I wouldn’t be surprised.

    1. I think there are more coed showers these days.

      Your nephew has a good name for his class. A lot of parenting is passive or reactive, merely responding to the baby instead of getting ahead of some of the inevitable issues. And men tend to hang back until wives tell them what to do.

      Parenting is a pretty new discipline, really, along with psychology. 100 years ago you were just trying to keep your kids alive until you could send them to work in the fields, streets, or mines.

  3. I’ve never been to a baby shower. Full moon party is more popular here in Asia. Most women in Asia go through one month of postpartum therapy after birth. Also, there are many event organizers offering full moon party services these days. Traditional, we like to buy gold bangles for babies. New parents can either choose to keep the gold or sell them off. It is up to them. Smart parents will save the gold as future dowry and pass down when the kids get married. If the baby is a girl, there will not be any party or sometimes just deliver pastries to family and friends. If the baby is a boy, the party will be huge and fun. There are exceptions these days especially so when the father of baby is rich.

    What is VWF? Some Wushu federation, Vietnam Women’s Forum or Voices Without Frontiers?

    Many young people these days opted for C-section. My trusty surgeon friend actually prefers expecting mothers to practice meditation, yoga and breathing techniques. One of my brave friend had an easy first birth. She gave birth within just 2 hours after contraction started. Good for her!

    1. My friend JK had a 2 hour labor birth like that, too. I did not.

      So is the full moon party the first full moon after birth? And then the mother is allowed out and able to wash her hair?

    2. Oh, the VFW is a male club/ hang out. It’s an acronym for Veterans of Foreign Wars. There’s also the Elk’s Club and a couple other places like that where men go drink and watch football. Mostly old white men.

  4. Hah! Men definitely do need to be educated. I applaud your co-ed shower heartily! I was going to say that maybe you should have handed out some educational pamphlets too, but I think you struck the perfect balance of gentle intro level. Well done.

  5. Am sad to say that I missed out on all of it 🙁 never been or had a baby shower, and with birth of my son and other stuff going on, I didn’t even have family celebration of newborn. ( my mom isn’t close to her cousins, aside from a friend who passed away shortly after Zachary’s birth, I didn’t have any other friends. And fathers family was scattered all over like Canada and so forth. He also lacked friends, and, I imagine even now, none besides his family know he has a son.)

    I had labor from almost 4 AM to 11 PM, although that does include epidural, and my son was born vaginally, although i was threatened with c section. He was born during thunderstorm with sirens going off and hail and lightning on eve of a Jewish holiday, and it was supposed to be full moon… just now he celebrated his 3rd birthday.

    1. That must have been hard, having minimal support or celebration and then a long labor. I don’t have a lot of family around, either, with most of mine scattered up and down the East Coast.

      I’m glad you had an epidural, at least!

  6. Hey! My first shout out in a blog! I remember the petit fours! And the cold, cold rain! It was a fun day. I don’t recall getting a mug. I wonder why?!?!?

    1. I think your first shout out was actually this blog. Except for the pictures of your gorgeous dog. Perhaps you didn’t want to take a mug because then Mr. Koz would have felt silly for not coming to the “girlie” shower and you didn’t want to rub it in?

  7. Autumn, you’re so cool! I love how you made a baby shower co-ed!!! That’s how it should be! Sorry it rained so hard though, at least the tent managed to keep all of you semi-dry? A downpour in LA–talk about bad luck!

    Eek, very scared about the c-section post. You’re really not selling me on this pregnancy thing, haha.

    1. Right? I mean, a lot of women find showers fun or at least useful, but they’re shunted off to the side with other “women stuff” by men.

      I was actually thinking I should have a special page on the blog for “Pregnancy Reality Check” for women to see all the crappy little stuff that pregnancy involves that no one ever tells you. So women could make informed decisions before letting go of birth control.

  8. I’ve never been to a baby shower! I think it’s just an American tradition (or maybe from English speaking countries. Definitely not done in Spain or China!). How appropriate that it would rain in your baby shower, given your luck with organising events and weather, haha 😛

    A few days ago someone arrived to my blog because they searched “why Chinese women don’t shave their vagina hair” or something like that. I couldn’t help but laughing, imagining an actual vagina with hairs coming out of it, hahaha! Does the problem come from the fact that in English many people seem to use the word vagina to actually refer to the vulva? Because that’s the impression I get from here.

      1. That’s for sure! China also needs more sex ed. Many people don’t use any kind of contraception and if they get pregnant they just go and have an abortion…

        1. Way back when, I actually used to know a guy from China who strongly believed that babies come from, well, oral sex…And he was close to getting a PhD in computer or something…

  9. Ah the baby showers…in Finland my wife’s friends basically forced it upon her. Sure we got some nice stuff but it is really not something we/ she really enjoys. Here in Germany we had nothing like that and I do not even know whether it is popular here or not

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