I find it very odd to be in a room full of estrogenic/post-menopausal women, all cooing and oohing and awwing over tiny socks and hats and things to hang the toys in above the bathtub.
There were salads and veggies with dip and coldcuts and cheese slices, with rolls and mustard to make sandwiches. I brought hummus and carrots, hoping the honoree would be able to partake because her current condition has brought on some health issues (luckily she thanked me and said she’d been craving it.) There was also a cake, of which maybe 3 people in the room of 25ish women took a piece.
Most of the women had already had their kids, if they were going to. Some of them want kids. Some are in their 30s and never married, so the possibility of having kids is slowly diminishing, and the palpability of their uterine gymnastics reacting to the onesies and bibs with cute logos was kind of over-the-top. The lady sitting next to me was in her 40s at least and married to another woman, and she seemed a little confused about all the hullabaloo. Because of course, every single brightly-colored plastic toy and little post-bath terrycloth robe thingy had to be passed around the table, like some sort of weird fertility ritual.
My friend received three hand-knitted or -crocheted blankets, not including the one I’m still working on (I whipped up some quick booties and a jester-style cap in jaunty shades of bright blue and green just to have something to give her; the shower was planned for two months before her due date because she’s measuring so big that the doctors think she’ll be early, even though it’s her first. She looks about to pop already.). Three women besides me spent hours working with yarn and needles to produce beautiful textiles that will, in all likelihood, be peed and pooped and barfed on regularly during their use (that’s why I make blankets out of machine washable yarn!).
Since it was a work shower, there weren’t any of those horrid games like guessing melted candy bars in diapers or anything involving toilet paper. Or is that wedding showers? Anyhow, I found myself wondering what the whole experience was like for her – she’s seven months pregnant, halfway across the world from her home (or the mothership, as Monkey likes to call it), days of travel to get to her parents or siblings. While she and her husband have lived in the states for a few years, I’m sure it must be a little weird and alienating to be experiencing your first pregnancy in the midst of a country, culture, and language that is not your own. She was very grateful for the shower and all the things that roomfull of hens had given her, but she looked a little shellshocked – sure, it was a lot of stuff, but it didn’t even touch the amount of stuff that they’ll probably end up with. Luckily for my friend, her mother plans a 3-month visit starting in early March, so if she’s not around for the birth she’ll be here shortly thereafter, and will be able to help her daughter deal with all the stuff that comes with being a brand-new first time mom.
Mostly, I wonder what the differences are between Indian baby showers and American baby showers (are there Indian baby showers? I don’t know!). Are there gifts she’d be getting if she were having this baby in India that she isn’t going to get here? When we were in China last year, seeing all those women wearing the same pregnancy outfit (black corduroy overalls with cartoon characters embroidered on the bib), I thought about how pregnancy and the birth of a child is universally celebrated, even in China where most women only get to do it once. The scary step of deciding to carry a baby to term, to bring a new life into the world, to rear children to the best of one’s ability, seems to me to be the ultimate act in optimism: the child will be born healthy, live to adulthood, and be a productive and positive addition to the human race. That room full of women, in various stages of their lives, some of whom have children and/or grandchildren, or who are still awaiting children, participating in the ritual of cooing over the tiny caps, booties, onesies, all seemed to benefit in a very primal way from the party to honor a new mother and the acoutrements that brought.
Even (though I may hate to admit it) me.