Reading about someone's loss makes you contemplative.
Kathy V started a discussion on her blog and we've been going back and forth with it and it made me realize something that hadn't occurred to me until I wrote it. In Judaism, we don't have baby showers--nothing is done for the baby or the mother prior to birth.
What happens is after a baby is born, the parents hold either a bris (boy) or simchat bat (girl). There is a set ceremony for the boy complete with ritual circumcision (I know people tend to have strong feelings about circumcision, but it is part of my religion, so...this isn't really the space to debate it. Just saying). Parents can sort of go any which way with creating a ceremony for a girl--I've seen parents wash the newborn's feet as a Middle Eastern sign of welcome. We did something akin to the fairies in Sleeping Beauty where each family member made a wish for them starting with each letter of their name. For both girls and boys, the name isn't revealed until this ceremony on the eighth day.
Men and women often separate out during religious rituals, but they're together for the bris or simchat bat, and that is the deciding factor in determining whether or not we attend the baby naming. To be honest, I'm not sure I could drag my ass to a shower and sit there as the lone infertile person in the room, cooing over every baby item.
It makes a huge difference when you're standing there with someone who knows everything about you and feels the same way you do even if he expresses it differently and isn't ducking into the bathroom for a quick, frustrated cry. Beyond that, there is a different curiosity driving you towards the baby naming. You get to see the baby AND you get to find out the name if the parents haven't already announced it.
But in talking with Kathy V, I started thinking about all of these drawbacks to doing things this way. I mean, the benefits are easy to see in the IF/pg loss/adoption community. But part of the baby shower is helping the mother prepare for the baby and Judaism sort of has this scrambling period built into the ritual. Not having a baby shower or bringing things into the house before the birth is actually not a law (halacha), it's a custom (minhag). Therefore, it's up to the person to decide whether they want to follow it or not.
I wanted to follow it. I mean, I didn't even tell people I was pregnant until I was five months along. When my Jewish therapist asked me why I wasn't bringing anything into the house to prepare, I mumbled something about tempting fate. She asked if I really believed that--if I thought purchasing a crib was really going to affect me medically. My rational mind said no. I mean, I'm sane enough to know that having a crib in the house does not cause labour at 33 weeks. But my heart said yes.
The reality was that taking apart a crib was not going to be the thing that undid me. Losing the children would take care of that and create the wound and any baby item would simply be the salt that made it burn. But even without that salt, a gaping wound is still a gaping wound. You don't look for salt, but it has a way of finding you anyway, even if you take great pains to avoid anything sodium-related.
The other thing I think a baby shower does is recognize that life and recognize the woman as a mother. And this is the part I'd really like to understand from non-Jews: how do you feel about baby showers? If you had one and then lost the child, would you regret having had women come together and celebrate the child like that or would you feel good knowing that in the baby's short life, they had already had a party thrown in his/her honour? Does any sadness stem from the baby shower or is it like my salt-in-wound analogy above where the gaping wound would still exist and would still be painful regardless? If you are not Jewish and have chosen to have a shower (or been strong-armed into one by loving relatives), do you have any regrets? And what changed about your shower if you are holding one after IF?
This question also holds for holding showers prior to an adoption--in Judaism, we do it after the child arrives during the naming ceremony. But I can see the benefit of doing it beforehand--to recognize the woman during that waiting period. To help her prepare.
I think a woman is a mother so long before a child actually comes into the world, hence the creation of a childless mother in regards to pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and neonatal death. It's like the Law of Conservation of Maternal Energy: energy exists; it can change form, but it can't be destroyed.
A shower, on one hand, recognizes that fact. When you wait until the bris or simchat bat, the childless Jewish mother isn't celebrated with. She is only mourned with. Truthfully, as much as I love Judaism and plan on practicing Judaism indefinitely, any mourning rituals (and they are few and far between in regards to pregnancy loss) really only addresses the lost child and does not mourn the transformation of maternal energy. Which I think--if we want to be truly healthy in our culture--needs to be recognized as well. Not just in the moment, but for the eternal transformation of that energy and the way it plays out every day. Any good physicist knows that.