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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On Showers and Brises

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.


Rachel said...

My loss occured before anyone even knew I was pregnant, so no we didn't have a shower.

My good friend lost her son at 37 weeks, and I think the shower is what made her pregnancy feel real to everyone who knew her. When she lost her baby it was hard on everyone in our circle. It has been 18 months and it is still one of the most often brought up topics.

Her loss was also one of the few times I ever saw my husband cry and this was prior to our loss. It is also probably why we started trying to have children when we did.

This friend is pregnant again, finally. Normally we don't do a shower after the first baby, but we will be doing one for her again because we recognize that it may be difficult for her to use items that were specifically purchased for the son she lost.

Anonymous said...

My shower was a little different since we live so far away from family. We were visiting my parents' home for Thanksgiving, along with my sibs' families. Since we only get together like that a couple of times a year, my SIL and mother had a small party of just my immediate family and an aunt and some cousins. No obnoxious games, just family, so I don't know if that makes a difference.

I don't regret having had the shower. I hope that my family finds some peace in knowing that we celebrated Lennox and Zoe, that we shared our excitement and the love we already felt for them. I think that one day, when the rawness fades, I will find comfort in that knowledge as well. The gifts are still in the box we put them in when we brought them home in November. Since we still had months to go, we packed them away. They will probably stay there for a long time. Hopefully, someday we'll have need of them. The ones, like the double stroller, they were a hard thing to face. At the time, I consolled myself with constant reminders that we still had Zoe, even if Lennox was no longer with us. Now, I can't face any of it. It is the things that are the salt in the wound. A reminder of what I lost. I'm not sorry we celebrated, I'm not sorry people loved Zoe and Lennox so much before they were born that they bought them thoughful gifts. I don't regret that at all. But when the reality is still so painful, and there are so many hard decisions to be made, it is difficult to also try to figure out how to deal with the onsies that will never get worn.

loribeth said...

Interesting. I had no idea about the Jewish tradition. In the area of Canada where I come from & where most of my relatives still live, it's very common to wait until after the baby is born to have the shower. I'm not sure whether that's partly due to superstition, but I think it's also seen as an opportunity to "meet the baby," plus by then you know if it's a boy or girl & can buy a more appropriate gift, etc.

I mentioned this to dh's family once & they looked at me like I was nuts. The only such shower I've ever attended here was for dh's cousin, who was on bedrest with twins (actually lost a triplet earlier on) & gave birth prematurely -- the originally planned shower was postponed. They were still in the hospital but almost ready to come home when we had the shower.

My own baby shower was scheduled for the Labour Day long weekend in 1998, when I would have been 7 months along, but my daughter was stillborn on Aug. 7th. The invitations had already gone out about a week earlier, & I still cherish the one I have, with a note on the back from the hostess (dh's cousin's wife) saying "We can't wait to meet you, Baby Katie!"

On the one hand, had it been held, I'm really not sure what we would have done with all the gifts, especially given that we haven't had any subsequent children. You hate to give them away, because they were supposed to have been hers -- tangible reminders that you were supposed to have had a baby -- but you also hate to just have them sit there unused.

On the other hand, we have so few things that were hers, or designated to be hers. We didn't buy a lot ourselves, because the pregnancy seemed very tentative at first, then later, we were told not to buy anything because we were going to get a ton of stuff at the shower. I sometimes wonder who had already bought stuff & whether they were able to return it.

Overall, I wish it had been held. Very few of dh's relatives came to our wedding, 13 years earlier. His mother died before I met her, so people felt protective of dh & his brother because of that. We had been to so many of their weddings & bridal & baby showers & birthday parties over the years (& have been to many more since then...!), & I think his relatives were looking for an opportunity to reciprocate & celebrate with us. I think it would have have made the pregnancy more real to them -- and thus our loss as well. (Which is also why I sometimes regret not having a larger funeral than we did.)

Great questions, Mel!

Rebecca said...

My heart just breaks for anyone who has enough firsthand knowledge of loss to answer these questions. I have never experienced pregnancy loss, so if you feel my comment is not relevant, feel free to delete it. That being said, I honestly don't know how I would feel in this situation. Part of me would want to have had a shower or party to celebrate the baby, but having to dismantle a crib and pack away the never to be used baby items would be sheer torture. My husband is the superstitious type (with good reason, having experienced two pregnancy losses with his first wife) and has often said that he doesn't want me buying anything for a future baby until I'm at least 8 months along. In my opinion, and knowing myself the way I do...that's too long for me to wait. After all, when I do get pregnant, it will be my first child (his second). He has since relented and agreed to after the first trimester to purchase baby items. I think in some ways it might make it easier for the extended family to acknowledge a loss when they've actually been to a shower for that baby...and they would be more supportive than in an instance where it was an early loss or they didn't know about the pregnancy in the first place. I just don't know. I wish none of us ever had to know.

Mel, I find the explanations of your faith traditions extremely interesting, I've always been curious about the Jewish faith. Not in a "gawk and point" kind of way, but just because I don't know anyone of the Jewish faith in my real life and it's always interested me. I mean that with the utmost respect. Thank you for sharing those traditions with us.

Again, I hope none of this has offended anyone...and I still wish none of you even had to know what loss was like. My heartfelt condolences go out to you all.

SarahSews said...

My mom is currently planning my shower. It is scheduled to be held when I will be 33wks. She's thrilled to finally be able to do it after watching her daughter in laws have three between them since we started trying 3 years ago. I'm thrilled that it looks like I'll be in a position to have one. I hope that the women in my family will come together and welcome me to their club. I don't have sisters and most of my childhood was spent playing with the boys. I'd like to feel like I'm a part of something with other women.

A dear friend and former boss's daughter was born still at about 7.5 months just after him and his wife took a vacation and spent all their time buying one-of-a-kind furniture for her room. By the time it was delivered, she was gone. Those boxes sat in my office for months and months because he couldn't bear to take them home. I've seen the grief up close and despite that I've decided I need to embrace all that is possible with this pregnancy and prepare for the arrival of this child. I may only get this one chance to be this happy, and if it all gets snatched away at the last second so be it.

Jendeis said...

Don't have much to say, but I just wanted to thank you for the beautiful posts that you write. I'm always moved by your thoughts and thought process.

I never realized the minhag about baby showers before, but now that I think about it, I haven't been to any Jewish baby showers. Hmm. I do like the celebration of the baby's arrival that happens with a bris or simchah bat, but, as you mentioned, am disturbed by the thrown together nature of it. That would be my anal side peeking out. :)

The Town Criers said...

Something just struck me. If a wedding was disrupted and the ceremony never took place, it would fall to the maid-of-honour to inform the guests, take back gifts, make phone calls, cancel plans. You hope this scenario never happens, but there is a clear person (or group of people) who would help the bride if everything went wrong.

Why do we not have the same sisterhood in place with pregnancy? The circle of friends or siblings who would know it was clearly their job to make the phone calls, do the hard tasks, take apart a crib? Some people have those people clearly outlined in their life without saying but others need the designation of being assigned a role in order to help with that task.

Bea said...

That's a good point about the designated person.

I think the fact is that baby showers are not as formal or traditional as other events (Jewish customs obviously quite formal and traditional by comparison). Not everyone has a baby shower where I come from, and those that do don't tend to have games and a big event, more of a morning-tea get-together or a BBQ or something. Also, should be for the first child only (unless special circumstances, I guess, as Rachel brought up).

No-one gets particularly offended over non-attendance. I skipped an early one, not due to infertility, but because I was rostered to work overnight the night before. Can't come - will be sleeping. This was a perfectly reasonable excuse and no-one suggested I should re-roster my work schedule, as they would for a weddding etc. I think I said I might turn up if I wasn't completely wrecked, but don't expect me.

So the shower, to me, is an optional, low-key event with low-cost, simple gifts. As such, I guess it's less of a big deal to me in all other senses, too.


Tash said...

I actually really love this tradition, because as an atheist, I practiced it both pregnancies (well, both that went to term. The 8w miscarriage didn't get so far.) THANK GOODNESS. It was hard enough getting rid of the tiny amount I had done after maddy died (packing up the bassinet, putting diapers and a few onesies into a plastic container, dragging the carseat back into the basement) but it hurt so much, I can't imagine having to have done more. Or having had a room set up (I had it in my head, not planning to have done it for months). It's haunting, all that stuff.

During Bella's pregnancy I didn't have furniture delivered until week 37 and even then I was checking the return policy. I didn't trust anything after IF, I couldn't believe this was really going to work. (My fears were proven the second time around.) I'm not a whee! presents! Stupid games! person anyway, but now I'm eternally grateful that I'm not. I really don't get the whole "knowing the sex makes it easier! how will you know what to name the baby? How will you get STUFF?" when after having one I feel that you really don't need stuff. You need a carseat, some diapers, and a few weather appropriate outfits. The rest can certainly wait a week or two.

What's the rush, I say? If you are lucky enough to have a live baby, enjoy him/her. It's not about the stuff.

Aurelia said...

I thinking the phrase you have been looking for Mel, is magical thinking.

Magical thinking is not healthy from a therapy perspective, but also unsound theologically which is why it isn't a law, but a custom instead.

In other words, God doesn't kill babies because Pottery Barn delivered too early. Fate, the universe, the world, does not do this.

I actually enjoy baby showers because most of the ones I attend are for infertiles who have finally achieved a pregnancy. We don't hold them early, we wait until close to term, but we hold them.

And the joy and anticipation can really outweigh the stress, and provide some distraction.

So I think there is a benefit to holding a celebration ahead of time. Not just for decorating purposes, either, although that helps.

Sorry Mel, but at every bris I've attended, the new mom looks like something the cat dragged in and is inevitably so upset and worried about her screaming child---it's not her best social moment. Both of them end up being whisked away to another room with the doc and no one gets to hold the baby or talk to the mom. We all just end up talking to the Dad and the grandparents, and leaving in a rush.

Now mind you, a bris where both mom and baby were properly pain-controlled might be different, but so far, this hasn't been my experience, I just feel terrible for both mom and baby.

If it could be 3-4 weeks out instead of 8 days, maybe it would be easier, but women need some celebration time with friends. I don't care when it happens, really, but a little recovery time is nice.

Interesting twist, those of us who hold showers before, also sometimes hold baptisms afterwards and get both celebrations. Mac's was bizarre---damn priest poured so much water on his head he almost drowned him and soaked him.

We got some good presents anyway! (joking...)

Denise said...

I remember a conversation with my mother about baby showers long ago during my blissful days of IF ignorance. I think I must have said something about how I better get one heck of a great shower after all of the lame showers I had to sit through. She looked shocked and said she would never attend if I had a shower and that I could expect a gift only AFTER the baby was born. I called her a superstitious old fashioned mom. Although Jewish, I wasn't raised as a practicing Jew, so I just wasn't on board with this custom.

We've talked about it since, and she told me that they were allowed to buy the crib before the baby was born, but weren't allowed to set it up. Things like that.

About a year and a half ago when my SIL was pregnant with her first, I gently broached the subject of throwing her a shower. She isn't one for the spotlight, but I think I had finally convinced her when they found out something was terribly wrong with the baby at their 20 week ultrasound. They delivered and lost their daughter shortly thereafter. I am haunted by my suggestions about throwing her a shower. Like I tempted fate by even suggesting it. Neither one of us mentioned it ever again and I never said a word about a shower during her second pregnancy (they now have a beautiful 3 month old girl).

I don't know how I'll feel about the shower thing if this IVF thing actually works for us. Being a planner, I just can't imagine not having everything bought, set up and ready to go well in advance. But I know I'll be paranoid waiting for the other shoe to drop at the same time.

This is a tough one.

Julia said...

That minhag is much more strictly observed in the Old Country, where it is actually not just a Jewish thing, but a cultural thing for the entire culture.
I was seriously against a baby shower with Monkey's pregnancy. I wanted to spend time with friends, and that's what we settled on-- a girls' night in. They wanted to give me a gift, though, so what I told them they can get me was a gift card. The whole thing worked great, even if we ended up going to L&D with another previa bleeding episode at the end. We had some stuff (including a crib) in the basement, but nothing up in her room.
With A, a friend of mine who was due about four weeks after me and I were supposed to have a shower four days after A died. I called my friend who was organizing the shower from the hospital to tell her to cancel and make sure the friend from out of town doesn't come in. The organizer couldn't make the calls-- she called another friend, and that friend stepped in and called everyone else.
I was supposed to get one large gift at the shower (not many little ones), and so was my other pg friend. She refused to have a shower later, and her gift eventually got mailed to her. So it would have likely been like the other thing-- a girls' night in. Having that wouldn't have bothered me, in fact it probably would've been a good thing, but having the big gift in the house probably would've been the salt.
Yes, A had too few things. But that is not the source of pain. The source is A is dead. Our friends were here in small and large groups after he died, so I do feel like the redirect of energies was honored in our case.
I don't know whether it is because of the infertility, or because of the cultural origins, but I have never been comfortable with the "look at all the cutesy outfits" type of baby shower, for myself (obviously) or in terms of attending one. I know I am in a tiny minority, and that many people enjoy looking at all the little gifts. But I just get tired of it all and feel like it detracts from the part of the event that celebrates the momentous occasion in question rather than the consumeristic nature of society.

Jess said...

The only loss I've had was early, so we didn't have a shower yet. But I do have some thoughts...

I did both before and after with the kids.

After Ava was born I had a small shower that our church womens' group holds. I knew I was pregnant, of course, and there would be a family shower later for both kids, but since we needed this and that for Ava and the womens' group was going to throw a shower SOMETIME, we went ahead and had one exclusively for her. It was nice, relaxing, and fun. I didn't feel panicky wondering if Ava would live because, well, she was HOME. :) I wouldn't have wanted a shower before when we were waiting to adopt simply because people are stupid and would have been like...what???

I also had a shower for Ava and for Ethan (though since we'd already bought most stuff or got it from people for Ava, it was mostly for Ethan) that was thrown by friends and family. It was in October and yes, I was nervous. I was scared that Ethan would die and I'd have all this baby stuff. As I smiled and unwrapped I worried it would all have to go back. But the fear was there, with or without the shower. And I rationed that most stuff could be used by Ava anyway, so I wouldn't have to deal with anything but a few onesies and blue toys if the worst happened.

More often I felt awkward when I confided in close friends and family. I would say, when looking at onesies on sale and trying to decide if I should buy, "this baby won't die, right? What if he dies? And I have these blue onesies..." They'd say I was silly or terrible for thinking that. But I couldn't help it.

Babies die. I knew it. I knew it wasn't a given. So yes, I was scared.

But if I chose to do it all over again, I'd want to have the shower before still. I'm a planner, so I wouldn't want to come home to so much to you said, the toys or crib will not be what's saddest anyhow.

There should be someone who is sort of the go-to person in these cases. It would be much more humane.

Fertilize Me said...

OH EXCELLLENT just a post i need in the time that I need this. My husband and I are not Jewish, but feel safe or more comfortable with this custom. I am afraid of baby showers and this week, I have had to actually think about when my will be, and how many people will attend and yadda yadda - things that I am not ready to deal with yet. Thank you for this post, I am goingto learn from it - and I love your explanation of hte baby shower is to recognize and honour the baby - Yes i thought about that but your post made it seem much more real.

Marjorie said...

First time commenter here ... (hi, Mel!)

I don't follow any religion, so I don't have any spiritual or cultural customs such as a bris or baptism. It never bothered me until, after 9 losses, I found myself gloriously, hugely pregnant and surrounded by well meaning friends who insisted on showering me. It was a lovely party, and we were surrounded by people who were so happy for us. But after 8 years of fertility problems, plus all those losses, I hadn't embraced my pregnancy. I was afraid to believe it was true; afraid to love a child who wasn't meant to be. I was enormously disconnected from my son, and from myself as a mother. So I found myself enduring this party, where everything seemed so shiny and glittery and loud, while I was just stuck in this weird echo chamber in my head.

What I needed ... NEEDED ... was a meaningful ritual that would help me make the transition to motherhood. I think different people find meaning in different ways, but now there are several books that are really wonderful resources for creating these rituals -- instead of, or in addition to -- a baby shower. If you're thinking ahead for yourself or have a friend who would benefit from a more meaningful ritual, I highly recommend Mother Rising, Blessingways, and Mother Blessings. It's one of my deepest regrets that I didn't have books like these available. My transition to motherhood would have been so much happier (and the inevitable postpartum depression so much shorter).

soul-quest said...

I am Jewish and my life is surrounded by people pushing the 'Evil Eye' (tempting fate) on me, when I fell pregnant for the first time, it was impressed on me that I would do nothing for the unborn baby, buy nothing, and ofcourse not peep a word during the first 3 months. I was being a rebel even by telling my mother. Now when I think back, that was over 5 years ago, I have changed in this time. Things have happened, 'stuff' has shaped me. Next time, Please G-d, I think I will take better heed. I won't even say the name out loud. On this very long road of infertility, I have learned to appreciate my hope, appreciate the 'what could be's' more than I did when I was fertile.

ps, also in Judaism if the baby is sick when born, we rush the naming, so that we can pray for them with a name, that their soul is named.

pps, also at a Bris when the baby (most times) is crying when he is circumcised we say Tehillim (psalms) during the crying.

Great thoughts Melissa!

Michell said...

I have always loved baby showers. I would likely still attend one even now and if I wasn't pregnant because even if it makes me sort of sad, it's still such a happy fun time. That said I don't know how I would feel if I had a baby shower and then lost the baby. Devastated but would it be more so because a group of people I care about had celebrated with me? I don't know. I do think it's interesting though that you mentioned the fear of bad luck if you brought a crib or other items home too soon. As much as I have purchased some baby stuff I have found that this whole TTC process has made me incredibly superstitious which I never was before. It's kind of annoying now. All those chain e-mail things that I have gotten forever and used to never feel guilty deleting, just about make me crazy now.

loribeth said...

Good point, Mel, about who's the point person when a pregnancy goes wrong. There are so few rituals and guidelines to follow in situations like this.

We had a day in between when we learned the baby was dead & when I delivered. The first night, we called our immediate family, of course, and then next morning I called dh's cousin's wife (the shower hostess), who lives nearby. She came rushing over & it was sort of weird because there was really nothing she or we could do. I couldn't even cry, we just sat there on the couch in stunned silence, not really knowing what to say to each other. She asked whether we'd like her to call all the relatives on that side of the family, & I was so glad she did, because I really couldn't handle making too many of those calls myself.

We really had nothing much to put away or dismantle -- but I have heard stories from our pg loss support group clients about coming home from the hospital only to find the nursery packed up, vanished. Some found it a relief, that they didn't have to do it themselves, and others were upset that people were so quick to get rid of any evidence that their baby ever existed. I think it's important that whoever does what, they should ensure the parents' wishes are being followed.

Rachael said...

We don't have them over here, but I guess they'll come in, like everything else. I wouldn't go, wouldn't be able to stand it.

Circumcision isn't common here, except for religious purposes. I once read that the average American woman has never seen an uncut penis, and I thought how weird it was, cos I've never seen a cut one...

Tina said...

I had a shower with DS, after my IF journey to finally get to that point - and at the time, it was a wonderful feeling to finally BE the guest of honor instead of attending with envy and sadness. Although I hate being the center of attention, it was nice to feel everyone be happy for us...especially since some in the group knew how long it took us to get there.

However, that shower was given in a more "naive" time for me...although my MIL and mom planned it as close to the EDD as possible since both were superstitious of doing it too far in advance. I never thought about loss...about miscarriage or stillbirth. It was not in my world yet. So, I had a chance to truly enjoy that shower.

I know there will be no shower this time around (our family does not believe in showers for additional children unless there is a huge age difference between children), for which I am grateful - and, even if it were, I would not be prepared now to be the guest of honor. I have lost three babies - earlier than some in the blogosphere, but still very real for me and hard to finally come to terms with. I know through my own journey and the stories I read every day that a PG does not always equate to a sleeping baby coming through that front door for the first time. I am not sure I could handle a shower now...knowing that any given second, after all the gifts find a home within the home, the child could be taken away from you for no apparent reason at all.

Maybe it is a defense mechanism I have developed since my m/c's...but, I am finding it very difficult now to begin preparing for DS's brother arriving in June. I look at the crib we will reuse and sometimes I can't shake the idea that three other babies should have used that crib...or that stroller...or that swing.

So, I am not sure I could now handle a day to celebrate a baby's arrival with knowing there was a chance that child would be taken from me.

Samantha said...

I've also never had pregnancy loss (outside of a chemical pregnancy), so no chance to really say congrats let alone have a shower. My SIL, who is Jewish, is having a shower, and my MIL is a bit distressed about it. So, from an outsider's perspective, on the one hand I can understand feeling superstitious and not wanting to "tempt fate" with the shower, let alone be faced with gifts and other reminders of a baby that didn't end up being.

On the other hand, and this I've gotten from reading blogs, later term pregnancy loss in particular is so difficult because the coming baby goes from being an vaguer idea of "a child" to a specific unique child. I may mourn the loss of multiple cycles and 47 embryos, but I can't say I mourn one more than another, or that I distinguish one cycle from another in terms of missing a specific child. But if I had lived with a embryo that turned into a fetus, and continued to grow for 20 weeks, 30 weeks, etc., and they died, that child would be a unique individual for me, and even if I got pregnant again and had a child successfully, I would always mourn my earlier child who didn't. Right now I mourn what I don't have. If I had been pregnant, I would mourn what I had and then lost.

Having said that, I think I would like to have a shower, even if I were to lose the baby, because I would want people to celebrate with me for having this unique child as much as I would want them to mourn the child with me were I to lose it.

Kathy V said...

Thanks for continuing our discussion. I guess before I suffered loss I always liked the idea of a baby shower. Now I have to say that I am not so sure. I look back on the few short weeks that I was pregnant and think alot about superstition and fate. Maybe it just happened and it wasn't testing fate but is sure does make me think about it. I also have read blogs about babies born too soon and babies that were born still and that scares me. Part of me thinks that maybe there is something said about the traditions such as a bris or simchat bat. I guess there is no right answer for everyone but it sure does make me think before doing anything for next time. Maybe part of it depends on how much loss you have suffered before you get to a RLB or how long your IF journey has been. Thanks for the post.

Also I agree with Loribeth, make sure you are following the wishes of the parents and don't just assume you know what they want or what would be easier for them. I know it was a miscarriage, but I felt very upset when I came home from the hospital and all my "Congratulations for being pregnant" cards were gone. It hurt me that people were already trying to push my baby's existence out. I realize that they thought they were doing the right thing but it hurt that they were gone. It is nice to have a point person who will help out and do what you want them to do to help you through but not overstep their boundaries. That being said, if there is stuff, maybe it shouldn't just disappear because you have grown attached to it or atleast the idea of it. Even if it sits in a box in the attic until a later date, people can look at it if they want to. But if you have no stuff because you waited, then maybe you feel there is nothing to hold onto because you lost your baby and there will be no mementos to hold onto either. Does that make the loss greater? I don't know cause everyone is a little different.

Thanks for the post Mel. It brings up many questions to ponder.

Anonymous said...

I am not Jewish but after all the years of trying to have a baby and reading the blogs of so many women who have lost babies I firmly believe that I don't think I could have any big ticket baby related items in the house until I have a baby to go with it.

I actually think the Jewish birth customs are beautiful and would love to incorporate some of know...if I ever get pregnant again.


katd said...

I will never forget the advice you gave me prior to Lily's arrival. We had just had a failed matched, and I was terrified to do any shopping at all for Lily. But, I knew she was a girl, and I longed so badly to walk though Babies R Us like all the other expectant mommies and dream about the baby that might be coming. I wanted her to have a beautiful little girly outfit, but I was so afraid to put any hope in the situation. And you told me that having an outfit for her wouldn't be the thing that would break me. You said if the situation fell through, it would hurt no matter what and that I deserved to have some of the experiences that expectant moms do.

Having said that, we didn't have any showers before she was born. And I ended up loving that. We had showers and a sort of Welcome to the Family party for her. It let me show her off and let them family meet her. At the same time, it was tough to live in a hotel room with her for two weeks without many supplies.

I totally understand wanting to protect our hearts from the incredible pain that comes with a loss. But, at the same time, in your wise words:), having a crib or a pretty baby outfit isn't going to be what puts us over the edge. And we deserve to be excited! :)

r_is_moody said...

Showers are very common in my cirlce of family and friends. We have them for baby number 1, 2, 3 and more. So in the 3 years I have been struggling with IF I have been to a ton of showers.

I love the concept of the shower. Women gettting together to acknowledge the life that is growing. To bless the mom with much needed items. We usually do something special, ie, write letters to the unborn baby, make scrapbook pages for the babies book.

I have never made it far enough to have a shower. But even after 4 losses I still think I would want to have one. I know that being pg doesn't mean brining home a baby. But I would still want to acknowledge that life growing inside of me. And I think i would enjoy seeing people honestly happy for me.

That being said, it would be heart wrenching to have to pack all the unsued items up if baby didn't get to come home.

Cathy said...

Baby showers were one of the biggest pregnancy-hassles for me.

Everyone wanted to throw me one. I was desperately afraid to have one. I had a mini one forced on me, and I do regret letting it happen.

From the day the pregnancy test came back positive, I knew something was wrong. I hit most common pregnancy complications along the way (ectopic scare, multiples, flagged for chromosomal problems, pre-term labor, hypertension, and IUGR). For me, celebrating babies that were not born would be like celebrating a graduation before final grades were in. How could I open gifts, coo and laugh, eat cake, and pretend like everything was going to turn out hunky dory? It wasn't a superstition, it was just the belief that a bad pregnancy wasn't anything to celebrate until everyone came out healthy. No one got it - that it was too hard for me to sit there and pretend like I was carrying normal healthy babies when I knew I wasn't. They've never dealt with anything but very early loss, it wasn't on their radar that bad things could still happen when I was as big as a house.

I didn't lose my boys. They are alive, and 2 months old. But something WAS desperately wrong. And even now, I don't want to celebrate their birth with a party of any sort. I don't want to pretend that everything is fine (or explain any of the not-fine-ness); I want everything to BE fine. And then I will celebrate.

For me, a shower doesn't acknowledge motherhood and life. It is a celebration of something that has yet to occur. I can't bring myself to celebrate an uncertain future.

Hekateris said...

I've never been to a baby shower. Of my friends who gave birth to children (all two of them), I have no idea if they had showers or not, and if they did, I'm sure their families did for them (they all have lots of sisters).

Personally, I find the idea of 'fun and silly games' rather nauseating - I'm not a big fan of the 'culturally acceptable/socially desirable' method of recognition. I am not one who enjoys being in the spotlight (although some recognition now that I'm almost to term would be nice. But no, I'm still just really fat...), either. To put that in perspective, my wedding day was one of the most miserable in my life, and I will never, ever get married again because of it.

Anyway, one friend of mine really pushed for a shower, because she wanted to buy cute stuff. I've said no, repeatedly, as she continues to bring it up every so often. She says, "Oh, we'd love to give you stuff you need!", to which I reply, But you're my friend who has money! Which is, sadly, true. My other friends are struggling with debts and feeding themselves, they can't afford to buy diddly.

So, like most other people in my financial situation, I'll make due with what I have. I've bought a pack-n-play, I'll be buying a car seat, I've bought a sling, and I'll be hitting the used clothing stores for stuff.

Would I have liked a shower? Not under the specific word, no. Would I like it if friends slowly gave me their children's hand-me-downs? Hell yeah! But their children are all older now, what they had has already been given away or are family keepsakes.

I just realized that if I were still in Scotland, I would have gotten a shower whether or not I wanted one, because that's the done thing over there.

Neenie/PawsNY said...

I love baby showers :) Depending on the situation and circumstance. My sister adopted and we wanted to have something for her before she left for Russia to both share in our excitement and the fact that she was just as much of an expectant mother as any pregnant woman, and to simply provide a first time mom with everything she NEEDS to take care of her new baby! My sister in law also adopted and we ended up having the shower for her AFTER she came back with my niece- so it was more of a welcome home/congratulations party. A Mulyti-purpose party to again- supply her with everything she needs as a new mommy and to introduce thie new baby to the family.
With MY situation- I have been on hospital bedrest for almost 10 weeks now so I missed out on my 'traditional baby shower' I missed the opportunity to be excited with friends and family, and to open up cute outfits and practical baby gifts and to situate everything before the baby comes. I will most likely have a small gathering after my baby is born- in my family, it's just a tradition to throw a shower. What is considered BAD LUCK is setting up the nursery or laying out everything before the baby comes. The stuff if supposed to remain packed away, yet accessible in case something were to happen. So it's throwing a party in preparatiopn but at the same time you can't lay out or set anything up because its bad luck- sort of twisted but thats always been the way things were in my family! The exception was for the adoptions- the nurseries were set up while they were away to get the baby because at that point it was guaranteed that they were coming home with a baby. In pregnancy, there is no guarantee so we hold off on the nursery set up

shinejil said...

I'm moved both by the post, and by the views of the commenters who have dealt with this issue directly.

At the moment, I feel firmly that I don't want a shower. IF aside, I hate events when people have to feel a certain way and buy expensive, often less than useful gifts, etc. They often get dominated by the wishes and fantasies of a few women, to the exclusion of the interests, feelings, and needs of everyone else. I didn't enjoy my wedding shower, for instance, and I don't think I'd enjoy a baby shower. But that's just me.

I think I'd rather celebrate once my child arrived, and make it an actual party where people could hang out and have fun.

Kim said...

It's funny, I come from a Protestant family (though I'm not) that does not give showers - of any kind. No wedding showers, no baby showers, nada. My husband's family doesn't either. So it might be more of a family culture thing than a religious culture thing.

Personally, I think it's as hard to say you like or don't like showers as it is to say you like or don't parties. There is a wide variety. We threw one for some work friends - it was co-ed, there were no silly games, and the gifts (since they came from grad students and post docs) were basic and small.

The people I work with always have showers and I think they handle it nicely. Each group gives a small gift (cute onesie or some such) and a large gift card. As in, a rather substantial amount of money, not a card the size of those Publisher's Clearinghouse checks.

I love the Jewish holidays and traditions and I think brises and naming ceremonies are very special, but I don't mind showers in theory - although it doesn't come naturally to me to celebrate before the baby is here.

There is an element of magical thinking, a superstition that any recognition of a baby coming will cause things to go terribly wrong. But mainly I have memories of being happy and excited before both of my miscarriages and now I can't help but wonder sometimes in the midst of a happy moment, if I'll look back on this the same way.

But I still try to take in those moments, because honestly, I look back on those moments fondly. I'm glad I had them, particularly because I couldn't have all those other happy, carefree moments afterwards.

M said...

The last baby shower I attended was for a friend who was a little ahead of me when I was pregnant with P&L - who were tumbling around in my belly like nobody's business. I almost felt guilty for all the attention we were getting.

My friend drafted up a shower invitation for me (on my computer) and was determined I was to have one before they were born, despite my protests. They died before we had the shower. I recently found the invitation on my computer when I was changing everything from my old computer to my new one. I felt as though I'd lost them yesterday, it hurt so much...

Now, I don't go - I just can't. Maybe, one day, if we ever have a child, but I like to avoid the pity.

B said...

The one thing a mother whose child has died is desperate for is to hold anything that is somehow connected with the child.

The physical ache of "empty arms", of breasts pouring milk with no baby to drink it, of wanting the smell and warmth and wriggle of your child is beyond belief. I took a baby blanket I was given to bed for close to 6 months and pressed it to my heart to try and quell the physical ache of loss.

I did not have a shower but I was given a few things before she was born when i left work in a mad scramble a few days before (I knew - the ob made the decision to deliver her 5 weeks early). These things were precious and also painful. But one thing they certainly said was that my baby was real, and that my mother-ness was real. They said that to the givers. They validated our family somehow.

The room set up and the gifts, the mobile hanging and the cot........ they have been the markers of my grief and healing. The objects around which rituals happen. I sat in that room to write letters to Maya. I added to that room (photos and candles, cards, letters) and then after a long time I started taking things down. The mobile, the cot, the change table is still there full of her things.

I was sad that people did not give her things after she had died. They gave me lots of things but nothing for her...... this made me sad. I don't know why.

As for the "circle of friends" that step in.... i had beautiful things happen. We sent out a text message letting people know that she had died but did not field any calls (friends and family did). My friends Glen arranged to take the breast pump I had hired back and another friend the car seat. In fact I could not begin to list what they did for us.... but one thing you should never do is dismantle the room that has been set up. It sends a message that it wasn't real. It's as if it never happened. And the thing us loss mums constantly struggle with is making others believe that our child was as real as theirs is.

FattyPants said...

I just blogged about this last week. We decided not to have a shower and I am suprised at how many people are angry over it. We are not jewish, but my husband is buddhist and follows the don't count your chickens before they hatch frame of mind. Me? I just know that I am not strong enough to dismantel baby items.

Instead we will throwing a get to know baby party after his safe arrival. I think you just have to go with whatever you feel more comfortable doing.

Starfish said...

I didn't buy one thing or have any type of shower before we adopted our son. Part of it was tempting fate, but part of it was that I was feeling like a complete fraud still. I would not have felt comfortable accepting gifts for a stilled unnamed faceless baby.

My mom gave me a surprise shower two days after we returned home from COlombia with the baby. It was all the more special that he was there.

I hate those showers in general because everyone starts talking about kids and pregnancies and the inevitable comparing goes on - and most are terribly boring anyway. I think the Jewish have this one right.

nutmeg96 said...

I've lost two pregnancies in the first trimester (I have a UU) and have no intention of having a baby shower if I'm lucky enough to get into the second trimester. I wouldn't even want any congratulations at all until that point that I'm holding a live healthy baby in my arms. It's not superstition -- I just don't want to have to sit there and pretend that my shower is like all the other showers I've attended where everyone is happy and excited. I just couldn't do it.

Kami said...

A bit late in finding this post . . .

We lost our son at 27 weeks, but I had a bad feeling about it since the beginning. I refused most gifts until near the end and even put off wearing maternity close until 24 weeks. When people suggested throwing a shower, I told them I would love one after the baby was born.

When we came home from the hospital it took maybe 30 minutes to clean everything baby related out of the house. I went back to wearing my husband's jeans until I could get into my own (it took less than 2 weeks). I lost a pregnancy, that is all. It happens.

In hindsight, I don't know if that was the best approach or not. Even though I grieved, I didn't really acknowledge losing a child for many months. Maybe I needed to let it in slowly. Today we have one picture the nurse took, a bit of hair and some foot prints. I wish we had more pictures. I wish they hadn't wrapped him in a blanket or I had thought to unwrap him and take in the rest of his body. I don't know that a blanket or something else meant for him would bring me comfort today.

DrSpouse said...

In the UK we don't really do baby showers. You can buy a present before or after the baby is born, though after would be more common. There are still some superstitions regarding bringing things into the house before the baby is born (especially, for some reason), the pram, though mainly among older people.