Friday, December 18, 2009

Making a Baby Shower Special

Over the years as a doula I have been invited to many baby showers. Some have been traditional American showers with silly games, arrival date gambling pools, gifts and cake. Some have been more alternative or spiritual based Blessing Ways with ritual foot washing, adornment of the woman or couple, and blessings for the new life coming. Here are some of my favorite ideas.

Gifts are wonderful and are gratefully received. Most first time parents depend on their shower to help outfit the baby and the “nursery”, but to create a memorable shower material gifts should not be what a shower is all about. Equally important as these gifts is offering our collective wisdom on birth, parenting, and promises of future support to see them through the challenges ahead which will touch her heart and make her feel buoyed up by love and caring.

Here are some ways to create an atmosphere that allows the party goers to feel free to share their thoughts and feelings. Remember to bring a way to record all these wonderful gifts so the parents can listen to them whenever they need to feel your love and caring. I think audio is best because it is less intrusive.

For the Birth
Every first time mom feels a bit apprehensive when faced with the unknown quality of labor. No matter how many classes she has attended, or practicing relaxation she has done she has never labored and can’t really understand what labor is like until she has been through it and out the other side. Knowing people who care about her are holding her in their thoughts as labor approaches will surround her with positive & peaceful thoughts calming her anxieties.

Have all the party guests sit in a circle with the expectant mom, or expectant couple as part of the ring. Give the new mom a skein of yarn to hold. She keeps the string end and passes the rest of the skein to the guest sitting next to her. That guest wraps a loop of yarn loosely over their wrist and says some words of wisdom about labor and birth. She passes the yarn to the next person and they loop their wrist and share their feelings. This is repeated all the way around the circle finishing with the dad and finally he connects to the mom creating an unbroken tie. Now the new mom shares her feelings. Finally scissors are passed to cut the yarn between the guests. The guests are asked to continue to wear or keep this “bracelet” with them as a reminder of the love they all share for this new life and to keep the couple in their hearts in the coming days until mom and baby have passed safely through labor.

A similar ceremony can be done with candles. Pass out candles to everyone in the circle. Start by lighting the candle of the guest next to the new mom who uses that time to share her feelings. Her flame should light the next guest’s candle and so on around the circle finally lighting the new mom’s candle. Ask that each guest take their candle home and relight it each day to hold the coming labor in their hearts.

For Parenting
New parents really only need two things, physical help to get through the first draining weeks and confidence in their own ability to parent. Here are some easy ways to rally the troops to help during the first week. Create a dinner calendar. You can’t use dates because you don’t know when the baby will arrive. Instead mark the calendar first night home, second night, etc. Ask people to please sign up for a dinner and to put their phone number down. Everyone should make enough for at least two nights and bring it in a dish that can be frozen. From two weeks of dinners the couple will actually get four weeks. Once the baby arrives home you will need to call each guest and give them their dinner date.

Create a jobs list: laundry, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, baby sitting etc. Cut the list into strips with one job on each strip. Have one less job than players. Play any elimination game, such as, Musical Chairs. Each person eliminated must draw from the jobs bag. The winner gets to choose the job they want from among the all the jobs already handed out and then the big job swap can begin!

Initially confidence comes from knowing other people see the strengths the new parents bring to this difficult task, as well as, knowing there is lots of parenting wisdom out there for them to tap into when they aren’t sure what to do. Here are three ways to encourage guests to open up and share.

Ask all the guests to bring an item that can be strung. It is a good idea to give them an idea for the diameter of the hole, i.e. strung onto string, or thread or cord. These items should symbolize something they would like to impart to the new parents about parenting. Not every guest will be a parent but remind them they have all been parented. Sit in a circle and pass a bowl from person to person. Each guest should hold up their object and share what it represents before placing it in the bowl. After all the items are collected give the mom the bowl and something to string all the items. As she strings them one by one she has an opportunity to respond to all the positive energy coming her way.

Here is a wonderful activity if you have a quilter as a resource. Buy white muslin and different colors of fabric paint. You might want the paint colors to match the nursery color scheme. Before the guests arrive wash and dry the muslin and securely tape it down onto a large piece of plywood. Lay the plywood on a table or over some sawhorses. Use fabric tape to divide the cloth into squares. As guests arrive ask them to please paint their thoughts and good wishes on a square. After everyone has had an opportunity to paint, gather everyone around the table and have each guest explain their square. Later your quilter will decide how best to turn the art into a quilt to hang in the baby’s room. Don’t know a quilter? Alternatively this could be done as a less permanent piece of wall art by using a roll of butcher paper. Bring a way to “mount” the finished piece when you are done.

Do you need help pulling off either the craft side or ceremonial side of the event? Get help from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pots! This is a wonderful local business that specializes in making personal events memorable and from the heart through the medium of candle creation. They help people tap into their childlike creative side which allows them to feel safe expressing their hopes and dreams for the baby and new parents. They will talk to you about creating a ceremony unique to your new parents and their guests. Let the Sisterhood help you truly honor and bless the miracle of this birth. Contact them at

Showers are an important tradition. A time to honor the new family about to be born and recognize the power of the transformative process they are entering. Shower them with gifts. Shower them with friendship. Shower them with support. Shower them with love.

Jennifer Stover
Doula & Childbirth Educator

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