When I was in my early to mid twenties, I read an article in Glamour magazine entitled 'Throw Me a Shower!'. The author was a successful single woman in her late thirties soon to be 4-0. She reflected upon the number of expensive items she had given her friends as wedding or baby shower gifts over the past twenty years, but because after many blind dates, set-ups and failed dating site memberships, she wouldn't receive anything in return as she hadn't found a soul mate. She even seemed to be a little critical of some friends who were on husband #2 after falling for Mr Wrong the first time around. When one friend admitted that she started having an affair a few months after her wedding, the author went to her house and took back the wine rack she gave as a wedding gift, in a move that I thought was awesome. The article struck a chord with me. After landing my first real job, I furnished my own apartment. Albeit, it was through consignment stores, IKEA and taking advantage of extended interest free credit card offers. Then boyfriend-now-Husband and I were talking about getting married in a few years and it insulted the feminist in me that I could be eligible to receive a new toaster from someone just for getting married.
I could follow that the tradition of giving flatware or a crock-pot made more sense when couples married at a much younger age. "People will want to give you wedding gifts." my Maid of Honour Myrtle tried to convince me. Um, that is some serious bullshit. When have you ever heard someone exclaim 'Oh, I am so stoked! I have to go shopping for a wedding present this weekend!' Of course, internet shopping has made this chore so much more pleasant. You can be sitting in your pajamas and slippers, click*click*gift wrap*send to their address*...and done! All before finishing your first cup of coffee. We had some practical considerations against setting up a wedding registry. Our wedding was in England, but we were living in Connecticut and preparing to move to California within a few months. Instead, we suggested guests could contribute to our honeymoon through Australia and New Zealand, and we labelled the tables at our reception based on our intended destinations. Some even gave us Australian currency.
I decided that I could accept the notion of wedding gifts on a few grounds. As many other friends were also getting hitched at this time, it had become a mutual exchange. Even for those who weren't recently married, our guests were treated to cocktails and appetizers in a beautiful English garden, a nice meal, an open bar and a live band for entertainment. They were getting something in return. Although I felt a little guilty exploiting this concept when a someone told me that she brings a blank cheque to weddings and estimates what she needs to give in order to cover the cost of her plate. Wedding gift giving should be a reflection of your relationship and what you can appropriately afford. The couple who goes over the top and splurges shouldn't receive more in gifts, as it is those who can only manage a backyard reception who probably need more help starting out.
I struggle even more with the idea of a baby gift registry. My inner conservative Republican insists that if we're making the decision to have a baby, we should be able to provide for it ourselves. That we shouldn't expect anyone else to furnish our nursery. I had these feelings long before we even started trying to conceive and the pricetag of our infertility treatments only makes my feelings more salient. My pride fears that I'll come off as a charity case. Oh look at her! Spent all their money trying to have a baby and had nothing left when it finally arrived... I'm just so uncomfortable with the thought of putting a gift list together and distributing it. When one of my high school friends sent a bridal shower invite to a girl who had moved out of state, the recipient sent the invite back with a note that read, 'I haven't heard from you in nearly two years. How nice that the first correspondence I receive is a list of gifts that I can send you.' It just feels very gauche. Or perhaps, I don't want to be so presumptive to think that anyone will purchase anything from our registry
Once again, one can argue that it's part of a mutual obligation in our society. I think back to the Sex and the City episode, where the girls convince Miranda to have a baby shower. "Who would I invite?" she asks. "All the bitches you made you go to theirs!" Samantha wisely answers. Yet, there are other consequences of being the last of your friends to have a baby. When our friends in England started breeding like rabbits, Husband and I were very generous with both the first and second child. The couples who had a third baby received condoms as a gift. (Oh, yes. I did.) One even sent me a note, "Thank you for the year's supply of Johnnies [it was a pack of 3]. I opened it in front of my mother-in-law, who was most approving of your gift!" Again, long before my IUD-ectomy, I warned Husband that even if we did procreate, our friends would be too poor for any reciprocity. Unfortunately, my premonition came to fruition. During his recent trip to his homeland, he observed that most of our friends are living hand to mouth. It doesn't seem right to ask anything of them. I attended many baby showers for my friends on the east coast, but the years and distance have eroded our friendship to an occasional Facebook message and Christmas cards. I can't be like my high school friend and deliver a gift list out of the blue, just because it's now my turn.
So, I really shouldn't complain that I've already had a few offers for a baby shower, but it has become a source of stress for me. My mother revealed that my aunt wants to throw a shower for me. I guess she feels inclined as my mother isn't nearby and she actually won't see me again before the baby is born. The difficult aspect is that I feel as if I'm in a transitional state with my friends. About this time last year, our 'friends' H+B stopped hanging out with us. We're not sure why. We know they don't want to have kids and always felt the friendship would change if we ever did have a baby, so maybe it was better to part ways now. However, they were our connection to a few other couples, who we would enjoy their company when we would get together, but we didn't have enough of a bond or enough in common to go out with them on our own. As I've been swimming at nights and missed our last two meets, I feel I've pulled away from my swim teammates. I haven't played much in the past two seasons, so I'm out of the loop with my hockey friends. It's also awkward as I waited so long to tell people about my pregnancy and may have to prepare for an early arrival. It doesn't feel right to spring such a short notice request on anyone. We've started hanging out with some people from our gym, but it's too soon to estrange them with an baby shower invite.
Co-worker warned, "you know they will throw you a shower at the office." It's become a bit of a ritual, our practice manager will announce a fake staff meeting that is really a surprise shower whenever there is an expecting team member. She even goes as far as to create a false agenda. At one event, the intended guest of honour actually submitted some topics for the agenda, and while touched by everyone's generosity, she was disappointed that her concerns didn't get addressed. I've had to endure seven office baby showers since trying to conceive. I think about Betty and Veronica who experienced infertility, but never went through treatments. I know there are some staff members who are trying to conceive and aren't having much luck. I hate to think about subjecting them to the bitter feelings I had during baby showers. As our office has grown so much, I have to admit that I don't even know the names of some new faces. Why should they be expected to give me a gift when we don't even really know each other? Additionally, and I know this sounds really elitist, as I am among the higher earners in our group, I don't feel comfortable accepting offerings from those who make much less than me, especially as some live paycheque to paycheque.
I can't say that I resist being at the centre of attention. I enjoy teaching and I deliver a lot of professional lectures. I'm very comfortable with public speaking. When Myrtle asked if I would be okay with her having another friend (Helen) serve as her Maid of Honour, I was actually happy to be relieved of the extra responsibility, but I asked if I could give the toast. I knew that Helen would be nervous about speaking in front of a large crowd, and it would irk me to watch her stumble through it. My content was heartfelt and my delivery was flawless. I knocked it out of the park and I knew it. Many guests approached me to comment on how impressive my speech was, and two members of the band told me it was among the best they had heard. I was gloating inside. Yet, the thought of being in the spotlight at a even a small baby shower terrifies me. I expressed that I didn't want a shower during the ten minute duration of my spontaneous pregnancy, and now I am even more resistant. It's hard to celebrate this pregnancy without reflecting on the painful road we travelled and as potential complications are lurking, I still feel that I am tempting fate.
Please note, I don't project these throughts or feelings on to anyone else to has a baby shower or does a gift registry. I've attended many showers and purchased gifts from registeries without thinking that the couple can't provide for their own baby and are expecting others to fill their nursery. Although I thought it was very tactless when Mryrtle finished opening her gifts and announced, "So, no one wanted to go for the breast pump?" I've been trying to figure out why I'm wired this way. (Husband notes that I mispelled wired and meant to use the word weird) The only thing I can identify is that as an only child I grew up fighting the sterotype that I was spolit and it has stuck with me through adulthood. Then again, I also lack the girlie gene that makes me want to buy fancy shoes and expensive purses. I didn't have a bridal shower or bachlerette party. This is just not my scene.
Yet, I'm still faced with many awkward realities. We used a 21 month interest free credit card for all our IVF expenses, which ironically ends on my intended due date. When we submitted the application, our goal was to have a baby before the interest free time expired. Now it is Husband's goal to have all the IVF expenses paid before Jate's arrival. The inconveniently timed garage renovation is getting more expensive as we get deeper into the project. Fortunately, our tax return was much more than we were expecting, which definately provides some breathing room. Yet I know babies are really expensive. As proud as I am, I'm also pragmatic. I have moments when I'm tempted to say 'oh, fuck it!' and just yield to social convention. But, I.just.can't.bring.myself.to.do.it.
Anything that anyone offers us will be most deeply appreciated. However, if anyone were to give us some gesture toward our baby, I would want it to be on his or her own volition. Without streamers and finger sandwiches and not being able to ever eat a candy bar ever again because you're thinking about baby poop. Without someone thinking, 'fuck, this is more than I wanted to spend on her, but all the items in my intended price range have already been purchased.' Is it too uncouth to ask for a gift card if anyone inquires about our registery? How can I politely tell my aunt, 'thanks, but no thanks.' Maybe I can suggest having a family brunch at my cousin's house and while they're loading the basinette and crib into my car, I can ransack her bookcase and help myself to her baby and child care books claiming, "you don't need this anymore do you?"
Aww, poor little infertile, now pregnant girl. Finally expecting a baby and has family and friends who may try to give her things she needs. It's the ultimate in first world problems.