Surviving a Baby Shower

The overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger and hopelessness that are part and parcel of infertility are triggered by many social encounters. Baby showers can be one of the most painful of these encounters, broadcasting in full color all those visions that are associated with the fantasy of having a baby: the adorable little onesies, the receiving blankets, the miniature hats . They are powerful visceral reminders of what you desperately want,and despite all efforts, do not have. Avoiding a shower by politely bowing out and just sending a gift is often a wise and acceptable option. There are occasions, though, that you may need or want to attend, as not being there could bring unwanted attention. Only you know if the price of staying away is more painful than attending. The shower of your sister or of your best friend may be one of those.

In addition, beneath the jealously and anger there are heartfelt wishes for a happy healthy baby. You may not be in touch with that now, but later when you are out of the darkest part of this, you will probably be glad that you rose to the occasion. There are times to protect yourself by avoidance and times to step up, but only with a plan to get through it. The key is being selective about when to attend and then prepare. It is when we are caught off guard that the grief, always waiting, can be unleashed in a way that can last for days or longer.

  • Plan ahead on when to leave and let the host know. That way you are leaving when you choose, rather than leaving because something happens that is painful for you.  You can always leave earlier, or stay longer, if you wish.
  • Offer to help during the event: write down the gifts and names during the gift opening, help the host serve food, offer to take pictures. This keeps you busy, helps you to feel useful and keeps you out of your head. It also makes it less likely that you will be cornered by someone who may talk about her child’s birth or ask you if you have children or plan to.
  • If helping isn’t your cup of tea, choose who to sit next to. Perhaps there are some guests that you know do not have children, whom you know and trust not to bring up your situation, or with whom you have something in common. Sit next to them.
  • Prepare brief responses to painful baby questions, ones that don’t invite further questions. “When are you going to get pregnant? Any plans?” “Thinking about it.  How’s  your job going?” Change the subject.
  • Finally, have something planned following the shower that is something you love to do.

Joan Collins, LCSW
February 2015